Why to invest

Have you ever wondered how the rich got their wealth and then kept it growing? Do you dream of retiring early (or of being able to retire at all)? Do you know that you should invest, but don’t know where to start?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you’ve come to the right place.

We should emphasize, however, that investing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Taking control of your personal finances will take work, and, yes, there will be a learning curve. But the rewards will far outweigh the required effort.

 

Why to invest into Real Estate

Competitive Risk-Adjusted Returns

Based on data from the US National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries (NCREIF), private market commercial real estate returned an average of 8.4% over the 10-year period from 2000 to 2010. This credible performance was achieved, together with low volatility relative to equities and bonds, for highly competitive risk-adjusted returns.

NCREIF U.S. National Property Index Returns

Source: NCREIF, http://www.ncreif.org/property-index-returns.aspx, 14 July 2011
High Tangible Asset Value

Unlike stocks and, to some extent, bonds, an investment in real estate is backed by a high level of brick and mortar. This helps reduce the principal-agent conflict, or the extent to which the interest of the investor is dependent on the integrity and competence of managers and debtors.

Attractive and Stable Income Return

A key feature of real estate investment is the significant proportion of total return, accruing from rental income over the long term. Over a 30-year period from 1977 to 2007, close to 80% of total U.S. real estate return was derived from income flows. This helps reduce volatility, as investments that rely more on income return, tend to be less volatile than those that rely more on capital value return.

(For more, check out Take Advantage Of A Housing Crisis – Rent!)

Portfolio Diversification

Another benefit of investing in real estate is its diversification potential. Real estate has a low, and in some cases, negative, correlation with other major asset classes. This means the addition of real estate to a portfolio of diversified assets can lower portfolio volatility and provide a higher return per unit of risk.

Inflation Hedging

The inflation hedging capability of real estate, stems from the positive relationship between GDP growth and demand for real estate. As economies expand, the demand for real estate drives rents higher and this, in turn, translates into higher capital values. Therefore, real estate tends to maintain the purchasing power of capital, by passing some of the inflationary pressure on to tenants and by incorporating some of the inflationary pressure, in the form of capital appreciation.

 

The Drawback: Illiquidity

The main drawback of investing in real estate is illiquidity, or the relative difficulty in converting an asset into cash and cash into an asset. Unlike a stock or bond transaction, which can be completed in seconds, a real estate transaction can take months to close. Even with the help of a real estate agent, simply finding the right counterparty can be a few weeks of work.

Summary

Real estate is a distinct asset class that is simple to understand and can enhance the risk and return profile of an investor’s portfolio. On its own, real estate offers competitive risk-adjusted returns, with less principal-agent conflict and attractive income streams. It can also enhance a portfolio, by lowering volatility through diversification. Though illiquidity can be a concern for some investors, there are ways to gain exposure to real estate, such that illiquidity is reduced, if not brought on-par with that of traditional asset classes.