Investments can be analyzed based on 3 main criteria: liquidity, safety, and rate of return. Most investments won’t rank high in all three, instead, there’s some give and take. Investments high in rate of return are usually low in safety, highly liquid investments tend to be less safe, and extremely safe investments tend to be relatively illiquid and have lower rates of return.
Real Estate is no different, however, it has a reputation of being the ultimate investment, so let’s break that down.
One quick note, the economy’s tough, so if you’re looking to invest in real estate with no or bad credit, check this out. You might also want to think about rent-to-own programs, which you can learn about here.
Is Real Estate a Liquid Investment?
Real Estate is one of the most illiquid investments you can make. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s bought, sold, financed, or refinanced a home. It can take weeks or months to be approved for a mortgage or to close a sale or purchase transaction, and the mountain of paperwork that goes into it is no fun for anyone.
Is Real Estate a Safe Investment?
A safe investment is one in which the likelihood of losing your money is low, the less likely you are to lose your money in an investment, the safer it is. So, is Real Estate safe? That depends on who you ask; I’m sure the millions of homeowners going through foreclosure right now because of the market crunch wouldn’t think so. The fact is, however, that no matter who you are, and contrary to popular opinion (which is changing pretty fast), Real Estate does not always appreciate.
The safety of real estate is very much tied up in its lack of liquidity as so many homeowners are finding out right now. Fortunately, if you take the proper precautions and keep in mind that real estate values do not always go up, you can protect yourself from much of the risk involved.
Does Real Estate Have A Good Rate of Return?
Did you ever play that rumor game in grade school where the class gets in a circle and one kid whispers something to another kid and so on, and by the time the “rumor” gets back to the original kid it’s completely different from when it started? That’s a lot like how real estate has gotten the reputation it has; some people have made quite a bit of easy money in real estate during market booms and so began the “rumor” that real estate is the ultimate investment. Boatloads of people invest in Real Estate because they think it has a high rate of return, but the truth may surprise you. In spite of the fact that Real Estate prices shot through the roof over the past several years, you might be surprised to know that taking a step back in time reveals a very different picture.
According to this chart taken from Forbes.com, the S&P 500 has stomped the performance of US home prices over a 20-year period. Since 1980, home prices have increased 247%, whereas the S&P 500 shot up over 1,000%, a staggering comparison.
So, Real Estate scores low on 2 of our 3 criteria, and the third criterion, Safety, is arguable. Maybe we should be rethinking that common belief that it’s impossible to lose in real estate. Sure, when approached correctly, real estate can be an incredible investment, but it can’t be approached haphazardly. It’s an investment like any other, and it carries risks and rewards, just be careful before jumping into real estate investing without a plan, because it may turn out that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.