Although it’s debatable whether real estate investing is superior or inferior to stock market investing, what isn’t debatable is that real estate provides a multitude of ways to make money in the long run. There are many reasons to choose real estate investing over stock market investing, and many reasons not to. Personally I believe both are great investments, as diversification is one of my investing rules to success. Have said that, here are some of the major pros and cons of real estate investing:
Pros of Real Estate Investing
A Tangible Asset
Real estate is a tangible form of investing; You invest in properties, and you can physically see and feel your investment. This is somewhat of a luxury, as you can rest easy knowing at the end of the day that your investment isn’t going anywhere (unless it’s a mobile home of course). With stock market investing, you only have a computer screen showing you what you own… unless you request to have hard copies of your shares.
True Value No Matter The Economic Health
When it comes down to it, no matter if you overpaid for a property or got a great price, you still own a piece of property. Real estate will always have value, even in the worst of times because real estate is one of our basic needs. People need homes to live in, businesses need places to conduct business, and real estate will always be in demand for that reason. This doesn’t mean you can’t lose money in real estate, but it does mean that if you hold a piece of real estate free and clear, you own an asset with true value.
Efficient Markets Don’t Truly Exist
With real estate investing you don’t really have efficient markets, or markets with true transparency like you do with the stock market. What I mean by this is that you can’t just easily come up with a value for a property; You can do your due diligence and reach an estimated fair value price, but it just doesn’t compare to the kind of research and information available on the stock market. This is a good thing though, as inefficient markets present great opportunities for bargain priced deals. Sometimes people just don’t know what is the right price to sell at, other times people are desperate and price their property extremely low. If you are familiar with your local real estate market you can easily identify these deals and invest in them.
Cons of Real Estate Investing
Not Liquid At All
Unlike the stock market, real estate investing is not a quick buy and sell atmosphere. Even if you bought a property and had a buyer lined up for it the next day, closing the deal would still take about a month on average. This can be a problem if you need liquid cash immediately, and it’s a definite disadvantage compared to stock market investing.
Steep Learning Curve
In real estate you have to be knowledgeable in many different ways, and you have to have experience (or the ability to learn quickly) to overcome many little oversights or difficulties that will often come up. Knowledge is required in every sub category of real estate: mortgages, titles, insurance, construction, negotiations, market familiarity, appreciation potential, income potential, etc.. you have to be somewhat of a jack of all trades if you want to invest properly or it could cost you everything.
If you own shares of a publicly traded company, you are not held responsible for the company’s actions and thus cannot be held liable for any illegal activities. However with real estate investing, you are pretty much a target for the sue-happy type. You’ll need insurance to protect yourself from the shady tenants who try and reach in your pockets, or when someone accidentally hurts themselves on your property that was entirely their own fault.