Investing in property versus the money market - which is best?

1 Oct 2019

For some time now, house prices have grown at a rate slightly below inflation. This continued house price decline in real terms has caused investors to take stock of their options.

In response to this, Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, reminds investors that real estate is, and always will be, one of the highest yielding long-term investments. However, if undertaken as a short-term investment, Goslett cautions that you might as well roll a dice and hope for the best.

“It is possible to make a profit off the sale of a property in the short term, but this is dependent on market fluctuations and other factors that are out of your control. But, if you look at the statistics on house price growth over time, you will notice that, in virtually every instance, the homeowner will stand to make a substantial profit off the sale of their property if they choose to sell after around the 10-year mark or later. This is because the ebbs and flows of the market even out over time to yield a more stable and substantial return,” Goslett explains.

When weighing up investment options, Goslett therefore recommends that investors consider the returns of other reliable asset classes - money markets, for example - to the resale value of real estate over a 10-year period rather than over a five-year period or less.

“When you do these calculations, you will discover that if you were to make a lump sum investment into a money market and leave it to earn interest for ten years, your return on investment will be significantly lower than if you were to purchase a property for that same lump sum amount and sell in ten years’ time.

For example, according to Lightstone statistics, a R1.6 million property purchased as a primary residence in Claremont in 2010 is now worth R3.5 million. By comparison, if you had invested the R1.6 million into a money market at a 10% interest rate for ten years, the value of the fund would amount to R3.38 million after tax,” says Goslett.

In virtually every instance, the homeowner will stand to make a substantial profit off the sale of their property if they choose to sell after around the 10-year mark or later.

However, while these amounts are similar, in the investment scenario, you would still need to pay rent over this period, but in the property scenario, you would not. Assuming a 9% annual escalation in rent for a property of the same value, Goslett says you would have paid roughly R1.4 million in rent over ten years.

This leaves you with a net return of R1.9 million on your investment, which is a R32 000 profit on the original R1.6 million. If you compare this to your house, which is worth R3.5 million and will earn you a R1.9 million profit, it becomes clear which is the better long-term investment option.

“Even if you did not have a lump sum amount available and chose to make a monthly contribution towards an investment fund instead of making monthly repayments on a home loan, the accumulated value on the investment fund in ten years’ time will still not match the return generated from the sale of the bonded property,” he says.

Using the above scenario, if you were to sell the R1.6 million property ten years into the home loan, you would generate roughly R2.3 million profit after subtracting the R1.17 million that was still owing.

Over the medium to long term, a sound investment in property will likely yield you far better returns

For the same amount you were paying in instalments on your bond (roughly R15 500 per month), you could have continued to rent and invest whatever was left over into a money market instead. In this scenario, you would only generate roughly a R850 000 net return by the end of a 10-year period, compared to the R2.3 million profit you could have earned if you had invested in property instead.

“In summary, the notion that property is an unstable investment is simply unsound. As the above scenarios prove, property does still generate the highest returns when viewed as a long-term investment. The bottom line is that it depends on your personal needs and situation. If you’re looking at a return over the short term or you need to rent to build up some capital, a fiscal investment may be the better bet for you. But, over the medium to long term, a sound investment in property will likely yield you far better returns,” says Goslett.