Real Estate - Real Returns

                  Buy Land, They’re Not Making it Anymore – Mark Twain

Investing in real estate is crucial to Indians, especially owning the first house/apartment. In India, it is common to call it as investment but not to think of it as investment. Note this difference, since most people who “invests” in real-estate do not think about real return on investment (ROI) on real-estate investments.

I would be really wary of putting my hard-earned money in buying a house, unless I get a decent ROI especially when it needs so much efforts and also it may induce emotional trauma.

So what exactly is a ROI for a house and how to calculate it for real-estate investment?

If you are buying a house for purely emotional reason and if this will provide you satisfaction, then calculating ROI is useless. So if you are happy being a owner of a house, then you wouldn’t think of “returns” and ROI is immaterial. But, it is important to distinguish between owning a house for “satisfaction/being happy” Vs “showing-off/rat-race competition”.

But if you are the one who thinks buying a house will make you rich or it will make you financially stable, then you seriously need to calculate a real ROI on the investment.

Almost everyone must have heard about their lucky friends who bought an apartment for Rs 15 Lakhs almost a decade ago which is now quoting at Rs 50 Lakhs. This sounds like an amazing deal, isn’t it? Well not actually, since the CAGR return is just 12.79% which is not a great deal. So if the same 15 Lakhs would have been invested in BSE Sensex stocks, it would have ballooned to Rs 65 Lakhs, definitely better than real-estate.

Note that this is a simplistic view not considering multiple factors like efforts required for investment, overhead costs and risk factors. If these factors are taken into consideration real-estate investment will not sound attractive anymore. The graph below indicates that CAGR return of various asset class over past 10 year period. As indicated, stocks and gold image out-perform the real-estate easily.

Some argue the virtue of real-estate investment by giving the leveraging logic. The idea is that if you buy a house, you would just give a 15-20% of cost as a down-payment (e.g. 2Lakh) and then see the real-estate price going up (say Rs 50 Lakh) and calculating the CAGR to be much higher (~45%). This is foolishness and simply twisting the truth to show-case an amazing returns. It is a fact that borrowing money is always costly (how would banks otherwise make money) and more risky. It is important to remember that the loan amount is owned by you, along with the interest to be paid to the bank. Also any decrease in the price of your house will in-fact be a huge loss rather than any gain at all. 

Let us compare some points while investing in Stocks Vs Real-Estate.

1) Performance: We already saw that the returns from stock are higher compared to Real-Estate investments.

2) Leverage Advantage: We discussed the leverage logic in real-estate. The same kind of leveraging can be done in Stocks as well.

3) Overhead Costs: The real-estate overhead cost is huge (10-15%) which consists of Stamp Duty, Brokerage Charges, Loan Processing Fees, Legal Fees, Utility Connection charges etc etc. The costs for buying stocks is much less.

4) Taxes: Stocks score over here since you just have the long-term gain (if held over more than a year) but in case of real-estate one has to pay property tax apart from long-term gain tax on selling the house.

5) Transparency: The biggest advantage while buying shares is that you can use the web to determine the fundamentals of stock easily. The same doesn’t apply to real-estate investment. It is so difficult to determine a handsome bargain with so many variables that investing is more dependent on luck than a logical analysis.

6) Efforts: The real-estate investments really gets killed in this parameter. There is not only enormous efforts to find a good house, but once you own it, a lot of effort is needed to keep it in good condition.

7) Diversification: If you invest in stocks, it is so easy to put your money spread across industries/companies/funds to give it protection. This can not be applied to real-estate investment at all.

I feel that the real-estate prices in India are not at all justified and the hype is driven by the artificial demand. Also most people can afford to get into this thanks to easy loans from banks. I hope the bubble does burst early enough to save lot of people who are not in the trap yet.


  1. Thanks for the good article.
    What is your view on investing for commercial real estate. Basically, my plan is to buy land meant for commercial buildings and build some kind of shops/office space.

  2. Thanks Pavan for visiting the blog. Yes, commercial real estate might be a profitable business. The only aspect is to note the location, since otherwise it becomes a big liability.

    My personal opinion would be to invest in commercial real estate only when i have surplus money (after investing in all the other avenues as per the financial goals)

  3. Hi,

    I agree with your point that returns of investment in stocks scores over real estate. But there are certain factors which give indians a comforting factor while investing in real estate.

    1.For an average indian , picking a stock is very difficult. There are companies which have gone bust and investors were not even able to recover their investment over long term also. For e.g. Arving Mills, Punjab Alkalies, etc.
    I know prices can go down in real estate also but over a long period say 10+ years its very difficult not to recover your investment atleast

    2. Scams like UTI, ketan parikh, etc have given a bad image to stock investing.

    3. Yearly rental income is also a comforting factor.

    4. Black money.This is one of the most important reason of thriving real estate business in India.

    Let me know what do you think.


  4. Thanks Anshul for visiting the blog.

    The points you mention apply equally to investing in real-estate. How many horror stories you have heard of builders cheating, not delivering on the promises and asking for extra money over and above.

    1) For average indians, a good diversified equity MF (like HDFC Top 200) can return similar results as a real-estate investment. This is with extremely less understanding. How many people are willing to invest 30-40 Lakhs in Mutual Fund for 15 years? It is a mindset issue.

    2) Real Estate investments have more scams than stocks. Builders running away, exhorting money from customers, not delivering on promises. Despite so many people entering this, there is no single regulatory body for real-estate. But SEBI/IRDA are doing good job in protecting the interests of retail investors.

    3) Investing in dividend paying stocks have given excellent returns. Imagine if you invest 30 Lakhs in several dividend paying stocks and you can earn much more yearly than the rental income.

    4) I feel rather than black money, its the mindset of income class. I remember 25 years back, entrepreneurship was not considered a good idea, but now its the "in" thing because the mind-set has changed. Same applies to real-estate investment

  5. Anonymous2:25 PM

    its very good blog.real estate is very interesting business.inthat commercial is more profitable.


  6. Great post. If you know how to invest in real estate properly, you will always get a superior return on investment.

  7. Thanks triple net lease for visiting and commenting on the post.


  8. Thanks for the interesting article, which challenges the traditional view point on real estate.

    I was trying to do a comparison:

    Option 1: Invest 30k for 15 years in Mutual Funds at 13% CAGR

    Option 2: Buy apartment worth 30l and pay 30k EMI for home loan over 15 years at 13% CAGR

    I find that at end of 15 years Option 2 - Asset value is higher (even without taking into account rent from apartment).

    Whats your thought on this?

  9. Thanks bethune for your comments.

    Please share your calculations for comparing option 1 and 2. It seems you would have made some assumption about increase in real-estate prices.

  10. The given article is so nice..and good thinking to post here..nice to share here..thanks for sharing here with us..

  11. It was a great pleasure to visit this blog because I get a lot of information here about real estate. It was also a big help for us, thanks and keep it up. You did a great job.^_^