The article in the NY Times today “In the Long Run, Sleep at Home and Invest in the Stock Market” compared the stock market and real estate as an investment vehicle. The volatility of stocks over the past decade has faciliated a change in the perception of housing as an investment. With significant price appreciation over the past several years, that argument has been made even stronger.
As a pure investment, housing lags behind stocks in a long term window. However, homeowners generally calculate their return on investment off of the change in sales price or from their leveraged initial investment.
But when calculating the returns of both, which is tricky to compare, this quantification of the “use and enjoyment” of the asset makes real estate in this context, a better overall investment.
The use of the asset as a home, is where the return in housing exceeds the stock market. One way to figure the value for the use and enjoyment of the house is to estimate its rent. This quantifies the actual occupancy but falls short since it doesn’t quantify intangibles of pride of ownership, the flexibility to customize the home to your personal needs or style, etc. Therefore, the rental factor likely understates the value of using the home, suggesting that the returns on housing would be even higher.