Why I don’t like real estate as an asset class

March 11th, 2010

I see a lot of domainers diversify into real estate when they start making money. They view it as something similar to domains. The truth is that they would have been much better off if they would have kept re-investing in domains or other businesses.

My perception is that real estate investments are a sinful waste of money, money that maybe yields 5% per year. For us domain investors that is a petty return. If I would have a choice, I would prefer to have money in the bank than in real estate. Because it’s liquid and available for opportunistic deal making and this liquidity outweighs the forgone yield for me.

The main arguement made by domainers is that real estate is a very secure investment. Every domainer has paranoias that his domains might be taken away but he knows that nobody is going to take his house away. Hence they sacrifice yield in favour of security.

The big secret is that you do not have to sacrifice yield in exchange for security. The answer is diversification. If you have a diversified portfolio of high yielding investments (like domains) or businesses (obviously running the risk that some of these may default/go bancrupt) you will still be better off in the long run than if you plow money into real estate.

I like to illustrate things with analogies, so here’s one from the bond market. In the long run, a well diversified portfolio of junk bonds will perform better than a portfolio of tripleA rated bonds. Some of the junk bonds will obviously default, but the higher yield of the others will more than compensate for this in comparison to the AAA’s.