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Real Estate an alternative investment
● 潘树盛  by roy phua

  asia's all enduring preoccupation with real estate is 

undergoing a reality check as a conse-quence of the economic

crisis. private residen-tial property prices in singapore, 

have collapsed by over 45% from its peak in for example, 

1996. the shock and dismay of die-hard real estate believers

is not surprising. for many, however, the rationale that 

underpinned that real estate investment is showing 

surprising flaws. arguments such as "land is finite" 

persuade in boom years, but are now denounced by some as 

intellectual garbage. the long-term prospects of real estate

investment, while not entirely mis-placed, are subject to 

investment cycles, interest rates and changes in government 

policies, like all other forms of investments. putting all 

of one's investment eggs in the property basket, as many 

asians have been inclined to do in recent years, is 

unlikely to hatch a balanced invest-ment strategy. this 

article examines the possi-bilities.

  real estate investments are very long term in nature and

possess two important characte-ristics that are often less 

than understood: leverage and illiquidity. these factors 

accen-tuate the capital gains on real estate in boom times 

and magnify the loss on the downturn. if one were to invest 

$200,000 (borrowing $500,000) to purchase a $700,000 

property for example, a simple 10% rise in property price a 

year would translate into about a 21% return on the original

investment, net of interest expense assumed at 5.5% p.a.. 

with that same interest assumption, a 10% fall in property 

price how-ever would translate into a loss of about 48% on 

that same $200,000 investment, the tragic con-sequence of 

leverage working in reverse. the illiquidity of real estate 

is another important factor for consideration. exiting a 

real estate in-vestment often requires time and patience, 

par-ticularly so in a less favourable environment. the 

average investor needs to consider the sheer amount of the 

financial investment and the uni-queness of each property 

asset. the illiquidity limits the flexibility investors have

when they need to realign their investments in accordance 

with changing market conditions or changes in investment 


  the long-term nature of real estate in-vesting requires 

it to be matched with stable, long-term cash flows. 

assumptions on income growth, interest rate trend and rental

yields are important, and when they do not materialise as 

planned (or hoped for), the investment goes awry. in 

addition, the size of the upfront capital commitment in real

estate investing makes di-versification within the asset 

class difficult to achieve. the real estate investor has 

the bulk of his investments locked into a few properties. 

seen from this perspective, real estate investing can be a 

high risk ve

nture. the risk does di-minish with a long-term time horizon, but the rate at which singaporeans turn over their real estate investments suggests a shorter term, high-risk attitude prevails.   asia's love affair with real estate has been fuelled by easy money and accommodative government policies. these conditions are not present today. the era of supernormal returns from real estate investing is over. bankers are licking their wounds from loans gone sour and have turned wary about lending for real estate investment (as opposed to home ownership). having experienced the effects of an over-zealous appetite for real estate, it is probable that both of these factors are unlikely to be as potent in the future. the new asia requires that the bold assumptions of old be tempered- stable interest rates, "guaranteed" employment, "guranteed tenants", etc. price appreciation will be more gradual hereon and more in keeping with inflation. other investment options need to be considered and matched with one's age, obli-gations and financial aspirations. (the author is equity manager of rothschild asset management.)   
    亚洲人对房地产投资情有独钟,不过经过一场经济危机的冲击, 人们对房地产持久性的信念正面临考验。WWw.11665.coM   举例来说,新加坡的私人住宅价格,从高峰期算起已经退跌了超 过45%。死硬的房地产“信徒”,对此感到震惊、沮丧并不奇怪。对 很多人来说,过去支持房地产投资的理性基础,也正现露出破绽。像 “土地有限”的论点,在市场大好时很有说服力,但现在被很多人看 成是“学理垃圾”。房地产投资具有长期前景,这个说法也不完全错 ,但它和其他投资形式一样,逃不过周期、利率和政府政策改变的影 响。因此投资时,如果像亚洲人过去几年那样,把所有的蛋都放在房 地产篮子里,就不可能制订出平衡的投资策略。   房地产投资是长期的,它有两个往往被忽略掉的重要特质:高额 借贷和套现困难。因为这些特质,投资者在市场猛涨时,能捞取可观 的资本收益;但遇到衰退期,“烧伤程度”也同样会加重。   举例来说,一个人如果出资20万,再借贷50万元购买一个售价70 万元的房地产,只要房地产价格在一年之中上涨10%,他从20万元投 资中所取得的回报就有约21%之多,这是扣掉利息成本(假设年利率 为5.5%)后算出的。以相同利率计算,价格如果跌10%,20万元投资 的亏损就大约是48%,这是高额借贷的痛苦结局。   投资房地产,很重要的另一点考虑是套现不容易。从房地产投资 中退出是需要时间和耐性的,在不利环境下尤其如此。由于是大手笔 投资,每一个房地产项目也都具有独特性,普通投资者因此不能掉以 轻心。一旦市场环境起了变化或投资需要改变,而必须重组投资来配 合时,套现如果困难,伸缩的余地就受到限制。   房地产属于长线投资,它要求投资者有稳定、长期的现金周转能 力。因此对诸如收入增长、利率走势和租金回报等,都先得做一些假 设,而一旦情况和所计划的有出入(或事与愿违),投资的棋就走错 了。   另外,由于得先垫出一大笔资金,也就很难做到分散投资。少数 几个房地产就能把投资者的大部分资金套牢,从这个角度看,房地产 投资可说是高风险的。这种风险,会随着时间的推移而淡化。但从新 加坡人的房地产买卖频率来看,一般人的进场态度,都属于短线和具 冒险性。   过去,亚洲人是在简易贷款以及政府鼓励性政策的推波助澜下, 对房地产产生迷恋的。今天情况不同了。从房地产投资中谋取暴利的 日子已经不再。银行因收不回贷款而元气大伤,对借钱给人投资房地 产(比较买楼自住)的事,现在是心有余悸。   经历过狂热后,这些因素在未来日子里,不可能继续发挥同样效 应。在新亚洲,一些旧有的大胆假设——像稳定的利率、铁饭碗、“ 包有”的租户等都必须稍作调整。从今以后价格的涨势将变得平缓些 ,也会趋向和通胀同步。其他投资渠道必须加以考虑,以配合一个人 的年龄、承担和财务期望。 (作者是一家资产管理公司的股票投资经理)

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