Equity

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” — Mark Twain.

Unlocking Equity. From www.SeniorLiving.Org
Figure out if you should unlock that equity for investments.

Or more specifically, how to tap into your source of capital to fund your retirement.

Part One in a 4-part series weighing the pros and cons of investing in real estate over the course of a life time.

Nest Egg

Leaving aside rental and commercial property or other indirect forms of investing in real estate, such as REITs, a more common scenario involves typical homeowners.

Those who bought years ago, paid off their mortgage or will have shortly and despite the negative impact of The Great Recession managed to build a decent amount of equity.

Point one.  

Don’t take what follows as financial advice.

If you haven’t consulted professionals, well, what are you waiting for?

Do so at once!

Back in February of 2007 I read a FidelityReport published by Fidelity Research Institute that compared unlocking equity for investments to risks and relative returns of stocks, bonds and cash.

Point two. 

Fidelity emphasized how much a home, and therefore it’s equity, is subject to market cycles.

History lesson.

Previous generations of Americans treated home equity as an illiquid asset being built up almost invisibly as mortgages were paid down. 

History Lesson

They considered this growing equity either as an “asset of last resort” or as a source of bequests to heirs.

And, of course, back then those homes cost what a luxury car today goes for today.

So, it’s no surprise that future generations are on track to carry much larger mortgages.

And, they will continue to do so into their late middle age and even deep into their retirement years

… perhaps on the assumption that these larger debts will be compensated for by a continued rise in home values.

By 2007, more than 80% of all Americans over age 65 owned homes.

The median price of new homes in the United States has averaged an annual appreciation rate of 5.9% since 1963.

Point three.

Fidelity cautioned, even before the more recent Great Recession

Market Cycles

… historical experience suggests that real estate investments can suffer serious and sometimes prolonged downturns. 

Sometimes it can be across the board.

But, baring a prolonged deflationary slump teetering on an economic depression, it is certainly true for local regions struck by extended economic decline.

Local real estate prices and your return on investment rise and fall with economic factors

… such as interest rates, per capita income, building costs and unemployment rates. 

Shifts in your mortgage loan market can reduce your monthly payments.

Those innovations make housing more accessible.

Like variable rate and interest only loans.

But, they don’t come without their own set of risks.

Beyond the loan market, don’t forget to monitor important variables expanding or constricting the local supply of real estate properties.

  • General availability of land.
  • Land use restrictions.
  • Tough zoning rules.
  • Building regulations.
  • Slow administrative procedures.

And, of course shifts in demographic trends

  • Population growth.
  • Migration patterns.
  • Immigration rates.
  • Average household size.
  • Household formation age (individuals in their thirties).

Fidelity said American real estate values endured three sharp “corrections” during ten-year intervals.

  • From the early 1970’s to the early 1980’s.
  • During the early 1990’s.
  • And, during The Great Recession at the end of the 2000’s to mid 2010’s

With the severity and duration of the downturn that occurred in 2006 still uncertain (published in 2007).

Fidelity tracked investment performance back to before you were born.

How did they say real estate investments held up?

Returns on a dollar invested in residential real estate in 1963 have been only lightly better than returns on low-risk Treasury Bills.

What about compared to stocks, then?

Over this more than forty-year time period, real compound returns to stocks outpaced realty, averaging 5.95% versus returns of just 1.35% to real estate after adjusting for inflation. 

Downturns and Rebounts

So, if you took a dollar and invested it in the 1963 stock market it would have “compounded to $12.36 by 2006.”

But, the same dollar invested in real estate would have grown to just $1.79. 

What about those higher appreciation regions on the coast?

Golden Gate Bridge
On the West Coast. Golden Gate Bridge. Courtesy of http://www.burningwell.org/gallery2/v/Objects/100_5478.JPG.html

Even the highest appreciating regions of the country, the Northeast and West Coast, only realized real returns of 2.35% and 2.49%, respectfully, and underperformed the returns on bonds at 2.74%.

Don’t they say past performance isn’t a guarantee of future performance?

Still data are data.

Home values have underperformed stocks and bonds in terms of average annual returns over every five- and ten-year period from 1963 to 2005, but have only been slightly above the returns on treasury bills.

Why bother, then?

Part Two: Five Options for Unlocking Equity

An excerpt from Book Four in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Rocky Mountain State.

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