Property and stocks


Continuing on the topic of property investment, let’s talk about property vs stocks.

While both are regarded as good ways to invest your money, there are fundamental differences between real estate and stocks:

Liquidity. Stocks are traded in a “near efficient” market. This means you can buy and sell shares at their market value and do so without much delay. On the other hand, a property investment is not as liquid – it takes much more time and effort to trade properties, and even so, the individual prices often depend on factors like how well the property is marketed and how much negotiation is done.

Mortgage. You can use the property you are buying as a collateral for a bank loan. In other words, you can mortgage your $1m apartment and just pay $100k cash upfront. It’s not as easy to borrow money to buy stocks. Granted, you can take up an unsecured personal loan to buy a stock; but you can’t repeat this for the next stock.

Upgrading. You can help to increase the value of your property directly. We all have witness how all the HDB MUP, IUP and LUP upgrading programmes have helped increase, sometimes dramatically, the market value of the HDB flats. You can do the same for your property, such as paint it, install elegant lighting, renovate the washroom, etc. But the story is different for shares. If you are just a minority shareholder of a public listed company, you don’t have any direct influence on the company. Even if you’re competent and want to help, you can’t.

Renting out. If your property is in a prime location – e.g. districts 10, 9 & 11 – you can easily rent it out, giving you a rental yield. It is calculated by taking a year’s worth of rental income, and dividing it by the price of the property. The yield can range from 2% to 4%. However, if you put down only 10% as downpayment and take a mortgage for the rest, your effective yield will be much higher (but don’t forget that you’ll be paying interests to the bank). For stocks, there are also certain income that you can receive from them. First, there are dividends, not quite similar to the concept of rental income but it’s as close as it gets. Unfortunately, the dividend yield can range wildly from one stock to another, from zero to about 5%. Next, you can also lend out your CDP-held stocks. In return, you get paid a lending fee that is calculated based on the prevailing lending rate determined by the Central Depository (CDP), currently at 4%. But whether your stocks can be lent out depends on demand, which can be quite low.


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