When does direct real estate improve portfolio performance?
Lee, S., (2003) When does direct real estate improve portfolio performance? Working Papers in Real Estate & Planning. 17/03. Working Paper. University of Reading, Reading. pp8.
For over twenty years researchers have been recommending that investors diversify their portfolios by adding direct real estate. Based on the tenets of modern portfolio theory (MPT) investors are told that the primary reason they should include direct real estate is that they will enjoy decreased volatility (risk) through increased diversification. However, the MPT methodology hides where this reduction in risk originates. To over come this deficiency we use a four-quadrant approach to break down the co-movement between direct real estate and equities and bonds into negative and positive periods. Then using data for the last 25-years we show that for about 70% of the time a holding in direct real estate would have hurt portfolio returns, i.e. when the other assets showed positive performance. In other words, for only about 30% of the time would a holding in direct real estate lead to improvements in portfolio returns. However, this increase in performance occurs when the alternative asset showed negative returns. In addition, adding direct real estate always leads to reductions in portfolio risk, especially on the downside. In other words, although adding direct real estate helps the investor to avoid large losses it also reduces the potential for large gains. Thus, if the goal of the investor is offsetting losses, then the results show that direct real estate would have been of some benefit. So in answer to the question when does direct real estate improve portfolio performance the answer is on the downside, i.e. when it is most needed.