Is Real Estate an Alternative Investment?

Posted Nov 18, 2023


Once primarily associated with owning a family home, real estate has evolved into a significant investment class, attracting the attention of individuals seeking diversification in their portfolios. As investors seek to expand their financial horizons, the question comes up: is real estate an alternative investment

Defining Alternative Investments

Alternative investments are financial assets that differ from traditional investments like stocks, bonds, and cash. They often include private equity, hedge funds, commodities, and real estate assets. The primary distinction is that alternative investments generally exhibit a low correlation with traditional asset classes. As a result, they can sometimes be a valuable addition to a diversified investment portfolio.

Real Estate as an Alternative Investment

Real estate qualifies as an alternative investment due to its distinct characteristics. While traditional assets like stocks and bonds can be highly liquid and influenced by market sentiment, real estate sometimes offers stability, diversification, and potential for income generation. Here's why real estate qualifies as an alternative investment:

  • Diversification: Real estate provides a unique opportunity to diversify a portfolio by adding an asset class with a low correlation to the stock market. Diversification can help mitigate risk and potentially enhance returns.
  • Tangible Asset: Unlike stocks or bonds, real estate represents tangible, physical assets with intrinsic value. This can offer a sense of security and stability that other investments may lack.
  • Income Generation: In the right circumstances, real estate can yield regular income through rental payments, making it appealing for investors seeking a consistent cash flow stream. This income can help offset market volatility.
  • Potential for Appreciation: Real estate properties may appreciate over time, creating opportunities for capital gains when the property is sold.
  • Inflation Hedge: Real estate can sometimes act as a hedge against inflation, as property values and rental income often increase in line with rising prices.

Investing in Real Estate

Investors have various avenues to invest in real estate, depending on their risk tolerance, investment horizon, and financial goals. Here are some common ways to include real estate in your investment portfolio:

Direct Ownership

Purchasing physical properties such as residential, commercial, or industrial real estate and earning income from rent or capital appreciation. Direct ownership requires active management.

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

REITs are publicly traded companies that own, operate, or finance income-generating real estate. They offer a passive way to invest in real estate and provide liquidity similar to stocks.

Real Estate Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding platforms allow investors to pool their resources to invest in real estate projects. It provides access to real estate investments with lower capital requirements.

Real Estate Mutual Funds or Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

ETF funds invest in a diversified portfolio of real estate assets, offering exposure to the real estate market without owning physical properties.

Risks and Considerations

While real estate can offer diversification and attractive returns, it's essential to be aware of the associated risks:

  • Illiquidity: Unlike stocks and bonds, real estate investments can be less liquid and may take time to convert into cash.
  • Market Fluctuations: Real estate markets can experience price fluctuations, impacting the value of your investment.
  • Property Management: Direct ownership requires active management, which can be time-consuming and challenging.
  • Location Risk: The performance of real estate investments can be highly dependent on the property's location and local economic conditions.

The Bottom Line 

Real estate is indeed a legitimate alternative investment. It can offer diversification, income generation, and a hedge against inflation, in the right circumstances. Whether you choose direct ownership, REITs, crowdfunding, or funds, incorporating real estate into your investment portfolio can provide an effective means of reducing risk and increasing the potential for returns, making it a valuable asset class for modern investors. However, it's crucial to conduct thorough research, assess your risk tolerance, and consider your financial goals when venturing into the real estate market.

This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor.

Realized does not provide tax or legal advice. This material is not a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified professional for your individual situation.

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