The real alternative? A comparison of German real estate returns with bonds and stocks

Nikodem Szumilo*, Thomas Wiegelmann, Edyta Łaszkiewicz, Michal Bernard Pietrzak, Adam P. Balcerzak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to evaluate how real estate returns behaved over the last two decades in relation to the other two asset types. This allows a direct evaluation of how investors make allocation choices and perceive risks and rewards offered by properties in the context of changing market conditions. Design/methodology/approach: A de-smoothed MSCI index is used to reflect direct property returns and control for both income and capital returns within it. Indirect property returns are approximated by the RX Real Estate index. By supplementing this data with an analysis of trends in both space and capital markets it is possible to relate investor behavior to events affecting other assets. Findings: It is possible to identify three distinctive periods characterized by different correlation of returns and behavior of investors: before the crisis of 2008, the crisis period between 2008 and 2012 and recovery afterwards. These appear to have corresponded to different stages of the economic cycle. Interestingly, performance of asset classes has also differed over that period suggesting that at different points in the cycle asset allocation decisions may have been made differently. Practical implications: It appears that as investments over the last 15 years real assets in Germany behaved similarly to bonds. It is possible that this phenomenon was driven by an aversion to the stock market and its associated risk which became a concern after the financial crisis of 2008. Over the downturn that followed the market shock investors appear to have turned to assets with simpler risk profiles like direct real estate and government debt. On the other hand, the correlation between direct property investment index and stock returns has been found to be small but negative. This shows not only that the two asset classes were often driven by different factors but also suggests that diversification was, at least theoretically, possible. Originality/value: Direct real estate investment returns have repeatedly been found to exhibit characteristics similar to those found in bond as well as equity markets (Eichholtz and Hartzell, 1996; Clayton and MacKinnon, 2003) but little research examines the correlation between returns offered by those asset classes in a mature financial and property market. In addition, the recent financial crisis provided a dynamically changing investment which is ideal for investigating structural relationships between assets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-31
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Property Investment and Finance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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