REITS Versus Property Which is a Better Investment Vehicle?

I believe most of us know the difference between REITs and property. While both are directly related to investing in real estate, there are a few key differences between the two. Here’s a quick summary of these two investment vehicles

Although Both Are Essentially Real Estate, they Can Be Different As Chalk And Cheese. Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

REITs Vs Property (Key Differences)
Low Capital Outlay

You don’t need to have a lot of funds to get started in REITS. You can just buy a single lot and get yourself started from only a few thousand dollars. The same cannot be said for real estate. With a down payment of 25% and the stamp duty of 4%, you are looking at almost 30% of the property price to get started. For a property price of $1mil, this works out to be around $290k


REITs are stocks, so they are extremely liquid. The probability of finding a buyer for your shares are so much easier than selling a piece of real estate. In most scenarios, you can sell your stock the same day you want to. As for real estate, it is far more complicated. To sell your property, you would need to do a comparative market analysis, home staging, videography, advertise, conducting an open house before you even receive an offer. Depending on your property, it can take days or sometimes even months to sell.


If you are a landlord, you would know that you are essentially managing the property yourself. That means dealing with all manner of troubleshooting that can go wrong with a house. For REITS, the management of the portfolio of the properties is done by a professional team. All you need to do is to wait for the share prices to go up and collect dividends.


Whenever you rent out a property in Singapore, you are subjected to both income and property taxes. Dividends, on the other hand, are tax-free since 1st January 2008.

REITs Vs Property (Monetary Returns)

Now that we understand the key differences between REITs and property, which one is better? Some people prefer REITs due to the liquidity while others insist on the leveraging real estate brings. There is no right or wrong answer. It all boils down to which instrument can fulfil your objectives. I did however come across an article on Seedly that seems to suggest that REITS offer better returns than real estate in terms of both yields and capital gains. When I saw the numbers, I nearly fell off the chair. If you are a property investor, you would know what I mean.

Difference Between REIT and Property (Source: Seedly)

ExampleCapitalMall Trust (CMT)Trevista Condo
Initial Capital OutlayLow ($1690)High ($200k)
LeverageNoYes (Bank Loan)
TaxesNo (Tax Included)Yes (ABSD, Property Tax, Rental Income Tax)
Capital Gain (Since 2010)44.4%42.9%
Yield4.5% p.a (Dividend)2.9% p.a (Rental)
Effort LowHigh

At first glance, it would appear that investing in CapitalMall Trust(CMT) is a no brainer. There is little effort, and the gains and yields seem to be much higher than purchasing a Trevista Condo 10 years ago. However, the presentation of data is highly misleading, and the article didn’t highlight one crucial fact. That fact happens to be the return on actual investment (ROI). To give you a clearer perspective, I will be extracting this specific number which is not indicated in the table. Because the most important thing at the end of the day is how much money you put in and how much you get back.

Calculating The Return On Investment For CMT

Let’s assume you were able to travel back in time back to 2010. You have $226,100 in your pocket and is looking at either buying 134 lots of CapitalMall REIT or purchasing a Trevista condo. So which instrument will give you better returns at the end of the day? Let’s take a look.

Return On Investment On The CMT REIT

 CapitaMall Trust (CMT)
Intitial Downpayment$226,100
Share Price 2010 $1.69
Share Price 2019$2.44
Profit After Sale$105,000
Total Yield (4.5% on initial amount)$101,745
Total Gains$206,745
Return On Investment91.43%
Return On Investment Per Year9.1%

So, buying the REIT will net you a profit of $206,745. That’s an impressive 91.43% or an average of 9.1% per year. Not many instruments can give you such a high performance. The returns are even better than what we get from our CPF Special Accounts. How about the Trevista Condo? Well, in addition to property and income taxes, I have also included in bank interest charges. The bank interest costs are the most significant expense for an investment property. I’m a little surprised that the author did not add the interest costs in the yield calculation. Nonetheless, I have added it here.

Calculating The Return On Investment On The Trevista Condo

Return On Investment On The Trevista Condo

 Trevista Condo
Price Of Condo in 2010$1,050,000
Intitial Downpayment$200,000
Stamp Duty$26,100
Selling Price in 2019$1,500,000
Capital Gain$450,000
Profit After Marketing Fees$420,000
Rental Income (Yearly)$38,400
Maintenance Fees (Yearly)$4000
Property Tax (Yearly)$3000
Income Tax$800
Bank Interest Costs (Yearly. Averaged over 10 years)$12,192
Agent Fees (Yearly)$1600
Yield Per Year$16,808
Yield For 10 Years$168,080
Total Gains$588,080
Return On Investment260%
Return On Investment Per Year26%

If you have bought the Trevista condo instead, your $226,100 will net you a total of $588,080. That’s a whopping 260% on your initial investment. Or an average of 26% a year.

However, I do have to point out that for the Trevista condo, your cash flow position is negative. Because the rental cannot cover the mortgage payments, maintenance fees, agent fees and property and income taxes. With the assumption that the loan amount is $840k, loan tenure of 30 years and an interest rate of 2%, you are looking at a mortgage payment of $3104 per month. Which also means that every year, you will need to come up with $8248 which goes into the principal of the property.

If you decide to sell your Trevista condo today, not only will you get your returns but also the principal you have put in the last ten years. After the sale, you will get back

-Your original $200k. ($22,610 is gone to IRAS)
-Profit of $588k
-Principal Payment of $251k

The total is slightly over a million dollars. The same cannot be said if you have invested in the CapitalMall REIT. Even if your Trevista doesn’t appreciate, here are the expected returns. The returns are of course lesser to what you get by investing directly in the REIT.

Return On Investment On The Trevista Condo With Zero Capital Appreciation And Zero Rental Increment

 Trevista Condo
Price Of Condo in 2010$1,050,000
Intitial Downpayment$200,000
Stamp Duty$26,100
Selling Price in 2019$1,050,000
Capital Gain$0
Profit After Marketing Fees($21,000)
Rental Income (Yearly)$38,400
Maintenance Fees (Yearly)$4000
Property Tax (Yearly)$3000
Income Tax$800
Bank Interest Costs (Yearly. Averaged over 10 years)$12,192
Agent Fees (Yearly)$1600
Yield Per Year$16,808
Yield For 10 Years$168,080
Total Gains$147,080
Return On Investment65%
Return On Investment Per Year6.5%
Capital Appreciation. The Most Important Factor When It Boils Down To Return On Investment On Real Estate

CMT Prices Today. Screenshot From Google Search

However, if you were to look at the CapitalMall REIT prices today, it is about $1.85 per share. That’s almost the same price ten years ago! If you did not sell last year, your capital appreciation is only a shocking 9%! Which also means that if you have invested in a condo and the price remained the same, you will get more in terms of your ROI than your investment in CMT. In my earlier article, I have written on how profitability is the most critical factor that affects stock prices. This also means that the capital appreciation of REITs is directly proportional on rental returns. This form of “capital appreciation” is not the same as the increase in land value we see at from the Trevista condo.

So REITs or Property?

Again, I must tell you that there is no right or wrong answer. Which is better is dependent on which instrument can fulfil your needs. Also, the above calculation shows you that capital appreciation for Trevista is the main reason why the returns on investment are so high. I do know of some people who are very focused on the rental yields that sometimes they forget to see the bigger picture. I hope that this simple example would show you that rental yields are not as important as capital appreciation. To understand how housing prices go up, why not book a videocall appointment us today? Learn from historical examples, and you may very well see yourself accumulate 1million dollars. Like what some of the owners at Trevista did ten years ago.

Article contributed by Jerry Wong.

Jerry Wong is a realtor with Propnex Realty. He loves coffee, cookies and condos. Most importantly, he loves connecting people to properties and gets enormous satisfaction when they acquire their dream home. Or making well-informed decisions that see their assets grow. Book a video call appointment and Jerry will share with you the following.

  1. How certain factors affect real estate prices. Why some condos can make a million dollars while others can lose that same million.
  2. Why timing is not the most important thing. Because some people can buy the same condo at the same time, but one end up making $100k to $200k while the other suffers losses of the same amount!
  3. Understanding your requirements and craft a solution for your real estate needs. Be it in the form of asset progression, tax planning, etc.

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