I was talking to a friend in the last week who has just purchased a great 1 bedroom apartment in Surry Hills. I visited him there just after he moved in and while showing me around asked the BIG question – which is a better investment for me, shares or property? The question took me back a little as he had just purchased his first home and yet still felt uncertain enough to ask the question. We then sat down and discussed what it had cost him to purchase his first home.

He had $50,000 to invest and he could have chosen property or shares. The property cycle and share trading cycles over the last 100 years or so have shown study after study that similar returns are achieved in the long run by investing in either area. Property prices typically double every 7-10 years depending on where you are in the country and share prices tend the same way over a similar period. The issue for the person with $50,000 to invest is gearing.

Gearing is what I believe makes the big difference for the average long term investor. Given that no stamp duty is payable up to $500,000 for a first home buyer, combined with the first home owner’s grant there is an immediate incentive of up to $30,000 approximately. The big deal is financial institutions of all types will lend you up to 100% of the purchase price of property and most will lend at or above 90% LVR (Loan to Value Ratio). What this means is that you can take advantage of the capital growth of a property worth $500,000 with no stamp duty payable and legal and mortgage fees all paid with the first home owner’s grant. At an LVR of 90% you would owe $450,000 to the lender and the property should be worth around $1 million in 7 to 10 years following on from past trends.

This sort of capital gain would simply not be possible for those investing in shares without significant security such as existing property or other assets. Few if any financial institutions would lend at such a high LVR to anyone purchasing shares and therefore I have to say that property comes out on top well and truly for the average Australian. Of course we have seen some huge success stories with people making millions from shares and it would be unwise to ignore shares as part of your total investment portfolio when you have the means to do so. Shares are cheap and easy to trade and if traded well can return enormous sums of money. The winner for the average Australian starting out their financial life in 2007 is property! Michael Marquette

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