The Case for Building Wealth With Stocks, Not Homes - Kanebridge News
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The Case for Building Wealth With Stocks, Not Homes

Such an escalation of home prices is unlikely to repeat, especially from here after their frantic climb

Wed, Apr 6, 2022 5:13pmGrey Clock 2 min

Once upon a time, a young family bought a modest three-bedroom Cape, the worst house in the best location in a prosperous suburb. Many years later, during the housing frenzy of 15 years ago and after the kids had grown and moved away, they received an unsolicited cash bid—for 20 times what they paid. That became their nest egg, which provided a comfortable retirement.

It’s all true, but it might as well be a fairy tale. Such an escalation of home prices is unlikely to repeat, especially from here after their frantic climb. Over the long term, history shows the stock market has returned about twice as much as residential real estate. And it’s done so with far fewer headaches than the attendant expenses of upkeep, which have come as a shock to many recent home buyers.

Looking at the data assembled by NYU Stern School of Business professor Aswath Damodaran, stocks (as measured by the S&P 500) returned 12.47% annually from 1972 to 2021, versus 5.41% for residential housing (based on the Case-Shiller Index, through last October), a span that encompasses inflation’s liftoff after the dollar’s link to gold was severed. Looking at 2012-2021, which takes in the recovery from the housing bust that precipitated the 2007-09 financial crisis, stocks returned an average 16.98%, versus 7.38% for housing.

In a new paper prepared for the Brookings Institution, Robert Shiller, a creator of the housing index, and Anne K. Thompson found 72.4% of respondents in a survey said recent bidding wars had resulted in “panic buying that caused prices to become irrelevant.” That was attributed to the now-familiar story of buyers wanting more room, especially for a home office, in the suburbs. White-collar workers who could work from home were mostly unscathed or benefited from lower spending outlays during the worst of the pandemic.

Historically low mortgage interest rates further leveraged bidders’ buying power. With Freddie Mac’s average 30-year loan down to 3.05% in December, the monthly payment on the median-priced house of $408,100 in the fourth quarter, bought with a 20% down payment, would be US$1,385. With the jump in mortgage rates, to 4.67% as of March 31, that same loan would cost US$1,687 a month. The reduction in affordability is sure to slow home-price appreciation.

Shiller and Thompson found that recent buyers are realistic about near-term home-price trends, expecting some moderation, but may be “given to flights of fancy for the longer run.” Damodaran’s parsing of their data showed buyers at the peak of the previous bubble in 2006 didn’t recover fully from the ensuing bust for 10 years. That wasn’t the first time home buyers were stuck with losses. After the dip from the peak in 1989, prices didn’t recover fully until 1992. And those losing spans didn’t take into account transaction costs, which are huge for residential real estate.

It’s axiomatic that buying high lowers future returns. In human terms, stuff happens, from better job opportunities elsewhere—especially given the ability to work from anywhere for knowledge workers—to unfortunate circumstances such as death and divorce. The ability to pick up stakes with totally portable and liquid financial assets may provide more freedom in the near term, along with greater wealth over the longer span.

Reprinted by permission of Barron’s. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April,


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Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, and graduations are momentous life occasions that some like to mark with large and elaborate celebrations.

And the deep-pocketed set are still in catch-up mode after a party-throwing standstill during the pandemic that went on for many months during the height of the lockdowns and social distancing. Bashes since then have become ever more extravagant and experiential—mere get-togethers, they’re not.

Hosts are also seeking any excuse to throw an event and having parties with the same “wow” factor for far less significant reasons, or for micro-occasions as they’re called, and even “just because,” according to luxury event planners who work with this elite set.

Colin Cowie, a planner based in New York and Miami who regularly orchestrates multimillion-dollar gatherings and was behind Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s wedding, calls it the “event revolution.”

“Large-scale events have become the norm,” Cowie says. “The wealthy, who are used to celebrating their life moments in a big way couldn’t do anything during the pandemic and are now going all out for anything they host.”

His company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle, plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid and has a lineup booked for the next two years. An example includes an upcoming million-dollar dinner party in the Hamptons simply to socialise with friends. It’s an affair with free-flowing Dom Perignon, centre-cut filet mignons, and unlimited caviar.

Colin Cowie Lifestyle plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid
Calen Rose

Other high-end planners also attribute the rise of over-the-top celebrations to a “live life to the fullest” attitude that’s become prevalent in the last few years. But they say that these parties aren’t necessarily about spending more than before—rather, they’re increasingly creative, thoughtful, and, with respect to weddings, longer.

Lynn Easton, a Charleston-based planner, says that her typical wedding used to span two days and entailed a rehearsal dinner plus the wedding itself. “Now, it’s a five-day bonanza with events like a groomsman lunch,” Easton says.

Easton also plans glitzy milestone birthdays such as one for a 60th where the host flew 60 friends and family to a private island. Dinners were multi-hour affairs in various locations around the isle with the showpiece being a five-course meal where the food was presented on dishes that were hand-carved in ice.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, based in New York and Miami, says that, in a new precedent, the weddings she’s tapped to design kick off with striking welcome meals. She recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden. Elements included potted herbs, lemon trees, vintage olive oil cans, ceramic plates, and table cards presented with palm leaves in limoncello cans.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden.
Aletiza Photo

Pashmina shawls hung from chairs to keep guests warm, and freshly baked pizzas and Aperol spritzes were in ready supply throughout the evening.

Stacy Teckin, the groom’s mother, hosted the party with her husband, Ian, and says she sought to pull off a dinner that made an impression on their guests. “The wedding was delayed because of Covid, and now that we had the chance to celebrate, we wanted to go all out,” Teckin says. “I’m not sure we would have done that before.”

In another example, acclaimed planner Norma Cohen threw a wild safari-themed bar mitzvah for a client.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon
Norma Cohen Productions

The memorable occasion transpired at Spring Studios in downtown Manhattan and saw 400 guests be transported to the African plains: Details included mammoth replicas of wildlife such as giraffes and elephants, servers in safari themed attire, and entertainment dressed like giraffes. The event was one of several over-the-top parties Cohen’s arranged recently.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, also ranks high in Cohen’s memory.

Then there’s a destination party in London that Cohen planned for a client who was turning 40. It as a six-day affair with dinners at swanky spots such as Cipriani, the Arts Club, and Cecconi’s at Soho House. The finale was Lancaster House, a mansion in St. James, where guests were entertained by cabaret dancers from the famed Ibiza club Lio Ibiza and feasted on prime rib and lamb chops and imbibed on Krug champagne.

“People today don’t want to host events,” Cohen says. “They want experiences that take you away to a different place and make you forget that the real world exists.”