Why I’m selling my real estate

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The case for buying real estate

As a kid, I read rich dad poor dad (affiliate) written by Robert Kiyosaki. It was a good read, but the whole book (and probably a lot of the subsequent books as well) can be summarized in one concept. You need to spend the extra money you have every month, on investments that constantly bring in additional money. It’s a simple concept, and it snowballs once you get the process going because of the effect of compound interest. One of the very first ways I identified to achieve this is with the help of real estate. It took me a year and two months to save the deposit for my first property. When I bought the property, it was literally my entire net worth, which looking back was idiotic.

Real estate just made sense. It was an investment 23-year-old me could understand. I imagined a future where I had 20 paid off investment properties that were rented out and I simply lived off the rental income. I ran the math and it looked legit. The profit from the first property would pay off the second until everything was paid off, at which point I’d retire and travel the world.

The mathematics of owning real estate

Let’s look at the mathematics of owning real estate. If you bought a rental property at a cost of R800 000. You’d be able to buy a two-bedroom, two-bathroom place and depending on the location, it might even have a small garden. Rental for a property like this should run for about R7 200 a month (I made a lot of assumptions just like everyone else running the numbers).

By the end of the 20-year repayment period, you’d have real-estate worth about R3 million. In comparison, if you were to invest in shares, your investments would be worth about R2.4 million with the same input capital. This is 20% less than what you would have retired with had you invested in real estate. The comparative growth can be seen below. The REIT line starts out higher since you can invest your transfer and lawyer fees you would have paid buying real estate.

So far, so good. Let us now assume that you are retiring with property to the value of R20 million. Had you invested in shares you would have saved up about R16 million, 20% less than when investing in physical property. 

Living off your properties

The property yield is about 10% (yearly income) with the property value growth about 7% per year. Typically, about 2% of the yield goes towards levies, rates and taxes and another 0.5% towards maintenance. That leaves you with an income of R1.5 million (the remaining 7.5%). However, you’ll be paying the worst tax you can be paying, income tax. You will only see about R980 000 of that money and the president considers buying another private jet (the other planes are lonely).

Let’s assume you drew your money from your share portfolio, while still requiring 7% growth. You will receive 1.5% from dividends (the typical yield of the Top 40 or International Exchange Traded Fund (ETF)). On the dividends, you will pay 20% withholding tax. In addition, you will need to sell 5.3% of your portfolio. On this, you will pay capital gains tax. The tax on the dividends and capital gains will be R103 200, leaving you an income of R984 800.

Why I prefer Equities

As a result, the income from real estate and shares will be similar, all things considered. This brings me to my first reason for selling my investment properties. If you own property worth R20 million, you are managing about 25 rental properties. Yes, you can outsource the management, but that’s going to cost you 5% to 10% of your capital, in which case equities are owning your property performance.

I have to rent out a property on average once a year. That’s 3 showings of 2 hours per year. I also have to do maintenance about 2 times a year costing me another 2 hours each. Add paperwork, income tax submissions etc., of about an hour a year and you are looking at about 11 hours per year, per property. That is about 275 hours or almost two months’ worth of property management, in retirement. It also means that you have to be close to your properties. This leaves little time for sipping cocktails in the Maldives.

Equity in the form of ETFs has no management, the tax is subtracted automatically and can be done from anywhere. That’s my type of investment. Granted, you must make the decision for yourself as to what you want to achieve, but I’m all for low maintenance investments. There are a few other issues regarding property management that I will address in the follow-up article, 9 reasons why I don’t want to retire with property.

Be safe out there,


Quote of the week

"People are living longer than ever before, a phenomenon undoubtedly made necessary by the 30-year mortgage." – Doug Larson Click To Tweet


Thank you for reading to the end. Apparently, the average person spends 8 seconds on a page, so you are special. If you have any suggestions, feel free to drop me a mail on the contact page. If I missed anything or you have questions, don’t hesitate to comment below. I might even notice it and respond. If you enjoyed this article and really want to throw me a bone, please share it.

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  3. Hamster

    Hi Hendrik,

    Good post! My wife and I owned 4 properties, the one we live in and 3 rentals.

    When we started our journey into stock market investing (especially with plenty ETFs now available here in SA), we did a lot of calculations and came to the conclusion that long-term investing in the stock market (via ETFs in our TFSAs, low-cost RAs with 10X, etc), it became clear that rentals really aren’t worth the effort, cost or concentration risk. We started selling them off (the last one is in process at the attorneys) and we moved all of the capital from the sales into our primary residence’s bond, which will be paid off soon (5 years total).

    We did a lot of back-testing and found the properties did a lot worse than your figures above! The rate at which Rates & Taxes and Levies went up were way above inflation, yet the rental income stagnated and fell well below inflation (looking back over 16 years, from when we bough our first rental).

    So, I agree, getting your savings into low-cost, well diversified ETFs (or other products) is the way to go!

    Cheers mate!

  4. Post
    Hendrik Brand

    Thank you for the comment Hamster.

    When you see the figures on paper it always looks good, but rarely live up to the expectation. It also took me renting out two properties to come to this realisation. One can do well with properties, but like you appropriately stated, it is not worth the effort, cost or concentration risk.

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