Investing in residential property versus shares – which is better?

There are many investment strategies you can implement to help you build real long-term wealth.

Investing in residential property or shares are some of the most common ways to do this, given these investment options have proven to deliver consistent returns over the long-term.1

But here's the thing.

When looking at how the two compare in terms of investment performance over a 20 year period, there's actually not much difference. In fact, residential investment property returned just 1.4% more than Australian shares in the last 20 years to December 2017.2

So, in addition to performance, there are two other factors to also consider when choosing an investment approach - your comfort with risk and your investment timeframe.

Learn more about investing your wealth or speak to a financial adviser.

Appetite for risk

While all types of investment classes will come with some degree of risk, given the nature of shares being highly volatile, you are generally likely to experience greater fluctuations with your returns and losses compared to residential property, particularly in the short to medium term.

As the value of shares can change daily, it's important to consider how comfortable you are with risk and whether you can stomach your portfolio experiencing extreme gains or losses on a regular basis.

Investment timeframe

Residential investment property is generally viewed as a long-term investment that over time may offer positive returns.

Shares on the other hand, are generally used as a short to medium term investment as timing the market is a lot more important than time on the market. This is because it's mostly about buying low and selling high.

Investing in shares versus property: some of the pros and cons

Regular income stream

Investment property offers access to a passive income stream or a regular cash-flow as a result of your rental income which you may choose to reinvest.

The share market does have dividend paying stocks too, which provide a regular income stream. These are often not as much as what you could earn from an investment property however.

Ease of access

One of the main advantages of investing in the share market is it's relatively easy to get into. You can use an investment platform, invest via a managed fund or simply download an app. It also doesn't cost a significant amount to get started, although there may be fees that you could be required to pay.

Residential property on the other hand, requires a substantial upfront investment as well as ongoing expenses to maintain the property.


Unlike with residential property, one of the great advantages of investing in the share market is the ability to spread your money across many industries, sectors, geographic areas and large cap or emerging markets. This means you have a greater opportunity to diversify your portfolio and reduce your risk. For instance, if one of your shares plummets, your other investments may help to level out your losses.


One of the main benefits of investing in shares is the ability to convert your investment into accessible cash. This means if you need to access your money quickly, you can simply sell part of your portfolio.

Residential property doesn't offer the same luxury. It may take a few months or longer to sell your property depending on the market.


One of the great benefits of property is it's tangible – something you can see, feel, and touch. This means you have complete control over how your investment is managed.

With the share market this isn't the case. In fact, the success of your investment is largely impacted by the people who run the company. For instance, if the company was to go bankrupt, you would lose your entire investment.

Tax breaks

There are tax breaks available in both shares and property.

If you invest in a dividend paying stock – companies that pay you a regular income– the money you receive from your dividends is taxed at a lower tax rate than the money you'd make from your income.

With a residential investment property, you may also be able to claim against your taxable income for things such as repairs and maintenance to the property, insurance costs, agent and strata fees.

Bottom line: if you're considering whether investing in residential property or shares is a better option to build your wealth, factor in your investment timeframe and comfort with risk.


1 Russell Investments/ASX Long-term Investing Report 2018:

2 Russell Investments/ASX Long-term Investing Report 2018:


Important information and disclaimer 

This article has been prepared by GWM Adviser Services Limited (ABN 96 002 071 749, AFSL 230692) (‘GWMAS’), registered office at 105 –153 Miller St North Sydney NSW 2060. GWMAS is a member of the National Australia Bank Limited group of companies (“NAB Group”).  Any advice provided in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Please seek personal financial, tax and/or legal advice prior to acting on this information. If any financial products are referred to in this article, you should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) or other disclosure material before making an investment decision in relation to that financial product. Information in this article is current as at 10 February 2020. In some cases the information has been provided to us by third parties.  While it is believed the information is accurate and reliable, the accuracy of that information is not guaranteed in any way and no liability is accepted by GWMAS nor any member of the NAB Group, nor any of their, directors, agents or employees for any loss arising from reliance on this article. Any opinions expressed constitute our views at the time of issue and are subject to change.  Any tax information provided in this article is intended as a guide only. Any investment returns referred to in this article are hypothetical examples for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect the historical or future returns of any specific financial products.