Return on Cash Investment

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Return on Cash Investment Comparing Buying a Home in San Francisco to Inflation, Gold, the S&P 500 & Apple Stock

For the purposes of this analysis, we’ve broken home ownership into 2 aspects, the first being ongoing housingcosts – mortgage interest, home insurance, property taxes, maintenance – which after tax deductions could be compared to the cost of renting a similar home. The second aspect, illustrated in the chart above, is the cash investment side of buying a home and the compound annual return on that investment, after closing costs and loan principal repayment are deducted, if one had purchased a median SF house in 1994. For the San Francisco Median House calculation, we used the 1994 median price ($265,000), with a 20% downpayment ($53,000) and paying 1.5% in buy-side closing costs ($3975) for a total cash investment of $56,975. Net proceeds were calculated using the 2015 YTD median sales price ($1,250,000), deducting 6% in sell-side closing costs ($75,000) and the original 80% mortgage balance ($212,000), which equals $963,000. This equals an annual compound return on investment of 14.4% over the 21-year period.

All of us should have put every penny we had into Apple stock in 1994, but barring that, purchasing a home in San Francisco would have been a decent alternative – particularly if you’d bought in Noe Valley or the Mission. Three factors not included in the above analysis further increase the financial benefits of home purchase over the other investments graphed: 1) the $250,000/$500,000 capital gains tax exclusion on the sale of a primary residence (potentially saving up to $75,000 in taxes), 2) the “forced savings” effect of gradually paying off one’s mortgage (if one resists refinancing out growing home equity), which has a substantial wealth-building effect, and 3) over time, the ongoing cost of housing with a fixed rate loan, strategically refinanced when rates go significantly lower, will usually fall well below rental costs that continue to rise with inflation.

With financial assets subject to market cycles, changing the buy or sell dates in this analysis can dramatically affect the return. We picked 1994, because of the availability of MLS median price data going back to then.