Friday, July 09, 2010

How much is real estate as a percentage of total assets?

I often wonder what the does the fixed asset block at a country level looks like. 

Companies report their asset base in terms of land and property, plant and machinery, investments, cash and deposits, even goodwill (brands or excess payments for acquisitions) etc. In a company the investments we are told what is approximate value of this investment. (In some cases you have to work around but you can tell). 

If we have the total asset and those invested in real estate, then we know how much percentage change in real estate prices will impact the economy. True, it won't tell us GDP impact, but it will tell us the scale.  The impact will manifest in variety of direction but the quantum of impact is a critical variable. 

Let me give an example. A small meteor can strike anywhere on the planet and we really don't care. For a medium meteor, the point of impact matters. It creates a tsunami or a crater etc. But if a truly large meteor strikes then it does not matter where it strikes. The result is the same - total wipeout.

To parallel with financial crisis, I think we still do not know what is the size of real estate problem. The real estate problem encompasses the following:
  1. Housing i.e. houses and residential buildings in possession of consumers.
  2. Rental housing - those residential buildings owned by businesses but meant for renting.
  3. Real Estate owned by companies. Like land for factories etc.
  4. Commercial Real Estate like malls, theaters, office complexes.
  5. Agricultural land owned by people and companies
  6. It does not include lands that we cannot sell or lease like forest lands for example or gardens.

Then we need to find out  what is the amount of loan for which this stands as collateral. We can then estimate the impact of 1% change of valuations. My guess is the total size of real estate assets will be like 2/3rd of total global assets. The total loans outstanding against these assets is an unknown. We can agree that the problem is not small. The question is how big is it.