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Risk measures for direct real estate investments with non-normal or unknown return distributions

Lausberg, C., Lee, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-1606-0625, Müller, M. , Oertel, C. & Schultheiß, T. (2019). Risk measures for direct real estate investments with non-normal or unknown return distributions. Zeitschrift für Immobilienökonomie, doi: 10.1365/s41056-019-00028-x


The volatility of returns is probably the most widely used risk measure for real estate. This is rather surprising since a number of studies have cast doubts on the view that volatility can capture the manifold risks attached to properties and corresponds to the risk attitude of investors. A central issue in this discussion is the statistical properties of real estate returns—in contrast to neoclassical capital market theory they are mostly non-normal and often unknown, which render many statistical measures useless. Based on a literature review and an analysis of data from Germany we provide evidence that volatility alone is inappropriate for measuring the risk of direct real estate.

We use a unique data sample by IPD, which includes the total returns of 939 properties across different usage types (56% office, 20% retail, 8% others and 16% residential properties) from 1996 to 2009, the German IPD Index, and the German Property Index. The analysis of the distributional characteristics shows that German real estate returns in this period were not normally distributed and that a logistic distribution would have been a better fit. This is in line with most of the current literature on this subject and leads to the question which indicators are more appropriate to measure real estate risks. We suggest that a combination of quantitative and qualitative risk measures more adequately captures real estate risks and conforms better with investor attitudes to risk. Furthermore, we present criteria for the purpose of risk classification.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Publisher Keywords: Risk management, Volatility, Normal distribution, Risk measures
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD61 Risk Management
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Departments: Bayes Business School > Finance
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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