Behavioural biases in real estate investment – The Property Chronicle
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Behavioural biases in real estate investment

Residential Investor

Human psychology can have a big impact on decision-making. We make cognitive errors on a routine basis by using rules of thumb and over-simplifications. We follow stories rather than facts. We are prone to social biases, such as groupthink and herding. 

Warren Buffett once noted that the wild swings in share prices are driven by the “lemming-like” behaviour of institutional investors rather than the aggregate returns of the companies that they own. Could that be true for real estate too?

Institutional investors and real estate

The research indicates that institutional real estate investors are not immune to behavioural risks. In fact, they may be more exposed to behavioural risks than smaller investors. The MIT Center for Real Estate found that “more experienced investors, and larger more sophisticated investment institutions, exhibit at least as much loss aversion behaviour as less experienced or smaller firms”. 

MIT’s research focused on anchoring and loss aversion. There are two other behavioural biases, groupthink and herding, that merit attention in this late-cycle environment.

Going with the flow

Avoiding disagreement and conflict is human. Sticking together is strongly associated with survival. Investors go mad in herds but recover one by one, according to one observer writing in 1841. Herding can infect individuals but what about organisations such as pension funds? 

Residential Investor

About Stephen Ryan

Stephen Ryan

Stephen Ryan is a research associate at Didobi (, specialist advisers to the real estate industry. Stephen has worked in the real estate and wider financial services industry since 1988. Most recently he worked with INREV in Amsterdam, concentrating on real estate research, corporate governance and liquidity. Prior to INREV, Stephen was an investment consultant in Mercer where he advised institutional investors on real estate and on defined contribution investments.

Articles by Stephen Ryan

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