Like a football team, each one has its fans, but is one really better than another?

Australians seem to have a thing about property.
Before the current issues of availability and affordability, buying your first home and then adding an investment property were rites of passage for many people.

On the other side of the equation are the fans of the sharemarket.

A generation of retirees love their blue chip shares, and have been living very happily for years on the generous dividends from the likes of the Big Four banks, mining giants such as BHP and Rio Tinto, and national telco Telstra.

We do seem to enjoy living in our main investments, though. According to the 2011 Census, 67 percent of Australian households living in homes they either own or are buying through a mortgage. This is down from a high of 70 percent back in 1966, but it is still very high.

At the same time, the number of people who own their home outright is falling, and is now down to only around three in tend.

More recently, investors have waded into the market, and one in six Australians has a stake in investment property. Each month, Australian banks lend more than $10 billion to investors for property.

Tax breaks such as negative gearing, where investors are able to claim deductions if the rent is less than the interest they pay, have helped this along.

More recently, property investment options have been widened by rules allowing self-managed superannuation funds to borrow to purchase property.

The property market has come through several years of spectacular growth, with some capital cities enjoying double digit growth in prices.

In Sydney, the nation’s hottest market, the median house price was $573,00 0 in 2003 and moved through the magic $1 million barrier in mid-2015.

With such growth, devotees of property have plenty to crow about, and although shares might not have been so spectacular in 2016, they have done well enough over the years.

Look at shares in the nation’s biggest bank, the Commonwealth. If you bought the shares in 2010, you would have paid $50 a share.

When they hit a high of $96 in early 2015 you would have been very tempted to sell, although you would have missed the nice annual dividends, running at around 7 percent.

Even at today’s price in the mid $70s, the CBA has been a nice investment.

There may never be a definitive answer to the question of which is better, housing or shares, and most advisers will say that diversity is the key.

For many people, their retirement strategy is to sell the family home, downsize and tip the balance into a share portfolio.

All of which goes to show that Australians love both of them, but perhaps at different points in their life journey.

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