Believe it or not, real estate correlation is an important topic. And you should pay attention to it if you want to understand diversification. We all know that diversification is good advice. It’s right up there with some of these pieces of advice. 

  • Listen more than you speak
  • Your word is your bond
  • Trust your gut
  • Treat people like you want to be treated

As for financial advice, you’ve probably heard things like…

  • Live on less than you make
  • Invest for the future
  • Diversify your portfolio

Some of this advice may sound cliche, but ultimately it’s solid advice. And in the financial world, there is tons of discussion on the subject of diversification. But how do you diversify your portfolio to optimize your results?

To answer that question, you need to understand real estate correlation. 

What is Correlation in Real Estate Investing

Correlation is a statistical measurement of the degree to which two financial assets move in relation to one another. Diversification is not owning multiple highly correlated assets. If all those assets move in tandem, you’re not diversified. Instead, you should look for asset classes with low correlation.

Correlation vs. Causation

As important as correlation is, it’s important not to confuse it with causation. Correlation does not imply causation, that’s basic Econ 101.

Just because a statistical relationship exists between the movement of two securities, doesn’t mean that one of them is causing the other’s movement.

Correlation Can Be Positive or Negative with Real Estate Assets

Correlation can be positive, negative, or zero. A positive correlation means that the returns of two investments tend to move in the same direction. A negative correlation means that the returns of two investments tend to move in opposite directions. A zero correlation means that the returns of two investments are independent and do not move in relation to each other.

Real estate correlation is measured on a scale of +1 to -1 and the numbers on this scale are referred to as correlation coefficients. The definitions of strong, moderate, and weak correlation can be debated, but as a general guide, the correlation coefficients can be interpreted as follows:

+1.00 Perfect positive correlation 

+0.99 – +0.85 Very strong positive correlation

+0.84 – +0.70 Strong positive correlation

+0.69 – +0.40 Moderate positive correlation

+0.39 – +0.10 Weak positive correlation

+0.09 – +0.01 Negligible positive correlation

0.00 No relationship between two variables (uncorrelated)

-0.01 – -0.09 Negligible negative correlation

-0.10 – -0.39 Weak negative correlation

-0.40 – -0.69 Moderate negative correlation

-0.70 – -0.84 Strong negative correlation

-0.85 – -0.99 Very strong negative correlation

-1.00 Perfect negative correlation

Perfect positive correlation +1.00 is the strongest correlation and means that two securities move in tandem with each other producing identical results. A perfect negative correlation means two securities move identically opposite of one another subtracting each other out. And a 0.00 correlation coefficient indicates that two securities move completely independently of one another and would be non-correlated assets.

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How Can I Avoid Negative Correlation when Investing?

Some investors mistakenly believe that they need to avoid negative correlations, but that isn’t true. All negative correlation means is that a security has an inverse relationship with another security. In other words, when one goes up, the other goes down, and vice versa.

This is an important part of diversification. You want some assets going up when others are going down. It blunts the impact of the negative performing assets. It’s one reason why many financial advisors recommend carrying both stocks and bonds (among other things) in a portfolio. Stocks and bonds tend to have an inverse relationship. 

You just want to be careful about your assets canceling each other out. For that reason, some people avoid perfectly positive and perfectly negative correlated assets. Some investors also prefer to avoid strongly correlated assets sticking with assets with correlation coefficients that range from weakly positive to weakly negative correlation.

Importance of Portfolio Diversification

If the stock market only went up, then nobody would need to diversify. But unfortunately, it goes up and down. If you need to be reminded of this, simply look to 2022 when the S&P 500 was down -18.11%. 

That’s why portfolio diversification is an important risk mitigation strategy. And diversification is a core idea within modern portfolio theory. After all, a portfolio of assets from different asset classes is less risky than a portfolio of similar assets. 

Reducing Correlation Risks through Diverse Investments

As the saying goes, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Diversification does matter and that’s why so many accredited investors include the big three investments – stocks, bonds, and real estate – in their portfolios.

Countless alternative investments may also make sense to some investors. Just know that over-diversification can lead to dilution. Carrying significant positions in assets with consistently low returns can dilute your overall returns. 

Over the last two decades, we’ve seen fewer people purchasing bonds due to their poor returns. During this time, more and more individual investors as well as institutional investors started gravitating toward real estate for better returns, low volatility, and for diversification. 

How Real Estate Correlates to Other Investment Assets

Since real estate is one of the top three investments, let’s explore real estate correlation to various asset classes. To do that, we’ll utilize the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries (NCREIF) as our benchmark for comparison.


Real Estate Correlation, Quick Guide to Real Estate Correlation

As you can see from the graphic above, from 2000 through 2020, private real estate has a correlation coefficient of 0.14 when compared to the U.S. stock market. This means that it has a weak positive correlation that borders on a negligible correlation. Therefore, real estate has a long track record of being an excellent investment for diversification from the stock market.


Real Estate Correlation, Quick Guide to Real Estate Correlation

In comparison to U.S. bonds, over the last twenty years, private real estate has a correlation coefficient of -0.12. That means that private real estate has a nearly negligible negative correlation to the U.S. bond market. Therefore it’s also an excellent diversification asset class from bonds.

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Real Estate Correlation, Quick Guide to Real Estate Correlation

This one often confuses people as they believe that adding REITs to their portfolio brings them a diversification benefit when it usually doesn’t. 

The reason they make that mistake is that they believe they are investing in real estate when they invest in REITs. But in actuality, a REIT is a stock-based asset. So instead they are still investing in the stock market. Yes, they are investing in the sector of real estate within the broader market, but a REIT is still a stock market-based asset. 

And as a stack market-based asset, it has a moderate to high positive correlation with the stock market. Therefore its utility as a diversification tool against the stock market is limited at best.

Over the last 20 years, U.S. REITs are much more closely correlated with the stock market at 0.68 than they are to private real estate at 0.25.

Residential Real Estate vs. Commercial Real Estate

Commercial and residential real estate are two different types of properties with different characteristics and drivers. In some areas, there may be a strong correlation between residential and commercial real estate, as businesses and residents are both attracted to the same location. In other areas, the two may be largely uncorrelated, as the drivers of demand for each type of property are different. 

 As such, their correlations can vary based on a number of factors. Commercial real estate tends to be more closely tied to economic cycles and business trends, while residential real estate is more closely tied to demographic trends and can be more sensitive to local housing market changes or interest rates. With that in mind, multifamily real estate blends the best of residential and commercial real estate with less volatility compared to either individually.

How Real Estate Correlates with Broader Economic Indicators

Multifamily real estate has a long history as a hedge against inflation and a track record for performing well during recessions. So let’s dive into real estate correlation and its relationship with these economic indicators.


Inflation has been a major topic in the news for more than a year now as Americans have experienced the worst inflation in more than forty years. Commercial real estate has a long consistent track record for beating inflation. 

In fact, NPI has exceeded CPI in 37 of the last 43 years. In contrast, the S&P 500 has only exceeded CPI in 29 of those 43 years. And rent growth for apartments has a long history of exceeding inflation as well.

Real Estate Correlation, Quick Guide to Real Estate Correlation

Image Source: Nuveen

So clearly, real estate correlation is strong with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in inflationary times. We can quantify that positive correlation by looking at correlation coefficients. Below is a graph that compares the correlation between CPI and stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Real Estate Correlation, Quick Guide to Real Estate Correlation

Image Source: Neuberger / Berman

Notice that real estate has had the highest positive correlation to CPI over the last 40+ years. And if you look at just the last 20+ years you’ll see that correlation becomes stronger. Also when inflation gets really bad, real estate also goes up significantly, while stocks are only weakly positively correlated. Bonds have a strong negative correlation in high inflation times which is why bond investors can lose their shirts.


I’ve written about recessions through the years. You can find that information in the following articles:

To summarize that work, the stock market is positively correlated with recessions. Over the last 100 years, every U.S. recession has had a corresponding drop in the stock market. The average decline in stock prices during a recession is -28%.

In contrast, over the last approximately 70 years, there have been ten recessions. During those recessions, national multifamily apartments have remained +90% – 95% occupied. Also, none of those recessions resulted in more than a one percent decline in occupancies. 

With apartments maintaining such high occupancy levels during recessionary times, it should come as no surprise that rent growth remained positive in nine out of ten of these recessions. In good times and in bad, in bull markets and in bear markets, apartments have performed well.

37th Parallel’s Leading Real Estate Investment Fund

As you can see, the evidence is clear. Real estate, particularly multifamily real estate, is an excellent diversification tool in a portfolio made up of stocks and bonds. It also performs well in recessionary times and is an excellent hedge against inflation

And the good news is that the average accredited investor doesn’t have to become a landlord to add real estate to their portfolio. Instead, they can partner with professionals to maximize their results. 

37th Parallel Properties latest Income and Total Return Fund is such an investment vehicle and something all accredited investors should consider.

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Our acquisitions and asset management teams employ an evidence-based approach to our offerings. Over the last 15 years we’ve transacted more than 1 billion dollars in properties with a 100% profitable track record. We know how to make our investors money. 

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Do you have multifamily real estate in your portfolio? If not, then maybe you previously didn’t understand real estate correlation and diversification. Now that you do, you owe it to yourself to learn more about investing in apartments. 

The best way to get started is to schedule a complimentary consultation with 37th Parallel Properties. Take a moment now and see how you can optimize your investment portfolio with real estate.