Don’t invest in pre-construction!

BY Luis Noronha / ON May 29, 2024

Real estate has consistently been a steadfast choice in high-net-worth investments, offering a blend of stability, capital appreciation, and tangible asset value. Pre-construction properties have garnered significant attention among the myriad of real estate investment avenues. However, it is imperative to examine whether pre-construction real estate indeed constitutes an investment or if it is more accurately classified as speculation. This discourse aims to elucidate the speculative underpinnings of pre-construction real estate ventures, particularly emphasizing that the developer’s profit is inherently embedded in the pre-construction price, thus making any potential gains highly contingent on market dynamics at the time of delivery.

Understanding Pre-Construction Real Estate

Pre-construction real estate refers to properties that are sold before their completion. Investors are presented with an opportunity to purchase these properties based on architectural plans, renderings, and the developer’s track record. The allure of pre-construction investments often lies in the perceived benefits of buying at a lower price point, with the expectation that property values will be appreciated by the time of project completion. However, this expectation is precisely where the speculative nature of such investments becomes apparent.

Embedded Developer Profit: A Critical Consideration

One fundamental aspect differentiating pre-construction purchases from other forms of real estate investment is the developer’s profit in the price. Developers meticulously calculate and incorporate their profit margins, construction costs, and an array of contingencies into the pricing structure of pre-construction units. Consequently, the price at which investors buy these units already encompasses the developer’s anticipated profit.

This intrinsic inclusion of profit raises a pivotal question: if the developer’s profit is already accounted for in the pre-construction price, what margin remains for the investor? The answer hinges on market conditions at the time of completion, which are inherently unpredictable. Therefore, the investor speculates that the market will continue on an upward trajectory, allowing them to sell the property at a premium upon completion.

Speculation versus Investment: A Distinction

An investment is typically characterized by a calculated risk underpinned by thorough analysis and a reasonable expectation of generating returns based on intrinsic value and market fundamentals. Conversely, speculation involves a higher degree of risk, often reliant on market sentiment and external variables that could be more predictable and easier to quantify.

Pre-construction real estate purchases align more closely with the latter. Investors are primarily betting on future market conditions, which encompass a multitude of variables, including economic trends, interest rates, geopolitical factors, and shifts in demand and supply dynamics. Unlike traditional real estate investments, where value can be derived from existing market data, rental income, and property improvements, pre-construction investments lack these tangible metrics, amplifying the transaction’s speculative nature.

Market Volatility and Uncertainty

The real estate market is inherently cyclical, influenced by a broad spectrum of economic and societal factors. While robust growth and appreciation periods are not uncommon, downturns and market corrections are equally prevalent. The speculative nature of pre-construction investments becomes starkly evident during such downturns. Should the market experience a correction or a slowdown by the time the property is completed, investors might find themselves in a precarious position, owning a property worth less than their purchase price.

Moreover, the time horizon between purchasing a pre-construction property and its completion can span several years. Numerous unforeseen events can transpire within this timeframe, including changes in regulatory environments, shifts in consumer preferences, and macroeconomic disruptions. These factors further underscore the speculative risks inherent in pre-construction real estate investments.

Opportunity Cost and Liquidity Concerns

Investing in pre-construction properties also entails significant opportunity costs. Capital tied up in a pre-construction project cannot be allocated to other potentially lucrative investment opportunities. High-net-worth individuals often have access to diverse investment vehicles, ranging from equities and bonds to private equity and hedge funds. The illiquid nature of pre-construction investments can impede the ability to pivot and reallocate resources in response to changing market conditions.

Furthermore, should an investor wish to exit a pre-construction investment before completion, they may encounter substantial liquidity challenges. The secondary market for pre-construction contracts is typically less liquid and can be fraught with complications, including transfer fees, legal restrictions, and a limited pool of potential buyers.

Mitigating Speculative Risks

While the speculative nature of pre-construction real estate is evident, strategies exist to mitigate associated risks. Thorough due diligence is paramount. Investors should scrutinize the developer’s track record, financial health, and project location and conduct a comprehensive market analysis to gauge potential demand and supply dynamics upon completion.

A better risk-adjusted scenario is to co-invest with Developers like Lana Development ( as limited partners from the initial stages. The investor will potentially run the same risks as the pre-construction buyer. However, they will invest at cost and share profits with the developer.

On another note, pre-construction purchases make sense for users who want to lock in their price for real estate they don’t plan on selling.