What is the best Monopoly property?
It really depends on what you consider to be “best”. We’re actually going to answer 5 separate questions, each asking the same question a different way:
- Which property has the best Return on Investment, before hotels and after?
- Which property is most frequently landed on during the game?
- Which color of properties are most frequently landed on during the game?
- Which property has the highest revenue, before hotels and after?
- Which color of properties have the highest revenue, before hotels and after?
The Tools and Methods
For the hit frequency and revenue analysis, I’m going to be running a Monte Carlo Simulation on Monopoly. This simulation is going to be focused strictly on movement in the game. It does take into account: rolling doubles, various ways to go to jail, and chance and community chest cards. It will not simulate buying properties, banking, players dropping out, etc. What the simulation will do is run 10,000 games of Monopoly with 4 players 100 rounds in each game. Then we’re going to count how many times each property has been landed on, and use that in our calculations.
Let’s get started!
A Copy of the American Game Board
Which property has the best Return on Investment, before hotels and after?
What do we mean by “Return on Investment”? Simply put, our ROI is how many times must another player land on this property before we get our money back we put into it.
ROI = (Cost of Property) / (Rent)
We’re going to calculate the ROI without any buildings, and then with hotels.
Top 10 with 0 Buildings
|Board Position||Property Name||Low Cost||Low Rent||Low ROI|
From a ROI stand point, before buildings are put out on the board, Utilities and Railroads are the way to go. They recoup their cost faster than the traditional colored properties. Let’s take a look at the results when we add hotels into the mix.
Top 10 with Hotels
|Board Position||Property Name||High Cost||High Rent||High ROI|
|19||New York Avenue||700||1000||0.700000|
|16||St. James Place||680||950||0.715789|
|11||St. Charles Place||640||750||0.853333|
Since Utilities and Railroads can’t have buildings, their ROI becomes unchanged, so are actually a worse investment long term in the game. The best property for a good ROI is Connecticut Avenue, with costs $370 to build up to a hotel, but returns a whopping $600 when a player lands on it! Well worth the investment it seems.
ROI is great, but it doesn’t give the best picture. Certain properties get hit more than others, and therefore will generate money more often.
Which property is most frequently landed on during the game?
For this calculation, we’re going to run the Monte Carlo simulation. You can find the notebook used to run the simulationand the output from the code on Github. I also have the results from this simulation available in a zip file. Warning, this unzipped file is 219MB. Be aware before opening.
After running the simulation, here’s what we got.
Top 10 most frequently landed on properties
|Board Position||Property Name||Count||Percent of Total Count|
|25||B&O Railroad||179864||3.4663 %|
|19||New York Avenue||146168||2.8169 %|
|5||Reading Railroad||144861||2.7917 %|
|35||Short Line||142711||2.7503 %|
|15||Pennsylvania Railroad||141960||2.7358 %|
|17||Community Chest||141822||2.7332 %|
|18||Tennessee Avenue||139522||2.6889 %|
|28||Water Works||136729||2.6350 %|
It should come as no surprise, but most of the time people are in jail. There are many ways to go to jail, from rolling multiple doubles, to chance or community chest cards, to another space on the board telling people to go there! What’s interesting is that B&O took the #2 spot. My first guess would’ve been the Community Chest in position 17, since it is 7 spaces away from jail. But it is actually all the way down in 8th place.
Why is this? My best guess is Chance cards. There is a Chance spot 12 spaces from Jail and there are two “Advance Token to the Nearest Railroad” cards in the Chance deck. Meaning you have a 1/36 chance of rolling a 12 from jail and landing on Chance. Then a 1/8 chance of advancing to the nearest railroad. This sequence has a 1/288 or 0.347 % chance of happening. It might’ve been enough to squeak by the Community Chest. Chance would also explain why New York has a higher hit chance, due to the “Go back 3 spaces” Chance card.
That being said, the reason as to why is a guess without actually digging into the data further. Again, those results are available here. Feel free to dig in!
Which color of properties are most frequently landed on during the game?
Now that we know which individual properties are landed on the most, let’s take a look at which colors are landed on the most.
|Color||Count||Percent Total Count|
|Light Blue||342688||6.6043 %|
|Dark Purple||207779||4.0043 %|
Excluding the properties that can’t be owned, which were ~31.5% of total hits, Railroads are landed on most frequently. This isn’t surprising, since there are 4 of them and have Chance cards that drive that number higher.
But frequency isn’t everything. Properties have different rent rates. Even though some properties are landed on more often, that doesn’t mean they will always be the highest earners.
Which property has the highest revenue, before hotels and after?
What do we mean by revenue?
Revenue = (Count of property hits) * (Rent)
Top 10 Revenue earners before hotels
|Board Position||Property Name||Count||Low Rent||Low Revenue||Percent Total Low Revenue|
|25||B&O Railroad||179864||$25||$4,496,600||6.3825 %|
|28||Water Works||136729||$28||$3,828,412||5.4341 %|
|5||Reading Railroad||144861||$25||$3,621,525||5.1404 %|
|12||Electric Company||127696||$28||$3,575,488||5.0751 %|
|35||Short Line||142711||$25||$3,567,775||5.0641 %|
|15||Pennsylvania Railroad||141960||$25||$3,549,000||5.0375 %|
|37||Park Place||101189||$35||$3,541,615||5.0270 %|
|34||Pennsylvania Avenue||115034||$28||$3,220,952||4.5718 %|
|31||Pacific Avenue||121587||$26||$3,161,262||4.4871 %|
It seems like Railroads again are a great early game investment. They have a high ROI, are landed on frequently, and are great early game, pre-buildings, investments. What’s interesting is that Boardwalk is a great revenue stream, even though it’s not even in the top 10 of most frequented properties. It’s actually number 22! But that high rent rate really bumps its Revenue.
Top 10 Revenue earners after hotels
|Board Position||Property Name||Count||High Rent||High Revenue||Percent Total High Revenue|
|34||Pennsylvania Avenue||115034||$1400||$161,047,600||5.7387 %|
|31||Pacific Avenue||121587||$1275||$155,023,425||5.5241 %|
|32||North Carolina Avenue||119918||$1275||$152,895,450||5.4482 %|
|37||Park Place||101189||$1500||$151,783,500||5.4086 %|
|19||New York Avenue||146168||$1000||$146,168,000||5.2085 %|
|26||Atlantic Avenue||126095||$1150||$145,009,250||5.1672 %|
|29||Marvin Garden||119011||$1200||$142,813,200||5.0890 %|
|27||Ventnor Avenue||124093||$1150||$142,706,950||5.0852 %|
|24||Illinois Avenue||127213||$1100||$139,934,300||4.9864 %|
Not surprisingly, Boardwalk stays put at the number 1 Revenue earner. Most of these properties are in the last half of the board, with the one exception of New York Avenue. It seems New York Avenue crossed that threshold where its high frequency actually made up for the lower rent.
Now, known individual property revenues are great, but to get those high earners, you need to build hotels. To build hotels, you need to own all of one color.
Which color of properties have the highest revenue, before hotels and after?
Revenue per color before hotels
|Color||Count||Low Revenue||Percent Total Low Revenue|
|Light Blue||342688||$2,284,224||3.2422 %|
|Dark Purple||207779||$627,174||0.8902 %|
Not surprisingly, Railroads early game are the real winners. Before houses and hotels get started, they really are the best investment.
Revenue per color after hotels
|Color||Count||High Revenue||Percent Total High Revenue|
|Light Blue||342688||$194,180,800||6.9194 %|
|Dark Purple||207779||$59,351,310||2.1149 %|
And here it is, the best Revenue color is Green. While the count is actually less than the next 3 earners, the higher rent from the properties really make up the difference.
Everyone has a different opinion on how to play Monopoly. This study doesn’t take into account many different ways to play the game and strategies that really can destroy an opponent. From a strict movement perspective, early game, go for the Railroads, maybe pick up Boardwalk if you can. For a long game strategy, I’m going for the Green properties next time we play.
Update – 10/20/16
After posting this article on Reddit, I received some excellent feedback on my analysis from the competitive Monopoly player, Minus-Celsius, and insight as to why my original conclusion of Green properties being valuable is incomplete.
Essentially, potential Revenue is not the best lens to view Monopoly properties. While Green has the potential for ~2.3% more revenue over time, Orange properties are a better investment in practice. The metric overlooked was the cost for houses. The prices of houses and hotels for Orange are half the price for the Green properties. This allows for a faster setup of the board and an earlier advantage in play. The halved cost of property setup greatly outweighs the small increase in potential Revenue.
This is a clear example of how domain knowledge of a study is invaluable. While I have played Monopoly, without the competitive experience, I missed an opportunity for a more nuanced view of the game. It’s exciting to get feedback from an expert, as it allows for an opportunity for growth and learning new ways to look at and interpret data.