I'd definitely choose 1M in cash over living and owning a home worth 1M. The home is both illiquid and necessary: when you sell your home and cash in on the million, you've still got to find a new place to live. Given that you want to live in the same city (or state, etc.) and that you probably need space for all the stuff you accumulated, your office, and that fabulous kitchen, how much do you think you'll spend for a new home then?
A home is only a solid investment if you're living in it. The real value of a home is in that it gives you something you want and need: a roof over your head in a place you want to live.
But if you're paying a home loan on a second home, it's an investment asset just like any other asset and is just as vulnerable to market fluctuations.
Actually, the home that you're living in isn't that solid of an investment...it's more like forced savings. Generally you'll come out ahead (versus if you rented), but depending on the market, it could easily take 10+ years before it works out in your favor.
If you can buy property and then have other people pay the mortgage for you, now THAT is a solid investment.
I don't think real estate is that safe and assured of an it'll make you rich. The Irish recession is caused primarily because the economy was held up by the real estate business. Now there are too many houses and nobody willing to buy any. As a result, the value of real estate has dropped and people with your money making plan have found themselves losing money instead.