4 Surefire Ways to Lose Money in Property in 2016

I was interested to read that Australia minted 43,500 new millionaires in 2014 representing the biggest growth of high net worth investors in the past five years.

That’s about 120 new millionaires each day, many on the back of their property holdings.

Our country is home to 443,500 “high net worth” investors; those with investable assets of more than $1 million.

However at the same time, a large number of property investors haven’t achieved the success they wanted.

Many feel the property boom of the last few years has passed them by.

Now of course this isn’t really surprising…

This pattern of success is nothing new.

What does concern me more is a worrying trend that, with all the news of strong property price growth now coming to an end, that some investors are so keen to do something, in fact to do anything, that they are heading for property investment disaster.house

I’ve come across many potential investors who feel they’ve missed out on the last few years of property price growth and want to catch up.

Others feel that they are being priced out and are desperate to get a foothold in the property market.

Then there are those who find they are unable to obtain more finance and seem willing to try almost anything to participate in the current market.

To me, many of these potential investors are heading down a path of certain property losses.

So today I’d like to share with you what I consider 4 surefire ways to lose money in property and one way to ensure you invest successfully

What it boils down to is that in their bid to get into the property market, many investors are starting to speculate rather than invest.

The problem is they are determined to do something so that they don’t miss out, even if they don’t have enough money, or haven’t developed the discipline to save, or they have already borrowed to their limit and the banks won’t lend them more.

Of course I understand why they are keen to share in the profits others have achieved through property, but sometimes the right thing for an investor to do is nothing.

In fact I’ve made more money by the things I’ve said “no” to than the things I’ve said “yes” to.

That’s because all my investments have been made as part of a planned strategy that involves property, finance and tax.

But many beginning investors are now making emotional decisions and that’s why I’m calling it speculation.

Anyway…here are 4 surefire ways to lose money in the current property markets…

1. Off the plan purchases

It sounds enticing, doesn’t it?

Buy at today’s price then settle or on sell in a few years and you’ll make a profit.

Sure it sound good, but does it work?

NO – not in my opinion…. here’s why:

  • The price of many off the plan purchases are inflated by high marketing costs, promoters margins, developers profits and the premium put on the price because this is the main type of property overseas investors (who can’t buy established properties) can buy.
  • There is a already an oversupply of this type of property in many of our capital cities meaning there will be very limited (probably no) capital or rental growth.Off-the-plan
  • There is little scarcity in a block or 100 or 200 apartments, again limiting capital growth.
  • Buying “off the plan” comes with uncertainty about completion dates, the level of finishes and the market conditions when you eventually take possession.
  • Some investors who buy off the plan will have to sell, because they can’t get the finance to settle. Add to this the fact that there will also be some purchasers who never intended to settle on completion, but instead to on sell their property when the building is complete and you have a whole lot of apartments up for sale when the building is finished.
  • Even if you are able to settle, the banks will only lend you a percentage of the new lower valuation on your property, which will be the lowest sale price achieved by one of the desperate vendors, rather than the price you contracted for.
  • Add to this the fact that banks often only lend on a 70% loan to value ratio in the postcodes where many of the big new developments are situated, and what looked like a good investment to start with starts to turn sour.
  • Many of the large off the plan complexes are being built to a poor standard and are likely to be the slums of the future.
  • Add to this many of the purchasers of apartments in off the plan developments are overseas investors. I can’t see them attending Body Corporate Meetings or spending money on maintaining the building and they’re likely to be very hard to chase up if they don’t pay their Body Corporate Levies.

All this means is you need to buy your off the plan property at a significant discount to make up for these unknowns.

But currently, developers have to sell their products to you at a premium, not a discount, to make the projects financially feasible for them.

And if that isn’t enough to turn you off buying off the plan, here’s one last point….

Almost all off the plan developments are sold to investors.

On the other hand, I like buying properties in buildings that have a good proportion of owner-occupiers in them.

I just find owner-occupiers tend to look after the buildings better, and enhance their long-term capital growth.

2. New homes in new housing estates

I know some investors buy new homes in new outer suburban estates because they’ve heard that “land appreciates in value” and they feel they’re getting a big block of land for their money.

But when you think about it and add the value of constructing a house in these locations, usually the land accounts for less than half the selling price, giving these properties a very low land to asset ratio.

Others are considering buying in these new outer suburban estates in the mistaken belief that with properties being cheaper there, they will be more affordable to the masses as property values generally keep rising.

Of course this is wrong because these are exactly the types of areas that suffer most when interest rates rise.

Residents in these locations tend to have less disposable income than people who live in more affluent suburbs.

While they may be great places to live and bring up a family, in general new or outer suburbs are not good places to invest.

Remember…one of the big factors that enhances capital growth is scarcity and that’s something missing in these suburbs.

Many properties look the same, and there’s always another estate with more similar houses and more land just across the road.

Another reason I would avoid investing in these areas is their demographics, as they don’t attract the same demand from a diversity of tenants that the inner and middle ring suburbs do.

Even worse…

I’m now hearing of a number of promoters who suggest trading new house and land packages.

In other words they suggest buying house and land packages with the intention of on selling them once construction has been completed.

Boy is this a recipe for disaster!

Firstly, trading is not the way to become wealthy, accumulating assets is.

200319384-001Secondly there is no margin to allow for a trading profit.

Price sensitive purchasers will go down the road and buy directly from the builder who can always sell properties cheaper than a middleman.

And even if you could sell, and for a higher price than all the other speculators who are doing the same in the same estate, after stamp duty and tax, you’d lose out anyway.

And don’t be fooled into thinking these are the areas that will outperform over the next few years.

In the outer suburbs, people’s wages tend increase at the same rate as the CPI.

However in the inner, more affluent suburbs, residents have greater disposable income that increases by substantially more than the C.P.I.

They often have businesses, shares, investments and won’t be as worried by rising interest rates when this eventually occurs.

3. Buying Secondary properties

In the current more mature stage of the property cycle, buying the right property will be even more important than ever because you want your investment to be ‘safe’ no matter how the market fares.

I’ve found some investors are so focused on buying into a particular suburb (even if their budget doesn’t allow it) that they compromise and buy a secondary property on a main road, or beside a railway line or surrounded by busy commercial developments.

These properties are cheap for a reason – they’re cheap because they have issues.

They will always be harder to sell and rent.

Of course during a buoyant market almost anything sells, but when market sentiment wains secondary properties tend to sit vacant or without buyers.

Price is simply a reflection of what buyers are prepared to pay, and knowing the downsides of this type of property, smart buyers just aren’t willing to pay as much or buy them at all.

You’ll hear it said that you make your money when you buy your property.

That’s true but not because you bought cheaply, but because you bought the right property.

4. Looking for the next “hot spot”

Another sure fire way to lose money in property over the next few years is to chase for the next property “hot spot.”

I recently wrote about why looking for the next property hot spot just doesn’t work.

Yet people keep looking for these get rich quick concepts

I recently had a call recently from a journalist from one of the major daily news sites asking me for my predictions on the property hot spots for 2016.

Apparently an article that he wrote 2 years ago predicting the hotspots for the coming year was one of the most popular on their website, and now coming to the tail end of the year it seemed opportune to write one for 2016 and for me to update my opinion.

While I love giving my opinions to the media, I hate being asked for “hotspots” because that’s not how I work.

property hotspot

Interestingly before I replied to the journalist I had a look at the original article online and was fascinated to see some of the predictions others had made and how those suburbs – the so-called next “hotspots” – have actually performed over the last year or two.

Rather than looking for the next hotspot or the next big growth area, which a few months later will be proven wrong, I prefer to use a strategic approach to finding investments that will outperform the averages over the medium to long-term.

Interesting” is a good choice of word, in fact a generous choice of word for how some of those suburbs have underperformed.

Many of the outer suburbs and regional towns just didn’t gain the traction the hot spotters were hoping.

Just like many of the mining town “hotspots” that were the flavor of the month a few years ago have left the landscape littered with investors who lost money.

Places like Port Headland, Moranbah, Mandurah, Cairns and Gladstone

Well if these methods don’t work, what does?

There is one proven, time-tested method that has made average Australians very wealthy.

However it’s nowhere near as sexy as some of the smoke and mirror techniques I have just mentioned.

If you want to grow your own significant property portfolio, you need to own properties that provide wealth-producing rates of returns.

This means buying a property below its intrinsic value, in an area that outperforms the average over the long term and one to which you can add value so you can create some capital growth.

This could be through renovations, refurbishment or redevelopment.

That’s what many of those investors who made it into the ranks of Australian multi-millionaires did

Now you could also learn to grow your wealth the same way these sophisticated investors do rather than looking back and regretting the decisions you may make in 2015.

You see… in this cycle, just as in the past, while some property investors will do very well, many won’t.


Are you going to take advantage of the property markets in 2016 or are you going to get caught by the traps ahead?

If so and you’re looking for independent advice, no one can help you quite like the independent property investment strategists at Metropole.

Remember the multi award winning team of property investment strategists at Metropole have no properties to sell, so their advice is unbiased.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned property investor, we would love to help you formulate an investment strategy or do a review of your existing portfolio, and help you take your property investment to the next level. Please click here to organise a time for a chat. Or call us on 1300 20 30 30.

When you attend our offices you will receive a free copy of my latest 2 x DVD program Building Wealth through Property Investment in the new Economy valued at $49.

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Michael is a director of Metropole Property Strategists who create wealth for their clients through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He's been voted Australia's leading property investment adviser and his opinions are regularly featured in the media. Visit Metropole.com.au

'4 Surefire Ways to Lose Money in Property in 2016' have 3 comments

  1. February 20, 2015 @ 1:31 pm jenny

    About the new housing estate in outer suburbs, Ponds developed by Australand is a successful story. My friend bought a house land package under half million seven years ago, now similar properties are listed 900k plus, and the value of the houses in Ponds are still growing fast and attract lots of interest both from home buyers and investors


    • February 20, 2015 @ 1:48 pm Michael Yardney

      That’s great news – there are always exception – but most new estates have not been good investments


  2. April 27, 2015 @ 10:19 pm Bunbury Real Estate

    I agree. Buying off the plan is not really smart. I’d rather invest in a good priced structure where I can readily rent it out.


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