Are you looking to get into property investment, or maybe you’re keen to add to your existing property portfolio?
With all the mixed messages in the media many Aussies are wondering "should I buy, should I sell, should I hold"?
Well, maybe you should buy an investment property...
But maybe you shouldn’t.
Fact is, I’ve spoken with hundreds and hundreds of investors in my time and I’m often surprised when they tell me their reasons for investing in real estate.
Many just get it wrong.
You see…while property investment is an excellent vehicle for growing lasting wealth, occasionally it’s the wrong fit for particular people.
In fact, sometimes, there are some very legitimate reasons why you just shouldn’t do it.
So you shouldn’t buy an investment property if:
Many naive investors think negative gearing is an investment strategy.
Their accountant tells them they need to save tax so they chase tax deductions or depreciation benefits and as a result, they often overpay for new or off-the-plan properties while ignoring the fundamentals of property investment.
They think they need negative gearing and get excited that for every dollar they lose they save 49 cents.
Now that’s crazy, especially as new stock almost always comes at a premium and has limited (if any) medium-term capital growth prospects.
That’s not the way to grow your wealth through property.
Just to make things clear…
A property is negatively geared when the costs of owning it – interest on the loan, bank charges, maintenance, repairs, and depreciation – exceed the income it produces.
In my mind this is not an investment strategy – it’s a short-term funding strategy, which only makes sense when used to purchase high capital growth investment-grade properties.
These tend to be established houses, townhouses, or apartments in desirable streets in top locations in the inner and middle-ring suburbs of our 3 big capital cities.
Have you heard of F.O.M.O? – the Fear Of Missing Out?
It usually happens after a period of strong property price growth - you know when people read of the windfalls made by those who bought property a few years ago.
However, that is obviously the time of the property cycle you need to be more cautious in your investing rather than over-optimistic.
Of course, it's an understandable emotion, but investing with emotion leads to bad judgment.
And it is exactly this type of emotion that makes you easy prey for the property marketers and spruikers who will offer you a way to get rich quickly.
And now that our housing markets turned the corner earlier this year and have delivered 8 months of consistent capital growth FOMO is creeping in again as home buyers and investors are starting to realise they've missed the market bottom and prices have made up all the ground lost during the downturn of 2022.
But you just can't buy any property today and hope it will perform well.
Many beginning investors want to “get rich quick.”
However, property investing is a long-term endeavour.
I’ve found it takes an average property investor 30 years to become financially free.
Often it takes 10 years to learn what not to do - we all make investment mistakes when we start out.
Then it takes three to five years to undo the mistakes of the first decade, often selling off underperforming properties.
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Then it takes two good property cycles to build a substantial asset base of investment-grade properties
Warren Buffet said it well when he said ‘Wealth is the transfer of money from the impatient to the patient.”
Many people mistakenly believe they understand property investment because they own a house or have lived in one.
So they end up buying a property close to where they want to live, where they want to retire, or where they holiday.
Again, these are emotional reasons to purchase a property rather than selecting one based on sound investment fundamentals.
On the other hand, successful investors have formulated a sound investment strategy that suits their risk profile and helps them achieve their long-term goals and one which has stood the test of time.
If you haven't learned how to budget, spend less than you earn, and save or if you're not good at handling debt then property investment may not be for you because the large amount of debt you’ll take on for your investment will either get you into financial trouble or keep you awake at night.
Of course, if you’re scared of debt, and many people are because they don’t fully understand the difference between bad debt and good debt, then steer clear of property until you better understand the power of leverage, compounding and time on well-located properties.
If you are buying your property with the aim of creating wealth but also as your future home, as a part-time holiday home or somewhere to retire in the future, then perhaps you want that one little property to achieve too much.
I’ve never found that a mixed-use property delivers premium investment returns – something has to give.
For one, there are too many emotional factors at play.
Of course, adhering to a proven investment strategy will mean you’re more likely to buy an investment-grade property and not make this type of mistake.
Property investment is a game of finance with some real estate thrown in the middle.
To get into property you should have a stable job, profession, or business with a steady income and need to be attractive to the banks so they lend you money plus you should have sufficient stashed away in a financial buffer to see you through the inevitable rainy days ahead.
If you can’t afford an investment-grade property, either because you haven’t saved a sufficient deposit or you can’t service the loan repayments, then rather than buying a secondary property, in my mind it’s better that you wait and buy an investment-grade property.
One of the reasons that around 50% of those who get into real estate sell up in the first 5 years and the main reason around 90% of investors never buy more than one investment property is because the first property they buy underperforms and they lose confidence.
In my mind, less than 5% of the properties currently on the market are “investment grade” – the type of property that will outperform the averages with wealth-producing rates of return and stability of price when the markets eventually turn.
This means you need to buy the right property in the right location (remembering that the correct location will deliver around 80% of your property’s performance.)
So, if you can’t afford this type of property sometimes the right thing to do is “nothing.”
You make your money when you buy your property, not because you buy it cheaply, but because you buy the right property.
Sure property markets move in cycles and it would be great to buy near the bottom or find a location that will be the next hotspot, but as I've already explained, it's just too hard to time the market and the landscape is littered with investors who tried to time the market and failed.
Instead, the right time to buy real estate is when your finances are in order and you’ve got the ability to purchase an investment-grade property.
Remember there is no one property market in Australia so there will always be opportunities somewhere.
Rather than wait and buy real estate; you buy real estate and wait.
When it comes to buying property, there are plenty of reasons to take action, but there are just as many reasons to hit the pause button.
If you’re not sure about your next move, speaking with a professional property advisor may give you the clarity and direction you need to move forward with purpose.
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