If you’re looking to get into property investing or move up to the next rung of the ladder, here are some words of advice on how to invest in property.
Property investment is simple, but not easy – and that’s not a play on words.
In other words, it’s not something you should enter into lightly, but for some reason, that’s what a lot of people who have dreams of making millions with real estate do.
They think, “I can go out, buy a house somewhere, stick in some tenants to pay the mortgage and make a killing! How hard can it be?”
The fact is, most property investors fail.
Why do I say that?
Well, the stats show that around 50 per cent of people who buy an investment property sell up in the first five years, and of those who stay in the game, 90 per cent never get past owning one or two properties.
These statistics suggest that in fact, many Australians don’t know how to invest in property effectively.
So if you want to achieve a better result than the average property investor this Guide is for you…
Index for Your Property Investment Guide
I want to make finding the right information as easy as possible.
If you’re in a hurry you can just click the sub-topics below and conveniently jump to the information that’s relevant to you.
- Is it too late? Have I missed the boat?
- Why choose investment property instead of other asset classes?
- The 5 ways you make money through property investment
- Pros and Cons of Investment Property
- The 3 phases of your investment property journey
- Capital growth or cash flow – which is better?
- What are the risks of property investment?
- Risk minimisation
- The different types of investment property
- The right location does the heavy lifting
- Understand the market moves in cycles and learn how to invest in property
- Time in the market is what delivers the most capital growth
- Should you invest in houses or an apartment?
- New or old – Which are the best property investments?
- Money, money, money
- Common expenses property investors must pay
- How much should you budget for repairs and maintenance?
- Property investing and tax
- Property management
- Common property management costs
- Should you manage your property yourself to save money?
- Some final words of investment property advice (or warning) for investors
Is it too late? Have I missed the boat?
Emotions are running high at the moment, aren’t they?
FOMO (fear of missing out) is a common theme around Australia’s property markets.
Auction clearance rates remain high, prices are continuing to rise and supply remains constrained.
And we are being played with by the media, who are whipping up a frenzy with emotive headlines, causing some homebuyers to worry that the housing market is running away from them, while they worry others by speculating that interest rates are about to rise or that unemployment will escalate now that JobKeeper has ended.
With news that property prices have been surging reaching new highs, some investors are worried that it’s too late to get into the property market.
Of course the fact that we respond to these headlines is normal.
After all, we’re human and the desire or aspiration of buying our first home or upgrading our existing home, or getting onto the property investment ladder is normal.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the emotional turmoil considering we are continuously bombarded with property news in the media.
While emotion has its place in everyday life, it should not have a place when it comes to investing.
You’ll find various examples of the following chart all over the Internet showing the rollercoasters of investor emotion over an investment cycle.
The simple answer – NO it’s not too late.
Of course it would have been nice to buy a property 10,15 or 20 years ago, but we are now at the beginning of a new property cycle and it is likely that well located properties will continue to increase in value for the next few years and rise by double digit growth over the next year alone.
The year has started on a very strong note, with increased buyer activity at a time of lower availability of stock of quality properties in popular areas and this is reflected in rising property values and boom time auction clearance rate levels.
But, there is not one “Australian property market” and even within each state there are multiple markets, divided by geography, type of property, price point etc so in this detailed article I’ll explain what our research suggests is ahead for Australian house prices.
This seems wide consensus among all bank economists that property values will grow by 20 to 30% over the next 2 to 3 years.
Currently demand is riding high and buyers are battling it out over a shrinking pool of properties driving some eye-catching price rises.
The March quarter saw a 5.6% jump across the major capital cities, the March month alone posting the biggest gain in 32 years.
Sydney dwelling prices rose a staggering 3.7% – putting on well over $1000 a day for the median-priced dwelling.
Let’s have a look at 6 property trends that I think will occur in 2021.
1. Property demand from home buyers is going to continue to be strong
Currently home prices are surging around Australia, auction clearance rates remain high, and the media keeps reminding us we’re in a property boom.
The result is emotions are running high at the moment, with FOMO (fear of missing out) being a common theme around Australia’s property markets.
One of the leading indicators I watch carefully is finance housing approvals, and these are at record levels suggesting that more Aussies are looking at getting into property and we will have strong ongoing demand from owner occupiers and investors as the year moves on.
It’s clear that we are now over the “recession we made ourselves have”, 93% of the jobs that disappeared during Covid have returned and consumer and businesses confidence is rising.
And our savings war chest will continue to fire our economy….
The Commonwealth Bank estimates that Australian households have put aside $120 billion more than what is normally saved in the June, September and December quarters last year — equivalent to 6 per cent of gross domestic product as overseas travel and social activities were curtailed.
The bank’s analysts believe this money will be spent over the next few years, providing continued economic momentum as a good chunk of this money will find its way into consumer spending.
Some of it will go to paying down debt and some will go into buying assets. We’re already seeing this in retail spending and in our property markets
Now, with borrowing costs lower than they ever have been, the reassurance that interest rates won’t rise for at least 3 years and increasing confidence that we’ve got this “virus thing” under control, it is likely that buyer demand will remain strong throughout the year.
In fact, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy…
As property values increase and the media reports more positively about our property markets, FOMO will mean more buyers will be keen to get in the market before it prices them out.
2. Investors will squeeze out first home buyers
While currently there are many first-time buyers (FHB’s) in the market, buoyed by the many incentives being offered to them, I can see demand from FHB’s fading due to increasing competition as investors re-enter the market and property values rise.
You see…typically investors compete for similar properties to FHB’s.
Of course over the last few years, investor lending has been low, but with historically low interest rates and the prospect of easing lending restrictions, it is likely that investors will re-enter the market with a vengeance.
At the same time the federal government’s HomeBuilder scheme has disappeared at the end of March.
3. Property Prices will continue to rise
While many factors affect property values, the main drivers of property price growth are consumer confidence, low interest rates, economic growth and a favourable supply and demand ratio.
As always, there are multiple real estate markets around Australia, but in general property values should increase strongly throughout 2021.
However certain segments of the market will still continue to suffer, in particular in the city apartment towers and accommodation around universities.
It is unlikely these segments of the market will pick up for some time and the value of these apartments is likely to continue to fall as there just won’t be buyers for secondary properties.
At the same time some rental market will remain challenged. In particular the inner-city apartment markets which are reliant on students, tourists (AirBNB) and overseas arrivals.
4. People will pay a premium to be in the right neighbourhood
If Coronavirus taught us anything, it was the importance of living in the right type of property in the right neighbourhood.
In our new “Covid Normal” world, people will pay a premium for the ability to work, live and play within a 20-minute drive, bike ride or walk from home.
They will look for things such as shopping, business services, education, community facilities, recreational and sporting resources, and some jobs all within 20 minutes’ reach.
Residents of these neighbourhoods have now come to appreciate the ability to be out and about on the street socialising, supporting local businesses, being involved with local schools, enjoying local parks.
5. More expensive properties will outperform
The current property cycle was initially characterised by all segments of the market rising – other than inner-city high-rise apartments.
But now the high end of the market is leading the growth in property values
According to Corelogic, the high tier is the top 25% of property values in any given region.
As of February, this refers to dwelling values at around $960,000 or higher for the combined capitals, with a typical value in the high tier around $1.2 million.
Over February, the top 25% of values in the combined capital cities jumped 2.7% in value. This was up from an increase of 0.5% in January.
The middle 50% of dwelling values (the mid-tier) increased 1.5%, and the ‘low’ end of property values (the low tier) increased 1.2%.
As can be seen in the rolling quarterly growth of tiered indices across the capital cities in the chart below, the uplift at the high end of the market follows a deeper downturn during the height of COVID restrictions in 2020.
Over the course of 2020, the high tiered index had a peak-to-trough decline of -4.3%, compared to a -1.6% fall across the middle of the market, and a -0.8% fall at the low end.
The low end of the market in the capital cities can be characterised by dwelling values sitting under $497,000.
6. 2021 will be the year of upgraders
The current property and economic environment, plus the scars left on many of us after a year of Covid related lockdowns has meant that Aussies are looking to upgrade their lifestyle.
- Many tenants are no longer happy to live in small dingy apartments and with an oversupply of rental units available in many areas, they are taking the opportunity to upgrade their accommodation.
- Other tenants who have managed to save a deposit are taking advantage of many of the many incentives available and are becoming first home buyers.
- With record low interest rates and surging property markets, many existing homeowners or upgrading their accommodation to larger homes in better neighbourhoods. In fact, a recent survey suggested that one in three homeowners are looking to sell their home in the next five years.
- While a small group homeowners are upgrading their lifestyle and moving out of the big smoke to regional Australia, more Aussies are looking to upgrade their lifestyle by moving to a better neighbourhood. As mentioned above, they love the thought that most of the things needed for a good life are just around the corner.
- Many Baby Boomers are looking to upgrade their accommodation by moving out of their old, tired family home into large family friendly apartments or townhouses. But they’re not looking for sea change or tree change, they’re keen to live in a “20 minute” neighbourhoods close to their family and friends.
Why choose investment property instead of other asset classes?
Whilst some caution that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, many Australians prefer to invest in real estate because of its distinct advantages over other asset classes.
Investing in shares may yield attractive long-term returns, but it is considered to be more volatile and unpredictable than the property market.
Hence, it doesn’t sit well for low-risk takers, especially those who have no idea how the share market works.
Though you can study the share market, it still requires specialist expertise to know how to invest and invest wisely.
This can be very costly. It’s also possible to make huge losses virtually overnight in the share market, whereas property is a more consistent asset class.
Investing in term deposit savings accounts entails low risk, but it also yields minimal rewards.
One of the big benefits of investing in residential real estate is that the market is dominated by non-investors (homeowners) who don’t think like investors and add stability to residential real estate prices.
The 5 ways you make money through property investment
Knowing how to invest in property is the key. You can profit from real estate in one of four ways, and if you get the combination right you’ll make money from bricks and mortar.
- Capital Growth: To build yourself a sound asset base your properties will need to appreciate in value at wealth-building rates (in other words above-average capital growth.) This will come from strong demand from owner-occupiers (who push up property values) and tenants (who help you pay your mortgage.)
- Cash Flow: In other words your rent.
- Tax benefits: While you should never invest solely for this reason; a good tax strategy can help you manage your cash flow, decrease your tax obligations and increase your bottom line.
- Accelerated Growth: Getting your hands a little dirty (metaphorically speaking) by purchasing a property that needs a bit of cosmetic TLC through renovations or a major facelift through property development, is a great way to manufacture capital growth
- Inflation – property investors have learned it’s too hard to make money using your own money. Instead, they have learned to use other people’s money to leverage and gear. In other words, they take on a mortgage. However, over time inflation erodes the value of the mortgage. For example, so you take a $400,000 mortgage on your $500,000 property today – in 10 years time your property could be worth $1 million and you still have a mortgage of $400,000 (assuming interest-only payments) however in 10 years time your $400,000 won’t be worth as much as due to inflation.
Pros and Cons of Investment Property
Compared to other forms, property investing is a safe and proven method for growing your wealth.
- Strong historical performance: Residential property outperformed all other investment types, including shares over the past 20 years.
- Control: Property is a great investment because you have direct control over the returns from it. One of the major benefits is that you can manage your assets rather than leaving the decisions to a large corporation or fund manager. What this means is, you can improve your property or buy a property with a twist that will give you quick capital growth. If your property is not producing good returns, you can add value through renovations or adding furniture to make it more desirable to tenants. In other words, you can directly influence your return by taking an interest in your property, understanding and meeting the needs of your prospective tenants.
- Leverage: One of the special things about property is that banks will lend you up to 80% of the value of the property, enabling you to use other people’s money to buy larger amounts of your investment.
- Tax advantages: Investment properties offer large tax advantages including depreciation and the possibility of negative gearing if it is appropriate for you.
- Security: It is often said that residential real estate offers the security of bricks and mortar. What this means is that houses don’t “go broke” as companies or shares do. This is partly due to the size of the residential market and also the fact that just under 70% of the people that own properties are not investors, but are owner-occupiers. The residential market is the only investment market that is not dominated by investors and this provides a built in safety net.
- Income: The rental income you receive from your property allows you to borrow and get the benefits of leverage by helping pay the interest on your mortgage.
- Property is forgiving. Even if you bought the worst property at the worst possible time, chances are it will still go up in value over the next years. History has proved that real estate is possibly the most forgiving asset over time. If you are prepared to hold an investment property over a number of years it is bound to rise in value.
- You can insure for many of the risks: Not just building insurance, but smart investors take out landlords insurance to protect their interests.
Property investments are not all rainbows and lollipops, there are some cons associated with investing in real estate:
- High entry costs: With property prices constantly on the rise it continually gets harder and harder to get into the market. These high entry costs keep a lot of investors out and make it hard to begin if you don’t have a savings discipline and a bit of money behind you.
- Lack of diversification: Because of the high entry cost it is common for beginning investors to have all their eggs in one basket. This lack of diversification is a risk if the market changes suddenly or your investment doesn’t perform the way you expected. Of course, the answer to this is to own the right type of real estate, the type that doesn’t fluctuate in value significantly when the market turns. (I’ll explain this in more detail shortly.)
- Ongoing and additional costs: Investment property carries with it ongoing costs like insurance costs, council rates, mortgage repayments, maintenance, renovations etc. These expenses may be regular or may come as a surprise when you least expect it. And if you own a high-growth property, it is likely that in the early years the rental income will not be able to completely cover your expenses. While many investors top up this negative cash flow from their savings, savvy investors set up cash flow buffers in a line of credit or offset account to cover their negative gearing.
- Tenant Problems: Despite engaging the best property managers to look after your property, you can still have tenant problems or periods of rental vacancy, which unless you have the protection of landlord insurance or cash flow buffers can put a dent into your finances.
- Property is illiquid and lumpy: It takes time to sell and you can’t simply sell off one part of the house and convert it to cash.
- Surprises: These always seem to creep up on investors – things like changing interest rates or unexpected repairs
The 3 phases of your investment journey
When learning how to invest in real estate, it’s important to understand the three stages of building wealth through property from the get-go, which are:
- Accumulation Phase: This is the stage where you build a portfolio of high-growth “investment grade” properties, usually over a 10 – 15 year period.
- Consolidation Phase: The consolidation phase involves slowly reducing the debt on your properties, which conversely increases their cash flow when you need it the most – in the…
- Lifestyle Phase: This phase is all about enjoying your life living off the cash machine you have produced in the first 3 phases.
Capital growth or cash flow – which is better?
When it comes to real estate investment you’ll often hear two somewhat conflicting philosophies being bandied around.
A common question beginning investors ask is – which is better?
Firstly, there is the “Cashflow” followers; they suggest you should invest in property that has the capacity to generate high rental returns to achieve positive cash flow.
In other words, you want rental returns that are higher than your outgoings (including mortgage payments), leaving money in your pocket each month.
Then there’s the “Capital Growth” crew.
Their favoured strategy is to invest for capital growth over cash flow.
In other words, you need to buy property that produces above average increases in value over the long term.
Investment properties in Australia with higher capital growth usually have lower rental returns.
In many regional centers and secondary locations, you could achieve a high rental return on your investment property but, in general, you would get poor long-term capital growth.
Having said that there’s no doubt in my mind that if I had to choose between cash flow and capital growth, I would invest for capital growth every time.
It’s just too hard to save your way to wealth, especially on the measly after-tax positive cash flow you can get in today’s property market.
So the first phase of wealth accumulation is the stage of asset accumulation.
And in today’s low-interest rate environment, the cost of holding property is the lowest it’s ever been.
My advice for budding investors is to understand that wealth from real estate is not derived from income because residential properties are not high-yielding investments.
Real wealth is achieved through long-term capital appreciation and the ability to refinance to buy further properties.
If you seek a short-term fix with cash flow positive properties, you’ll struggle to grow a future cash machine from your property – it’s just that simple.
But here’s the trick…
You can’t turn a cash flow positive property into a high growth property, because of its geographical location.
But it’s all about knowing how to invest in property that can achieve both high returns (cash flow) and capital growth by renovating or developing your high-growth properties.
This will bring you higher rent and extra depreciation allowances, which converts high growth, relatively low cash flow properties into high growth, strong cash flow properties.
This means you can get the best of both worlds.
What are the risks?
- Market Risk
The property market moves in cycles and at times there are external factors that cause a market-wide slowdown or downturn.
Investors who focus on a long investment time horizon weather these storms as capital city markets eventually correct and recover.
However, at this stage of the property cycle it is likely that the value well located capital city properties is likely to keep increasing with little general market risk for A grade homes and investment grade properties.
- Liquidity Risk
Liquidity is the ease in which you gain access to the money you have within an investment. One disadvantage of real estate investments is the lack of liquidity compared to other types of investments. Your situation may change abruptly due to a change in life circumstances, but you may be stuck with your property for several months or years, depending on the local market cycle and your financial situation/requirements.
- Interest Rate Risk
A rise in interest rates will affect variable-rate mortgages, meaning the cost of your debt can increase as interest rates climb, putting a strain on your cash flow.
However the risk of interest rates rising over the next couple of years he is very unlikely considering the firm “guarantees” given by Dr Philip Lowe governor of the RBA
- Buying the wrong property
Most properties are not “investment grade” and if you didn’t do enough due diligence and buy the wrong property in the wrong area at the wrong time, you could face years of slow or no growth or worst, no income due to a high vacancy in the area.
- Cash Flow Crunch
If your tenant leaves and you could face a cash flow squeeze for a short while and if you lose your job you may be unable to top up you’re rent to meet your mortgage repayments.
- Currency Risk
Foreign buyers who are investing in property in Australia are also subjecting themselves to currency risk, which is dependent on the movement of the Australian dollar.
- Legislative risks
There are also sovereign or legislative risks in the property market, as any unfavourable government action can result in investment losses. A good example of this is the possibility of changing negative gearing rules – which seems to come into discussion each year around budget time – a move that would substantially investor confidence.
As you can see any investment property strategy involves some level of risk.
So knowing how to invest means knowing how to minimise these risks.
One way of minimising their risk is to have a financial buffer in place (with funds in an offset account) for your personal needs as well as for any unexpected investment expenses.
This will allow you to keep their properties well maintained and cope to with any unexpected maintenance or vacancies.
All property investors should also consider taking out income protection and life insurance as well as landlord’s insurance to protect their interests.
Of course, the reason behind this recommendation is that one of the most important factors in an investor’s ability to keep growing their property portfolio is the ability to service their loans and use their income to supplement the rental shortfall in the early years.
Without an income, you may not be able to hold on to your properties.
Similarly, if you die, you would need to consider how your spouse would be able to continue holding the investment properties.
So, I suggest you need to make sure they have insurance to sufficiently cover mortgage repayments if the worst should happen.
I’d also recommend that you seek advice from an accountant before purchasing an investment real estate to ensure you buy it in the most tax-effective manner.
Once you’ve bought your investment property you’ll need to arrange an investment property depreciation schedule to ensure you claim the most in deductions.
And no matter your age, it’s wise to consider estate planning because, while we never like to talk about it, it’s important to plan to look after your family after you’re gone.
This means you should see a solicitor and prepare a will, chose executors, and organise a power of attorney.
Finally, it’s important to treat your investments like a business and regularly review your portfolio with your property strategist to track its performance, ensure you have the right loans and best interest rates, and assess when you’re ready for your next acquisition.
The different types of investment property
There are several real estate investment types in the market that you can choose from as an investor.
One of the most popular is the freestanding house, which serves as a great home for tenants looking to raise a family.
A moderate-sized family home in the right suburb that is pet-friendly and with a fenced backyard often commands a high price in the rental market and delivers consist ant capital growth because it is in strong demand by owner-occupiers.
However, our changing demographics mean more families are trading their backyard for a balcony, so if you want to target singles, couples, students, young professionals, and retirees, you could invest in a unit or apartment that best suits their busy lifestyles.
The location is of utmost importance in these properties, as tenants prefer a place that is close to their university or workplace and is easily accessible to public transport.
While some people invest in a holiday home, in my mind these make poor investments as they are in seasonal demand and may remain untenanted for long periods of time, and their values fluctuate considerably depending upon the general economic cycle.
You see…when times are tough no one really wants to (or can afford to) buy a holiday home.
There are also:
- Townhouses – an increasingly popular style of accommodation for a wide demographic.
- Villas – these make great investments because they are “landed properties.”
- Blocks of apartments – these are scarce, but sound investments for those with deep pockets
- Student accommodation and serviced apartments – these make terrible investments. Enough said!
- Commercial and Industrial real estate – sound investments for sophisticated investors who already own a substantial residential property portfolio
Understanding the market for each type of investment property is the key to knowing how to invest effectively. It’s also worth seeking market updates from a real estate agent and investment advice from a buyers agent.
The right location does the heavy lifting
As an investor, it’s important to understand that location does most of the heavy lifting for your real estate investment success.
Around eighty percent of your property’s performance will be due to buying in the right location and the balance by owning the right property, an “investment grade” property that suits the fundamental demographic in that location.
That’s why I suggest following my advice of a strategic top-down approach to finding a property that will outperform the general market.
- I start by looking at the macroeconomic environment – the big picture of how Australia’s economy is performing and in general, the outlook is good – especially in the eastern states.
- Then I look for the right state in which to invest – one that will outperform the Australian market averages because of its economic growth and population growth. It is likely that both Sydney and Melbourne will strongly outperform the other states – they’re forecast to deliver around two-thirds of the new jobs over the next few years.
- Then within that state, I only invest in the capital cities and not in regional areas – again because that’s where the bulk of the jobs will be created and where most people are going to want to live. I would look for the right suburb for your investment property – one that has a long history of outperforming the averages. It’s all about demographics, as these suburbs tend to be areas where more owner-occupiers want to live because of lifestyle choices and where the locals will be prepared to, and can afford to, pay a premium to live because they have higher disposable incomes. In general, they’re the more affluent inner- and middle-ring suburbs of our big capital cities, so I check the census statistics to find suburbs where wage growth is above average.
- Then I look for the right location within that suburb. Some liveable streets will always outperform others and in those streets, some properties will always be more desirable than others and outperform as investments by increasing in value.
- Then within that location, I choose the right property, using my 6 Stranded Strategic Approach. And finally, I only buy at …
- The right price. I’m not suggesting you look for a “cheap” property – there will always be cheap properties around in secondary locations. I’m suggesting you look for the right property at a good price.
So how do they know which is the right property to buy?
My property investment advice is to follow the 6 Stranded Strategic Approach.
- I would buy a property that would appeal to owner-occupiers because owner-occupiers will buy similar properties pushing up local real estate values. This will be particularly important over the next few years when the percentage of investors in the market is likely to diminish.
- I would buy a property below its intrinsic value – that’s why I would avoid investing in new and off-the-plan properties which come at a premium price.
- I buy a property with a high land to asset ratio – but this does not necessarily mean a large plot of land. Well-located apartments have an attributable significant land component under them.
- In an area that has a long history of strong capital growth and that will continue to outperform the averages because of the demographics in the area. This will be an area where more owner-occupiers will want to live because of lifestyle choices and one where the locals will be prepared to, and can afford to, pay a premium price to live because they have higher disposable incomes.
- I look for a property with a twist – something unique, or special, different or scarce about the property, and finally
- I buy a property where I can manufacture capital growth through renovations or redevelopment rather than relying on the market to do the heavy lifting.
By following my 6 Stranded Strategic Approach, I minimise my risks and maximise my upside.
Each strand represents a way of making money from property and combining all six is a powerful way of putting the odds in my favour.
If one strand lets me down, I have four or five others supporting my property’s performance.
When you look at it this way, property investment strategy takes a lot of time, effort, research, and something most investors never attain – perspective.
This is invaluable in knowing how to invest in real estate.
What I mean by this if you can gain a lot of knowledge over the Internet or by reading books or magazines but what you can’t gain is experience.
It takes many years to develop the perspective to understand what makes an investment-grade property.
That’s why I recommend employing a property strategist to guide them.
By the way… this is not a buyer’s agent, even though a buyer’s agent will be involved eventually to purchase the property.
In fact, in today’s challenging environment is more important than ever to have more than just a property strategist, but a team of advisors who take a holistic approach to your wealth.
By the way…that’s what we specialise in at Metropole.
We take a macro view on your needs and will build you a customised, personalised Strategic Property Plan, and then we will help you implement this strategy by coordinating the various consultants including a buyer’s agent.
Understand the market moves in cycles and learn how to invest in property
While timing the market is not the be-all and end-all, it certainly helps to understand how the property market moves in cycles.
Following the herd and buying when everyone else is on the property bandwagon doesn’t always work.
That’s often when the market is near its peak.
On the other hand, you have more chance of nabbing a good deal in a buyer’s market, when property is out of favour.
That’s why Warren Buffet said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.”
Having said that, over the years I’ve changed my view on timing the market, especially if you’re an established investor.
If you’re into real estate for the long haul (and that’s really the only way to play the property game) then time in the market (owning a property that will outperform the averages in the long term) will trump timing the market (making a one-off capital gain, but then often missing out on strong, long term growth because you’ve bought in the wrong location.)
Time in the market is what delivers the most capital growth
As you can see from the graphic below, if your $500,000 investment property increases in value by 7% per annum, it will be worth almost $1.4 million in 15 years’ time, but almost half of this capital growth will occur in the last five years.
This means the sooner you start your real estate investment journey the better because you’ll have time and compounding working longer for you.
Should you invest in houses or an apartment?
Over the last few year houses have outperformed apartments so many are wondering are apartments still a good investment
- Capital growth has been stronger for houses than apartments
- Rental growth has been stronger for houses than apartments
But these are big picture “overall” stats – some apartments, especially family friendly low rise apartments in lifestyle neighbourhoods have still performed well while high rise CBD apartments have performed very poorly with significant vacancies (up to 30% in Melbourne), falling rents and falling values with few buyers interested in these
If you can afford a house in a good location, then that’s probably the way to go.
But if your budget doesn’t allow you to buy a house in the right location, I’d rather own a “family friendly” apartment in a good suburb, than a house in the outer suburbs.
I’ve already explained that around 80% of your investment’s performance will be due to its location and about 20% due to owning the right property in that location.
For many investors, apartments offer an affordable entry point into the property market.
Recently financial advisor Stuart Wemyss conducted a performance review of investment-grade apartments
- Following a period of relative underperformance compared to the freestanding housing market, current apartment prices do not reflect an inherent underlying value underpinned by recent land appreciation.
- There is a high likelihood of significant price growth in the coming ten years to rectify the current misalignment, making the right type of apartments (family friendly medium and low density apartments in lifestyle suburbs – not the CBD) an asset worth holding onto or considering investing in.
- Implied land values indicate that apartments are currently intrinsically undervalued. Houses have displayed strong capital growth rates over the past eight to 10 years due to appreciating land values. Logically, therefore, despite limited price growth recorded during the same period, apartments (which tend to have a 45-55 per cent land value component) must also be worth more. In fact, intrinsic land values implied by house price growth during the previous seven years suggests that apartmentsmay be fundamentally undervalued by 30-40 per cent.
New or old – Which are the best property investments?
Just like the houses vs. apartments debate, old and new properties each have their own benefits.
Let’s face it, when it comes to buying big ticket items we all love new, shiny things, but without a doubt, for the majority of investors, established properties will always offer far better capital growth potential than a new build for a whole number of reasons.
So let’s take a look at the benefits of old versus new.
A BETTER DEAL
When you buy a new investment property, you’re not only paying for the property, you’re also handing over a premium to the developer for their profits and marketing costs.Essentially, you are handing your first few years’ worth of capital growth straight to the developer!With established properties on the other hand, when you buy right you end up paying below intrinsic value cost
VALUE ADD POTENTIAL
Obviously, when you buy a new property everything is already done for you and while this might seem appealing, it is actually a huge disadvantage.The problem is you have sacrificed the potential to add value, or “manufacture” capital growth, that comes with an established house or apartment.At Metropole, the ability to add value is one of the primary attributes we look for in an investment property.
BETTER THAN AN EDUCATED GUESS
One of the most critical factors when it comes to investing advice in real estate is to know your market. However, a new building doesn’t come with a track record of property price growth to help you make an informed decision when it comes to pricing.And don’t pay too much attention to what other inexperienced investors have already paid to buy into the complex – most will have overpaid and lose out in the long term.
STRONGER PERFORMER IN A SLOWER MARKET
One of the big issues with new and in particular off the plan properties is that when the market slows, so too does your rate of growth. New apartments and houses are often the first to see prices soften when the overall market loses momentum.Often though, established homes will either maintain their value or experience a very minimal adjustment.
So are there any disadvantages to buying established?
Is there any point where purchasing a new build makes more financial sense?
To put it bluntly, not in my opinion (unless you develop them yourself.)
Some proponents of new properties will argue that you forego numerous depreciation benefits when you buy older homes.
In response, I would argue that buying an established property and undertaking renovations creates (“manufactures”) additional depreciation benefits and more to the point; you should never buy an investment property for perceived tax benefits, it should always come down to the long term capital gains.
Money, money, money
Investing is really a game of finance so, when it comes to good property investment advice, a sound financial strategy is just as important as a sound investment property strategy.
Without a well-rounded understanding of how to maximise your borrowing power, use equity to buy your investment, build your portfolio and maintain a financial buffer to see you through the difficult times that we all ultimately face, you’re setting yourself up to fail financially.
This will often mean taking an interest only loan for your properties, because rather than paying the principal back each month (lowering your debt); the extra cash flow could be used to service a bigger debt and support a larger property portfolio.
Common expenses real estate investors must pay
Topping the list of the most common property expenses for investors is loan repayments, the amount of which varies depending on the borrowed amount, loan type, loan term and loan service fees.
As you continue to hold and maintain your investment property, you may also need to pay for land tax and council rates, which vary by government area.
For apartments and townhouses, there are also body corporate fees paid quarterly to assist in their upkeep.
Building and landlord insurances are a must in limiting the financial impact of unforeseen circumstances, like sudden damage costs and tenant-related liabilities.
How much should you budget for repairs and maintenance?
One of the most difficult aspects of property management is anticipating the costs for maintenance and repairs. They can occur at any time, plus the expenses vary greatly depending on the age of the building, the nature of the repair, and any insurance policies in place.
Furthermore, sometimes these costs are not tax deductible. Repairing an item – such as a cupboard door – is tax deductible.
However, improving the same item – such as replacing all cupboard doors with a newer, more modern style – is considered a renovation, which is not immediately deductible.
To create a budget for repairs and maintenance, it’s a good idea to estimate how much it might take to replace the ‘big ticket’ items throughout the property, such as dishwashers, hot water systems and carpet. Determine their current age and life expectancy.
Based on those figures, calculate the remaining life expectancy of the item. Rank all the items in order of increasing estimated remaining life expectancy, and plan accordingly for these anticipated expenses in the next five years.
Property investing and tax
One of the biggest reasons why investment property remains popular in Australia is the whole raft of tax benefits available.
Now my advice is that you shouldn’t invest solely for tax benefits, but they’re a nice little bonus that makes keeping your property easier.
Things like claiming legitimate business expenses of running your investment business as well as negative gearing, which allows investors to offset any shortfall between the rent that you collect from your property and the expenses that you pay for it against your other income.
However, if you sell a property at a profit you’ll need to pay capital gains, but even this has adjustments, as you can currently benefit from a 50% discount on capital gains for a property that you’ve held for longer than 12 months.
Renting out your property allows you to earn an income from your investment, but you really need to employ a proficient property manager so that your investment property is well maintained and continuously tenanted.
Your property manager is responsible for a number of things, such as advertising your property, receiving enquiries during the leasing process, and screening and selecting tenants. They also help to make sure that your property is maintained, with repairs and updates performed as needed.
Most importantly, as your property manager is responsible for collecting rent, they follow a clear process in accordance with the law.
Common property management costs
Aside from the initial fees that you need to pay when buying an investment real estate, you also have ongoing costs like council and water rates, insurance, body corporate fees, land tax, property management fees, and maintenance and repair costs.
These expenses are usually tax deductible.
When it comes to insurance, you must not only take out building insurance, but you should also consider landlord insurance because this will protect you if a tenant damages a property or leaves without paying rent.
Should you manage your property yourself to save money?
Sure you can get rid yourself of property management costs if you choose to manage your investment property yourself, but in my mind, this is a sure way to disaster.
Property managers can set the right market rental rates and collect rent payments on time.
They can also advertise your property astutely to avoid long vacancies.
When it comes to tenants, property managers can screen them and manage all aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship. They also often have connections with contractors, suppliers, and maintenance workers, if ever you need one.
Property managers are also knowledgeable about housing regulations and property laws, so you can be sure that your properties are always complying with them.
Some final words of advice (or warning) for investors
Property investment is a process – not an event.
That means to become a successful property investor you can’t just go out and buy any property. It should be part of a long-term Strategic Property Plan.
It should come as no surprise that getting a good team around you will be an important investment and not an expense and should allow you to build a property portfolio that will go a long way to replacing their income in the future.
At the same time, you must learn that property investing is not a get-rich-quick scheme and to achieve your future financial goals you will have to slowly build a substantial asset base and not chase short-term cash flow as many beginning investors do.
Here are a few other final tips so you’ll know exactly how to invest:
- Formulate a plan: understand your end goals – what you want to achieve – and then make investment decisions accordingly.
- Be cautious: You’ll find everyone is happy to give you advice. Rather than listening to well-meaning friends, it’s important to only listen to people who have achieved the financial independence you’re looking for and who’ve maintained it through a number of property cycles.
- Understand the difference: between a salesperson and an advisor. Many salespeople are cloaked as advisors and while they suggest they’re representing you, in fact, they are representing the seller or a property developer. Only take advice from someone who is independent and unbiased rather than someone who is trying to sell you something.
- Be prepared to pay for advice: I’ve found that good advice is never expensive. In fact, it’s much cheaper than learning from your property investment mistakes.
- Not everything that glitters is gold: often when you start out it can be tempting to see opportunities everywhere. The problem is you don’t yet have the perspective to decide what is a good investment and what is not.
Property doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t care who owns it.
The residential property market is worth well over seven trillion dollars today and over the next decade, it will increase in value by billions and billions of dollars.
If you get it right, you can have your share.
Now is the time to take advantage of the opportunities the current property markets are offering.
Sure the markets are moving on, but not all properties are going to increase in value. Now, more than ever, correct property selection will be critical.
You can trust the team at Metropole to provide you with direction, guidance, and results.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced investor, at times like we are currently experiencing you need an advisor who takes a holistic approach to your wealth creation and that’s exactly what you get from the multi-award-winning team at Metropole.
We help our clients grow, protect and pass on their wealth through a range of services including:
- Strategic property advice. – Allow us to build a Strategic Property Plan for you and your family. Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now! Click here to learn more
- Buyer’s agency – As Australia’s most trusted buyers’ agents we’ve been involved in over $4Billion worth of transactions creating wealth for our clients and we can do the same for you. Our on the ground teams in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane bring you years of experience and perspective – that’s something money just can’t buy. We’ll help you find your next home or an investment-grade property. Click here to learn how we can help you.
- Wealth Advisory – We can provide you with strategic tailored financial planning and wealth advice. Click here to learn more about we can help you.
- Property Management – Our stress-free property management services help you maximise your property returns. Click here to find out why our clients enjoy a vacancy rate considerably below the market average, our tenants stay an average of 3 years, and our properties lease 10 days faster than the market average.
To read about property investment in your local city please see the below articles.
- Sydney Property Investment – 20 Market Insights
- Melbourne Property Investment – 20 Market Insights
- Brisbane Property Investment – 20 Market Insights
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