The worst properties to buy in an uncertain market

After some wild price growth in some areas (we’re looking at you, Sydney) and falling prices in others, there is currently some correction and stabilisation occurring in the property markets Australia-wide.

While these conditions always create an uncertain environment for investors, there are two property sub-markets that are particularly vulnerable in fluctuating environments.

While these markets might look attractive on paper, they can present significant risks for investors.

As always knowledge is your best defence against error, so let’s have a look at these ‘worst markets’ and why they pose a risk to investors.

1. Off the plan apartmentsoff the plan

While buying off the plan isn’t inherently bad in every circumstance, the risks are often much higher, for several reasons.

Firstly, when you buy off the plan, you’re locking in a purchase price at what is meant to be the current market value of a dwelling that won’t be completed for several months, or even a year or two.

Of course, you hope the property will increase in value during the construction phase and by the time it’s completed you have a little nest egg of equity already in place.

However, that’s not what has been happening over the last few years and, disappointingly for the buyers, on completion most off the plan properties are valued at considerably less than the contract price.

In my mind you should get a discount for all the uncertainty that goes with buying a property that has not been completed, but instead marketing costs, agent’s commissions, developer’s margins and GST add a premium to the price. 


That together with the banks’ reluctance to lend as much on this type of property and you’ll need to be able to immediately front the shortfall between the lender’s revised mortgage amount and the purchase price.

Plus you’ll often find hundreds of identical apartments listed simultaneously for sale or lease which will only add fuel to the fire, potentially lowering values further.

And if you purchased to sell at a profit, you might have to reduce your sale price just to stay competitive in a market flooded by investors with the same idea.

At worst, you might find yourself having to hold onto the property, if there aren’t enough buyers in the market.

The fact that off the plan properties mainly appeal to investors rather than the deeper owner occupier market, means that’s it’s a property sector to clear of at present.

2. House and Land packages

For similar reasons, investors should tread carefully around house and land packages.  house real estate

They share the same vulnerable characteristics as off-the-plan apartments, in that values can fall during construction, leaving buyers with a gap to pay on completion.

In addition, while you’re getting a shiny new investment with great depreciation benefits, you’re also paying a premium price and don’t have the potential for value-adding to your investment.

That means you’re relying solely on market movement to gain capital and earn equity which is unlikely because the demographic who buy in these locations are usually interest rate sensitive.

And while they tend to be hard workers, young family’s wages tend to rise by CPI at best, meaning there is little momentum to push house prices higher.

How should you approach these markets?

In essence there are safer options available than purchasing off the plan properties and house and land packages; ones that aren’t so vulnerable to changes in market conditions.

I prefer to buy established apartments, townhouses or houses in the inner and middle ring suburbs of our capital cities where there is a strong demand from affluent owner occupiers who can afford to and are willing to, pay for them. property market

These properties tend to have the essential pillars of growth: near great infrastructure and transport, proximity to large job centres, the ability to purchase at fair market value (rather than at a premium) and the option to “manufacture” growth through improvements.

Without a flood of similar properties on the market, as is common with new developments, competition amongst buyers and renters will drive prices and rentals.

This is a foundational growth factor that can be absent in off the plan markets.

For mine, there are too many risks currently in the off the plan and new house markets for property investors.



Hear Michael & a select panel of guest experts discuss property investment, success & money related topics. Subscribe now, whether you're on an Apple or Android handset.



We have created easy to follow instructions for you whether you're on iPhone / iPad or an Android device.



Join Michael Yardney's inner circle of daily subscribers and get into the head of Australia's best property investment advisor and a wide team of leading property researchers and commentators.

Avatar for Property Update


Kate Forbes is a National Director Property Strategy at Metropole. She has 15 years of investment experience in financial markets in two continents, is qualified in multiple disciplines and is also a chartered financial analyst (CFA).

'The worst properties to buy in an uncertain market' have 3 comments

  1. Avatar for Property Update

    July 29, 2017 @ 8:57 pm Jarrah

    Thank you for this interesting article. Buying established units or townhouses provide indeed some room for improvements however they attract lower tax depreciation and may be none if the construction is too old. In addition it exists other incentives that make biyung off the plan or new build units interesting: lower maintenance fees or saving on stamp duty. From what I understand in your article you do make minimising tax as a priority when investing. Why is this a good strategy? How do you evaluate the benefit from one option to the other?


    • Avatar for Property Update

      July 29, 2017 @ 9:01 pm Jarrah

      Sorry for the typo in my comment. I mean you do NOT make minimising tax a priority when investing. Why is it a good strategy? How do you evaluate the benefit of one option rather than another?


    • Avatar for Property Update

      July 29, 2017 @ 10:59 pm Michael Yardney

      Sorry Jarrah I think you have it wrong
      The main focus of my strategy and that of all successful investors is capital growth – tax, depreciation, one off stamp duty savings are all secondary and short term benefits.
      We evaluate the options with numbers and figures and stats – that’s the right way – not what looks good


Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.



Michael's Daily Insights

Join Michael Yardney's inner circle of daily subscribers.

NOTE: this daily service is a different subscription to our weekly newsletter so...