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Six things you need to know about investing in property

Investor demand continued to grow in the latter stages of 2013 with the value of loans for investors jumping by 8.2% in October. That equates to $10.3 billion, the highest level on record. This increase is resulting in strength in the property market and will entice more investors back to the market. Investors traditionally want to ensure they get the timing right and do not want to be left behind. This means most investors will make their move once they are sure other investors are active.  

As investors continue their comeback to the market in 2014, it is important not to get too carried away and enter with a level head. Whether you’re a first-timer or seasoned campaigner, successful property investment is based on certain timeless principles.  

Here are six of the best:  

  1. Horses for courses. Despite much of what you read and hear, no two properties work the same way. Commercial property is primarily income-producing, whilst residential property primarily generates capital growth. Some properties need substantial renovation to improve their resale value, whilst others have inherently high land values that do the job for you. Some properties (like B&Bs) demand a lot of time and hands-on involvement, whilst others can be managed by a third party, enabling you to ‘set and forget’.

    All these differences mean that the property which is right for you may not be the property which is right for someone else. Before you enter the market, it’s essential to consider your personal and financial circumstances and goals, your stage of life and the level of involvement you’re prepared to have.

  1. Strategise first, buy later. Decide what type of property is appropriate for your situation. Do you have a large enough working income to support the costs of owning an investment property? If so, a residential property that can provide capital growth may be the best bet. Do you need income to replace your wage or salary? In this case, a commercial property or commercial property trust may be more suitable.

    Next, determine which entity is going to own it. There are several forms of ownership: individual, partnership, company, trust or self-managed superannuation fund. The tax office treats each form of ownership differently, so seek advice from your solicitor or accountant before you buy. If you have to change the form of ownership down the track, you could be up for thousands in additional stamp duty and/or capital gains tax.

  1. Get your finances in order. No matter which type of property you buy, the substantial entry and exit costs mean you must consider it a long-term proposition. It’s not just a case of having the funds to buy the property, but being able to fund the holding costs for at least seven to 10 years. Think ahead to possible changes in your circumstances (such as starting a family, becoming self-employed or retiring) that could affect you ability to hold the asset for the long term.

    If you’re buying a new or near-new property and relying on claiming depreciation benefits to maximise your cashflow, remember that most depreciation occurs in the first five years. Once you’ve used up your depreciation allowance, you could be out of pocket unless you can find another source of income to fund the holding costs.

  1. BYO research. When you’re researching the local market, be wary of free advice. If someone is purporting to ‘advise’ you but being paid by the vendor, they’ll be accountable to the vendor, not to you.

    Instead, do your own research by looking at reputable statistics from objective agencies, attending auctions in person and tracking auction results. If you need back-up, seek advice from professionals who don’t have a vested financial interest in steering you towards a certain course of action.

  1. Know your limit. You’re buying an investment property, not a home to live in. You don’t have to love it – or even like it. Leave your emotions at the front gate, set a limit based on your research and stick to it. If the bidding goes over your limit, drop out of the race. It’s one thing to buy well, but buying at all costs simply isn’t smart investing.

  1. Regular reviews. Cast a critical eye over your financing arrangements and property portfolio once a year to decide whether they’re still doing the required job. The finance market changes constantly, so you may be able to get a better deal with a different product, package or lender. Are your properties generating rental income and/or capital growth higher than the wider market? If they’re lagging behind Melbourne-wide or local median rental and property values, it may be time to consider selling.

Mark Armstrong is a director of iProperty Plan, which provides independent analysis and tailored advice to investors and home buyers.


Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong is a director of, Australia's number one real estate agent rating website.

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