IN THE AFTERMATH of COVID-19, things are changing all the time, including restrictions and the impact these are having on a range of industries, including property.
So far the property market seems to be holding up pretty well, with minimal falls in values. But it’s a different story for the construction industry (a huge source of employment for Australians), which faces a steep drop in home building after September this year.
In light of this the Federal Government recently announced a new $25,000 property grant called HomeBuilder, to be handed out to eligible people building or renovating a home, which is designed to boost construction activity and stimulate the industry.
This $688 million housing stimulus package aims to build 30,000 homes by Christmas and is predicted to generate over $15 million in national economic activity, lead to $10 million in building projects and support more than 1 million jobs.
Details of HomeBuilder are still evolving, and there may be other assistance on offer in the months to come (particularly from state and territory governments) to stimulate the housing market – we’ll have to watch this space.
In the meantime, however, here is what we know about what’s currently on offer.
What is HomeBuilder?
The scheme offers a $25,000 grant to owner-occupiers substantially renovating their home or building a new home between June 4 and December 31 this year.
It comes with restrictions though – for new builds the home cannot be priced at more than $750,000 and renovations must cost at least $150,000 and up to $750,000 for a home valued at $1.5 million or less, but the work excludes sheds, pools, tennis courts, granny flats or any other structure detached from the dwelling.
The grant is also means tested, with income caps of $125,000 for singles and $200,000 for couples.
Contracts must be signed within the next six months and construction must start within three months of the contact date.
The program is expected to be up and running within a few weeks, with applications able to be backdated to June 4 so contracts can be entered into right away.
It will be implemented via a National Partnership Agreement with the federal, state and territory governments.
At the time of writing applications for the grants were not yet open, but Australians could register interest in the scheme through the Government’s official website.
The $25,000 HomeBuilder grant is designed to complement state and territory housing assistance programs, including grants and stamp duty discounts, to encourage more people to undertake building work.
Since the Federal HomeBuilder announcement, some states have offered further stimulus, with Tasmania offering $20,000 for any owner-occupier to build a house, while Western Australia is offering owner-occupiers and investors a $20,000 grant.
What are the pros and cons of the HomeBuilder grant?
Some argue the money offered by HomeBuilder would be more effective in achieving its aims of stimulating construction if it was given for the provision of social housing instead.
While the HomeBuilder grant will encourage more people to undertake a building project – either through a renovation or new build – which will stimulate the construction sector, inevitably it will also be given to those who were already planning a project anyway, which is one of the program’s criticisms.
Other criticisms are that it’s too restrictive due to factors such as the large outlay required (particularly for renovations), property value caps, means testing and timeframes – particularly to get approvals and plans – which may lead to a low take up.
It could also inflate prices for houses or trades, as grants often do, but the short timeframe for the scheme is expected to counteract this.
Despite all these potential drawbacks it has been reported that there has been huge enquiry – numbering 8000 as at June 8- about the program in the days following the announcement. This indicates interest – and potential take up – is high, and the program could be the catalyst for people taking action after sitting on the sidelines due to Coronavirus.
In particular it could be a great incentive for first home buyers, who will also be able to take advantage of state and territory grants, but it’s also a good opportunity for existing homeowners to upgrade to a new homes or update their current home.
What to consider
You should do you own research and seek expert advice before rushing in to take advantage of this grant, despite time being of the essence.
Ensure you are making a prudent investment decision and either buying a new home that will increase in value or ensuring you are adding value through a renovation and not overcapitalising.
Chris Gray of YourEmpire.com.au says in the past property grants have often created a short-term bubble in the market, and quite often it can be a “false economy”.
Home buyers, he says, are often better off buying a mainstream existing house in a well-located suburb with no grant rather than buying a new one with a grant, as the underlying investment in the most important thing.
He warned homebuyers taking advantage of HomeBuilder to do their numbers, and determine if they would actually still do a renovation and spend the money if they didn’t have the grant.
“The grant should be the bonus rather than the reason for doing it,” he says, adding that having to spend the extra $25,000 on a higher-value renovation means overcapitalising is a real risk.
“You might spend money on things that actually devalue the property such as gold-plated taps or diamond encrusted something else. You can spend money upscaling to satisfy the requirements of the grant and it doesn’t suit the area or the type of property.
“Get a fresh pair of eyes to look over your property and determine what it is worth now and what it will be worth after so you make sure you add value and know how much to spend on a renovation.”
Do we need more property grants to stimulate the housing market post COVID-19?
At this present time, it doesn’t appear that the housing market needs propping up via other grants or handouts.
According to CoreLogic Head of Research Tim Lawless property values have been quite insulated from a downturn to date, with CoreLogic data to the end of May showing home values were down less than half a percent.
The HomeBuilder grant is more about jobs than housing, he says.
“(It) is more about shoring up jobs in the residential construction sector, so it is rightly targeted towards incentives to build or renovate, rather than stoke demand for established homes which could have an inflationary effect on prices.”
Mr Lawless explained that housing construction has been in a broad downturn over the past year and a half, and will likely slump further through the year.
“Nationally dwelling commencements peaked in the first quarter of 2018 and by the end of last year had declined by around one third to be 14 per cent below the decade average,” he says.
“Considering housing construction typically provides a strong multiplier effect on the economy via the scope of the supply chain and array of trades and industries involved, a stimulus package for the sector makes sense.”
THE FEDERAL Government has made a very significant change to capital gains tax (CGT) affecting ex pats, but it’s likely there are many Australians living overseas who are still completely in the dark about it.
Put simply, the change entails the CGT exemption for the Australian family home, which has been in existence for 35 years, being taken away from expat – or non-resident – Australians if they sell the property while living overseas.
Currently the exemption applies so long as the home was rented out for no more than six years at a time, but from July 1 this year the new changes will take effect.
What are the changes?
The change to CGT means expats seeking a principal place of residence exemption must sell before June 30 or hold the property and wait until they return home to live in it again before selling. If they don’t, they risk paying a potentially hefty CGT bill on their home.
If the property was purchased before May 9, 2017 expats can sell before June 30 this year and avoid CGT, but if the property was purchased after May 9, 2017 and sold while living overseas CGT will still have to be paid, as there is no principal residence exemption.
The legislation, which seems to have been rushed through after both political parties previously promised they would exclude expats from the changes as it was unfair, will also apply retrospectively.
That means capital gains will be taxed for the entire time the property has been owned, rather than just for the time the occupant has lived overseas, which could become very expensive for those that bought their properties as far back as 1985, with property prices having risen very significantly.
The changes to CGT will also affect migrants who buy a home in Australia to live in while they are here, and then sell after returning home.
What impact will the change to CGT have on expats?
The change will only affect expats who sell a home in Australia they have previously lived in while they are living overseas.
It’s difficult to determine exactly how many expats will be impacted, but it could be tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.
And then there is not only current expats to consider, but those moving overseas in the years to come, particularly in an increasingly global economy where many people are going abroad to work.
Those that are affected will be significantly disadvantaged. Experts agree it’s an unfair tax to drop on Australians who have purchased in good faith, believing their home would be exempt from CGT, and continued to contribute to the Australian economy through taxes on their homes if they are rented out.
It should be noted that there are some concessions for the application of CGT to the homes of expats selling while overseas, with an exemption applying for life events such as a terminal medical condition, death or divorce.
What should expats do?
It appears this change to CGT has been brought in without much fanfare to even alert expats of its existence.
There will likely be many people caught unawares and potentially sell while overseas without realising the tax laws have changed, incurring a significant CGT bill.
If you’re an expat, the first thing you need to do is get educated on the change in the CGT rules, and then determine the best course of action for your circumstances.
You’ll need to do so quickly, with the deadline to sell (the contract date) being June 30 this year.
It’s a good idea to seek professional advice on the costs involved in your circumstances and whether you’re better off holding or selling.
Impediments to waiting until you return home include that your move may be permanent, you may be unable to hold the property financially, or you may be returning to a different city than the one which you left.
For those returning, you must be genuinely returning to Australia and can prove that you have quit your overseas job, cancelled a property lease and taken your children out of their overseas school, for example.
For those who do have to pay CGT, there could be issues in determining the correct tax liability because those who have purchased up to 35 years ago may not have kept proper records.
Capital gain is calculated using the original cost base, which includes expenses related to the property purchase such as buying costs, holding costs and renovations, as well as the cost of the property itself.
This may lead to expats selling their home while overseas being charged more CGT than they would have, if the proper records had been retained.
WHAT A rollercoaster the past year has been for property!
We saw a lacklustre start to 2019 largely due to apprehension around last year’s Federal Election and particularly proposed housing-related tax policies from the ALP.
Activity was also subdued due to the fallout from the Banking Royal Commission and tightened lending restrictions imposed by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.
However following the Federal Election in May and confirmation the status quo would continue the market slowly started improving as confidence returned, and now it’s firmly in recovery mode.
The difference between the start of 2020 and the same time one year ago is like “chalk and cheese”, says Hotspotting.com.au founder Terry Ryder.
“One year ago everything was super negative but now things are much more positive,” he states.
But just how positive is the market? Will the price growth that started in 2019 continue this year, and if so, will it be at a strong pace?
Let’s first look at why prices have started to rise again…
In the wake of the uncertainty in the property market over 2019 many sellers decided to hang onto their homes, fearing they wouldn’t get the desired price, and construction also eased.
This led to a lack of available stock for buyers to choose from, which Ryder says was one of the several factors contributing to the price growth that started towards the end of the year and has continued into this year.
“One of the factors in the escalation of prices, particularly in bigger cities, was that at a time when demand recovered quite strongly, there was very little supply and vacancies were generally low in most locations around Australia,” he says.
“There was a lot of competition for good properties available, which was a big factor in price growth last year.”
Now, in 2020, there are signs supply is starting to rise, with sellers more confident in testing the market, and more construction in the pipeline, so price inflation that occurred due to a lack of stock will likely be tempered moving forward.
National residential property listings increased in January by 2.2%, according to the latest data from SQM Research. All capital cities saw a rise in listings, but the largest rise was in Sydney of 5.1%, followed by Hobart at 4.9%.
Sydney’s listings are still 24.8% lower than 12 months ago, while nationally listings are 10% lower than a year ago. But there are likely to be further increases in the coming months.
Dwelling approvals are also improving, with annual growth lifting to 2.7%, the first positive since June 2018.
“Markets are rising and people can get pretty good prices for their properties if they’re willing to list them,” says Ryder.
“Consumers were a bit battered and bruised after a period of negativity, including fears of the Federal Election, but since the middle of May last year there have been a series of fortunate events.”
These events include an easing of lending restrictions, tax cuts, three interest rate reductions and more positive media coverage on the market.
“There are always multiple factors in why the market rises and these factors are all part of the equation,” says Ryder.
“But with more supply coming to the market this year, it will take some pressure off prices, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.
“The market will settle down a bit and be what you might call a ‘normal’ market.”
Indeed, the latest CoreLogic Home Value Index found that while property prices rose across every capital city in January, the rate of growth had slowed in recent months.
Over the past year prices have grown by 4.1%, which is the fastest pace of growth for a 12-month period since December 2017, but in January the index was up by a total of 0.9%, down from its recent monthly peak of 1.7% in November.
Growth markets are aplenty this year
With Sydney and Melbourne likely to take a backseat this year, smaller capital cities are set to come to the fore, including Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and Adelaide.
“Sydney and Melbourne have had substantial and lengthy booms, and the increase in supply and the affordability factor will tend to suppress the level of growth in those cities,” says Ryder.
“Cities that haven’t had a big run but have the right dynamics in play will have a strong year.”
Brisbane is overdue for growth, and all the ducks are starting to fall into line for the city to do much better this year, explains Ryder.
“All indicators are that Perth has finally moved into a recovery after five years of gradual decline and Canberra looks solid, underpinned by one of the steadiest economies in the country.
“Adelaide is always underrated; it’s got a lot more going for it than people realise and it will have a good year as well.”
Hobart has had a good run and is likely past its peak, and Darwin is still struggling, adds Ryder.
He points out that regional areas also have the potential for growth this year, with the strongest market being regional Victoria, with parts of regional New South Wales also looking promising, including Orange, Wagga Wagga, Goulburn and Dalby.
In regional Queensland the Sunshine Coast offers some of the best growth potential, with a strong economy, while some parts of Central Queensland are also recovering, including Mackay.
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LATELY I’ve noticed a few news articles about developer incentives being offered in various markets around Australia. I’m sure many of you would have seen the headlines.
In Brisbane, the developer behind a luxury apartment project in West End is offering buyers a car – a Toyota Yaris hatchback.
Another townhouse development in Corinda, in the city’s southwest, is offering a year’s supply of avocado on toast.
Further south there have been reports of a developer behind a Parramatta apartment block in Sydney offering $30,000 in cash.
Meanwhile, in Western Australia apartment developers have been offering up to 1 million frequent flyer points, amongst other incentives.
It’s not just limited to apartment developments; incentives are offered for house and land packages too, with free gift cards or even furniture packages.
Developer incentives are nothing new, and they often serve as a warning sign to buyers that something is amiss.
But lately I’ve been wondering whether there is any upside in being lured in by the incentive carrot at this point in time. Let’s examine the issue before making a determination.
The downside to incentives
Developers generally offer incentives because they need to get pre-sales in what could be a slow or oversupplied market, which in turn enables them to get a project up and running. Offering incentives is a marketing trick to lure buyers in.
The problem for buyers is that they could end up technically overpaying for a property and then having issues with obtaining finance.
You see, the incentive is usually offered in lieu of reducing the purchase price. So if the developer offers a $20,000 car, buyers might feel like they’re essentially paying $20,000 less for the property, but they’re actually paying the price on the contract which could actually be $20,000 too much as the incentive is built into the price.
So let’s say you buy a property for $500,000 with a $20,000 incentive. You might think you’re really paying $480,000, which is probably its true market value, but you’ve still contracted to buy the property for $500,000.
When banks assess whether they will give you finance, they usually don’t take the incentive off the price – they will look at the price on the contract, and the valuation must come up to par for a buyer to get finance. The problem is that since the property is probably worth less the valuation may not be high enough for the bank to lend to you.
Put simply, valuations can fail to stack up because the property is only worth the price minus the incentive, but you’ve contracted to pay the full price.
This creates a whole lot of confusion, and the easy solution would be for developers to just reduce their prices. This would be beneficial for buyers because they can pay less stamp duty, but developers argue that buyers have come to expect incentives, so it’s a box that needs to be ticked in their marketing strategy.
Is there any upside?
If there is a cash incentive, as a buyer you shouldn’t think you’re getting a discount because you’re actually just paying what the property is worth – ie. the net price.
So if you’re not really getting a discount is it worth taking advantage of a developer incentive?
Well, as I see it, you’d have to first look at why this particular developer is offering an incentive. They might well be desperate for sales, but they also might just want to get some quick pre sales to get things moving.
You’d then need to look ahead to the future. Even if the market is quiet it could turn around in time, which means you could benefit from getting in now.
In the case of apartments there has been a lot of press about an oversupply, particularly in Brisbane and Melbourne, which has impacted prices. But many experts believe unit prices will rebound in time as the supply and new development dries up, and houses prices become even more out of reach, leading buyers to turn to apartments for affordability.
If you buy a property where a developer incentive is being offered you’d probably need a discount on top of the incentive to ensure you can get finance and you’re not overpaying. Remember you generally make your money when you buy, by buying under market value.
Most importantly, do your research
You don’t have to stay right away from developer incentives but you should absolutely do your research before buying to determine if the property you’re purchasing is actually going to be a good investment.
Whatever you buy must have the right fundamentals to ensure it will grow in the future. If it doesn’t, you should forget about it.
In an attempt to “reduce pressure on housing affordability” the Government has announced dramatic changes to the way depreciation is claimed on property.
Let’s start with the good news:
1. Any existing investment properties purchased (contract exchange date) prior to May 9 2017 are not affected (unless they were not income producing in the 2016/2017 financial year).
2. Commercial, industrial and other non-residential properties are not affected.
3. Capital works deductions have not been affected. This means you will still be able to claim depreciation on the structure of the building provided it was built after the 16th of September 1987. And you will still need a Quantity Surveyor’s depreciation schedule to do so.
Now that we know what isn’t affected, let’s look at what has changed…
The government will limit plant and equipment depreciation deductions to outlays actually incurred by investors. In essence, unless you as the buyer had physically purchased the items – you can no longer depreciate them. This is a massive change to what you can claim – there by reducing investors’ cash flow.
Originally I thought a quick fix would be to structure the sales contract so that the plant and equipment is separated. But I suspect that the legislation will be worded such that if the plant and equipment was in situ at the time of purchase, you can no longer claim it.
You see, under the recent changes, I suspect the developer will be deemed to have bought the plant and equipment – not you.
However, the acquisition of existing plant and equipment will form part of the cost base, thus reducing your capital gains liability. So investors who hang on to their properties long term, will no longer reap the benefits of depreciating plant and equipment.
So in summary: if a residential property was built prior 1987,and has not been renovated – there will be no depreciation claim.
This is very rare as most pre-1987 built properties we inspect have had some renovation carried out.
If built after 1987 – only the construction costs can be claimed.
Whilst there is still much uncertainty regarding the specifics of this budget’s depreciation-related changes, one thing is crystal clear: If you own a residential investment property and haven’t had a depreciation schedule prepared, now would be a good time to get a quote!
Developers, Project Marketers and Property Sales Agents – If you are selling property and using depreciation numbers that include plant and equipment: STOP NOW! This element needs to be removed from the selling equation, at least until the legislation is finalised.
Here is why I think this is dumb policy.
The proposed changes are being made to “reduce pressure on housing affordability.” In my opinion, it will have the opposite effect for 3 reasons:
Property investors may now feel the need to hang onto their existing properties to continue claiming depreciation because if they sell that property they won’t be able to get as many deductions on the next one.
Developers rely on high depreciation figures in the early years to show investors how affordable an investment property can be. If the allowances are taken away, they will struggle to get pre-sales which are required by banks to fund the deal.
These budget measure are forecast to save $260 million over a 3 year period. I suspect far more will be lost if developers can no longer get new projects off the ground.
Whilst I believe housing affordability is a major issues, this appears to be policy on the run…so the Government can be seen to be targeting property investors, when changes to negative gearing could have been more effective.
I will provide a further update once the legislation is finalised.
Using super to buy a home… Is this the dumbest idea ever?
Recently I discussed the suggestion from various politicians including Barnaby Joyce that buyers trying to break into the market look to more affordable areas. The idea that currently has momentum, however, is allowing first home buyers to access their superannuation (super) early to use it as a deposit for a property.
Currently super can be accessed prior to retirement for a variety of reasons. These include severe financial hardship or permanent disability, but buying a home is not one of them.
The idea of allowing young buyers to dip into their retirement savings keeps coming up time and time again. Liberal MP John Alexander one of the biggest advocates. That’s despite it flopping when Paul Keating first raised it back in 1993, and even he, seemingly forgetting his election platform back then, has now rubbished the idea.
In my humble opinion, it’s the dumbest idea ever.
The argument for
The point of allowing first home buyers to access their super early is of course to enable – or at least help – them to get into the property market sooner, before prices rise even further out of reach.
Advocates point to New Zealand, which has adopted this policy, and has a quickly rising take-up.
And that’s about it for the positives of the argument.
The argument against
The arguments against the idea are numerous, far outweighing the positives.
The thing is, allowing first homebuyers to use their super for property is actually likely to worsen affordability. Prices are likely to be driven up due to an increase in the capacity for people to pay for housing. So, essentially it would be counterproductive.
Not only would it likely lead to a surge in demand, with more buyers in the market, but it will give those who can already afford a house more money to play with. Meaning they’ll be able to pay more for property, driving up property prices. Existing home buyers will be the only winners.
On top of this, it would severely compromise the whole point of super, which is to provide an income in retirement.
Not only will the lifestyle of our future retirees be significantly hampered, but they’ll likely be completely reliant on a government pension. But will we as a country even be able to afford to pay all these people to live? Probably not – which is why super was introduced in the first place.
Retirees might own their own home, but what will they use to live off? Don’t forget, this includes buying food and paying for living expenses.
The reality is that most young people don’t even have enough money in their super accounts for a home deposit. A recent analysis finding displays the average super balance for young people was lower than what’s needed for a 20% deposit.
You see, you get the most compound growth in super during and after your youth. This is when you’ll grow your balance. Making it a big part of why the money needs to be left there.
So if you ask me, this is not the time to tell someone with all their life savings in a quality super fund with a mix of asset classes to take out all their money and bet on one asset class – housing. This is especially the case since property prices are likely nearing – or are at – the top of the market in Sydney and Melbourne. So the potential is there to actually lose money if overzealous first homebuyers pay too much.
What should be done instead?
Investors have largely been blamed for rising house prices and for pushing first home buyers out of the market. However, nagging proposals to get rid of investor benefits such as negative gearing and the 50% capital gains tax discount have been supposedly taken off the table.
Market forces should be left to iron out the problems in the market. But if government intervention is needed, the best solution is likely to be an increase in supply. The supply is needed especially in Sydney and Melbourne.
It would also be wise for governments to invest in infrastructure in regional areas. Or those further from the city to draw people away from our capitals and into areas where demand is not so great.
According to basic economics, when demand is greater than supply prices are pushed up. So, if supply is increased but demand stays the same prices should level out. Or at the least, grow at a slower rate.
Conversely, if you increase demand, as allowing buyers to access super would do, but keep the supply the same, prices will be driven even higher.
So, what is actually going to happen? Will first homebuyers be allowed to dip into their super in Australia?
The Federal Government has committed to addressing housing affordability. However, for now they seem to have taken this idea off the table due to widespread criticism. Although we will have to wait and see what their solution is in the May budget.
Every investor – whether expert or amateur – should be looking for the same things in a property investment to ensure its success.
While there is no exact formula for buying a successful investment, it’s handy to have a checklist to consult to make sure you’re on the right track.
Below are some of the fundamentals you should be looking for when buying. Be aware that this isn’t an exhaustive checklist. However, it can serve as property investment tips that will help guide your decisions.
Property must haves:
Good location – The old adage still rings true; it’s all about location, location, location. Well, maybe it’s not all about location, but the fact is you can change a property, but you can’t change a location. Being close to amenities such as shops, schools, public transport and even major transport routes is key when it comes to selecting a good investment property.
Growth drivers – Are there any major projects taking place in close proximity to drive up the value of the property? This might be in the form of new or planned infrastructure or commercial developments that will improve amenity or access to the area. This is likely to draw more people to the area, pushing up demand for homes.
Population growth – Are people moving to the area? Look at population growth figures in the area you’re buying in. Then determine whether there are factors drawing people in, such as employment nearby and improved amenity.
Tenant appeal – Is there demand from renters in the area and for the type of property you’re purchasing? Does your property have the features tenants want? What are the vacancy rates? Demand from your target demographic is the key to securing a strong return.
Build quality – While location is key, the property you buy is important too. This is especially true if you want to attract quality tenants. Do your due diligence, which includes getting a building and pest inspection, to ensure the home you’re buying is of a good quality.
Value-adding potential – A well-selected property should see capital growth. However, it’s always a good idea to have the ability to add value through a renovation or by adding a room or a car park, for example. Value-adding potential also comes in the form of a change in zoning that will allow for development. If the market slows you may need to manufacture growth to increase your equity.
Liveability – Does the property have a good layout? Does it have the features people want, such as extra bathrooms, car spaces, security, and a nice outdoor area, whether it be a roomy balcony or a good deck and backyard? All of these things will make it more sought after. Liveability also goes for the suburb. Ensure you buy in an area with a good community due to plenty of amenity and nice aesthetics.
Individuality – A property that is unique is some way – or that stands out from the crowd – can experience strong growth as it will be in high demand amongst buyers. This is especially the case when it comes to units, particularly in areas with a lot of supply.
Scarcity – Does demand outweigh supply in the area in which you’re buying? This applies to the area in general as well as the property type. If there is greater demand than supply in terms of both buyers and renters, the property value and rental rate will be pushed up.
Low maintenance – Select a property that won’t require a great deal of maintenance. This will save you money and keep your tenants happy.
Proximity to employment – People like to live in close proximity to work, so make sure there are employment options nearby. If you’re buying in a regional area make sure there’s more than one industry in the town.
Stability – Have property prices been stable in the area in which you’re buying? Ideally you want a history of consistent growth, avoiding areas that have experienced big price falls.
A solid history – Do your research and make sure the property hasn’t been sitting on the market for a long time, and if it has, determine why. Make sure it’s not due to an inherent problem with the property. Finding out why the sellers are moving on is also important. The last thing you want is a property that isn’t selling for a good reason.
The right numbers – You want the property to stack up from an investment perspective, with good potential for capital growth and decent rental yields. Make sure the numbers add up! What is the rental yield, what are the total costs, how much will you be out of pocket for?
While a property investor’s major goal is likely to be capital growth, they’ll also be looking for solid rental yields to help them hold onto their asset.
To achieve the best possible rental return, you’ll need to maximise the appeal of your property to potential tenants. But what do tenants want? Generally they’ll want a home in a good location, close to employment, amenity and public transport. These are all things you should consider when you’re buying.
But you should also drill down to who the tenants in the particular area are, and what they desire from the property itself. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do they want? Would they like an outdoor area? Will they value nice window coverings?
If you already own a property there are several things you can do to increase the weekly rent and maximise your rental yield. Many of these are simple enhancements that won’t require a huge outlay of funds.
It’s often better to focus on increasing your income rather than cutting back on expenses by, for example, being lax in your maintenance of the property. Keeping your tenants happy will pay off in the long run, as you’ll likely have fewer vacancies and your tenants will be more willing to pay a higher rent.
While you can also consider self-managing to cut back on costs, this can backfire if it’s not done properly, costing you even more out of your own pocket.
So what can you do to increase your income? We’ve put together the below list to give you some rental yield tips. Just remember, whatever you do will depend upon what your tenants want – and are willing to pay more for.
And don’t forget to maximise your deductions for depreciation, which can further boost your rental yield.
Make your rental property pet-friendly
Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world. More than half the Australian population own an animal.
The reality is, however, that it can be difficult for tenants to find properties that a) allow pets and b) are suitable for pets. So it makes sense that if you allow pets in your property you’ll not only widen the potential rental pool, but you’ll also be able to command a higher rental rate. Some property managers estimate you could charge an extra $20 or $30 a week if you allow pets.
While pets can cause damage there are ways you can mitigate any potential problems. Such as having a relevant clause in the rental contract, having a vigilant property manager to regularly inspect the property, and covering yourself with appropriate insurance.
Provide modern technology
Ensure your property is well and truly in the 21st century by providing up-to date technology that every tenant expects – and demands – in a home now.
This includes having a strong internet connection, a strong mobile phone signal, adequate power points and even the ability to install pay TV.
Ceiling fans may be adequate in some circumstances, but most tenants dealing with an Australian summer will want air conditioning. Nowadays, most will be willing to pay a premium for it.
Heating can be just as important as cooling. Make sure you get a reverse-cycle air conditioner if you’re installing one and put it in the areas where it will have the greatest impact.
Offer added extras
Providing your tenants with added extras that make your property more comfortable to live in, such as a dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, clothesline or even flyscreens, can lead to an increase in rent.
Remember you’ll be responsible for maintaining and repairing any appliances, so only install something that you’re sure will be beneficial.
Furnish your property
While this will require an outlay of funds at the beginning, it could pay off in the end with a boost in your rental income and yield.
Whether or not this works, however, will depend on the market in which you’re renting your property. It’s usually best suited to inner-city areas. So, while it won’t be for everyone, it can work very well for short-term renters, such as executive rentals or student accommodation.
If you furnish your property well, with modern furniture, it can add hundreds of dollars per week to the rent.
Make it safe and secure
You don’t need to go overboard with high-tech alarms or CCTV, but make sure your property is safe and secure, with doors and windows that lock properly.
Consider adding security screens, or if you want to go a step further you could invest in swipe card security measures. Privacy is also key.
Add some off-street parking
Public transport infrastructure is improving in many places, but people still like to drive their cars.
Your property should have at least one parking space, and if you have a second – even in the form of a shade-sail carport – it will be more in demand.
Having off-street parking in inner city areas will command the greatest premium, as this is where it’s most limited.
Create more storage
Creating an extra storage space can lead to higher demand for your property and higher rents.
Built-in wardrobes are very important, but renters may also like an outdoor shed or a cupboard under the stairs. Creating storage is fairly easy to do and will likely require only a small outlay of capital.
Presentation is important, so undertaking renovations can be a great way to improve your yield.
If your budget is small you can just do some minor cosmetic work such as painting or changing floor coverings, or even fixtures and fittings in the bathroom and kitchen.
You can, of course, also do more major renovations. Such as a complete overhaul of rooms, or even adding a bathroom, bedroom or an internal laundry.
Many tenants will also pay more for an outdoor space where they can entertain. You could also consider adding a veranda or deck, but this will come at a hefty cost.
Just make sure you’ve done the calculations and you know you’ll be getting your money’s worth by not only attracting more tenants, but by adequately increasing the rent.
Charge market rent
Perhaps surprisingly, there are plenty of landlords renting their properties below market. If you’re not charging market rent, raise it, and review it regularly. A good property manager can help with this.
Add another dwelling
Adding a second dwelling, such as a granny flat, that can be rented separately can increase your rental income.
This will only suitable in areas that allow it of course and it can come with its own complications, as it may be harder to find tenants, and rent on the main house can also decrease.
Install solar panels
This can lead to a decrease in a tenant’s electricity bills, and consequently they might be willing to pay more rent. The installation costs are significant, however, adding up to $3000 or $4000, so you’ll need to ensure you can recoup this – and more – in increased rent.
Consider arrangements outside of a long-term lease
Renting the property by the room can maximise your rental return, as can holiday letting or doing short-term leases.
Beware of the possible drawbacks though, as there can be higher vacancies and more wear and tear; any rental increase will need to make up for this.
They’re suave, they’re slick and above all, they’re convincing, with their sales pitch down pat. Who are they? Property spruikers.
Unfortunately in Australia’s largely unregulated property advisory market spruikers – masquerading as experts – can flourish and their unsuspecting victims stand to lose a lot of money.
How can you avoid being preyed upon? We’ve identified some of the telltale signs of a property scam so you know when to run in the other direction.
The (usually unsolicited) approach
This might come in the form of ‘special offer’ emails, cold calls from telemarketers or a letterbox drop. Or you might make the first contact yourself after seeing a seductive advertisement in a newspaper or magazine. Once they’ve got your contact details they’ll be persistent in their efforts to get you to sign up.
The spruiker will pull out all the clichés such as ‘offer of a lifetime’, ‘secrets’, ‘guaranteed growth’, ‘no money down’, ‘positively geared’, ‘get rich quick’ or ‘risk-free investment’. Many are unrealistic promises that a seasoned property investor can spot a mile away. But novice investors can be lured in.
Not all seminars are put on by spruikers, but this is a common way to target victims. You’ll receive an invitation to a free seminar, at which you’ll listen to a long spiel and be dazzled by a fancy presentation complete with glossy brochures, positive news story clippings, and detailed graphs and tables. Often they’ll either try and make you sign up for another – much more expensive – seminar or will book an appointment to talk to you one-on-one.
A push for credibility
To earn your trust, the spruiker will be desperately trying to prove their credibility. They’ll have professional promotional materials, may associate themselves with reputable companies or charities, and will flaunt their own – whether genuine or not – success and wealth. They’ll try every trick in the book to get you to believe in them.
This is the absolute giveaway sign that you’re dealing with a property spruiker. They’ll make it so easy by doing everything for you. They’ll provide you with a conveyancer, valuer, mortgage broker, an accountant and even a property manager. While this might sound perfect for novice investors, what they’re really doing is ensuring the deal gets done by taking control of everything. All of the supposed ‘independent’ professionals are part of the scam. They will have you signing on the dotted line before you can reconsider.
The finance structure
The purchase will require you to borrow against an existing property so you don’t get a valuation on what they know to be an overpriced home.
They’ll want you to sign on the dotted line as soon as possible, often under the guise of a ‘time sensitive’ opportunity. This is just designed to get the deal done before you have time to wise up and change your mind.
If you hear the term ‘rental guarantee’, alarm bells should be ringing. It might sound like a safeguard for an investor, but if a property is in demand by tenants why would you need the rent guaranteed? Chances are when the guarantee is up you’ll have long vacancy periods or significantly reduced rental rates. Or the guarantee will go by the wayside once the deal is done, as it won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.
Promise of exclusivity
The person or company offering you this opportunity purports to be the only one with access to it. They’re choosing to offer it to you, for a limited time only. They’ll try to convince you that they’re the only people who can find you the right property. In reality you’d likely find a much better deal yourself.
A property is offered, rather than a strategy
The first thing a genuine, professional property adviser will do is find out about your individual circumstances before giving you options as to where and what to buy. They’ll consider your budget, goals, and whether you’re looking for a property that will give you capital growth or rental returns. A spruiker, on the other hand, will have a particular property they want you to buy from a stocklist. And unlike most real estate transactions, there will be no room for negotiation.
An emphasis on tax
The spiel about the opportunity will often focus on the tax breaks it provides. While this is certainly a benefit of investing it shouldn’t be the primary motivation for buying. The main reason to invest is to build wealth.
Often the opportunity will be for a house-and-land package, with the promise of a stamp duty saving and bigger tax breaks through depreciation. You’ll need to compare the cost of these new homes with established ones in the area to ensure you’re not overpaying. Although you most likely will be.
They’re marketing outside the local area
They’ll go interstate to spruik to investors, hoping buyers won’t be familiar with the location of the properties they’re selling. These homes will often be in outer suburbs and in low socio-economic areas that may not have great growth potential, despite promises that they’re the next big ‘hotspot’. Ask yourself: if the market is so strong, why wouldn’t the locals be buying?
If you’re approached by what you suspect is a spruiker, before giving out any personal information – and hard-earned money – ask lots of questions to find out who they really are and what their motivations are.
Are they formally qualified as an investment adviser and how and what are they being paid?
While the promise of a ‘get rich quick’ scheme can be tempting, it won’t live up to expectations. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is!
Property is an excellent vehicle to build wealth. Make sure to keep in mind that it takes research and education to get it right. It won’t happen overnight. It takes time and patience to grow your nest egg.
The best way to invest is to do the homework yourself to find the right opportunities. You should have a team of trusted professionals, including a finance broker, solicitor and accountant, to give you independent advice.
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