Seven tips for beginning property investors

Seven tips for beginning property investors
Seven tips for beginning property investors

Today I want to offer the community seven tips for investing in property. It was a challenge to list just seven because there are so many that I feel I could pass on – and I am very much a “beginner” investor myself!

That said, I genuinely believe that beginners can offer some of the best tips and advice to the market, for three reasons:

  1. Beginners make the most mistakes. It’s true!
  2. They are always making the “freshest” mistakes, so their advice is usually the most current. For example; new first-home owners’ grant changes and lessons learnt for those undertaking new loans around these
  3. As less “seasoned” investors, beginners are more likely to be outraged by little stumbles they come across along the way, versus experienced investors who are less likely to be vocal about mild stumbles. This is also probably because experienced investors tend to make fewer mistakes. Or if they do, they are more obscure mistakes, and ones less relevant to new investors. For instance, dealing with a builder pulling out of a 20-unit development at the last minute. I would not imagine many young aspiring investors to find themselves in any kind of 20-unit development issues!

But it is not all about mistakes, sometimes the best tips to pass on are ones learnt from personal innovation. So today I’ll draw from actual personal experience, mistakes, successes, and learnings that I’d made in the first five years of my investment career.

1. Choose an investment strategy (and stick to it). I’ve put this tip first, because it is probably one of the first decisions you need to make (After, of course, you’ve made the decision to explore property investment to begin with!). Choose a strategy that is as flexible as you think you’ll need it to be, and one that is akin to your personal risk profile. Some investment strategies to consider include:

  1. Buy-and-hold. This is where you grow a portfolio of numerous properties during an acquisition phase, then hold on to them for at least two cycles of the property market (so, at least 15 years, but ideally longer) and sell off most of the portfolio gradually as you get closer to retirement age.
  2. Renovate-and-hold. This is similar; you slowly acquire a portfolio of multiple properties over time but buy properties that are undervalued; do some cosmetic (or with more experience, non-cosmetic) renovations, then keep the property mid-long term, creating
  3. Flipping. This is in effect buying undervalued property, renovating as per above and quickly selling for profit. A strategy best used for more experienced investors due to the high costs associated with buying/selling property quickly.
  4. Property development. Again, more for very experienced and seasoned investors; this may be the area where some investors hope to end up in their career. Involves designing, building, selling (and/or holding) a development of units/townhouses etc from beginning through to completion.
  5. Create your own strategy! There is no “right” or “wrong” approach, provided you have a detailed strategy documented from the beginning, with clear goals in mind.

 

2. Build not just an invaluable “crew” around you – but an invaluable “network” as well. Many experts and seasoned veterans are quick to write at length about building your “crew” around you (key accountant, solicitor, broker, financier, tradespeople, and mentors). While this is of vital important, my tip is to think beyond these immediate people’s value and think to your peers and like-minded groups around you. Think networking. Attend property investment seminars, shows, and talks.

Have logins to the key blogs and networking sites and read/post on them regularly. The good ones (Somersoft Forums, for example) will have threads on virtually every topic imaginable within property investment. Also, if you don’t already have one, get a LinkedIn profile and search for some great user groups/communities that are actually freely engaging and blogging on specific topics within property investment strategy. I’m a member of several Linked In groups and would recommend these ones for those starting out:

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Investment-Property-Australia-New-Zealand-2916736?gid=2916736&trk=group-name

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Real-Estate-Investment-In-Australia-2920696?gid=2920696&trk=group-name

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/PropertyWizz-Australia-2950747?gid=2950747&trk=group-name

 


 

3.Run your numbers; then run them again. This is a very common-sense tip but one that must be mentioned. Run the buying/holding costs against current interest rates, but then run them again, a full three percentage points higher than the rates of the day. What you are doing is checking to see if you can still afford to hold the investment at these rates. If you can’t, you should reassess your plan of attack.

 

4. Target market should be at the heart of all you do. Another tip that falls under the “due diligence” category is this: “target market is king”. Property investment is a business, and as such you must treat your property(s) as your product that you are “selling”. What do I mean? Well, your ability to hold your first property cost-effectively (which in turn gives you good breathing space so you can buy your time, allowing equity to grow in this property, in turn allowing you to springboard to property number two, three, fourand beyond) is all dependent on your ability to get the maximum rent return for that property. How do you do this? You have to know who your target market for that property is and then play to that. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in an outer-suburban, family-focused market will not have much demand for it.

This means that even if you purchase this unit for a cheap rate, the rent you can command for it will also be dirt cheap, making it expensive to hold onto. Know who your target market is and who your ideal tenant will be for any property purchase and then play to it. The example I gave was an easy/logical one – but real life is much more blurry. For instance; in the middle to inner suburbs of a city, is it smarter to go for a small two-bedroom unit without parking or a larger one-bedroom with study/home office enclave, and parking? You need to know who your target market is beforehand.

 

5. Consider an early access clause when buying. This is most relevant for those looking to renovate and hold, or to “flip” a property. In most states and territories, settlement from the point of exchanging contracts to actually owning a property is typically up to six weeks. If you’re able to negotiate early access to a property before you actually retain ownership of it is a great way to save money.

Why? Because if you need to carry out any works on the property, you’d typically have to do this at settlement – which means you would need to be making mortgage repayments while you spend however long you need to tarting up the property. However, if the renovations are only light or “cosmetic”, these works can be carried out in a matter of weeks, and if you can do this work before actually taking ownership, you’re already ahead. Another tip within this, from a tax perspective, is to attempt to get any tradespeople or those sending invoices for work done to do this after you settle. If works are carried out and invoiced with dates earlier than the final settlement date, you may not be able to claim these works in your income tax assessment at the end of financial year.

 

6. Prepayment before end of financial year. Another tip, again around finance and works carried out, is to pre-pay any rates/levies/works by Jun 30th of that financial year for the year ahead. For instance, if you’re able, it can be better to be pre-invoiced for some repairs and renovation works that are to be physically completed in say September or October before June 30th, as a portion of your deduction entitlement will be attributed to that financial year instead of having to wait another nine months or so for tax deductable incentives.

 

7. Remove all personal taste from the picture. Sounds easy, but this can be one of the hardest things to do. I read a psychology whitepaper recently that was focused on the psychology of why human beings become so attached to the places they live in and the “sense of home” we attribute to bricks and mortar. Even with your “investor” goggles on, it can be sometimes hard to inspect a property and not start having thoughts about things you personally like or dislike. Instead, become like Neo in the Matrix – he sees the artificial world of the Matrix for what it really is – a series of computer programming code. Like Neo, you need to see the potential for profit and revenue from a property – and not the fact that you don’t like the curtains in the kitchen, for instance. Let’s say you’ve nailed down your list to two candidates – two great properties.

Let’s say they are outer-ring capital city apartments; both in the same suburb, on good/quiet streets, have similar quarterly outgoings, and on the market for the same price. One is a top-floor two-bedroom of 85 square metres, separate bath/shower, internal laundry, balcony, and lock-up garage. But the paint work is hideous, the bathroom tiles outdated, and the light fixtures yellowed with age, and the building is a not-too-pretty 1970s yellow-brick walk up. The second apartment is a two-year old modern apartment, 65 square metres, on the ground floor, with one bedroom only, no bath, and on-street parking only. But it’s pretty. It looks like the kind of place you could see yourself living in. Well that’s great, but you’re restricting your potential target market more with the modern apartment. It would be smarter to go with the one you think is ugly.

Most times, the aesthetic negative factors of a property aren’t a major issue to would-be tenants. And besides, cosmetic touch-ups are easier to sort out between tenancies once you are holding the property.

Cameron McEvoy is a NSW-based property investor and maintains a blog, Property Spectator.

Cameron McEvoy

Cameron McEvoy

Cameron McEvoy is a NSW-based property investor and maintains a blog, Property Correspondent.

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