High risk new apartments should be avoided by young homebuyers: Mal James

Mal JamesJune 22, 20150 min read

Last week we addressed some of the key issues facing younger homebuyers. This week, as promised, we’ve got some practical solutions.

Home buying and these suggested solutions are not for all young people (sub 45). But sitting on your backside, doing another tertiary course, or hoping a magical answer will come from your iPhone is also not the way for every young homebuyer either.

Yes, Australian society is presiding over a system that is unfair on you as young homebuyers.

Australian Society is taking away young people’s housing supply and increasing competitive demand through negative gearing, wealthy immigration and through paying no attention to regional infrastructure. Young people need to push forward a new batch of leaders with ‘we’ ideas instead of ‘me’ ideas and demand change. You need to get out on the streets and protest until you find leaders who can even up the ledger between older and younger Australians but the revolution may take 20 years and you as a young homebuyer can’t afford to wait forever to enter the property market.

Waiting for the market to ease never works.

No easing of the market will assist you to any noticeable degree. If you wait for any future government intervention to save you, your now 6-year-old child may be 26 before you can afford to buy. Your 16-year-old may be a 36-year-old.

You have to take action yourself. Wait for the market to change and you’ll pay the price. Please don’t confuse this statement with passing on buying the wrong home and then continuing to look for the right one in a patient, logical manner.

So our suggestion is don’t focus on the unfairness of negative gearing, super funds, Asian investing, well-off Baby Boomers and private family wealth. Focus on the fact that, this weekend, there are 300 people out there trying to buy the 30 good homes in inner to middle Melbourne on offer.

Yep 270 of those people are going to be unhappy – you need to be one of the winning 30 buyers this weekend or next weekend or later in the year.

So in Inner Melbourne right now; you as a young homebuyer are in a fight, like the wildebeest of Serengeti in a drought. There is limited grass and you need to avoid the predators (dodgy buying and selling agents, dodgy financial planners, dodgy brokers and dodgy advice which may come from well-intentioned people like your friends and relatives). Other predators are negative gearers, super funders and wealthy overseas migrants – not to mention your fellow young homebuyers.

Ok, all this negative and hard stuff is there, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Acknowledge it and move on. Many wildebeest see bad things, but the strong and the smart live on.


Our Bidderman statistics (bidders per auction) show that on good homes there are consistently 6 to 10 bidders per well-priced suburb median Inner Melbourne home above a million dollars. It’s the same or even more below $1M.

Not every young homebuyer can be a winner – there are simply not enough good quality Inner Melbourne homes to satisfy demand. This is the mindset I think, or I hope Joe Hockey was trying to espouse. It’s up to you.

So get the right mindset – it’s up to you or you’ll be living in Whoop Whoop West. And when you try and sell in Whoop Whoop West in 10 years, to be closer to schools, the prices in Inner Melbourne could be even more unattainable.

Get the right plan and then go after the right position, right home and right price

Get a deposit and get multiple funding sources – banks, relatives, tenants, partner and so on.

I’m not a great saver, more a forced one and I care little about superannuation – which may or may not be a wise move now I’m hitting the twilight years!

I’ve think I’ve worked hard (bought over 1000 homes), had good jobs, lived in secure housing near the city, travelled, raised some great kids, had good family support and a good life (lot more to come I hope). I’ve lived off good income, at times overdrafts, parental help in the early days and growth allowed by negative gearing in the latter days. Our family has been lucky, but we’ve also made our own luck. The one money thought that stands out for me: good capital growth and a good job has given us a good good life and covered over a lot of my life mistakes and money sins.

Saving is good for many and recommended, but my point is there is more than one way to skin a cat (isn’t that an awful saying) and to fund a home. Such as:

*Parents (1) – They are your best chance for help with a deposit and loan guarantees. But you may have to sell them on the idea of helping you as they’ll want to protect themselves as they get older as well. Tell them if they don’t want to drive a hour to see the grandkids then you will need help buying closer (ok, not next door but maybe only 15 minutes away) – pull on the heart strings and then pull on their purse strings.

*Parents (2) – Start hassling them to buy investment homes. They can make their retirement better by buying and renting back to you. These investments build wealth and income and you help each other. It’s the Greek/Italian, Chinese and Jewish way and it works. If you are worried about family arguments, get a written legal agreement, such as a formal lease.

  • * for both of the above, you can’t expect (well you can, but why should they) your parents to do it all. You have to help yourself; to save, maybe get a second job and yes, you may have to move further out (just not too far and good 3P’s), to buy your first home and live in it for 5 to 10 years.

Get a good job. Joe Hockey is right–please, I don’t barrack for any political party–unless Pendles or Clokey are running for PM. If you want to be a Buddhist, vegetarian, charity-giving monk then hats off to you; but in all likelihood you won’t be living with three kids in a Hawthorn semi-detached period home. Please I know this sounds harsh–but there is validity to Joe Hockey’s comment – get a job that pays. Sales, Real Estate, Marketing, Small Business...or get a second job, or do this plus ask your parents for help and maybe negatively gear. Do what it takes, and do it sooner rather than later, if buying a good home is an important goal of yours.

Get creative. Buy the home you can’t afford to live in now by buying and negatively gearing now. Put a tenant in and live at home with Mum and Dad. Or buy a home and live in somebody else’s home while they rent your property. Make sure agreements meet tax laws, but negative gearing on a good capital growth home is such a powerful tool. You need it to beat overseas bidding and if you can get some growth in the next ten years before you can afford to move in, you will have put hundreds of thousands of dollars into your back pocket. And it’s legal and mostly tax free (if you’re smart about it). Yes, of course there are risks, but sometimes to get into the housing market you need to take some risks, even if there is no real safety net.

Get a plan and a process that works.

Price, property and position. These are the three ‘Ps’ you need to keep in mind when planning to buy a property.

Median Price for Precinct, Home with Land, House with a liveable floor plan and all in a position that is near infrastructure.

The knowing is not rocket science – the rocket science, in 2015, comes in the getting.

Have clarity on what you want. Is a particular property really the home for you?

List the financial and emotional outcomes you want from your home under the price, property and position headings. At the end your PPP plan, as a starting point, shouldn’t be more complicated than three sentences. It’s simple but many people don’t work out what they want before buying – they don’t have a plan.

However, avoid plans from financial planners, bankers and seminars – if they involve high risk deals such as off the plans and new apartments – these do not work for young homebuyers.

Remember the FFFs too – five-year, flexible and future-proof. In 2000, a young buyer bought a Docklands apartment for $507,500. They sold it in 2014 for $576,000. At the same time another young buyer spent $493,000 on a family home in Glen Iris. They sold it in 2014 for $1.5 million. 

Once you have your plan, assess, value and negotiate – eg follow a proven process.

But, just as they don’t plan, many people don’t stick to a process either. And many people can’t negotiate.

Get a professional

My next piece of advice is the advice I would give you if you were having an operation, going to court or starting a business and that is to get a professional. The facts prove themselves. A good professional property advisor will help you.

People think you simply buy a house by sticking your hand up at auction. But only 25%-30% of the properties we bought in May were bought under the hammer. 70-75% weren’t. They were negotiations.

People baulk at paying a 1% fee for an advocate’s services, but while you wait and wait to buy a home, the market goes up. In the past few months some house prices have gone up 10-20% and many buyers are:

  1. still not in a home 
  2. having to find 10% to 20% more

This is all because they felt they couldn’t afford good professional help – when indeed it would have paid for itself 10 or 20 times over in the last few months and perhaps 100 times over a 7 year period. Include it in your bank loan.

Buyer advocates are widely – and wisely – used in Europe and the US.  But most Australians think they can buy a home by themselves because that’s what Mum and Dad did. That was a different time and a different market. It might have worked in 1985 but, for many, it doesn’t work in 2015. You either don’t buy, or you end up buying a home nobody else wants at a price that nobody else was prepared to pay for it.

This week I met Hard Luck Harry and his wife, Hard Luck Harriet. They’ve bid 5 times on homes in the last two years and felt nothing was going right. I made one suggestion – when nothing is going right – go left. Try something different. Hire an experienced, reputable buyer advocate / buying agent.

Yes, we mainly buy properties in the $2m to $6m bracket, but most of the issues are similar for young homebuyers. Most of our clients have affordability issues. Almost everybody we work with has a limited budget, too.

Make good decisions and take action.

Good decisions. It’s all about the decisions you make. Isn’t all of life like that? If you decide not to make a plan, not to get some professional help, not to work hard and not to do your research they are your decisions – and they are bad decisions if you want to buy a good home.

This is what a James Report contains. You need to build your own excel databases to be able to do something like this.

  1. Ask questions of your plan
  2. Assess the property (due diligence)
  3. Work through values, not just what the agent says
  4. Get a negotiation strategy that works



Finally, I’ll leave you with home-buying wisdom from the Melbourne Homebuyers Guide:

1. Happy spouse, happy house.

2. History repeats itself unless you break the cycle by breaking your habits.

3. Good decisions and bad decisions take the same amount of time and angst – only the quality of the prep is different. Get those 3P’s (price, property type and most importantly position) spot on.

4. Time heals or hides nothing in Melbourne property, it only accentuates.

5. No definition of value maintains its rigour for all people, except value to you; and

6. In negotiation, the closer you get and the more you talk about money, the further you drift from getting what you want.

 and my new No 7. Get the right mindset – its up to you.

Mal writes weekly auction reports, advice and in-depth market analysis on James' website.

Mal James

Mal James is principal of James Buyer Advocates, which advocates on behalf of buyers of property over $1 million.
First Home Buyers
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Find out more in our privacy policy.
Accept Cookies