One thing that I always do when looking at any type of new property is to get the camera out and take a lot of photos. It’s great to have a visual reminder of what you’ve seen and with digital it’s also usefull to have dates that the photos were taken. This has been particularly handy when I look back over the time that this new build has been in the pipeline. Amazingly, sifting through photos reminded me that the very first steps on building from scratch were taken over 2 years ago in early 2013. It had been around 12 months since the last property purchase and that’s usually around the time that I start to get itchy feet and think about what the next step could be to expand the portfolio. As I mentioned in the last post there are a number of attractive options about buying off the plan and it was exciting to think about trying something new and learning about the construction process rather than simply another established property. So it was time to get out and see what options were available.
When an agent is marketing a new development they will often have lots of nice glossy brochures with lovely architectural drawings of brand new homes surrounded by lush landscaping and beautiful, well established trees. Whilst these pictures look nice, it’s important to see some real-life examples of similar projects. In January of 2013 I spotted a new project that looked promising and the agent was able to take me to view a similar project (by the same builder) just nearing completion. The new project designs were very similar to the one I was interested in and as you can see from the attached pictures it’s useful to be able to view the finished product from the outside as well as the finishes inside.
Having seen some examples of the finished product it was then time to go and view the proposed site of the development. One thing that is not uncommon in this area is to see older homes on massive blocks of land where the owner sells off the majority of their land to a developer and remains in their original house. This was what this proposed development was and unfortunately I’m just not a fan of it. You end up with a bunch of new homes sitting in what was the back yard of an older house and you have a narrow driveway going down the side to access the residences. Also, the old house in the front of this development wasn’t an architectural masterpiece and the actual location of the development was right on the edge of town. It just wasn’t quite what I was after. The quality of the properties, yes; the location and project layout, unfortunately not.
So although it was back to the drawing board (to an extent) it certainly wasn’t a waste of time. I had a good idea of what you could get for your money, the quality of the product and also what I was after as far as layout of a development.
So it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog about what’s been happening in my world with regards to property. Whilst the major activity for 2014 may have appeared to be the renovation rescue, there was something else going on in the background that had started well before I signed on the dotted line for the reno property; a new place, built from scratch! In late 2013 a new and exciting part of the property journey commenced with contracts signed to build a new 2 bedroom townhouse in a suburb of Ballarat called Sebastopol. All of the properties purchased so far have all been established homes aged between 10 and 40 years old and although they have all been very successful there are certain benefits (and some drawbacks) to buying off the plan and building something new.
Firstly, you get everything brand new and one would hope that it means things work, it looks modern, attracts good rent and requires minimal maintenance as it has new appliances and services.
Secondly, a new property brings with it substantial depreciation benefits at tax time. With the older properties you can claim depreciation on the fixtures and fittings within the property (carpets, curtains, heaters etc) but if a property is built after July 1985 then you can also claim depreciation on the actual building itself. This can make a significant difference with your tax return and subsequently how you manage the cash flow on your investment. (Check out this previous post for an overview of depreciation).
Thirdly, you can manage to save significant money with a reduction in the stamp duty that you pay on the purchase of the property. When purchasing off the plan the stamp duty is calculated on the property value when the contracts are signed. For a property such as this it’s based on a vacant block of land with nothing built on it so is a lot less than if it was an already established home.
On the flip side, a major drawback with a new build is the amount of time that it takes. The contacts were finalised in December of 2013 for this property and with a scheduled start date of Feb 2014 for building it ended up being pushed into the second half of the year due to demolition issues with a house that was already on the land. The anticipated settlement is April/ May of this year (I’m expecting May).
Another thing that would work for some and not others is that you have little (practically none at all) scope to make any alterations to the design of the property itself. I certainly don’t mind though as it’s a good design and a build for investment, not to live in. That said, you do get a selection of interior options regarding cabinetry, paint, carpets etc.
So activity started in the second half of 2014 and I’ve been regularly stalking the builders to track progress. Keep an eye on future posts to see how the build progressed and if it looks anything like the pictures above!
Although I’ve been absent from the blog over the Christmas and New Year period I’ve had the calculator not far away as I’ve done the final figures on the renovation to see if the time and effort put into the project was worth it. Whilst I’m not endorsing sharing all of your finances in a public forum like a blog I think it’s important to delve into this project to show that it’s something manageable by most people and that it won’t break the bank. For that reason, following are the basic figures about the purchase, renovation, financing, valuations and leasing of the property.
So what does this all mean? The total cost to purchase and renovate was just under $21,000 (including the deposit). If I just purchased the property and did nothing to it but rent it out it still would have cost $14739, still would have been worth $112,000 and would be lucky to rent for $130/wk. With the renovations the valuations showed quite a range. While the first one was clearly an overestimate (get me $175k and I’ll sign on the dotted line!) finding a mid-way point and doing the comps with what is for sale at the moment (see this similar unit currently for sale) $150k would not be unrealistic. The rental amount also rose with it being snapped up for $160/wk within a few days of being on the market.
So for just under 3 weeks work the $112k property rose in value $38,000. Take away the reno costs and purchase costs (excluding the deposit) and it’s a nice profit of $28,000. Looking back now it’s great to think that for each day of work the value rose about $1500. I can imagine most people would be happy earning that!
Noting that I’ve decided not to sell but to lease it out the net rent is $149 with mortgage repayments of $121. The remaining rent totals $1456/year which will go towards rates and maintenance. Factor in the depreciation at tax time and I’m confident that this will be a positively geared property. And with over a 7% return you’ve got to be happy with that! Although there are a lot of numbers to digest, I hope that this demonstrates that investing and renovating doesn’t need to cost the earth and you can still make a tidy profit with a bit of hard work. So now it’s time to focus on the next project which was already in the pipeline whilst the renovation was going on. More on that soon…
So the home buyer and property investor show has been doing the rounds in Australia this year and heads to Melbourne from August 29-31. Whilst it may not be everyone’s idea of an amazing weekend activity, if you’re eager to learn more about property investment and hear from a range of experts it’s a great opportunity. There are a variety of seminars over the three days that cover topics from mortgages and finance through to depreciation and renovations. And at $18 for an online ticket it just might be some of the best money that you can invest!
Following on from my post this week regarding the Grattan Institute Report on housing policy it’s not surprising that the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) has responded quickly to the recommendations in the report. Published this week on the Your Investment Property website is the following article outlining the response from the REIA. Once again it’s always fascinating to see the debate it stirs up in the comments posted after the article. You can access the original article here, or, read below.
Hands Off Negative Gearing, Warns REIA
A report issued earlier this week slamming government housing policies has provoked a strong reaction from the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), which said a recommendation to scrap negative gearing is ‘short-sighted’.
The REIA said it agrees with the Grattan Institute Renovating Housing Policy report in that a major overhaul of housing policy in Australia is needed, but disagreed with what needs to be done.
“We strongly agree with the report’s recommendations to eliminate stamp duties, however it’s essential negative gearing be retained in its current form for the purpose of property investment,” said REIA president Peter Bushby
“REIA has always supported negative gearing because it helps in the provision of rental accommodation. Negative gearing for property investment is complementary to the goals of the Government’s Housing Affordability Fund (HAF) in addressing the supply of rental accommodation.”
Bushby said removing negative gearing would show that Australians ‘haven’t learnt anything from history’.
“When negative gearing was abolished in 1985 it had disastrous consequences for the property market and for people trying to rent. Rents rose 37% across Australia and by 57% in Sydney.
“Thankfully, negative gearing was reinstated in 1987. It is far too short-sighted to link investor interest in housing to negative gearing alone. Negative gearing is only one of a range of factors that contribute to the level of investment in property. Other factors include interest rates, availability and accessibility of finance, share market performance, the unemployment rate, housing supply and consumer confidence.”
Bushby said the ‘myth’ that negative gearing is a plaything of the well-heeled also needs to be dispelled. He claims the majority of taxpayers with negatively geared property earn less than $80,000 per annum.
“Findings in the Renovating Housing Policy report are important and let’s hope they assist in kick-starting a debate on housing policy. With the new government, expectations that industry will be involved in finding workable solutions to these old issues are high.”
The start of July can begin a confusing time for property investors in Australia with the end of the financial year, particularly if you’re new to being an investor and this is your first tax return with an investment property involved. As with all things to do with investing you’ll find that every man and his dog will have advice for you on what you can and cannot claim and how to squeeze every cent out of your tax return. Whilst this advice can often be good, and I’d encourage everyone to try and learn from the experience of others, the ultimate decision of what you can claim against your tax return lies with the friendly folk at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
Whilst I was sitting in front of the computer recently pulling together the figures for this year’s tax return I happened to stumble across the 2013 guide for rental property owners published by the ATO. It’s a fairly big document but I found it to be a really useful guide and it had some great lists and examples of what you can claim and how you go about it. It also covers things that you would need to consider should you end up selling an investment time at any stage such as Capital Gains Tax.
One of the things that has taken me a long time to understand when it comes to investing is property depreciation and how it works with your income and particularly around tax time. I just sat through a webinar this evening (note my previous post about being willing to learn and becoming a student again) and it reminded me how challenging it was for me to get my head around it but also how beneficial it was once I knew about being able to utilise property depreciation to claim ‘non-cash’ deductions on your investment property come tax time.
In a nutshell it basically means that the cost of the property itself (both the building and the fixtures inside it) decrease in value over time, essentially it’s talking about wear and tear over the years. In Australia (I’m not sure about other countries) the tax office allows for legitimate deductions taking into account this decrease in value of the property and it’s fixtures each year. In the webinar it was stated that as much as 80% of investors are not claiming as much as they could be on these non-cash deductions each year. I certainly realised this a few years ago when I had a full depreciation schedule done on one of my properties. I was pretty pleased when the report outlined the amount that I could claim. The thing is however that you need to get a qualified quantity surveyor to prepare the report as that is all the tax office will accept. You’ll need to spend some time looking around to find the right person to do this for you. Don’t hesitate to compare and ask several surveyors about what they can do and the costs associated.
I’d certainly encourage all investors new or old to learn more about depreciation and how it can apply to your own circumstances, it can make an amazing difference to what you can claim against your investments and potentially a nice improvement on your tax return. The YouTube video below is from an Australian company (the ones that conducted the webinar) and I’d say is worth a look. This company is just one of many and I’d encourage you to look around and find one that suits your own needs.