property investment

Discussion – Real Estate stimuli

Australian Government has been throwing quite a lot of stimuli for real estate market in 2020-2021. Most of them aim to ease the effect of COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the stimuli include the Home Builder grant, the Stamp Duty exemption/reduction. Let us have a look and discuss who actually benefits from the grants, and what should we do to make use of them.

Tl; dr;

  • The grants aim to increase the moving of currency within the society, to pull money out of savings and into the circulations.
  • They mostly are beneficial to business owners whose companies service in real estate space, which in turn increase the business activities in that sector.
  • I myself, decided to freeze most of my assets in place and observe the market. I have done something but would like to keep it closer to my chest until I finalize the paperworks.

What comprises real estate?

To understand the next few ideas, we need to understand what is real estate. As we all know, real estate, in the context of physical property where we live in, are the combination of the land and the content that is placed on top of it.

Now, this brings us to a thought, should we treat land and the contents differently? If so, what are they and why are they different? I am going to give you a definition of each, and you can decide on which one you want to focus your money in.

Land is a commodity (sort of)!

As per Investopedia, a commodity is a basic good that is used to manufacture other goods and services. Why is it “sort of” a commodity? Well to be a commodity, a piece of land has to be equals to another “equivalent” piece of land. And we have not been able to have a universal system where we compare land with land and see if they have the same value.

A characteristic of land that I would like to share with you, is that land itself is not very useful, but more like a heavy baggage when we see it as a financial asset. As an empty block of land, it is definite that we need to pay Council Rates and (possibly) Water rates every year. It is a possibility that the land appreciates in value. However, that is a speculative play and therefore carries some risks, which we will discuss in future blog posts.

The land only becomes useful when there are developments on top of it. The development can be anything, such as crops, cattle, houses, apartments, offices, etc. Once there are contents on the land, there are chances that they will produce income that provides us cashflow, which is important to keep us in the game.

House is a consumer good.

person pushing shopping cart in supermarket
Source: axial.net

Have you ever thought of why only the building got depreciated and not the land? I take a shot in the dark here and say any fixed development on the land, are consumer goods. They are items that you buy to use, to consume. These things only lose value over time, unless there is an aspect of rareness in them, e.g. unique architecture.

Good thing about the depreciation rule in Australia is that we know exactly how much value the developments are losing over time. For example, residential properties slowly lose value over 40 years period. I will not go into the details here as you should talk to a quantity surveyor to know more.

What are the grants for?

The Australian Dream

With the above concepts in mind, we can clearly see that the Home Builder Grant is for building houses, which essentially just like giving you $10 to purchase a consumer item priced at $100. Note that I didn’t say said item valued at $100. I have seen the developers of House and Land packages pump up the price of their packages to as far as $25,000 to match the Home Builder Grant amount. As a result, anyone who utilized this grant with a House & Land package, or even Off the Plan in some cases, are getting minimal benefits, if any at all. The money is going from the Government, through the buyer, and into the bottom line of the developers. At the end of the day, the buyers have their Australian dream fulfilled, the developers exit the project successfully, the government gets the money moving around and pull some out of our savings. So it is a win-win-win scenario, right?

Let’s talk about the other scheme, which is the reduction in Stamp Duty. As we know, the Stamp Duty is temporarily adjusted until 01 July 2021 with a discount of up to 50% for purchasing properties. Combining with the Home Builder Grant, this may have convinced a few investors to purchase another asset. As a result, more money is going out of savings and into the circulation, which is good for economy. Same formula as above, win-win-win scenario.

Is it the greatest opportunity of a lifetime to buy real estate?

There is no denial that these grants change the gameplay of Real Estate investment in Australia. Some people are happy to take the leap, some others are quite concerned. In my opinion, one should not purchase anything because of external push, but to careful assess his or her situation internally, and make decision upon them. There are risks associated with purchasing real estates that unaware buyers are not prepared for. The crash in 2008 is caused by the Mortgage Back Security policies, allowing people to take out mortgages that they cannot repay. When allowing to be greedy, people has no difficulty pushing the boundary, and sometimes drive themselves off the cliff.

This is why I don’t actively follow the news and react to it. Rather I choose to learn how to control my own financial situation and from there, I make financial decisions knowing that I can tolerate the risk that may or may not come.

Summary

I just want to congratulate the people who actually does something during the pandemic. You are already better than others who waits on the sideline. I always tell my friends that it does not matter if your first investment turns out to be a total disaster. The main thing is that we are still young and have the time to correct our mistakes, as long as we learn something out of it. However with these purchases in a sensitive time, careful considerations of personal finances should be carried out to ensure you are safe no matter what.

“The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.” – Thucydides

By Tuan Nguyen

travel the world

Discussion: Adelaide trip part I

Going to Adelaide this Christmas opened my eyes to the whole new world. People here are different than Victorian, and the feelings are vastly distinctive.

Tl; dr;

  • Adelaide people seems to be a lot more relaxed comparing to other states. This can be an opportunity for us to penetrate the market.
  • The economy orbits the idea of being cheap and/or affordable.
  • Scenery is beautiful and there is good maintenance from the government bodies. However there are still spaces to improve.

Relaxation and no-pressure nature

I have had many conversations with both local and migrated people. There is a similarity in the way they describe how Adelaide people works. Mostly they are portrayed as relaxed and have decent amount of red-tapes. And it is best to contact people somewhere in the middle of the day.

With my personal experience when dealing with contacts in the South Australian state, it is not consistent. It may be because people I have been dealing with are business owners and they are more proactive than normal people. However I have experienced people who do not possess the ability to respond in a timely manner.

Affordable economy

A lot of places in Adelaide promote the idea of being affordable and cheap is good. I think it may reflect the purchasing behaviour of the people here, as well as mirroring the economy. Adelaide experiences a slow growth in recent years and this can be one of the explanations. Without greed, I find it hard to move forward by creating innovations and improvements.

Beautiful scenery

There are lots of natural places that awe me. I went to mainly beaches and waterfront in Adelaide area. And some of them are exceptionally beautiful, like Port Willunga beach, Sellicks beach, etc.

Port Willunga beach
Port Willunga beach
Sellicks beach

Some beaches are well-kept by government bodies, with theme parks and other tourist attractions. Some other beaches are wild and have less touch from human. It depends on what you want to see. However I think there are rooms for improvements in some beaches that have not-so-updated facilities.

Summary

While the above are my first impressions of the first few days arrived in Adelaide, I strongly believe that there are opportunities to do business here. Adelaide seems to be behind Melbourne at least 10 years, therefore I will take the chance to drive some changes into the “regional” city of Australia.

By Tuan Nguyen

property investment

Discussion – Real estate supply

During my readings of The Armchair guide to Property Investing, there is a good section discussing about the supply and demand of properties. Let’s have a summary of the supply side.

Tl; dr;

Supply is determined by the following factors:

  • Available land that can be rezoned/released in the future.
  • Possible subdivisions in the area.
  • Current property types, e.g. apartments, houses, units, etc.
  • How fast between approvals and new properties entering the market.

Future available lands

Just a caveat here, I am interested in residential properties, so this blog will only consider that aspect of real estate.

Also my timeline is as follows:

  • 0-6 years: speculative
  • 6-10 years: short term
  • 10-25 years: medium term
  • 25+ years: long term

Considering you are looking at a suburb, e.g. Elizabeth, SA 5112.

It is the CBD of City of Playford, and we can see that there is no more land to be released. Therefore new land supply is basically non-existent, and as an investor, this ticks the first box of restriction of supply.

Now let’s look at a nearby suburb in the same city council.

There are a lot of lands available in the east and south part of Craigmore, therefore the council can decide whether they should release the land in the future. Considering I am going for a long term buy and hold, i.e. 25+ years; this is a real possibility if I were to purchase in this suburb.

Possible subdivisions

This is a bit trickier, but can still be done by looking at the current and approved development applications for a certain suburb. For example, let’s look at the list of current applications in Elizabeth, SA.

The text can vary, but generally the description is something like “Land Division”. And my job is to determine of how many has been approved, how many has been applied for a given time; e.g. last 3 years, accumulated by year to determine the trend.

This information is public information. For Playford city council, we can pull application data from 1993, which is helpful when trying to determine trends. All councils should have the development applications tracking page, and you just need to look for it in their websites.

The more subdivisions are approved, and the speed of them being approved will determine how many new dwellings will enter the market in the near future. Forecast that number into the future using the past 3 years trend and you get a rough number of new dwellings in the next, say 10-20 years.

Current property types

If the suburb is dominated by detached houses, this will not be a problem in the next few years. However, in the longer term, there’s nothing to say about the council not easing the requirements to build semi-detached houses, townhouses or even apartments. Lucky for us, the plan of the city council normally goes for 15-20 years ahead. Therefore we have a rough idea of what do they want residential properties look like in the next decades.

If there are apartments being built, especially high rise apartments, then the supply is going to be massive, since there is no telling how many high rise can be done in the next 15-20 years, and each of them can accommodate many households. We will come back to this when we discuss the demands, but for now it will be a red flag when determining the supply of the area.

One of the easiest way to determine what types of properties are dominating the market is going there yourself. But if that is not possible, asking several real estate agents should do the trick.

Speed between approvals and actual properties enter the market

This is actually a bit easier to guess, normally a small build like 2-3 townhouses takes around 6-12 months to complete after being approved. However, it varies depending on the suburb. It is much easier to figure that out by checking the approved applications from 2 years ago and see if the address was on for sale or for lease. As mentioned above, the application history is available online, as well as the records for sale or for lease.

It will give us a good indications on the delay of stock, for example, if it takes a long time from the approved stage to the actual building entering the market, there will be more stress on the supply in the short term. Therefore the price can go up a bit more than it should be.

Summary

Supply is one crucial part of the supply-demand matrix. Understanding what supply comprises of will help me to determine roughly a good area to invest in. There are a lot of manual work involved but I think it will be worth it in the end.

“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” – Marilyn vos Savant

By Tuan Nguyen

property investment

Investing – my thoughts on comparison rates

So I recently completed a refinance. It took me over 3 months from contacting the broker to the day the account is created. I just want to share some thoughts on the difference between interest rate and comparison rate. And when one is more beneficial than the other.

Tl; dr;

  • Interest rate is the pure rate charged on outstanding loan balance.
  • Comparison rate is interest rate plus certain fees, defined by the banks.
  • If your goal is to smash the loan as fast as possible, high comparison rate is not really an issue.
  • If your goal is to keep the loan for as long as possible, give some thoughts to the comparison rate.

Interest rate vs comparison rate

This is an example of loan package that outline the interest rate and comparison rate, along with the fees associated.

westpac home loan
Westpac investment loan

One thing to note is that when calculating comparison rate, banks like to use these figures: $150,000 loan size, 25 years loan, Principle & Interest payment.

As we can see, the interest rate is 3.84% per annum, which means for a loan of $150,000, you need to pay $779 per month in mortgage.

However, looking at the comparison rate, it is 4.24% per annum, essentially means you need to pay roughly $812 per month in mortgage.

The difference for a year is roughly $395, which equals to the annual fee that they note down in the image above. The fee could be higher if the banks also calculate the account opening fee into the comparison rate.

tables showing the difference between interest rate and comparison rate

When do we need the lowest comparison rate?

This is a bit weird for people like me who just got into property investment. But for investment properties, I want to drag the loan out as long as I can, so I can utilize the borrowed money to keep purchasing. I am willing to pay interest only for as long as I can, because it makes the cash flow better and more predictable.

With that in mind, obviously the higher rate is, the worse the cashflow will be for an investment property. So when I try to find a loan, it is in my interest to find something that has a low comparison rate, only if I intend to hold the loan for a long time.

So when do we want a high comparison rate?

Home loans often have the best interest rate, but sometimes go with a terrible comparison rate because of all the fees associated with it.

However, if my intention is to pay it out in the next, say 10 to 12 years (surprisingly, it is not that impossible to do). I can take the package with low interest rate, but a bit high comparison rate. The reason is that comparison rate is calculated based on a gradual payments for a long time. So by paying extra and/or change the payment period, we can reduce the real rate down to a ridiculous amount.

Example: given the same rates above, let’s say that we want to pay $300 per week into the repayment. With the assistance of moneysmart website, we can calculate the total repayments and how long does it take, as well as guessing the actual comparison rate.

calculations showing early repayments

As we can see, by paying extra into the home loan with the intention to finish it off, the actual rate is even less than the interest rate, since we finish the loan much earlier than expected of 25 years.

Summary

Loans are complicated, and there are a lot more that I cannot cover. It is best to go to a broker and discuss with them your goal. Trust in their expertise to find a perfect loan for you. And if things don’t work out the way you want, a refinance is always an option.

By Tuan Nguyen

stock investment

Investing – Types of orders in stock market

As a novice stock market investor, I often find it confusing about different types of order when buying ordinary stocks. Here are the information I collected for the different kinds of orders.

Tl; dr;

  • Stop order: triggers buy/sell stock when stock price reaches a predefined price. When triggered, stop order becomes market order.
  • Market order: matched the closest orders in the current market, the condition is different between buying and selling.
  • Limit order: Sell price >= trigger price, or buy price <= trigger price.

Stop order

Probably the most complicated one when it comes to buying stock in the normal way.

Supposed that you want to buy 10 stock X, currently trading at $9. You put in a stop order at $10. The market depth is as follow.

Stop order market depth

Now, the order will be fulfilled as follows:

  • 4 stocks for $10 each
  • 1 stock for $9 each
  • 3 stock for $11 each
  • 2 stock for $12 each

Why is this happening?

The stop order triggers at $10, so it starts buying all stocks that are selling at $10, in this case there are only 4 stock. After that, the order becomes a market order (more on that below). And with market order, it will buy stocks from lowest to highest price available in the market, until the buy order is fulfilled.

Market order

When you buy a stock with market order, you don’t care how much you’re paying for it, as long as someone is willing to sell, you are going to buy. The same happens when you sell a stock with market order.

Market order market depth

Let’s examine the same market depth, only difference is that the buying price now is the market price. The order of buying is as follows

  • 1 stock for $9
  • 4 stock for $10
  • 3 stock for $11
  • 2 stock for $12

As we can see, we end up with the same total as the example in Stop order, however the order of purchasing is different. We buy it from the lowest price first, and work our way up. In the sell order, the order is reversed, we sell with the highest buying price first, then work our way down.

Limit order

This is easy to remember, the limit order only allows the broker to buy a stock price when it reaches the trigger price, or lower. And to sell when it reaches the trigger price or higher.

Limit order market depth

With the above market depth, the buy order is as follows:

  • 1 stock for $9
  • 4 stock for $10
  • 3 stock for $11
  • Remaining 2 stock in the buy order

The stock broker will not buy any stock that is priced above $11.

Summary

The 3 different types of orders are the most popular order types in buying and selling ordinary stocks. There are a lot more that we can explore on other form of trading stocks. However they are more advanced and allow you to understand the instruments deeper to use them.

Risks come from not knowing what you’re doing.” – Warren Buffett

By Tuan Nguyen

stock investment

Investing – What are bonds?

Recently I have been taking a (free) course about stock investment. And in a few units we discussed about bond and its components. I think it is a good idea to note down what I learned and hopefully it makes me remember better.

6 James Bonds
Not these Bonds

Tl; dr;

  • Bonds, especially government’s, are considered zero risk.
  • Bond values are dependent on the reserve bank’s interest rate.
  • Don’t look at Current Yield, look at Yield to Maturity figure.

What is a bond?

A bond is essentially a loan of money. Considering company A, they want to finance a project for $500 million dollars. They can go to a bank and borrow that money at 5% interest rate for 30 years. The bank gives them the money and create a loan, but then split that loan into 500,000 bonds, each holds $1,000 in value (this is called par value). These pieces can be sold to investors for, say $1,005 per bond (the $5 extra is called underwriting fee, and that’s how the bank makes money as well).

Corporate Bond explained

Once all bonds are sold to investors, the bank is no longer in the picture. Investors and company A will deal with each other directly. Every year, company A will transfer $50 to investors for each piece they hold. Normally it will be splitted to 2 “coupons”, each coupon is $25 and 6 months apart.

After 30 years, company A will then transfer the full amount of the par value back to the bond holders, i.e. the investors.

Government bond behaves exactly the same. We can replace company A with the government, the bank with the Reserve Bank, and the model still works. The reason why government bond is considered zero risk is because the Reserve Bank can print money (or quantitative easing) if needed to pay back its investors.

How to trade them?

There are a list of bonds available here. Which describe the type, when is the maturity date, the interest rate, etc. However, there are only a few stock brokers that can trade them, for example Commsec, CMC Markets, etc. The list can be found in this PDF.

One thing to note is that bonds often have fixed interest rate. Let’s say one that has the coupon yield (technical word for interest rate, or rate of return) of 5%. Then if the RBA interest rate drops lower, its value will go up, since the government will issue new packages with lower rates now, and existing bonds with higher interest rate is considered more profitable. However it goes both ways, if the interest rate rises, existing bonds’ values will go down.

Another thing to remember is that bond value will approach its face value as it approaching maturity date. The reason is once we reach the maturity date, investors will receive the full amount equals to the par value.

Bond yield evaluation

There are 2 ways to look at the yielding value, with simple interest and with compound interest.

Simple interest

We can find the yield simply by dividing the market price into its payment per annum.

current yield of a bond
Bond current yield

As we can see, the yield is lower if we buy with a higher price than its par value, and vice versa.

Compound interest

The calculation above ignores an important aspect of this financial instrument. What happens when the bond matures?

For this calculation, we assume that all coupon payments will be reinvested in something that will return the same interest rate as the coupon yield. And at the maturity date, we also take into account the full returned amount.

Yield to Maturity explained
Compounding bond yield calculation

As we can see, the Yield to Maturity (technical term for Compounding yield) is much lower than the Coupon yield. Bond market will display both of the rates and it is our job as investors to understand them.

To calculate Yield to Maturity number, you can use this link.

So, when to invest in bonds?

Since bond values goes up if the RBA interest rate goes down, I would say if you expect the interest rate to drop in the near future, they can be a financial instrument worth looking into.

However, most investors look at bond like a low risk investment. This is a great way to preserve wealth and ensure that the capital is secured, and earn a bit of profit along the way.

Summary

Bonds are often ignored as its return rate seems to be low. However, if we can utilize its attributes to our advantage, one can actually profit from investing in them and at the same time, preserve his or her capitals.

By Tuan Nguyen

property investment

Investing – the trash talk with Landfill levy

On February, the State of Victoria rolled out a new program, Recycling Victoria. Among many information about what we will tackle the rubbish and recyclable materials, there is an item that could affect us as real estate investors.

Tl; dr;

  • Landfill levy is increasing from $65.90 to $125.90 per tonne in 2023.
  • Eventually it will be passed down to council rates, i.e. the rates will be higher.

What is landfill levy?

Landfill levy, or waste levy, is a tax applied to waste types by weight. The government designed it to incentivise waste generators to reduce general waste, and increase diversion through recycling. Governments also use landfill levies to fund environmental and sustainability programs to improve waste management.

In a simpler term, it is the tax that home owners pay to get rid of their trash, for the trucks to roll in every week and take the rubbish away and process it. As a result, this levy often mixes into the council rates that we pay every quarter.

How much is it increasing?

According to Victorian Landfill guidance, the rates are increasing year by year, and stop at 2023. In details, they are increasing from $65.90 to $125.90 per trash tonne.

landfill levy 2021 to 2023

The levy for FY 2019-2020 stays the same at around $65.90 per tonne.

This increment will put into Sustainability Fund, which funds sustainable projects and improve the waste management system.

The government hopes to reduce landfill amount by increasing the levy. People will be more inclined to use recyclable products. This implies that the increased amount will pass down to rates payers, i.e. home owners and investors. Expecting your rates to increase by a small amount in the next 3 years is not unreasonable.

Summary

It is good to know the government cares about the environment and has some initiative to promote sustainability environment. However with the increment of rates in mind, we need to be a bit more careful on how we as property investors calculate our numbers.

By Tuan Nguyen

property investment

Discussion – what exactly do you own in real estate?

Recently I ran across some interesting matters regarding what do we own in terms of owning the title of a piece of real estate. I think it is useful to note down and share with people.

Tl; dr;

By owning the title of the land, one has the right to the air above and the earth below.

If you find something valuable, e.g. gold nuggets, in your backyard; it belongs to the Crown.

Air rights

dollar signs on the sky

In Australia, if someone owns the title of the land, he or she has the rights to use the air space above the land.

In Latin, this is defined as follows “cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelum et ad inferos”Property Rights, 2016. This means “to whom belongs the soil, his is also that which is above it to heaven and below it to hell”.

So we own the airspace, but how far up do we own? Surely it is not as far as the airplane altitude, which is somewhere around 35,000 feet, or about 10.6km. According to the Property Rights, it is as high as to “be necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of his land and the structures upon it”. It highly opens for debate of how high can an airspace be. One can argue that if a helicopter flies too close to the house and that stops him from enjoying the land, then it is an invasive of the air rights.

Subsurface rights

Well it is not called “Subsurface rights” in Australia, nor defined separately from the air rights. However, this is related to the land and the mining rights of the soil below the land.

Similar to Air Rights, there is no hard limit on how far the owner of the land can dig. However, you need to obtain a permit from The Crown to be able to dig down for minerals and natural resources.

Which brings us to the most interesting facts…

Valuable items found in your backyard

gold nuggets
Gold nuggets

So what happens if you found something precious in your backyard? Gold, precious gems, or even a natural oil vein.

According to the mineral rights, The Crown is the first in line to say about all coal, oil, silver, gas and gold found on public or private property. Therefore even if you found something valuable, it will be the Queen’s property, and should be returned to her.

Summary

Those are interesting facts about owning the land in Australia. Now we know better about what we actually own, and realize that we actually own more than we know.

By Tuan Nguyen

property investment

Investing – Some thoughts on the Real Estate market

Recently I have been listening to quite a few podcasts and videos about real estate investing. And today I listened to a few pieces of thoughts that I find interesting. Which I decide to note them down for future references.

Tl; dr;

  • Land is a commodity, house is a consumer good.
  • Income growth is a major force to sustain real estate appreciation.
  • Real estate is a strong force to push inflation.
  • Real estate does not produce capital goods unless redeveloping.

House is a consumer good.

“A commodity is a basic good that is most often used as inputs in the production of other goods or services.”Investopedia.

“Consumer goods are the end result of production and manufacturing, which is what consumer sees on the store shelf.”Investopedia.

With the above definitions, we can clearly see that land fits the definition of a commodity, which is a basic input good that is used to produce; or in this case, develop; real estate. At the same time, the house is the final result of the real estate production chain, available for the consumer to purchase.

From this, we can see that if we treat real estate as an investment, the land is what we look at in the form of growth, as it is the only thing that appreciates in value. While the house degrades and goes out of fashion as other consumer goods, or as we call it “depreciate”. I have known about this for a while, but the explanation above so far is the simplest way to describe the fact.

Income growth sustains real estate appreciation

Australian income growth by year

As explained by Ray Dalio, production growth increases income, and as a result, increase affordability and push real estate price. If the income growth has not been too much, but the housing price is still going up, we need to figure out what caused it. At a macro-economics level, there are 2 other things that push housing price up, debt and foreign imports.

With debt, people in Australia rarely buy a property in cash. They almost always borrow most of the purchase amount from a financial institutions. The more we leverage, the more buying power we can afford to purchase one, two or multiple properties. This in turn will push the price up, especially in an auction environment, since everyone has the leverage to pull and they do not hesitate to get the dream house they want. However, without a good income, the buyers soon realize that it is challenging to keep up with the mortgage payments.

Foreign imports are pretty straightforward. People from other countries see Australia as a developed country with a stable government. They start to pour money into the Australian real estate market as an investment, or just a form of wealth preservation. For these people, it is difficult for them to borrow from Australian banks. Therefore they mostly purchase with cash. And because of the vast number of purchasers available with a limited amount of land, they push the real estate price up immensely. The cause of real estate growth is external and we all know external causes are not stable comparing to internal 

Real estate is a strong force to push inflation

Imagine a property worth $100,000 that is rented out for $200 a week. The market is growing for 10% a year in that area. In the next year, the house worths $110,000. Now the landlord has 2 options, either to keep the rent as is, or increasing it to fit the new “value” of the property.

This normally is not a problem for existing landlords, however it can be a big issue for the new investors who just bought into the area. They need to have the rent up to keep up with the mortgage repayment. Therefore the median rental price will be increased, without the change in supply and demand. This is what is known as the cost push inflation, and is generally considered as a bad form of inflation.

Real estate does not produce capital goods.

Probably the most controversial topic, however I think it has a good point.

Unless you are developing/redevelop the land, whether by sub-division, building granny flats or straight out building a new construction, exchanging blocks of dirt back and forth and drive the value up does not help improving the country’s economy since it does not produce capital goods, i.e. goods that are used to produce consumer goods and generate profits.

So would it be better if people do not dump so much money into the housing market, and pour it into other industries that could have improved our economy. In turn, it increases our income, and then increasing the housing market steadily?

I guess people are not patient enough for that to happen. Investing in economy takes time and we will not see a rapid growth in the housing market if that is the path we take.

Some final thoughts.

Is real estate investing good for an individual? Yes definitely. It increases our income by renting out the property. And there are more millionaires who get rich from real estate than any other form of investment in the world.

Is a rapidly rising real estate market good for the economy in general? Probably not, since if it is rapidly rising without a strong base to support; in this case, income growth; we could be over leveraging ourselves into the properties that do not produce enough income for us to keep it.

Summary

There are good and bad aspects of investing in real estate. We normally see it as a good form of investment for ourselves and the family. However whether it is good for the country, that is left to debate about.

Some ideas are inspired by The Economics of Real Estate.

By Tuan Nguyen

property investment

Book review – 20 questions for property investors

Margaret Lomas, the author of 20 Must Ask Questions For Every Property Investor, is a financial adviser who has been operating in Australia for quite some time. And in her book, she discusses about a system to determine if a property is suitable to add into your portfolio.

Tl; dr;

After a rough filter of all regions that you can scan, an investor can apply 20 questions in a specific order to determine if the property is a great one to buy, or quickly eliminate it from the list.

Margaret Lomas believes that capital growth and cashflow can go together, and not mutually exclusive.

Why both capital growth and cashflow can go side by side?

With a good entry price, any property can have positive cashflow. And if you can pick a property before the growth happens, people will be left questioning how you have a great performing property. You do not need to pick the property just before the boom time, rather buying it when it shows all signals of growth, but the market has not moved to reflect the changes.

Since rental income will always be running after capital growth, most people will see the growth first and ignore the rental income when they are out there doing house hunting. But without a good rental income, it can be difficult to hold on to an investment property, especially when you are holding it negatively geared.

People who buy into an area with a steady growth in the past few years, can be left devastated because the growth time is coming to an end. This does NOT apply if the area still shows all growth signals and they are getting stronger. However, most property investors listen to property gurus, or their friends to determine if a particular area is a good place to buy. As a result, their approach is a buy and pray strategy, hoping that the property value will go up and they will enjoy the capital growth one day.

Some preparation before applying 20 questions.

The end goal for us is to choose a property with the best possible chance of growth, while sustain the highest possible cashflow that we can afford.

  • Determine the scanning area: first thing to do is to determine the top level area that we want to scan for a property. For me, it will be the whole Australia. For others, it can be just a city region, e.g. Melbourne regions; or a state, e.g. Victoria.
  • Workout how much you can afford: obtain a pre-approval from a financial institution. However, keep in mind that if the pre-approval says $500,000; it does not mean the bank will lend you that amount. But it will adjust to your financial situation when you actually apply.
  • Scan real estate websites like realestate.com.au or domain.com.au for possible properties that have their indicate price that suits your pre-approval. For example, I want to look for properties with price between $350,000 and $500,000; where the area’s average price is $500,000. Margaret’s argument is that these properties are in the lower end of the area, therefore it is easier to buy and to sell.
  • Dismiss properties in areas that have less than 15,000 population: these areas are too small to sustain a good population growth, and most likely they do not have a good infrastructure or diversified industries that can support a good population growth.
  • Determine the average yield of investment properties in the remaining areas: we want it to be around 4% to 5%. Anything lower or higher show signs of unsustainability.

What I learned after reading through 20 questions?

They are extremely detailed on what to look for in an area in the first 10 questions, which are only concern about the area’s economy, population growth, external and internal growth drivers. This can eliminate most properties in the above list already.

Then we apply the remaining 10 questions, which focus on the property itself. The good thing is that if we stick to the system, at the end, there may be just 1 or 2 properties left, or we are left with an empty list. This does not mean that the method is invalid, it just means that we need to be more patient and wait for a suitable property to come on market. Or just hire a buyer agent to search for us in those areas we choose.

Summary

Overall, this is the most detailed on a system of how to choose a property to invest in that I have ever read. However, property investment is an industry where many fake gurus reside. Whether or not the system is sound, I will need to implement for the upcoming purchase to have a sound proof.

If you want to read the book and discuss ideas, you can obtain a copy here.

By Tuan Nguyen