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The ten commandments of property investing

It never ceases to amaze me how few people have a strategy in place for investing in property. This is a trait I have witnessed in those just starting out in the market as well as industry veterans I interview for ‘Your Money Your Call’ (Fridays on Sky news Business Channel).

When you consider that, for most people, property is the single biggest asset they will purchase; it seems ludicrous to not have a firm strategy in place for investing in it. Whether you are an experienced investor or a novice looking to break into the market, my top ten rules can help you to buy smarter and achieve better returns in the long term. These tips form the backbone of my strategy for Empire clients and for my personal investments:

1. Choose property that’s attractive to tenants

Any property you purchase should be in reasonable condition (or able to be upgraded for a reasonable price), have good sized bedrooms, off-street parking and good positioning away from noise and main roads. Look for something that suits the majority of tenants in the area to ensure your property is always attractive to renters. A property that is always tenanted means a stable income stream.

2. Choose property that will grow in value

Properties in locations close to the CBD, leisure facilities, schools, public transport and beaches (where possible) are more likely to gain value in a good market and less likely to lose value in a down market.

3. Buy blue chip.

If a property seems too cheap to be true – it probably is. Cheap properties are cheap for a reason, and that reason is the lack of demand for properties combined with an oversupply in the area. In general, it is worth paying market value for a good property in a top suburb rather than a property that is cheap because no one really wants it.

4. Create instant equity through simple renovations.

Quick, low-cost renovations such as a paint job, recarpeting, tidying the garden, painting the fence, installing new curtains or blinds and replacing kitchen cupboard doors can have a significant impact on the value of your home.  A good rule of thumb is to aim to get back at least $1.00 – 2.00 in value for every dollar you spend on renovations.

5. Create a buffer by refinancing.

When your property has grown in value, it’s sensible to create an emergency buffer zone by refinancing. This will ensure you can continue to make mortgage repayments even if unforeseen expenses or loss of income (such as losing your job) occur. Don’t find yourself in a forced-sale position, as you won’t get the best price and you may have to pay capital gains taxes and other expenses.

6. Re-sign your tenants.

Hire a professional property manager to ensure you get reliable tenants who pay a good market rent. Consider tying your existing tenant down to a new 12-month agreement to help guarantee your rental income.

7. Get an independent valuation before you buy.

Buyers can get emotionally involved when buying property, causing them to pay more than the property is worthy. By investing a few hundred dollars on an independent valuation, you can almost guarantee you will never pay too much.

8. You don’t have to sell to profit.

Don’t think you need to sell to realise capital growth gained in a property. Selling a property incurs sales costs and taxes and, often, re-buying costs. By refinancing you have access to profits made on the property while holding on to your asset. This is similar to a reverse mortgage.

9. Property investing is all about time in the market.

Timing the market is for speculators not investors. If you can afford to buy and hold on to your asset, the time is right to buy.

And my most important tip:

10. Build a team of professional advisors.

You can’t do everything yourself. An initial outlay for hiring professionals who are experts in their field can make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars to your long term returns. As a starting point, every investor should have an accountant, mortgage broker, financial advisor, valuer, building inspector and buyers’ agent. There are companies who will organise all of this for you. For instance, at Empire, we build property portfolios for time poor professionals and we have built up a whole network of contacts who are the best in their field and bale to make your property investment a success.


By Chris Gray

Property and renovations can be for anyone, it all comes down to your goals and dreams and how much you want them. When you’re starting out and have limited financials it is tough but the sooner you get on the ladder, the sooner your equity grows and you can start duplicating. Caution: the quicker you try and double your money, the sooner you’re likely to fall over, slow and steady is the key to winning the race.

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