9 reasons why you shouldn’t buy an investment property

Are you looking to get into property investment, or maybe you’re keen to add to your existing property portfolio?

It’s that time of year when many Aussies are reevaluating their financial plans for 2022.

Well, maybe you should buy an investment property…

But maybe you shouldn’t.

Fact is, I’ve spoken with hundreds and hundreds of investors in my time and I’m often surprised when they tell me their reasons for investing in real estate.

Many just get it wrong.

You see…while property investment is an excellent vehicle for growing lasting wealth, occasionally it’s the wrong fit for particular people.

In fact, sometimes, there are some very legitimate reasons why you just shouldn’t do it.

So you shouldn’t buy an investment property if:

1. You’re buying a property to pay less tax

Many naïve investors think negative gearing is an investment strategy.

Their accountant tells them they need to save tax so they chase tax deductions or depreciation benefits and as a result, they often overpay for new or off-the-plan properties while ignoring the fundamentals of property investment.

They think they need negatively gearing and get excited that for every dollar they lose they save 49 cent.

Now that’s crazy, especially as new stock almost always comes at a premium and has limited (if any) medium-term capital growth prospects.

That’s not the way to grow your wealth through property.

Just to make things clear…

A property is negatively geared when the costs of owning it – interest on the loan, bank charges, maintenance, repairs, and depreciation – exceed the income it produces.

In my mind this is not an investment strategy – it’s a short-term funding strategy, which only makes sense when used to purchase high capital growth investment-grade properties.

These tend to be established houses, townhouses, or apartments in desirable streets in top locations in the inner and middle-ring suburbs of our 3 big capital cities.

2. You’re buying because you’re disappointed you’ve missed the property price growth over the last year

Have you heard of F.O.MO? – the Fear Of Missing Out.

It usually happens after a period of strong property price growth – you know when people read of the windfalls made by those who bought property a few years ago.

However, that is obviously the time of the property cycle you need to be more cautious in your investing rather than over-optimistic.

Of course, it’s an understandable emotion, but investing with emotion leads to bad judgment.

And it is exactly this type of emotion that makes you easy prey for the property marketers and spruikers who will offer you a way to get rich quickly.

You just can’t buy any property today and hope it will perform well.

We’re in for a 2-tier property market moving forward.

While most property markets around Australia have performed strongly so far this cycle (other than the inner city of high-rise apartment market), it’s important to realise that moving forward we are likely to have a 2-tier property market.

In other words, not all property markets will continue growing strongly moving forward.

Properties located in the inner and middle-ring suburbs, particularly in gentrifying locations, will outperform cheaper properties in the outer suburbs.

While the outer suburban and more affordable end of the markets have performed strongly so far, affordability is now becoming an issue as the locals have had minimum little wages growth of the time when property prices have boomed.

In these locations, the residents don’t have more money in their pay packet to pay the higher prices the properties are now achieving.

More than that, Covid19 has adversely affected low-income earners to a greater extent than middle and high-income earners who are likely to recover their income back to pre-pandemic levels more quickly, while many have not been hit at all.

Also, high-rise apartment towers in our CBDs, which were already suffering from the adverse publicity of structural problems prior to Covid19, will now become the slums of the future as they are shunned by homeowners and investors.

And as we start to emerge from our Covid Cocoons there will be a flight to quality properties and an increased emphasis on livability.

As their priorities change, some buyers will be willing to pay a little more for properties with “pandemic appeal” and a little more space and security, but it won’t be just the property itself that will need to meet these newly evolved needs – a “liveable” location will play a big part too.

To many, liveability will mean a combination of:

Proximity – to things like parks, shops, amenities, and good schools
Mobility – access to good public transport (even though this may be less important moving forward) or a good road system
Access to jobs

Sure you should get your foot in the door of this emerging property cycle if you can, but it should be done strategically not emotionally.

3. You want to get rich quick

Many beginning investors want to “get rich quick.”

However, property investing is a long-term endeavor.

I’ve found it takes an average property investor 30 years to become financially free.

Often it takes 10 years to learn what not to do –  we all make investment mistakes when we start out.

Then it takes three to five years to undo the mistakes of the first decade, often selling off underperforming properties.

Then it takes two good property cycles to build a substantial asset base of investment-grade properties

Warren Buffet said it well when he said ‘Wealth is the transfer of money from the impatient to the patient.”

4. You don’t really understand how property investment works

Many people mistakenly believe they understand property investment because they own a house or have lived in one.

So they end up buying a property close to where they want to live, where they want to retire, or where they holiday.

Again, these are emotional reasons to purchase a property rather than selecting based on sound investment fundamentals.

On the other hand, successful investors have formulated a sound investment strategy that suits their risk profile and helps them achieve their long-term goals and one which has stood the test of time.

5. If you’re not financially fluent

If you haven’t learned how to budget, spend less than you earn, and save or if you’re not good at handling debt then property investment may not be for you because a large amount of debt you’ll take on for your investment will either get you into financial trouble or keep you awake at night.

Of course, if you’re scared of debt, and many people are because they don’t fully understand the difference between bad debt and good debt, then steer clear of property until you better understand the power of leverage, compounding and time have on well-located properties.

6. If you want a multipurpose property

If you are buying your property with the aim of creating wealth but also as your future home, or as a part-time holiday home or somewhere to retire in the future, then perhaps you are wanting that one little property to achieve too much.

I’ve never found that a mixed-use property delivers premium investment returns – something has to give.

For one, there are too many emotional factors at play.

Of course, adhering to a proven investment strategy will mean you’re more likely to buy an investment-grade property and not make this type of mistake.

7. If your finances are not in order

Property investment is a game of finance with some real estate thrown in the middle.

To get into property you should have a stable job, profession, or business with a steady income and need to be attractive to the banks so they lend you money plus you should have sufficient stashed away in a financial buffer to see you through the inevitable rainy days ahead.

8. You don’t have enough money

If you can’t afford an investment-grade property, either because you haven’t saved a sufficient deposit or you can’t service the loan repayments, then rather than buying a secondary property, in my mind it’s better that you wait and buy an investment-grade property.

One of the reasons that around 50% of those who get into real estate sell up in the first 5 years and the main reason around 90% of investors never buy more than one investment property is because the first property they buy underperforms and they lose confidence.

In my mind, less than 5% of the properties currently on the market are “investment grade” – the type of property that will outperform the averages with wealth-producing rates of return and stability of price when the markets eventually turn.

This means you need to buy the right property in the right location (remembering that the correct location will deliver around 80% of your property’s performance.)

So, if you can’t afford this type of property sometimes the right thing to do is “nothing.”

You make your money when you buy your property, not because you buy it cheaply, but because you buy the right property.

9. You’re trying to time the market or find the next hotspot

Sure property markets move in cycles and it would be great to buy near the bottom or find a location that will be the next hotspot, but the landscape is littered with investors who tried to time the market and failed.

Instead, the right time to buy real estate is when your finances are in order and you’ve got the ability to purchase an investment-grade property.

Remember there is no one property market in Australia so there will always be opportunities somewhere.

Rather than wait and buy real estate; you buy real estate and wait.

The bottom line:

When it comes to buying property, there are plenty of reasons to take action, but there are just as many reasons to hit the pause button.

If you’re not sure about your next move, speaking with a professional property advisor may give you the clarity and direction you need to move forward with purpose.

ALSO READ: I would have been a better property investor if I knew these 12 things earlier in life

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