How you can invest in property at a young age

Information verified correct on October 21st, 2016

As a young property investor, be proactive about learning the investment process and mitigating your risk

young investorDeciding to enter the real estate market at a young age is a bold decision. To get the most out of your investment and to lessen the risks associated with property investing, ensure that you get in touch with professionals, leverage educational resources and shop around for a competitive investment loan.

We offer advice about how to invest in property while you're young, and uncover the challenges and common mistakes made by young investors.

CEO of Metropole Property Strategists, Michael Yardney, explains how you can go about getting into the property market during your prime years.

Tips for young property investors

1. Educate yourself

Subscribe to blogs, online forums and publications from sources such as, Investor Assist, Australian Property Investor, Real Estate Investar and Property Investment Resources Australia to learn the ins and outs of property investing.

Research property prices, land tax and government charges as well as socioeconomic factors of the area to determine whether the region represents a good long-term investment.

Yardney says that young investors should become familiar with property investing and different markets:

“They should be educating themselves with all the information out there on the internet. But what they’ve got to understand is how property markets work and not believe the myth that all properties increase in value. They’ve got to understand about budgeting and personal financing. They need to learn about valuing properties and inspecting properties.”

2. Seek advice

Leverage a pool of qualified professionals by speaking with local agents and brokers to help you understand the market and decipher whether or not the purchase would meet your investment needs. With the help of a professional, you can come up with a ‘checklist’ of the property and market features required for your investment.

You may want to consult the services of the following professionals to help determine your investment strategy and borrowing capacity, as well as locate a high-growth area:

“They should find a proficient mortgage broker to help them get their mortgage,” Yardney says.

Yardney says that young people should employ a team of professionals to avoid buying a property based on emotion: “Get people on your side, because it can be hard, particularly if you go to auction, as you get carried away with the momentum. How do you know what the property is worth? You don’t believe the estate agent and you can’t get a valuation for every property you look at.

“That’s why you get a buyer’s agent to protect you, but you have to pay a learning fee. You either pay it to the market where you overpay or you buy the wrong property that doesn’t suit your needs, or you pay it to someone to protect you. So be prepared to pay a learning fee.”

3. Save early

property investingIf you want to invest in property, you need to start saving as early as possible. It may feel as though putting down a deposit on a property is out of reach, but you may only need $60,000 for a 20% deposit if you invest in a regional area such as Geelong.

To bump up your savings, you may want to contact a financial planner to help you create a budget. You should also get into a habit of making regular deposits into a high-interest savings account so you can show your lender that you have financial discipline.

4. Aim for a 20% deposit or family guarantee

As a rule of thumb, you should try to come up with at least a 20% deposit of the purchase price so you can avoid lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) premiums on your loan.

While putting down a 20% deposit may be challenging, it will save you thousands in having to pay LMI in the event that you default on your mortgage.

However, if you can’t complete a 20% deposit, you have the option of using a family guarantor. This is where an immediate family member allows the equity in their property to be used as extra security for your home loan.

If your parents are willing and able to become the guarantor, then this can be a great solution for young investors looking to borrow with a high LVR.

If you do this, make sure you split the loan in two portions: the portion your parents are guaranteeing and well as the portion that they are not guaranteeing. You should work on reducing the portion that your parents are guaranteeing so you can release them as soon as possible.

5. Consider borrowing options

As a young investor, you may want to consider co-borrowing, which involves two or more owners agreeing to share the costs of ownership. This can be a good solution if you both have similar financial goals and circumstances.

Along with sharing the loan cost, the borrowers share additional costs such as stamp duty, strata fees or legal charges, as well as ongoing costs such as maintenance and repairs.

However, this also means that you’d be responsible for the other borrower’s debts if they can’t meet their repayments, so you need to make sure that legal documents are in place.

6. Shop around for a competitive loan

The investment loan market is highly competitive and this means you can find a mortgage product with features such as an offset account, the ability to make additional repayments, a redraw facility and minimal ongoing fees.

Sourcing a home loan with these features will mean that you can lower your mortgage repayments and interest charges so you can focus on servicing your debt and reaching your investment goals sooner.

To demonstrate, if you have a $350,000 mortgage at 5.5% interest over 30 years and you decide to start contributing an offset amount of $2,500 in the fifth year, you will save a total of $7,268.28 and chop four months off your loan term by leveraging an offset account.

Compare a range of investment property home loans here.

7. Pre-approval

Once you've found the right home loan for you, apply for pre-approval as this offers increased negotiating power when it comes to agreeing on a price with the seller or agent. With pre-approval, you’ll be considered a preferred buyer as you have a lender’s approval already in place, which can help you win a bidding war against others who may not qualify.

In addition, pre-approval can reduce stress by speeding up the documentation process once you’ve found a property.

8. Demonstrate financial discipline

The ability to save and practise financial discipline is a crucial part of real estate investing and getting approved for finance: “If they haven’t got a big enough deposit, they’re going to have to learn some personal finance strategies. It’s easy for young people to put things on their credit card and take on extra debts. So they’ve got to learn the three fundamental rules: 1) spend less than you earn, 2) save the difference, and 3) invest the difference and keep re-investing it until you have a big enough deposit.”

“Learn to sacrifice and don’t borrow more than you can afford, especially in a low interest rate environment. When interest rates creep up, some people get caught out, so don’t buy off more than you can chew, because there are lots of hidden costs.

“When you rent a property, there’s the insurance, the rates and the bond, body corporate fees, the maintenance and the land tax. So you’ve really got to make sure that you understand all the costs – not just the settlement costs but the ongoing costs.”

9. Plan for contingencies

You need to budget carefully to allow for contingencies associated with your income-producing asset. For example, your tenant may lose their job and may not be able to pay rent on time, or your contractor may fall behind schedule. If such incidents occur, you need to ensure that you have enough funds during the interim to cover repayments and other expenses.

 10. Location & property considerations

While your team of professionals will be able to help you decide on the location and property type, you should keep the following in mind:

Look beyond the inner city

Many investors recommend that you invest in regional areas, such as Goulburn or the Hunter region, that have strong growth performance and infrastructure. If property prices appreciate quickly, you can then go on to diversify your portfolio.

For example, the average property price for a house in Goulburn is $324,000, which means you’d only need $64,800 for a 20% deposit compared to a $322,000 for a property in Sydney’s Lane Cove precinct.

While the average weekly rent for Lane Cove is $900 and annual house price growth is at 6.59%, the rental yield is just 2.91%, so it would take significantly longer to pay off this mortgage.

Renovate but don’t overcapitalise

Once you've chosen your investment location and property type, you'll need to consider whether or not you want to undertake repairs to the property. It’s estimated that properties worth less than $200,000 typically require bathroom and kitchen renovations and upgrades in order to attract tenants.

Before embarking on a renovation, determine how much you can afford to spend and try not to overcapitalise. Get the property professionally appraised by a conveyancer and find out what you can do to improve the value of the property. Then get an estimate of what the property will be worth once the upgrades are complete.

Generally, you should budget 10% of the property value for the renovation. So, if your property is valued at $350,000, you should set aside around $35,000 for the project.

If possible, try to fund the renovation through your savings so you don’t have to pay interest on borrowed funds. To minimise renovation costs, consider DIY projects and using second-hand materials.

When is the right time to invest in real estate?

Yardney says the right time to invest will depend on your personal circumstances: The right time is when you’re financially ready and you can afford it. It may take 3-6 months to find the property of your choice, whether it’s a home or an investment, so I wouldn’t be trying to time the market.

“Clearly, you don’t want to buy at the peak of the property cycle if you think there’s doom and gloom about to happen. But every year there is some doom and gloom predicted. The media provides a conveyor belt of doom and gloom.”

Obstacles for young property investors

young investorThere are many challenges that prevent young people from entering the property market. Yardney points out that the main obstacles for young property investors are a lack of knowledge and lack of affordability: “It’s a combination of a couple of things. It’s a lack of information, they don’t know a lot about it and they have misconceptions and myths that they’ve heard from their parents and the media. The other is affordability. They can’t afford what they would like to buy.”

Here’s a breakdown of some of the main challenges faced by young property investors:

1. Lack of disposable income

Whether you’re still studying or working on a part-time basis, many young people have relatively low disposable income compared to their older counterparts. This lack of financial resources may present a challenge, particularly if you want to come up with a 20% deposit for a loan in order to avoid paying lenders mortgage insurance (LMI).

For example, if you take out an investment loan of $350,000, you’ll need to save $70,000 to complete a deposit. However, don’t let your low disposable income deter you from property investing. While coming up with a deposit is an important step, this is only part of the equation, and there are many options for young investors to access finance, such as through a guarantor.

You can compare a range of guarantor loans here.

2. Lack of financial discipline

Yardney says that young investors lack financial discipline when it comes to saving: “The big obstacle is saving a deposit, but banks will now let you borrow up to 90% loan-to-value ratio (LVR), and you don’t need to have a very strong savings record.”

Many young people have a poor credit rating, but there are ways to improve your credit file. If you have any outstanding debts, such as a credit card balance or a personal loan, speak with your provider to organise a payment plan to ensure that you rid yourself of your debt as soon as possible. You should also ensure that you pay your bills in full and on time.

3. Inexperience

There is an underlying perception that young people can’t invest and that you shouldn’t invest until you have more “life experience”. However, your age makes no difference on your ability to learn and acquire new knowledge. If anything, you are more capable of educating yourself now than when you’re older.

Find out how you can get approved for a loan with bad credit.

8 mistakes made by young property investors

Many of the mistakes made by young investors are associated with having the wrong frame of mind about property investing.

  • Lack of research and knowledge: Knowing how to find a good investment location and property type are valuable skills to have, but young people often fail to research, which can lead to poor investment choices,“In Australia, there’s 1.7 million property investors and more than 90% of them never get past their first property. 92% never get past their second property. Only 15,400 own six properties or more. In other words, most property investors fail. So you’ve got to be careful about who you listen to and the strategies you use. If you go for cash flow, you may miss out on long-term capital growth", Yardney says.
  • Property investing is for cashed-up baby boomers: This is a common misconception that deters young people from investing in property. While completing a deposit may be more of a challenge for a young person compared to someone at the peak of their career, there are many competitive home loans that are suitable for young investors.
  • Not thinking long-term: Many young people buy property without thinking about their future needs. As a result, they often buy properties that don’t accommodate for change. For instance, although a small, one-bedroom apartment may complement your budget and lifestyle now, what happens if you want to have kids in the next five years?
  • Buying only based on price: Many young people are preoccupied with buying a property that’s ‘cheap’ and use this criteria alone to guide their decision making. However, price should only form part of the investment choice. You must also consider a range of factors such as the location (does the suburb have growth potential?) and the market (is there positive buyer sentiment?).
  • Not saving early: As a young person, your strongest asset is time. By getting into property investing from a young age, you gain the ability to leverage the market and build your savings over a longer period of time. Try to get into a habit of saving by making regular deposits into a savings or transaction account, or follow a budget to boost your savings.
  • Buying emotionally: Many young investors are swayed by emotion and convenience when making purchasing decisions. “A big mistake they make is not having a strategy and buying emotionally. They tend to buy closer to where they live, close to where they want to holiday, close to where they want to retire. But sometimes it makes sense for people to buy interstate. You’re going to have a property manager anyway, so whether the property manager is in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne, it doesn’t matter", Yardney says.
  • Not reviewing property portfolio: Yardney maintains that young property investors should get into a habit of continually reviewing their property portfolio: “They should annually review their portfolio and see how it works. This is your employee, this is your property investment business. If it’s not working, you’ve got to look to improve it. Can you swap property managers? Can you do it up?”, he says.
  • Buying for cash flow: Many young investors make the mistake of buying for short-term cash flow rather than capital growth, as Yardney points out: “They think they need a bit of cash flow because they haven’t saved a deposit, but the problem is that you can never become wealthy with a small amount of cash flow. In Australia, there are two motives for property investment: buying for cash flow or buying for capital growth. Capital growth properties are slightly negatively geared, so you need more financial discipline, but the only way you save for the next deposit is through capital growth. It’s too hard to save for your subsequent deposit, so while the majority of Australians look for cash flow, the wealthy ones invest for capital growth.”
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Belinda Punshon

Belinda is a journalist here at Specialising in the home loans and property sections, she is passionate about helping Australians improve their financial wellbeing.

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