The beginner’s guide to property investment

Property investment title cardHow to start investing in property

If you’re thinking of entering the property market, but don’t know where to start, use this guide to better understand the process and considerations involved.

1. Before you decide to invest in property

Property investing can be a good way to build your wealth, but it carries a certain degree of risk. Before making a property investment purchase, you need to carefully evaluate the benefits and risks to decide whether or not it will be a viable investment for you. By consulting professionals or asking yourself questions, you can undertake a self-assessment to identify how much risk you’re willing to endure.

Assess the risk

While property may be a less riskier asset compared to other options such as shares, you still need to evaluate the risk of the investment. When determining the degree of risk, you should conduct a cash-flow analysis with the help of an accountant or financial planner.

You should also consider the following:

  • Whether you’re investing in Australian property or overseas property.
  • The type of property investment (e.g. is it a listed or unlisted property trust?).
  • Your property investment strategy.
  • The property itself (e.g. structure, layout, location).
  • External factors (e.g. the cash rate and demand for a particular type of dwelling).

Seek professional advice

It’s important that you consult professionals regarding your intended purchase. Speak to accountants, property experts, conveyancers, buyer's agents, local real estate agents, financial planners, and mortgage brokers to help you decide whether or not the property will represent a valuable investment.

An accountant can help you assess your cashflow and manage the paperwork involved in the property purchase, while a mortgage broker can compare different home loans to ensure that you get a competitive deal to suit your borrowing and investment goals. A solicitor can help you interpret and prepare legal documents before you sign on the dotted line.

You could also consider talking to a buyer's agent for advice on purchasing an investment property.

Learn more about buyer's agents

2. Once you’ve decided to invest in property

PropertyInvestingResearch

Immerse yourself within as much information and research as possible. You can leverage resources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), CoreLogic Data, Residex and many other websites that provide property market data and insights which can form the basis of your research during this initial phase.

Develop a property purchase plan and write down all the key decisions you’ll have to make throughout the entire process- from identifying your investment strategy to accessing finance, signing the paperwork and screening potential tenants.

What’s your investment strategy?

After speaking with an accountant and financial planner, you’ll need to form an idea of how you will make profit from the investment.

The most common investment strategies are ‘buy and hold’ and ‘renovating for profit’, which are outlined below.

  • Buy and hold. Purchase the property, wait for the value to raise and then sell. Income from rent can cover the mortgage repayments until the property is sold.
  • Renovate. Purchase the property, renovate and then sell.

Check out our breakdown of different property investment strategies.

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3. Once you’re ready to invest

Ready to get started? Make sure you’ve done the following.

How much can you borrow?

Before you start comparing different home loans, you need to know how much you can afford to borrow. Enter your details into our calculator below to work out how much you can afford to borrow.

Borrowing power calculator

Compare home loans

We compare home loans from a number of brands. There are loans specifically for investors, line-of-credit loans and loans suitable for the construction of a property. You can sort home loans by their features, like maximum LVR and application fees. Or you can get in touch with a certified mortgage broker to assist with choosing a home loan.

Compare home loans here

Home loan pre-approval

Go to a lender and see if they offer home loan pre-approval, preferably with a credit check so you can shop around. Pre-approval gives you a price range to work with. It’s crucial to know how much you can spend before you start looking at different properties and investments. Pre-approval can be different depending on the lender, so ensure that your pre-approval won't fall through when you actually need the loan.

Searching for an investment property

You should have come up with a list of criteria to determine whether an investment is a desirable option. There's an increasing number of websites that list property for sale. These sites let you filter by property type and price range. A buyer’s agent can be employed to find you something suitable. They can provide years of investment experience, but their services come with a fee.

You may also want to consider whether you want the property to be fully furnished or unfurnished.

Final steps

  • Prepare mortgage documents: Speak to your lender to finalise the mortgage documents.
  • Hire a surveyor: A quantity surveyor can help maximise the tax deduction you get from the property.
  • Landlord responsibilities: If you want to put tenants in your investment property, read about your rights and responsibilities as a landlord and how to advertise correctly.
  • Appraisal: Get an independent appraisal of the property. Pest and building inspections are also a smart move. A conveyancer should also check the boundaries of the property if the investment is anything larger than an apartment.
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What are the benefits and risks of property investment?

Benefits

  • Property prices have historically appreciated over time. Property prices move in a cycle, but the trend has always been up which means you can potentially benefit from capital gains growth over time.
  • Rental yields represent a stable and consistent form of secondary income.
  • There are tax and depreciation advantages when you invest in property, like negative gearing.

Risks

  • Property is not a liquid investment. Your money is tied up if you invest in property.
  • The interest rate on a variable mortgage moves depending on the cash rate and other factors which could mean you are faced with increased repayments should interest rates rise.
  • Although relatively stable, property is still subject to market factors which can affect demand, availability and the value of the asset.
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How can I minimise my investment risk?

PropertyInvestmentRisks

Savvy investors actively take steps to minimise their property investment risk, such as diversifying their property portfolio. For instance, this may involve investing in different property types across different states of Australia so if there is an oversupply of certain types of property in an area, or there is an economic downturn in a particular region that is reliant on one industry, then the investor still has other existing properties to provide them with rental income.

Here are some common ways to reduce your investment risk:

  • Cash buffer: Ensure you have a contingency buffer of funds to ensure that you can cover any unforeseen expenses that may arise in future (e.g. during untenanted periods).
  • Split or fixed rate loan: As many of the ‘Big Four’ have recently increased their variable mortgage rates you may want to consider splitting your loan or opting for a fixed rate loan so you have peace of mind in knowing exactly what your repayments will be each month.
  • Invest in different areas: As mentioned above, a good way to minimise your investment risk is not to ‘put your eggs in one basket.’ If possible, invest in different property types across a number of different regions to ensure that if there is an economic downturn, you will not be adversely affected.
  • Market research: Another way to lessen your investment risk is to undertake extensive market research into the market you’re investing in. For instance, you may want to consider the supply and demand factors for the market, the average rental yield for similar properties, and check with local council to see whether any infrastructure projects are in the pipeline which could affect the demand and availability of property in the region.
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Selling your investment property

When selling an investment property, there are certain factors you need to take into account that apply specifically to the type of property if it is rented. While these aren't necessarily regulations, they are guidelines that should be followed to iron out any issues within the sale process.

Furthermore, there are also certain steps you can take to increase sale-ability factor of your property. But first, let's look at how to sell a tenanted property.

Selling a tenanted property

If you've decided to sell an investment property, it is essential that you know what legislative procedures involved when it comes to tenanted properties. While the sales agent should know what should be done in such situations, you should always know the best practices yourself.

However, if proper procedure is not followed, it could end up causing problems with the sale contract process, which could be costly.

Is it better to evict the tenant first?

Make a conscious choice about whether you actually want the tenants to be out of the property by the time you come to sell the property. Obviously the best way for this to occur without financial and contractual penalty is to give the contractual minimum amount of notice to vacate.

If your tenants are out, you can take full control of the presentation of the property from the major to the very minor details. This may also give you the opportunity to complete some cosmetic upgrades or renovations to bump up the sale price. Look for ways to add value quickly, as you can pad your profit margin even further. Finally, getting the tenants out can also signal to buyers that you have strong intentions to sell the property.

Conversely, the downside to kicking out the tenants is that you may lose rental income during the time in which they vacate to the date you sell.

Choosing the right agent

It's important to make sure that the real estate agent you are considering knows how to deal with the sale of a tenanted property. Thus, you really need to question them beforehand regarding their experience and reputation within the industry.

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Tips for investing in property

Property investment1. Select the right property

Investing in property is about creating wealth and achieving capital growth, so selecting a property that is likely to appreciate over time and also buying at the right price are important decisions. By researching the market carefully, you can try to find an opportunity to purchase a property below its real market value.However, if you are unsure of a property value you should hire an independent valuer to get an estimate of what you should be paying.

Some suburbs may offer higher rental yields, but be careful because often these properties offer lower capital growth potential. It is also essential that you choose the right property type for the demographic profile of the area.

For instance, a family home that is close to public schools may be more desirable than a small unit near a university.

2. Research the market

Conduct research into the area by using sources such as free property suburb profiles from sources such as RP Data and Residex to understand market factors such as price growth, rental yield, vacancy rates and days on market (DOM) to help you decide whether or not the suburb is a good investment area. It's also a good idea to speak with professionals such as local mortgage brokers, real estate agents, accountants and financial planners to help you decide whether the property and the suburb will suit your investment strategy.

3. Consider using a property manager

A property manager is a good asset for many property investors. Not only will the property manager be able to give you advice about your responsibilities as a landlord, but they can also organise maintenance and repair issues, and help you find the right tenant by conducting reference checks and ensuring that the tenant pays rent in full and on time. They may also act as a mediator in the event that you have a dispute with your tenant.

4. Find the right home loan

Finding the right home loan and structuring your loan correctly is vital for the success of your investment strategy, and this should be done with the help of an experienced financial adviser and a mortgage broker. You'll need to decide whether the flexibility of variable rate or the certainty of fixed rate will suit you better. It's also important to note that most investment home loans are set up with interest only repayments as this maximises the tax effectiveness of your asset. You'll also need to carefully consider the features that will be most beneficial for your loan, such as an offset account which can help you reduce the amount of interest payable over the life of the loan.

5. Appeal to tenants

You'll attract better quality tenants if you present the property in good condition. Consider boosting the sell-ability of your property in order to appeal to both tenants as well as future buyers- this can be done by sprucing up your kerb appeal or ensuring that the kitchen and bathroom designs are neutral and modern.

General guidelines

Investing in property tenants

While each individual state has certain guidelines that apply when a tenanted property is being sold, there are certain rules that apply, regardless of the location. You need to communicate properly with the tenant, be fully aware of the status of the lease and make sure you take into account the tenant's privacy when it comes to photos and inspections. Below is a breakdown of the issues you need to consider with then you sell your investment property.

Communication is essential

One of the most important rules when it comes to selling a rented property is to keep the channels of communication open. No matter what the legislative guidelines say, if you don't have the cooperation of the tenant, you are likely to have problems with the inspection and the whole sale process. For things to go smoothly, you need to make sure that the tenants are fully aware of what is going on at all times and their privacy remains intact.

It's important that the sales agent understands that selling a tenanted property is not like selling an owner-occupied property, where the agent can call and show up with potential clients with little notice. You have to ensure the real estate agent follow the rules.

Know the status of the lease

You also need to be aware of the status of a lease. In a fixed term lease, even if the property sells, the lease remains valid and the tenant has the right to stay in the property until the lease is up. Remember that the sale of the property and change of ownership doesn't automatically void the lease. If you need it, you might be able to negotiate for vacant possession but, at the same time, the tenant may want to leave. Regardless of what the option is, it has to be put in writing and both parties need to sign.

On the other hand, if a periodic lease is in place, you might have a chance of offering the new owner 'vacant possession'. In this case, it is essential that you work out when you have to issue the notice regarding the termination of the lease so that it lines up with the settlement date, if required.

Photos and inspections

It is essential that the tenant's right to 'quiet enjoyment' and privacy is observed and should be of the utmost importance. Thus, if the tenant isn't happy with having their personal belongings showing up in photos or videos, they have every right to object and you will need to negotiate or find an alternative solution.

In terms of obtaining access for inspections, your best option is to create a schedule of open homes instead of inspections by appointment. This way, tenants can organise their schedule around the open homes in advance. Make sure you discuss this with the real estate agent. Also, you must ensure the safety of the tenant's personal belongings during inspections, which means no one should be allowed unaccompanied on the property. The sales agent should never leave anyone on their own in any of the rooms of the property.

In the end, a tenant cannot stop a property being sold, even if they have a fixed term lease. Likewise, they can't stop you from taking photos, showing the property or installing a for sale sign. However, the last thing you want is to find yourself in dispute resolution or the Tribunal to get these things done. This is why you should take a proactive but collaborative approach with the tenant to facilitate the process.

State guidelines

As previously mentioned, there are certain guidelines specific to each state that should be followed when selling an investment property that is rented.

State Icon ACT

In the Australian Capital Territory, you need to discuss inspection arrangements with the tenant and get their agreement. You have to make sure that the tenant gets a written notice 24 hours ahead of each inspection and eight weeks before vacant possession.

State Icon NSW

In New South Wales, all inspections can only be scheduled with the agreement of the tenant. If you can't come to an understanding, you can only conduct two inspections per week and you must give the tenant 48 hours' notice. For vacant possession, a written notice must be forwarded to the tenant at least 90 days in advance.

State Icon NT

In the Northern Territory, you must give the tenant 24 hours' notice of an inspection. You, as the landlord, are also required to be reasonable regarding the number of inspections scheduled. For vacant possession, you have to give the tenant 42 days' written notice.

State Icon QLD

In Queensland, if there is a fixed term lease and you put the property on the market in the first two months of the lease without giving the tenant a written notice before they signed the lease; the tenant has the right to terminate the lease with only two weeks' notice.

State Icon SA
In South Australia, you have to agree inspection times and dates with the tenant. It is recommended that no more than one open inspection is organised every two weeks and that the tenant is given a minimum of four days' notice. It is also advised that no more than two appointment-only inspections be scheduled per week, with the tenant being given at least a day's notice. For vacant possession, a written notice must be sent to the tenant at least 60 days in advance.
State Icon TAS
Tasmanian guidelines say that an accompanied inspection can take place at any time, as long as the tenant is in agreement. However, if you can't come to an understanding with the tenant, an inspection by potential buyers can only take place if the owner of the property is present. Furthermore, no more than five inspections can occur per week and no more than one per day and they must be scheduled between 8am and 6pm. The tenant must be given 48 hours' notice in writing. For vacant possession, the tenant must receive a written notice 28 days in advance.
State Icon VIC
In Victoria, all inspections must be organised in agreement with the tenant, who must receive a notice in writing a minimum of 24 hours before each inspection takes place. Vacant possession requires a written notice 60 days in advance but the tenant has the option of moving out before this expiration date by issuing a Notice of Intention to depart and offering notice 14 days in advance.
State Icon WA
Western Australian guidelines state that any inspections must be organised taking into account the tenant's convenience and must be done in agreement with the latter. These inspections can take place at a reasonable time and cannot exceed a reasonable number of occasions after notice has been given in advance. While the guidelines keep repeating the concept of reasonable, they offer no definition of what it could mean. In terms of vacant possession, the tenant must be given 30 days' notice in writing.


Get a professional cleaning service in

Regardless of the property you are selling, whether it's a house or apartment, you need to make sure that it looks its best when it goes on the market. A professional cleaning service can help you achieve that and while it might cost you between $120 and $200 to clean the entire property, the investment is minimal when compared to the importance of first impressions.
Once the professional cleaners have done their job, you can request that your tenants keep up the level of cleanliness until you've managed to sell the property. Or at least, make sure the property is clean and neat before a scheduled open-home inspection.

Book a professional cleaner online with Helping

Add value

To increase the sell-ability factor of your property, you may want to consider undertaking minor upgrades or renovations to add value. This may involve enhancing your ‘kerb appeal’, painting ceilings and walls in neutral colours, or adding task-lighting to the exterior and interior of your property are cost-effective ways of potentially boosting the sales price and appealing to a wide pool of buyers.

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