Sure ways to lose money in today’s property market


 Most investors lose money by making a number of poor investment decisions, swayed by smooth talking salespeople and too good to be true purchasing schemes. Read on to find out what these include.  


Rent guarantees

Few things could sound more attractive in theory than a rent guarantee – where a seller or developer guarantees a certain rental for a period of time. For some people they can provide comfort and security, especially among investors concerned with vacancies.

The problem is that the guarantee comes at a cost. It is usually factored into the purchase price – you pay the developer upfront for the rent he will repay you over the next few years.

In some cases, it can land an investor in downright trouble.

Here’s an all-too-typical scenario of how many investors get played:

A developer has 100 units and needs to sell them for $400,000, but the market is performing badly and their true value is closer to $350,000. The rental market will pay only $350 a week, which means that, for the $400,000 price, the investor’s return is 4.5%. Developers realise these numbers won’t attract investors – at least not in a hurry – so they put in place a rental guarantee.

They price the units at $400,000 with a rental guarantee of $450 a week for two years. This pushes the yield to 5.9% and suddenly investors are interested. To finance the guarantee, it costs the developer $100 a week to foot the difference between the guaranteed rent and what the market will actually pay. This totals $10,400 over two years, which would seem a lot except that, since the developer was paid $400,000 for a property worth only $350,000, he is still some $40k ahead.  

The headache comes after the two years are up. When the guarantee expires, the investor has to find tenants in the open market. Upon realising that the market will only pay $350 a week, the investor’s returns fall from 5.9% to 4.5% in the blink of an eye.

Off-the-plan purchases

There is nothing inherently wrong about off-the-plan purchasing.

The traditional concept is that brave early bird investors obtain a property below its potential sales value by purchasing a property when it is nothing more than a contract and a couple of sketches. Part of the payback is that the investor only needs to put down a deposit of a few thousand dollars for accepting some of the risk – allowing him to sell for a killer profit a few years down the line.

It’s a strategy that works for a handful of experienced investors, who generate considerable profits, but the majority of investors get it wrong.

One of the big issues of buying off-the-plan is finance. Banks are often very nervous when it comes to granting approval for off-the-plan purchases, and getting a loan can be difficult. In addition, since loan approvals are only current for three months, getting formal pre-approval is impossible. This means that when the project is completed, some purchasers will be unable to obtain finance and are forced to sell. Others go in never planning to settle and only want to flip their property for a profit.   

All of this adds up to a group of desperate vendors who lower their prices to sell at whatever the market offers. If you are one of those who were successful in settling your purchase, the banks are likely to only lend against the prevailing market price of your property, which will be the lowest price achieved by one of the desperate vendors, instead of the price you paid.

Another thing to consider is the unknowns that accompany an off-the-plan purchase – such as what the property will really look like outside of a sketch or model. A good off-the-plan development is one where developers sell at sensible figures that recognise the risk you will be taking.

When assessing an off-the-plan development, look at other similar developments around it that are a few years old and take note of the prices they are selling for. Also consider whether there will be much competition for rents or resales when the development is finished, because this will impact your cash flow or sales price.


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  • Helen says on 20/12/2011 12:31:43 PM

    This is a bit one sided. There are some honestly good rental guarentees out there too you know!

  • Paul says on 20/12/2011 01:17:45 PM

    I saw one with a 10 year rental guarantee and it didn't seem overpriced in Melbourne.

  • Pascoe says on 20/12/2011 05:38:44 PM

    In regards to a rent guarantee I purchased a property back in 1998 in Caboolture for $133,000 (sounds cheap now) and the developer had a rent guarantee on it for 230 a week for 2 years. Six months in, he started to not pay the rent and eventually declared himself bankrupt. I was unable to get any money oweing from him for about 8 weeks of rent and also the remaining 18 months of $230 per week. I had to than accept a tenant at $180 per week. I suggest steering clear of rent guarantees. If the property is worth buying it doesn't need a rental guarantee, it will always be in rental demand.

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