Seven ways to improve your investment analysis

It is quite sad to see what gets promoted as ‘investment’ advice in the property space these days.

This was again brought to my attention a few weeks’ back when a new inner Brisbane apartment project, under the ‘investment’ tab on their shiny new website, wrote that apartment values in the area in question had risen by over 10% per annum since 2000 and weekly rents had lifted by over 150% over the same time frame.

It also claimed that the local population is projected to increase almost fourfold over the next 25 years.

The price and rent values used were medians and any increase in population will involve much more new housing supply.

Medians are muddied by new developments, which artificially lift values, especially when used on a small- scale, suburban basis. And there have been a lot of new developments in this area over the past 15 years.

When you look at actual apartment resales, you find a 4.5% annual gross capital average gain over the last ten years in the area (we survey 25 select apartment projects in each major Queensland suburb in order to understand what’s going on) and over the past four years there has been little to no resale apartment price growth in the suburb in question.

In addition, the vacancy rate has more than doubled – up from 2% to 4% over the past two years & one-bedroom rents are even starting to fall.

Back in 2000, renters in this area were paying, on average, less than 20% of their income on rent. Local tenants, based on the rents promoted by this new project, would have to give up between 35% & 40% of their income to live there.

In addition, local home values are now close to ten times earnings compared to 3 to 4 times in 2000. Keep in mind that interest rates have fallen from close to double figures to record lows since 2000, and up until the last couple of years, wages were growing by over 4% per annum.

Today, most local jobs are part-time. And a record number of new apartments are proposed in the area; the subject site is surrounded by other development opportunities & population growth/migration are lower than historical averages.

In short, the next 10 to 15 years are very likely to be different from the past decade or two. No doubt there is a movement towards inner city living – heck, I was one of the first (in 1988) to outline why such a trend was imminent – but the cranes on the skyline suggest a potential apartment oversupply. Hopefully, it won’t last that long.

But this isn’t what gets my goat; it’s that too few in the development/selling space really seem to give a hoot about the information used to spruik a new property.

I think buyers should challenge the information supplied. “Caveat emptor,” many will say; while others will suggest that buyers do their own research and due diligence. I agree with both statements, but where to start?

Here are seven things that a property buyer should do or know when looking to purchase an investment property.

1. Question the time period being used.  Best to look at the last cycle – i.e. seven years, and the last year too.  Try to understand where the local market is in the property cycle.

2. Ask for resale evidence – the same property, without major improvements, selling over time. Not median prices. Median or middle values work as broad indicators and only when used across big areas, like a city or municipality.

3. Ask who is buying, the proportion of investors versus owner residents, and where the buyers are coming from.

4. Request rental evidence, and from at least two independent sources. Ring the sources up and ask them about what they wrote. Ask who will manage the property and the intentions regarding tenant tenure – long or short-term stays.

5. Quiz the developer, selling agency & local council about the immediate development plans around the subject development. Will the view be blocked out? Overshadowing? Little space between buildings? More competition?

6. Ask for a ‘current market assessment’ or ‘spot’ valuation. Valuers often lowball; they can get things wrong, but to their defence, they carry a lot of professional risk and don’t get paid enough. That being said, don’t pay more than 5% above the valuation price, unless you believe the area has some real upside (for example, a new hospital being build nearby or major university about to open in the area).

7. Make sure your property has the potential to be bought or rented by three out of six key housing demographic segments.

Better still, I think what is needed is a standard set of rules – a formula that is used to measure all passive residential property performance, regardless of location or property type.

This would need to include the same time frame; same resale equation; same base of measurement – i.e. rate per square metre; same calculation of gross rental yields based on the local vacancy factor and a regular and independent audit of the figures.

Now that would make property investment much easier.

Visit Michael’s website, read his blog, follow him on Facebook and Twitter, or connect via LinkedIn.

This article originally appeared on PropertyObserver.


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