Do you really know what your tenants are up to? + A ‘buyers market’ ahead + Short stay/build-to-let hybrid model

Highlights from this week:

  • The quirky accidents that could hit your holiday rental property
  • Developers to add failed-to-settle stock to apartment hotel offerings
  • The guess work taken out of researching property investment
  • How the funding environment will change again in 2018
  • Covering the risk of short term rentals
  • This year predicted to be a ‘buyers market’
  • DIY property research


2018 property trends to watch – Jon Ellis

Kevin:  Certainly, the 2018 market is predicted to be a buyer’s market. That’s according to one commentator. The CEO for Investorist, Jon Ellis, joins me.
Jon, particularly with the off-the-plan market, you’re predicting a good time for buyers this year. Why is that?
Jon:  Kevin, I think across Australia, we’ve seen a few factors that make it a buyer’s market this year. We’ve seen the retreat of foreign investors, change to funding restrictions in Australia, and increased [0:29 inaudible] across the country, which make it harder for developers to sell and easier for buyers to get a good deal.
Kevin:  A lot of talk as well about failed contracts, the number of buyers not being able to complete, maybe the banks changing a bit of that landscape. Are you seeing much fallout from that at all at this stage, Jon?
Jon:  We’re seeing a little bit of that. I don’t think the general public will see a lot of it, Kevin. I think that will be kept under wraps, but certainly, the industry is seeing it. And that’s another big opportunity for buyers this year. I think you’ll find lots of buyers who are in the know, particularly ones that have links with agencies with ties to Chinese investors, will be able to pick up nomination contracts over the next 12 to 18 months.
Kevin:  Tell me about a nomination contract. What is that?
Jon:  That’s the instance where a developer has sold a contract to an individual who cannot settle, and that contract then will be nominated to another buyer. The advantage of that nomination is that the developer would typically hold either some or all of the 10% deposit that the purchaser has put down, and the apartment is still treated as a brand-new apartment, so it comes with any of the stamp duty incentives that it may have had from its initial contract date.
So, if we have a contract in, say, Victoria that was entered into prior the 1st of July last year, that contract for that off-the-plan property will have significant stamp duty savings, maybe $25,000 worth of stamp duty savings. It might also have a 10% deposit held by the developer, so you might be talking about $75,000 worth of incentives on a $500,000 unit the developer can use to pass on to a purchaser.
Kevin:  Is it reasonable to expect that the developer will pass on that full amount of the retained deposit that a failed purchaser may forfeit?
Jon:  Probably not all of it, Kevin. I think the developer will be keen to mitigate their costs, because they obviously will have increased holding costs of the unit. They might have some additional financing costs, and they’ll also have some agent’s selling fees, and maybe some legal fees associated with pursuing that purchaser that they might like to claw back.
However, at the end of the day, there is still a significant amount of money there that may be able to benefit a purchaser, certainly a savvy purchaser.
Kevin:  From what I’ve seen, too, Jon, developers are very clever at looking ahead of the market to try and pick the trends, what’s going to happen, how do they mold the development to suit what’s happening in the future? Are they taking any notice of things like Airbnb? Is that changing how they’re building?
Jon:  Very much so. We’ve seen in the news just recently how rafts of owners are getting together and retaliating against Airbnb operators. I think when Airbnb was first established, it was considered to be room sharing or using unused portions of your apartments. We’ve certainly now seen that move to becoming a pseudo-hotel industry, and owners are quite frankly fed up in lots of high-rise buildings.
Developers have seen that and decided to embrace that trend, and they’re creating whole floors where they might have serviced apartment offerings. They’re even shuffling around purchasers in buildings with the purchaser’s consent to create areas where they have short-stay apartments and areas where they have long-stay apartments.
They’re providing additional entrances in some instances for people who are doing short stay, they’re providing key lockers, bag storage. All those sorts of things are starting to come into this hybrid short-stay, long-stay model that developers are looking at.
Kevin:  Particularly the short stay model, is the size of units or apartments getting smaller?
Jon:  I think we saw the units get to a really small size 18 months ago, probably two years ago. We saw two-bedroom apartments at 54 square meters. I certainly don’t find that trend continuing. If anything, I see it being reversed a little bit with developers hedging their bets between owner-occupiers and these short-stay units.
Knowing a couple of the operators that are running short-stay dwellings, they actually find two-bedroom units tend to rent better than one-bedrooms. We’re not seeing the return to the really small units, which I think is good for investors and good for resale values.
Kevin:  Yes. It’s certainly going to be a little bit harder this year for off-the-plan sales. I guess some developers and sellers and project marketers are going to have to work a little bit harder. We already heard a lot of talk about over-supply of units, particularly in Melbourne and some other parts of Australia.
Do you think that’s going to have a big impact on that off-the-plan market?
Jon:  I think the biggest impact that we have seen off-the-plan is not over-supply, but it is under-demand. Investors having retreated, and certainly off-the-plan investors having retreated, that’s taken out a big chunk of the demand. So, I think we’re going to find a bit of tough times over the coming 6 to 12 months, and then instead of over-supply, we’re going to start finding a pinch on not enough supply.
Kevin:  Always good talking to you, Jon. Thank you very much for your time. Jon Ellis is the CEO for Investorist. The website is just
Jon:  Yes, that’s correct, Kevin. Thank you very much.

DIY property research tool – Ben Kingsley

Kevin:  Ben Kingsley joins me. Ben is the CEO and founder of Empower Wealth. I want to tell you about a program that we’re supporting and I’d suggest you have a look at. It’s called LocationScore.
Ben, firstly, welcome to the show, and thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to talk about this. Tell us about LocationScore. How did it come about, and how does it work?
Ben:  Thanks for having me on. LocationScore is a passion project that is really driven by getting better research out there for people who want to do it themselves. Yes, Empower Wealth helps people who want professional advice, but there are a lot of DIYers out there, and we’re really worried about the types of asset selections and the locations in which they are buying. Ultimately, property is a high value transaction, so it’s really important that you pick the best location to buy in.
Jeremy Sheppard had developed an algorithm that measures the demand and supply ratio, and we’ve put that together and created LocationScore to help people work out where there is high demand and low supply – because ultimately, that leads to capital growth, and at the end of the day, that’s what we’re looking to invest in. We want to get a return on our investment.
Effectively, what we’re doing is measuring some of these key variables, eight variables about how we can measure those demand and supply stories, and we put them into a score so that it’s really easy for people to put all this together and then find out the best location.
Kevin:  In LocationScore, when you go in and you score a particular area, how defined is it? And is there some guide in there to say “This is worthwhile having a look at”?
Ben:  It’s a massive timesaver, because ultimately, let’s have a look at some of the sort of things we’re measuring. We’re measuring things like days on market, stock on market, average vendor discount, vacancy rates. We’re measuring these eight key indicators, and we put a weighting on each of those and collaborate that into an algorithm that gives us that final score.
So, we’ve done all the heavy lifting across 16,000 suburbs in Australia. Because we can sit there for hours. People do search, they look around; that’s not research. What this is doing is basically pointing you into the right suburb location for where you should then start to do your field research.
It’s a great way of saving time and knowing that you’re buying in an area where there is really good demand, which means that we have potentially short-term capital growth, that one- to three-year capital growth window that we’re trying to look for.
Kevin:  How up to date is the information? Anything like this is only ever as good as the accuracy of the information behind it.
Ben:  Each month, we gather literally millions of data points right across Australia. The latest data is the December data, but every month, we release the new data, usually around the 10th of the following month. Now it’s January; we have the December data there.
So, this is using a lot of information, a lot of data-mining in trying to get that information, data that we’ve purchased as well. And we’re putting all that together and coming up with a score for every suburb, for both houses and units, because one of the other things, too, is we know is that units can sometimes have over-supply but houses in that particular suburb might be absolutely worth buying into. So, it is also about breaking that down between houses and units.
Kevin:  It’s the starting point, I guess, for any research, isn’t it? If you want to know about a particular area, then you can drill down even further once you’ve decided on the area that has the most promise, Ben. Is that how it works?
Ben:  Yes, Kevin, I think you’ve nailed it. For us, it really is all about cutting down a lot of those research hours and trying to then identify those suburbs. It’s really easy to use, because we do two things. We have basically a filter which gives you the top list of suburbs in the different states, in the different cities, so that’s ranking suburbs inside those areas, and then you can also search for every suburb in Australia. So, two very simple means.
And there’s this gauge that says, “Danger, caution, maybe, good, or excellent.” The higher the score, usually the better the suburb that you’re buying in.
Kevin:  Okay. Crunch time. What’s the price? How much does it cost?
Ben:  We’ve made it very, very affordable. You can buy it for a week for $47. Then you can go into maybe the overall subscription for three months, which is $97. So, it’s really cheap to be able to get into getting some good research and having all of those numbers crunched and refining that into a score.
Now, when you run the numbers, you also get a breakdown of each of those variables, so you’ll actually see a chart of each one of those variables trending over time. You see the overall score, but then you’ll see the breakdown in terms of auction clearance rates, days on market, stock on market, and there are a lot of educational videos on the site that will help explain what each one of those do to the overall property value.
Kevin:  Okay, so if you’d like to learn a little bit more about it, I recommend that you go and have a look. Use the link on the homepage at Real Estate Talk; that’ll take you directly into the site and will give you all the information. So, just use the link on Real Estate Talk, or watch out, we’ll be sending out some mailers about this as well. It’s a great tool, it’s called LocationScore, and you can get all the details by using the link here at Real Estate Talk.
Ben Kingsley, congratulations to you and the team there for all the work that you’ve done on putting this together, and I wish you every success.
Ben:  Thanks very much, Kevin. We appreciate it.

What are your tenants reall up to? – Mitch Sweeney

Kevin:  As the sharing accommodation market grows with things like Airbnb, we’re finding out more and more what tenants are doing, what damage there could be. I wonder if you know, as a property owner or as an investor, exactly what’s happening in your place. Maybe you don’t want to know.
There’s an interesting survey amongst a number of people – about a thousand people, I believe – that was carried out by Share Cover into exactly what does happen in some of these accommodation houses. Joining me to talk about this from ShareCover, Mitch Sweeney.
Mitch, you did this survey amongst a thousand people. Were they all tenants?
Mitch:  Hi, Kevin. Thanks for having me. No, they weren’t all tenants. It was a survey of a thousand people that was nationwide. It was selected from just a random group, so no, it wasn’t all tenants.
Kevin:  What was the bottom line? What did you find out, maybe some things that you didn’t know?
Mitch:  Yes and no. The things that we did know, we do know, for example, the first thing that we found, one in five people within this survey had been to a holiday rental property where they’d been to a party or hosted the party.
I guess that’s not surprising because a lot of the time, when people do go away to another place and stay, they are catching up with family, friends or they are at an event like a wedding or a 21st or 50th, so it is likely that they are possibly having a party there or they’re going to a party in the place that they’re staying.
Kevin:  I guess it’s only fair that when you rent a place out, you have to expect that the people are going to live in it and that people do have parties. I suppose it’s not so much the party; it’s the damage that may follow on from that, Mitch.
Mitch:  Yes, that’s exactly right. And the thing with people going to another property, that’s most likely the first time they’ve been in that environment, being in a property, so it’s an environment that they’ve never been in before. So, there’s inherent risk with that, and obviously, people are people and accidents happen. When you’re in an unfamiliar environment, things can happen, and accidental things mostly, a lot of the time, are the things that do occur.
Kevin:  What have you found out are some of the most common breakages?
Mitch:  Again, accidental stuff, so people tripping over or accidentally bumping a TV when they’re walking past it. For example, we’ve had a few claims that we released the story of. One was a frozen chicken that was taken out of the freezer, and it dropped into a ceramic sink and cracked it. That’s something that you would never predict happening.
Again, there was another where, as I was alluding to earlier, people were away for New Year’s, they were at a property, got a little bit over-excited and planned to bring in the new year with a few sparklers. Those sparklers got a little bit hot and accidentally dropped them on the floor, and yes, it created a few burn marks on that floor.
Again, those accidental things happen. No malice in it; it’s just people are people.
Kevin:  We’ll talk about cover in just a moment, but did you find that one sex over the other is more likely to be accident-prone?
Mitch:  We did find that men within the 25-to-35-year-old age bracket were more likely within this survey, but I think it’s representative of not just men in that age bracket are susceptible for damage; I think any time that you have a person who has never been in your property before, you have to expect some kind of risk will come with that. So, I think any host should be diligent no matter what the guest they have coming into their property.
Kevin:  Let’s talk about insurance. Does a standard home and contents insurance, or even landlord insurance, cover you for some of these short-stay accommodations?
Mitch:  Typically, no. With a home and contents policy, that’s for the private use of a property, and when you do have a paying guest in your property, that typically is a commercial transaction, and therefore, you’re using your property for commercial purposes. That’s why ShareCover, we’ve created it and we offer that policy in the market that covers you specifically for paying guests being in your property for a short period of time.
Kevin:  It’s specific to the share accommodation?
Mitch:  Yes, exactly right. Whether you’re renting out on shared accommodation platforms like Stays and Airbnb or through a real estate agent, or a lot of people, we’re finding out, do have their own websites that they use to take bookings for their property.
Kevin:  In the event that I had a property that was being managed under normal tenancy arrangement, I have a landlord protection insurance over it, and then I decide to switch and go to something like Airbnb, do I need to notify my insurance company, or should I be looking at a whole different policy?
Mitch:  I can’t speak around what each insurer would stand for this, but it’s something that we would recommend each host does speak to their current insurer and feel comfortable that that is something the insurer might cover, or if they’re not going to cover it, know that there are other options out there, like for example, ShareCover.
It’s all about being informed as the host, and there are so many great channels out there through Airbnb community forums, Stays community forums, calling the insurer themselves, or Googling.
Kevin:  It’s a very timely instruction, really, to be looking at this. I’ve been talking to Mitch Sweeney who is from ShareCover. You can get more information by going to their website to find out a little bit more about this.
Mitch, thanks so much for your time.
Mitch:  Great. Thanks, Kevin. Thanks for having me.

Why selling agents like buyers agents – Bryan Loughnan

Kevin:  Have you ever wondered why sales agents prefer to deal with buyer’s agents? It’s not necessarily that they’re lazy, but I tell you what, they find it to be very, very efficient. That’s the conversation I want to have with Bryan Loughnan who is the head of property acquisitions at Propertyology.
Good day, Bryan. How are you doing?
Bryan:  Good, Kevin. How are you?
Kevin:  Well, thank you, my friend. Yes, it’s quite common now that sales agents will be coming to buyer’s agents, but I guess not all buyer’s agents are the same, Bryan.
Bryan:  No, absolutely not. Every buyer’s agent is different. I suppose we have our little niches, but yes, we often get feedback from sales agents that they really enjoy us working with another licensed real estate professional rather than just a DIYer in off the street.
Kevin:  When their seller’s agent actually goes through a buyer’s agent, do they run the risk that through a lack of competition, they might not get top dollar?
Bryan:  I suppose that’s a decision that they need to make with their sales agent around a marketing strategy, just like anyone. I suppose what they do, though, is when we’re working with a buyer’s agent, we can give some real certainty. We’re not just walking in off the street; we are working with a prequalified buyer who is genuinely interested in making a firm offer to purchase a property.
And then once that’s done, we’re working with our clients and really holding their hands through the whole process, all the due diligence. This contract is not going to fall over; we can give them that confidence.
Kevin:  As a buyer’s agent, would you prefer to buy property that way as opposed to going and bidding at an auction?
Bryan:  How we buy property doesn’t really bother us. I suppose I would much prefer to be dealing with a sales agent than trying to buy from a vendor who’s trying to deal directly by themselves. So, I suppose that’s why sales agents similarly prefer to deal with buyer’s agents from time to time.
Kevin:  When you go in, you’ve obviously got a very firm strategy on what a property is worth. Do you have several prices in mind, like “This is the price I’d love to get it at, but this is the price I’m not prepared to go over?”
Bryan:  Certainly a price that we’re not prepared to go over, absolutely. As you are aware and probably many of your listeners are aware, Kevin, we work exclusively for investors, so it’s trying to be as emotionless as possible and understanding that “This is a number that is going to make it work for us as an investor,” and really making sure that our clients aren’t paying a dollar more than that. If they start spending too much or falling in love with a property because it looks pretty, that’s when property investors can never really achieve their maximum.
Kevin:  Opportunity bonus: this is where you have an opportunity to do something special with a property. It sometimes leads sellers to have an over-inflated expectation of price. Are you willing to pay for opportunity cost, or is that just a bonus of the sale?
Bryan:  Generally not for us. I suppose we’re looking for low maintenance, structurally sound properties. Where there’s an opportunity cost – if it’s a potential to subdivide or a potential to do a bit of a renovation, if they’re the sort of things you’re referring to – we’re not going to be the only ones who can see that; somebody who walks in off the street can see that. Depending on what needs to be done, we might pay a little bit, but general we’re setting ourselves “This is what we would expect this property would sell for in the market, and let’s do everything we can to get it at or below that price for our client.”
Kevin:  Bryan Loughnan is my guest, head of property acquisitions at Propertyology.
Can I take you in another direction now – dealing with your clients, the buyers? How often do you have to walk them through a building and pest inspection that can on the surface look quite scary, Bryan?
Bryan:  We walk every single one of our clients through every single building and pest inspection that we get done, Kevin. Every now and then, things will pop up. There will certainly be times where any other buyer who looks at it… Building and pest reports, let’s be honest, they’re negative reports. A building inspector doesn’t walk in and say “Oh, that’s a pretty wall,” or “That’s a pretty kitchen.” They’re defect reports, so they are going to be very negative reports.
It’s about understanding what all that information means, what are major concerns, and what are more minor concerns that might be more cosmetic, and making sure that we’re still making an astute investment decision.
Kevin:  From your experience, Bryan, what are the reasons you see that sellers would allow their agent to go through a buyer’s agent? In other words, why do they sometimes want a quick sale?
Bryan:  There can be many reasons for that. Depending on their financial situation, it might be “Look, it’s time, we need to sell.” I suppose a big one going through a buyer’s agent without taking it to an open market is that a lot of sales agents will then allow a vendor not to pay the marketing cost. Marketing can sometimes be $5000, or it can be more than that, so they might be willing to accept a slightly lower offer if they don’t have to go through the marketing costs, they don’t need to tidy the house up, do the garden up, do a coat of paint, get it ready for open homes. Let’s just make it a smooth, quick transaction.
It might be a family reason that they need to sell it. It might be a financial reason. It might be that they just don’t want to go through that process.
Kevin:  Has there been a situation where a seller has come directly to you to see if you have a buyer?
Bryan:  There have been a couple of instances, yes. Obviously, the style of property that we look for in each location is quite specific, so it is quite rare that we would deal directly with a vendor. There have actually been times where the property may suit what we’re looking for and we would actually encourage them to deal with a sales agent and go through a sales agent.
We find that unfortunately, more times than not, if something would come up in a building report for example, and I then need to try and step my client through that and also be stepping the vendor through it, that actually works out to be more time and harder work for me.
It’s actually much better for the whole process and for making sure that everything runs smoothly that we have two licensed professionals, a sales agent on one side of the fence and a buyer’s agent on the other side.
Kevin:  Good. You’ve answered a lot of questions for me, mate. Thank you so much. Bryan Loughnan is the head of property acquisitions at Propertyology. Thanks for your time, mate.
Bryan:  Have a good day.

Stop negative talk about negative gearing – Brian White

Kevin:  Here we go again, more talk about negative gearing and fiddling around the edges. We really need to address this as a very serious issue because at the end of the day, it just seems to me as if this is just a bit of political low-hanging fruit as a popular move for the Labor Party.
I was staggered to see some recent comments made by the Grattan Institute, which at the end of the day, I have to point out is really Kevin Rudd’s $50 million think tank. It was quoted as saying about the Grattan Institute that it would be absolutely amazed if it could actually accommodate an opinion that’s critical of the Labor Party, and this is absolute proof of it.
I want to get a little bit more comment on this issue from Brian White who is the chairman of the Ray White Group in Australasia.
Brian, thank you for your time.
Brian:  Good morning, Kevin.
Kevin:  Brian, I’m just wondering your comment. You were actually in the same story on the ABC. What are your comments about what the Grattan Institute is saying here?
Brian:  The best contribution I can make to this debate is the experience that my company went through, and the industry, of course, went through back in 1987 when the Hawke government introduced the elimination of negative gearing.
At that time, there was enormous buildup. All the research had said this was going to be good, that there would be minimal disruption, it was going to make everything so much more affordable, and so forth. So, I’ve been through that experience, and it’s not that wasn’t long ago.
What I’m finding disappointing at the moment is no one is actually going back and saying “What did go wrong?” because it was brought in with all of the fanfare and inside two years, it was abandoned by the same government. How many major policies that are brought in with fanfare and “Aren’t we brave? Aren’t we courageous? And aren’t we doing a wonderful thing for the country?” and then within a couple of years, they have to abandon it?
One of the elements in this debate is there are far more people owning properties than not owning properties at the moment. There’s a massive number of homeowners who don’t live in Sydney and Melbourne where price growth has been quite constrained, even in quite a buoyant overall market.
The psychology that came in in 1987… Is there now an attack on properties? Is property not going to be a good thing to invest in? And Kevin, what percentage of Australians see property as their core asset, their core financial structure? The terror that was going through in that 1987 period after this was introduced is just so memorable. It’s probably the more memorable part of my entire career.
Kevin:  Like you, I’m probably a little bit dumbfounded that the Conservative Party are not using this experience, not talking about it, because we have to learn from our past experiences.
Brian, I think the other point, too, is that many people think that negative gearing is there just to benefit the rich, wealthy landlords. Who are the main beneficiaries of negative gearing? Who is actually using it?
Brian:  Once again, it’s just a normal, average Australian. People go about their lives. They seek to maximize the opportunity to be able to comfortable in their retirement. The first ambition is ownership of a property and a home, and it’s always been difficult.
I can remember when I was in my early twenties, “How could we afford to buy a home?” It was one of the cheapest homes imaginable, and gradually, we were able to trade that. Many people think “I should be able to buy my final home from day one.” We’ve never had that.
But the thing is once people have got on top of their own home, their payments, and so forth, the potential then to buy an investment property and then have that work for them is so strong. The great majority of people who are involved in this negative gearing are the normal mom and dad. It’s almost as if the negative gearing was introduced to encourage people to invest, encourage people to take ownership of their long-term financial needs.
Kevin:  I think another point, too, Brian is that yes, all of those things are very, very true, that this has encouraged people to invest. But it also is increasing the amount of stock that’s available for people who want to rent or who need to rent.
The question I would ask you is without investors, where are these properties going to come from? They’re going to have to come from the government, and in my opinion, they do not have a good track record of providing rental accommodation.
Brian:  Of course. When those properties are provided, they’re often sub-standard, they’re in locations that don’t work for people. People are renting in suburbs where they need to be. They need to be either close to aging parents, a particular school, or a particular job. I think investors have done a great thing for our housing population. Eliminate that and pressure on rent is going to be massive. That was beginning to happen right back in 1987.
Kevin:  This is the part that dumbfounds me, too. Listening to the Grattan Institute in the ABC program, without negative gearing tax benefits, rents would have to rise – a natural consequence, isn’t it?
Brian:  Absolutely. The first thing that happened is that prices dropped, and you think “Isn’t that a good thing, more people are going to be able to acquire?” But what we’ve found is that first-home buyers, they were leaving the market even when properties became more affordable because they kept fearing the prices will keep dropping further and further.
Over my career, it has never been easy for people to own their first home, irrespective of prices. It’s one of the great ambitions that individuals have and when they stick at it, it happens.
Kevin:  By itself, can tax changes solve Australia’s problems with housing affordability, Brian?
Brian:  No, I think Australia is blessed with the structure that we currently have. I don’t understand why there’s this obsession with “We have to make everything more affordable.” Well, more affordable means dropped prices.
You only have to remember the bravado and the confidence, and the “Look at us” that the Hawke government had when they introduced this policy, “Isn’t what we’re doing wonderful for the country?” and inside two years, they had abandoned it.
The psychology of the whole thing was so strong, and it’s the psychology of “Owning property is probably not a good thing. We don’t know when the next hit might come.” There was a message out that we probably should steer clear of property.
When I interviewed the average Australian, no matter where they’re living – in a capital city, in a regional city, or anywhere – fundamentally, their key pride possession is the property they’re living in.
Kevin:  Let’s hope those memories will stay with us, Brian, as we continue this debate, and hopefully, it won’t go on for too much longer and they’ll resist that temptation to trim around the edges. Thank you for your thoughts. They’re well thought-out. I can hear the frustration in your voice, and I share that with you, Brian.
Brian White has been my guest. He’s the chairman of the Ray White Group. Brian, thanks for your time.
Brian:  Thank you, Kevin.

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