Highlights from this week:
- Sydney is just playing catch-up
- Locations that tick the affordability box
- Finding asbestos and what to do
- The making of a ‘stand out’ buyers agent
- Sydney in a lull after the Olympics
- Lifestyle should not be overlooked
- Houses vs units for depreciation
39 affordable locations – Simon Pressley
Kevin: So many people tell me that it’s just unaffordable to buy property in Australia. Well, I’m going to put something to you now that’s the result of some research that was done by Propertyology, and joining me to talk about it is Simon Pressley from Propertyology.
Simon, let’s talk about this, because we’re talking here about 39 locations from around Australia where the median house price is below $400,000. Surely, that is affordable.
Simon: If you can’t afford that, I don’t think you’re in a position to be buying property; you just need to get back to saving. But that’s a lot of choices, isn’t it?
Kevin: It certainly is. There’s a great report that I’ll tell you about that you can get access to on the Propertyology website, and we’re going to tell you about the areas and the states where you’ll find these. But just before we do, Simon, can I ask you, what was the criteria you used to identify these?
Simon: What we did is, I guess, motivated by Sydney and Melbourne now having several consecutive months of price declines, and that’s being reported as if property markets are struggling nationally. They’re not. So, we came up with a list of 39 locations with a median house price of $400,000 or less, so it ticks the affordability box.
They all have diverse economies, so we’re not talking one industry, local beach chalets, or mining towns, or anything like that. They all have essential infrastructure. They all have good quality lifestyles, whether it’s sea change, tree change, all sorts of lifestyle features. They all have increasing demand for housing – this is the kicker, increasing demand – for housing because of very much improving economic conditions.
The time to buy, to invest in a market, is before the growth cycle starts.
Kevin: Absolutely. One of the points you mentioned there, one of those criteria, lifestyle is something that I think we tend to overlook. With an aging population, the ability to go and live in a very affordable area with a great lifestyle is something that I think a lot of people who live in the city tend to overlook.
Simon: Absolutely, they do. Perhaps a lot of the capital city folks have never lived anywhere other than the capital city. And this is Australia’s fault for not doing more to promote regional Australia.
The facts are that one in three Australians choose not to live in a capital city. Propertyology gets out to these regional markets every year all throughout the year, and it’s common that they say to us that the capital city folks are the ones who are the strange ones – living in expensive cities, long commutes to work, lots of stress. And when you go to these places, you understand what they’re saying; they do have a really good quality lifestyle.
Kevin: Another point, too, is renovation. Some folks wouldn’t think twice about spending $400,000 on a renovation, and that can actually buy you a property in one of these locations.
Simon: Yes, that’s right. Especially those in Sydney or Melbourne where trade labor is expensive and properties are expensive. They’ll build a new kitchen and add a bathroom or a bedroom for a growing family and before they know it, they’ve spent $400,000. In large parts of regional Australia, for that $400,000, you’ve got a quarter-acre block in a beautiful, quiet neighborhood and a really good quality three- or four-bedroom house.
Kevin: Let’s have a look around the country. Was it in all states? Did you find them in every state of Australia?
Simon: We did. 39 locations, at least one in every state. The Northern Territory only has the one but it’s still featured, that being Katherine. But it was quite widespread. Queensland and New South Wales both had nine locations, South Australia had five, Tasmania had four, Western Australia had three, and Victoria had eight. So, plenty of choices right throughout the country.
Kevin: Can you name some of them for us?
Simon: I’d love to. In no particular order, Western Australia has places like Albany, a strong port city with a great seaside location in the southern part of the state. Also Busselton, and in the Midwest, Geraldton.
In Victoria, places like Ararat that have already performed reasonably well. There are property markets like that. Ballarat is also a strong market, a real one to watch in the next few years, and Bendigo. Both Bendigo and Ballarat have populations of around 100,000, so they’re really strong regional cities.
Where else have we got? South Gippsland has a strong agriculture sector, and agriculture features a lot in our list of 39. It is officially Australia’s most improved industry over the last 12 or 18 months, and we expect that to stay strong for quite some time. Wodonga as well is in Victoria.
Queensland, in no particular order, we have places like Ipswich, Logan, and Moreton Bay on the outskirts of metropolitan Brisbane, but up and down the coast, we have places like Mackay, Rockhampton, Townsville. We’ve spoken a lot about Cairns in the show already; really exciting outlook for the Cairns’ economy. And let’s not forget Toowoomba as well in Queensland.
New South Wales is expensive. Regional cities like Newcastle and Wollongong are still among Australia’s top six most expensive cities, but you get further up and down the coast and then especially inland and you have lots of places, like Tamworth. Armidale, officially Australia’s highest regional city and a strong agriculture and university precinct. You also have Dubbo, which has had several years of really strong economic performance. Griffith, another really strong agricultural precinct.
South Australia: most of South Australia’s population lives in Adelaide, but we suspect that Port Augusta is going to perform quite strongly over the next few years. Port Lincoln has some potential as well.
Let’s not forget Tasmania and its strong economy. Burnie, Devonport, and Launceston all have a healthy outlook, and a typical property is between $250,000 and $350,000.
Kevin: Just talking about Tasmania for a moment, too, I will mention again that you were the first person to identify Hobart and its potential, and that was quite some years ago.
I think there’s a lot of really good information behind this report, and you can see all of those areas and the evidence behind that in the report on the website at Propertyology.com.au.
I want to thank you very much for spending some time with us again and for letting us know about this report and these areas. Very interesting. Thanks for your time.
Simon: Thanks, Kevin. We’ll be talking soon. I have some great jobs data to share with you next time we have a chat.
Kevin: Okay. I look forward to that. Thank you. Simon Pressley from Propertyology. Thanks, mate.
Simon: Talk then.
House vs unit for depreciation – Brad Beer
Kevin: Investors might be curious to know whether there is any difference in the depreciation deductions that they can claim for a house versus a unit. This type of information can also be useful for those tossing up their options when planning to make an investment purchase or to add to their existing property portfolio.
Brad Beer from BMT Tax Depreciation, which type of residential property – houses or units – generally provides more depreciation deductions for investors?
Good day, Brad. How are you doing?
Brad: Great, Kevin. Great to be here as always. Interesting question, and a couple of things to consider to start with. One is that I’m the depreciation guy, but depreciation is not your only reason for buying one or the other.
A lot of people think that the houses will actually have high depreciation. If you talk to people outside of the people who know – me and my guys – they’ll think houses get more deductions, but it’s actually generally not the case. Units actually generally get more. There are more deductions for units than houses usually.
Kevin: What’s the reason for that?
Brad: The reason is that the depreciation that you claim doesn’t really relate to the value of the property; it relates to the cost of construction of that property and the things that are in that property that you can claim – the plant and equipment.
When you buy a unit, you buy a bit of land, you buy a bit more construction, but you also buy a lot of common areas. You pay for a portion of the underground car park, the lift, all those sorts of things. So, there is more construction cost in a unit as a percentage of your buy than there is in a house.
With a house, you get a big piece of land. With a unit, you get a little piece of land, effectively.
Kevin: Common property, you mentioned that, and you’ve given us a couple of really good examples there. Are there others that you can give us? And is it all about the common property? Is that why?
Brad: It’s a combination of things. The fact that when you buy a unit, whatever you pay for it, a lot of what you’re buying is actually the unit because you’re only buying your portion as a percentage of the small piece of land that the block of units sit on, but the other thing is those common areas.
Lift is a good example, because it’s a plant and equipment item, so you get to claim it quicker. Underground car park is just a highly expensive item, and it is part of the building that you get 2.5% of. But there are a lot of those things that all add up.
Things like swimming pool filters, gym equipment, washing machines if they exist, automatic garage doors that are usually a bit more expensive than the one on your residential house, everything that’s in the common area, you own a piece of, so you get to depreciate your piece of it.
Kevin: You mentioned car parks, and quite often, these car parks are underground. I’ve actually seen some where they have to have some fairly expensive pumping equipment installed as well for land flow and overflow and that sort of thing. It really can mount up, And even the cost of lifts is quite high, isn’t it?
Brad: The cost of a lift is high, and also because they’re plant and equipment, you get to claim them a bit quicker.
When we do a depreciation schedule on a house, it has a list of items – the stove, the carpet, and things – whereas if you’re in a large, multi-unit complex as you’re talking about there, these pumps downstairs that pump out the water should something go wrong are plant and equipment items. They have a value. You get your portion of those. Everything that’s down put in that car park, you get to claim a piece of, effectively, pretty much.
Kevin: Can we talk about another issue? And that is the age of the building. How does that have an impact on the deductions that a quantity surveyor is going to find, whether they are looking at a house or a unit?
Brad: Whether you are a house or a unit, the age of the building does have an impact on the deductions you’re able to claim. The first thing I’d say is I almost don’t want to give you the important dates because the simple thing is [4:16 inaudible] going to get deductions, because regardless of the age of the building, you may or may not have much deductions. Ask the question first rather than trying to work it out yourself.
However, we will talk about the age a little bit. There are two parts of deductions you are able to claim. One is the deduction on the structure of the building, and the other is against that plant and equipment, just like we’re talking about lifts, etc. In order to claim on the structure of the building, it needs to be built, if it’s residential, after 1997.
With our Budget changes last year – the federal Budget in May – that plant and equipment in a secondhand property is not even claimable anymore, so there are a few more things that the age comes into as an important question.
But still, what I say is whatever the age of the property is, you ask the question and if you’re crunching your numbers, one of those questions you have to ask is “How much are you going to pay for it? How much interest am I going to pay? How much depreciation will I get?” Something built after 1997 now gets more than something before 1997, which has always been the case, but it’s now more the case based on something you’re looking at now.
The important thing is as you’re looking at properties, yes, newer gets more, after 1997 gets more, but it still comes down to use the simple tools, get a simple estimate of these things, crunch the numbers overall before you go ahead and look at the purchase. Age will be an important little piece of that question, one of many you have to ask yourself.
Kevin: Very valuable information. Brad, thank you so much. Brad Beer from BMT Tax Depreciation. Thanks for your time, mate.
Brad: Thanks, Kevin. Always a pleasure.
The making of a great buyers agent – Cate Bakos
Kevin: Here it is. We are, in fact, talking to Australia’s number one buyer’s agent who has just been crowned as Your Investment Property’s number one buyer’s agent in the country, Cate Bakos from Melbourne.
Hello, Cate. Nice to be talking to you, and congratulations.
Cate: Thank you. It means a lot. You can tell I’m still in shock, somewhat.
Kevin: Good on you. It was only last week that we had you in our sister program, Real Estate Uncut, talking to real estate agents all around Australia and New Zealand about what you do as a buyer’s agent, so well done, Cate.
Cate: Thank you. It was good to share some commonality.
Kevin: It was, indeed. I notice that you say that you don’t consider yourself as a buyer’s advocate; instead, you’re an agent for change with a mission to solve problems to help people. The role of the buyer’s agent is becoming a lot more important, isn’t it, Cate?
Cate: It is, it’s getting more recognition, but I think it’s also very important because we’ve had some enormously challenging times over the last few years in our seller’s market regions and it’s really come to the fore for a lot of people who needed that extra help.
Kevin: Of course, you established your own business, Cate Bakos Property, and you’re now pushing the envelope in terms of its success. Last year, very successful.
Cate: Thank you. We certainly worked hard. And one thing I really need to say upfront is that there is no way I could do this on my own; I have an incredible team of people behind me. I work with three full-time women who just make every day a joy. They manage me most of the time, so I feel very, very fortunate that I have such a great work team.
Kevin: Interesting that they’re all women. I don’t know whether that’s been a deliberate focus for you, but it’s something that’s fascinated me for quite a while, and that is whether women are much more intuitive. Do they click into the conversation about what a buyer needs more so than men? I know that’s a generalization, Cate.
Cate: I think not necessarily. To answer the first question, I didn’t design it. I didn’t engineer a team of all women deliberately. We’ve all kind of fallen together, and interestingly, everyone who works with me hasn’t come through the normal HR channels. They’ve found their way to me through the community or Facebook or been a past client, or whatever it might be. I feel very fortunate in that regard, because applying HR principles and going through all of the interviewing is not something that I’ve been trained to do. We’ve all just found each other.
I think women are very intuitive. We all multi-task. Our office is just crazy, with files and phone calls and all of us chatting to each other all the time. It’s a lot of fun. It’s obviously high stakes, but it can be very high energy and lots of high stress, and they just deal with it so well.
Kevin: In the article, too, in Your Investment Property Magazine where they’re acknowledging your success, they say that before getting into property, you studied chemistry. That’s quite a switch.
Cate: Yes, it was a switch. I don’t think I was a very good chemist, to be honest, Kevin. I didn’t love it, I didn’t have the passion for it, and it’s a very lonely role if you’re doing the kind of chemistry that I was, which was air-sensitive. So, you’re not hanging out with people and talking to lots of people; in fact, you’re working away from people because in a sense, it kind of explosive. If you make a mistake, it will blow up.
Kevin: Why property? Why did you choose property?
Cate: I was always interested in property. I started off as an investor or a homeowner at a pretty young age. I was 21 when I got my first deposit together and bought a property. I found all of it hugely rewarding but really exciting.
I remember in my honors year, instead of doing my experiments and writing up my thesis, I was spending a lot more time researching auction clearance rates and trends and suburbs to keep an eye on. I probably should have just listened to my own heart, but you do what you think you should do when you’re that age and you try and finish your degree and make your parents proud, and I guess that’s what happened.
But I certainly lean on the analysis that I was able to utilize during that time, and I apply it now.
Kevin: You chose to open your own business, Cate Bakos Property, that we’ve already mentioned. You would have, obviously, had the opportunity to join other buyer’s agency business but you elected to open your own office. Why was that?
Cate: I was working for another firm for four years prior to that. And they were great; I grew some wings and went my own way. But I learned a lot and I had some fabulous people around me then. There was no point in leaving a great organization to leave another organization, so if I was doing this, I was doing it for myself.
It was a real challenge and it was obviously a little bit scary and exciting all wrapped up together, but I knew I could do it.
Kevin: I’ve interviewed you on a number of occasions for both of our shows, Real Estate Talk and Real Estate Uncut, and I’ve followed your career. I remember those early days of you sticking your toe in the water and opening your own business. Was that a scary experience for you, Cate, or were you full of confidence that it was going to work?
Cate: A bit of both. It’s always scary. I remember signing up for a photocopier, this big unit, and Xerox said to me, “If you’re signing this equipment lease sheet, essentially, you’re responsible for this.” I said, “We’ve negotiated our monthly repayments. What am I actually signing? Talk me through it.”
They said, “If you want to break your agreement, you’ll owe us $11,000,” and I remember thinking “Oh my gosh, I’m really doing this. I’m signing a lease for a business, I’m getting equipment. I have to do this.”
I knew I could, but of course, it’s scary. You pull all your collateral together and get ready to serve clients, and then you open your door on day one and it’s petrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.
Kevin: That moment when you put the key in the door for the first time and you know you’re actually opening your business to the public – and I’ve spoken to many people who have opened businesses – that is a very, very exciting and thrilling time, isn’t it?
Cate: It is. It certainly is. I remember starting as small as I could and biting off as little as I could in terms of expenses, just to make sure that I could focus on everything and start small and get it exactly where I wanted it. I’m still boutique to this day and I don’t have any aspirations to be a massive, big business. But I remember those days when it took a lot of guts, but it was also a really exciting challenge, and I was ready for it.
Kevin: In your own words, you say you don’t want a very big business; you have a very successful business and you also play a very important role an industry level working with other great buyer’s agents in the REBAA organization, the Real Estate Buyer’s Agents of Australia. That’s a key role for you, isn’t it? It gives you the opportunity to influence the industry a bit.
Cate: Yes, it’s a really important role, and it was an honor to get that position. Probably the most exciting thing for me is that I’m working with and rubbing shoulders with amazing people across the country. We talk, we get together each year for our conference, but we stay in touch as well. We see each other, we ask quite a few questions.
I really value the friendships and connections that I’ve got through REBAA and I love that we’re standing for something strong and looking after the interest of the buyers, and we have a really strict code of conduct.
I’ve certainly experienced a lot of personal growth by taking on the role and there’s a lot more to come, but most importantly, I really admire the people I work with.
Kevin: I believe you also have a policy where you assist at least one gratis client per quarter, someone who is identified as really needing the care of a buyer’s agent. It’s a wonderful thing to give back like that, but has that been a great learning experience for you as well, Cate?
Cate: Not so much a learning experience; it’s just a really special experience. They’re like no others because they’re the people who really need you and for whatever reason, can’t afford you. I think if everyone could have access to a buyer’s agent, what a great world that would be, but that’s not the reality.
It’s a huge investment of our time and resources, but it does feel very special. And it lets my staff get involved in helping someone who really appreciates it, and it makes an enormous difference to that individual or that family’s life when we can do that, so I have no intention of changing that policy.
Kevin: Congratulations, Cate. It’s a pleasure to talk to you and especially a pleasure for us to be able to congratulate you on taking out Your Investment Property’s number one buyer’s agent award for this year.
Congratulations, Cate, and I look forward to talking to you again in the near future.
Cate: Thanks, Kevin. It means a lot.
False positive for Sydney – Peter Koulitzos
Kevin: You would definitely be excused for thinking that the property world revolves around Sydney. Here are some staggering figures that have just hit my desk, and I was absolutely amazed with them. Sydney may not have recorded the highest growth figures, believe it or not, over the last 15 years if you look at the long-term performance.
These are some figures that have just been released by the Property Investment Professionals of Australia. Joining us to talk about that is the chairperson of PIPA, Peter Koulitzos.
Peter, I was staggered when I read these figures. Were you surprised as well?
Peter: I was surprised as well because Sydney has been in the headlines in the last few years, but really, Sydney was just playing catch-up. Because if we go over the 15-year period, Sydney didn’t do much in the first ten years, whereas the rest of Australia did quite well. So really, in the last five years, Sydney was playing catch-up. But even though it was playing catch-up, it wasn’t able to catch up to the performance of all the other capital cities over the past 15 years.
Kevin: Yes, some great lessons out of this, too, and we’ll pick up on those in just a moment. Can I get some of those stats from you, though, Peter? Tell me about some of the other cap cities around Australia that have actually outperformed Sydney.
Peter: All right. Sydney property prices increased by 142%. Next was Canberra at 146%, Adelaide at 147%, Perth at 159%, Brisbane at 160%, Darwin at 161%, a bit of a jump to Melbourne at 208%, and if it surprised you that Sydney was the worst-performing city, it really surprised me that Hobart was the best-performing capital city over the last 15 years with a price increase of 220%. In other words, property prices in Hobart more than tripled in the last 15 years.
Kevin: Yes, steady as she goes, some of these markets. We were talking there about Hobart. I know we’ve been talking about Hobart now for the last 18 months, about how outstanding that market has been, but really, you have to go back over the last 18 years to say “Well, maybe there aren’t really many surprises there.” But that really shocked me.
The established house price index – the weighted average for eight capital cities – was in fact 161%, which was pretty much lineball with what happened in, say, the Brisbane market. I think once again this comes back to Brisbane being consistently a good market when you look at the average across Australia. I think the Brisbane market over the last 15 years was 160%.
Peter: Correct. Yes, it has been around the average. As you say, Brisbane is a good, steady market. We generally don’t see the big ups and downs as we see in particular in Sydney, but as you mentioned before, it’s steady as she goes in Brisbane.
Kevin: Yes, 142%. What do you put that down to? That Sydney market is extremely volatile. You get the very high peaks and the high growth, and then you have a big drop. That’s pretty much been the Sydney market, Peter, hasn’t it?
Peter: It has. And if we went back probably 25 years, we may have a slightly different story, because if we went back 25 years, that would include the preparation for the Sydney Olympics and the Sydney Olympics themselves. There was a lot of economic activity happening in Sydney just before the Olympics and obviously during the Olympics, and then there was a lull.
I would imagine many people would hold properties for 15 years, so if you are going to hold property for the long term, then trying to time the market is not as important. For example, if you were looking to buy and hold property just for five years, then timing the market is very important – when you buy and when you sell is very important. But if you’re going in for a longer-term period, then there are ups and downs in all markets.
The ups and downs are, say, bigger in Sydney than they are in Brisbane, but the beauty about property prices – especially over the last hundred years – is that they have outpaced the rate of inflation, so it has certainly been a very worthwhile asset to invest in.
Kevin: Yes, a great lesson there for investors to not just follow the herd but really look into the figures and look at the history. This once again highlights the fact that property is a very strong long-term investment.
Peter: It certainly is. And the other amazing thing, Kevin, is this 15-year period included the Global Financial Crisis, which is apparently the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and every capital city – including Sydney – more than doubled in price in that time. Melbourne and Hobart actually more than tripled in price.
So, not only is Australian property a great asset to invest in, but the Australian economy has done particularly well compared to the rest of the world since the Global Financial Crisis.
Kevin: Yes, a great story and certainly an eye-opener for me and I think for many other people as well. Peter Koulitzos has been my guest. Peter is the chairperson of PIPA, the Property Investment Professionals of Australia.
Peter, thanks again for your time and that interesting insight.
Peter: My pleasure. Thank you, Kevin.
Caution around asbestos – Andrew Mackie-Smith
Kevin: What do you do when you go to renovate a property and it has asbestos in it or you think it might have asbestos? What do you do, how do you go about it, how costly can it be, and what are your obligations with that?
Joining me to talk about this, a building inspector of some note who’s been a regular guest on our show. I’m talking to Andrew Mackie-Smith from BuildingPro.
Andrew, thank you so much for your time. Andrew, of course, is the author of a great book called Building Success. It’s available in most good bookstores, I think, Andrew, isn’t it?
Andrew: Yes, some good bookstores, but definitely on Amazon, Kevin.
Kevin: Oh, good. Okay, you can get it on Amazon. It’s a great book because it goes into a lot of detail about some very basic issues to do with building. One of those is asbestos. As I said in the opening, what do you do when you think you might have a property that has asbestos in it?
Andrew, I know this is a concern for many people. How do we go about finding out if we do have asbestos in there, and what should do we do about it?
Andrew: There are some simple tests you can do as a home-owner. You can do what’s called a tap test where you tap on the sheeting. Most asbestos in homes in Australia are bound up in cement sheet products. This is the corrugated AC roofing and the sheeting that’s used as cladding internally and externally. It’s also used in backing of vinyl tiles and other areas.
But on the sheeting for ceilings, walls, etc., you can generally do a tap test. You tap on it with a sharp object, like the back of a screwdriver or just your knuckles. If it’s a very hard, sharp sound, that can indicate that it is asbestos and not the regular sheeting. You can also do small scratch tests.
But I would advise people not to do those rudimentary tests and to just go for a professional asbestos audit. It costs about $500. Have it done and find out for sure.
Kevin: One thing that worries me about the tap test and that scratch test is that with asbestos, you have to be very careful with how you handle it, and it should be wet first, because those asbestos fibers are what cause all the damage, Andrew, aren’t they?
Andrew: Absolutely. There’s a lot of sensationalism about asbestos and the risks of it, Kevin. At the end of the day, the worldwide medical research is that if you’re exposed and inhale only a few fibers, it’s an incredibly low risk. But if you inhale a lot of fibers over a long period of time, like an industrial type of exposure, then that’s obviously a high risk. Much like, say, exposure to cigarette smoke or something, the higher the exposure the more risk. So, we don’t want to sensationalize the risk.
Most products in homes are safe if the asbestos is bound up in a sheet. If it’s lose – like if it’s in insulation – that’s a risk and dangerous, and that should be professionally removed. It’s important – as you mentioned – not to cut it, drill it or do anything to mechanically abrade the surface so that you get dust, because it’s breathing in that asbestos dust that’s a danger.
When we talk about a scratch test, yes, you moisten the area and just give it a light little scratch. That’s not really any significant risk of exposure to a person in doing that test.
But you can get laboratory tests done. It costs about $60 for each sample, and if you go online, you can find labs and they will describe how you can safely take a sample and send it off to their labs through the post – that’s legit – and get it tested.
Kevin: Yes, I suppose just Google would be the best place to start, and if you really want to go to the full extent and you have a house and you’re not quite sure, you can always get the audit that Andrew mentioned as well. That’s an asbestos audit.
My advice is to take all precautions when you’re dealing with it and to make sure you do your homework.
Andrew, thank you for joining us and updating us on asbestos. Thank you very much for your time.
Andrew: Thanks, Kevin. Thanks for having me on the show. Cheers.