Finance broker Andrew Mirams tells us what valuers look for in a property and his thoughts may just help you get your next investment property over the line with the lender.
Property valuer Gavin Hulcombe tells us what he thinks adds value to a property and what doesn’t. Great advice if you are looking to renovate with a view to adding value ready for re-sale.
Margaret Lomas explains why positive cash flow property investment is not a strategy and how the same property, if owned by two different investors, could deliver a totally different outcome.
Many Australians have chosen to invest in property to develop financial freedom and get themselves out of the rat race. Michael Yardney believes that as they take their investment journey, they fit into one of five levels of wealth. Find out where you fit.
Ed Chan joins us to answer a question from Robyn. She is confused about some conflicting advice on the available tax benefits on replaced items in an investment property.
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What really adds value to a property? – Gavin Hulcombe
Kevin: I often wonder with property whether or not there are any improvements you can add to a property that would always add value, and which, in fact, are the ones that don’t add value. I’ve spoken to a lot of investors who believe putting in a pool is going to add a lot of value, maybe adding another bedroom might do just that.
Let’s try and find out from a valuer what he believes does actually give you extra bang for your buck when you’re doing renovations.
Gavin Hulcombe is the chairman of Herron Todd White Trading and also Queensland managing director for Herron Todd White.
Gavin, thanks for your time.
Kevin: Gavin, in your experience, are there any areas of a property that will always add value?
Gavin: I think I’m always a bit cautious about saying always, but I think there are areas where you have the best potential for adding value. I think if you start focusing on the kitchens, the bathrooms, outdoor living areas, that’s what really draws a lot of the lifestyle decisions that people make.
That’s what they see as being most important, so I think if you do it right and if you do it well and you don’t get too carried away in terms of over-capitalization, I think they’re the areas that I’d be concentrating on.
Kevin: Are there some areas that are purely there for lifestyle that probably won’t add any value? I’m citing here pools as an example.
Gavin: Of course, that’s always the first one that comes to mind. That’s a lifestyle decision not a financial decision in most cases. They look great, they’re great in the summers and those sort of things, but it is really a lifestyle decision; it’s not a financial decision.
As a general rule of thumb, you would like to get about half your money back on a pool, depending on where it is. Tennis courts can be a bit the same, albeit you don’t fit tennis courts on most suburban blocks. Yes, there are a few things like that, which are really about improving the livability rather than adding value.
Kevin: What about things like double garages or even adding a bedroom to a property?
Gavin: Look, it’s one of these things that is a bit difficult to generalize. Certainly, the second garage is really important, particularly if it’s a family area and the expectation is that you want to be able to garage two cars. Then yes, in those areas, the second garage is really important.
There are other areas where lifestyles are changing. People are saying, “Well, actually I don’t need a car.” If you’re living near city locations and everything’s within walking distance or there’s good public transport, then the second car is less important. Again, you probably just have to do your research and understand the local drivers of the market, rather than getting caught up in generalizations.
Bedrooms, they’re often expensive. Any additions like that often will cost you more on a rate per square meter than what you could buy the original property for. But I think one of the things to really take into account is the cost of selling the house and buying another house verses adding additional rooms or extensions.
On a $500,000 house, the transfer costs alone are something like 7.5% of that, so it’s a substantial cost that you lose just by selling a property and buying another one. Sometimes if you step back and say actually, if you reinvest that money into an extension or modifications, you actually end up better off rather than selling and buying again.
Kevin: I think you make a very good point there, too, and that is looking at some of the additions you can make to a property. It probably depends on its location. As an example, an outdoor living area is probably going to be more attractive in, say, a Queensland market as opposed to a Victorian market or an area where it’s a lot colder. Would that be true?
Gavin: Absolutely. And even aspect – if it’s a northeast aspect where you’re adding your living area, then that becomes very livable. If it’s direct west facing or it has no outlook, then the added value is perhaps limited.
Yes, it is the specifics, but as you say, quite rightly, if this is an area where it really does facilitate outdoor living, ala Queensland, then that’s where people want to be, and certainly, they will pay more for it there then somewhere where you’re exposed to the elements and it’s just not a very pleasant environment to sit.
Kevin: Gavin, thank you so much for your time. It’s been great talking to you.
Gavin: You’re welcome. Thank you.
The 5 levels of wealth – Michael Yardney
Kevin: My good friend Michael Yardney has developed a wealth pyramid, a pyramid of financial independence. There are four steps to that, and we’re going to look at those steps today as we talk to Michael.
Good morning, Michael, and thanks again for joining us.
Michael: Thanks, Kevin.
Kevin: Many Australian have chosen – haven’t they – to invest in property, develop their financial freedom and get themselves out of the rat race. I know you’ve analyzed this with a number of people you work with and you come up with these different levels.
What’s the first level, Michael?
Michael: Let’s talk about this pyramid first, and then – you’re right – we’ll talk about the four steps and how to work your way up.
I think it’s interesting for us to consider where are we sitting at this? Level zero is really what I call financial instability. Since most Australians still today live from paycheck to paycheck, they really are at this level, Kevin. They’re financially unstable. I’m not saying they’re poor, but if they lose their job, if they have an emergency, if they have an illness or their car breaks down, they have no money reserves, they have nothing to cope.
How can they handle these unexpected burdens that life dishes out? Often, the only way they can is to borrow more, get further into debt, and this only creates more financial hardship. The bottom level is financial instability.
Kevin: It’s a bit like lurching, isn’t it? You lurch from one disaster to another, really.
Michael: Yes. Interestingly, when they earn more, it doesn’t help them any. They end up spending more, and somehow or another, they make sure that the money just lasts out the month or, in general, it’s the other way around; it actually cuts out a few days before the end of the month.
Kevin: How do you achieve the first level? How do you start to become independent, Michael?
Michael: The next step is to go up a level in this pyramid that I call financial stability. To achieve this most basic level, you have to be at the level where you’ve accumulated enough liquid assets – it could be savings, it could be money in a line of credit, or something like that – to cover your current expenses for a minimum of six months, so you’re financially stable if things go wrong. You have your private health insurance, you have some life insurance to protect you and your family’s lifestyle if something goes wrong.
You attain this financial stability and then you suddenly get a bit of a comfort. You feel a little bit of the pressure off. You’re not as much on the treadmill, knowing that if anything unexpected comes along, your family’s lifestyle won’t be unduly compromised. You’re going to have adequate time to look for new sources of income to put you back on track again, Kevin.
Kevin: This is the foundation, Michael. From here, do you start to build?
Michael: Yes, you do. We’ll talk about how you get there next, but as we work up the levels of the pyramid, level two is what I call financial security. Where you started at instability, stability, and financial security – which is where many people want to get – is they’ve now accumulated enough assets – maybe it’s a sufficiently large property portfolio – to generate enough passive income to cover their most basic expenses. This would be things like your mortgage and your tax payments, your car expenses, and your grocery bills.
When you reach this level of financial security, you could stop working and maintain – I guess – a very simple, a very basic lifestyle. But smart property investors want to go further than that, Kevin…
Kevin: What is the next level?
Michael: …To get to what I call financial freedom. Level three is financial freedom. You’re financially free when you’ve accumulated sufficient assets to generate enough passive income not to only maintain the lifestyle you desire – not your current lifestyle but the lifestyle you desire – but it’s also going to help pay all of your expenses without ever having to work again. That, in my mind, is by building a substantial asset base that you then eventually lower your loan-to-value ratio and get a cash machine.
When you’re a successful investor, you don’t have to work again, but interestingly, we find that a lot of people still do, don’t they?
Kevin: Because they enjoy it, Michael. They enjoy what they’re doing.
Michael: That is right.
The next and the last level in my mind is financial abundance, level four. A small group of sophisticated property investors achieve what I call financial abundance. That’s when their portfolio works overtime. They’re free of all of the financial pressures, and they have enough surplus income that it not only pays for their lifestyle and all their expenses but then they start contributing back to the community, often through charitable work, sometimes through donations. But despite that, their asset base keeps growing. It’s sort of working overtime compounding. That’s the real cash machine in my mind, Kevin.
Kevin: How do you move on, Michael? How do you climb up to becoming the top?
Michael: In my mind, there are four steps to it, Kevin. The first one is to decide to become wealthy. I know that sounds basic, and most people say, “Yes, I’ve already decided,” but most Australians actually never make a firm commitment.
Life gets in the way, they’re busy, they’re having their children, they’re building their homes, they’re enjoying their life, they’re traveling, and so what they are not doing is putting a firm plan into place. You have to truly commit to getting yourself financially independent to become wealthy, step one.
Then step two is invest in your financial education. If you’re a beginning investor, you have to focus on increasing your financial education to fast track your success. There are all these great resources like Real Estate Talk with all of the experts you have on your show, going to seminars, watching DVDs, great podcasts like this.
If you’re a more experienced investor, your priority is to grow your asset base sufficiently to become financially free. But you have to keep learning even when you get to that level, so you learn more about finance and tax and asset protection.
The third step is don’t wait until you know it all to get started because if you do, you’re never going to take the first step. One of the things I’ve learned early in the piece was the paradox of knowledge: the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.
Many people say, “If I knew it all, I’d be safe; once I get all this right and know exactly where the market is, I’ll start doing things.” How do you know when to invest? Kevin, in my mind, you have to have the courage and conviction to take action knowing that you’ll never know it all but you’re going to learn along the way, educating yourself as you move up the ladder.
The last of the four steps is surround yourself with like-minded people. There is no such thing in my mind as a self-made millionaire. Every financially independent investor I know has surrounded themselves with a smart team of advisors and professionals and like-minded individuals. They get a mentor, they join other people who have similar journeys planned, and that way, they can get there a lot faster and safer, and it makes the journey much more pleasant.
Kevin: The wonderful thing about money and wealth – I’ve read this in one of your books, too, Michael – is that it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are, who you think you are or even what your parents thought or did or even said to you. It doesn’t discriminate at all, does it?
Michael: No. Each day starts with a clean slate, which means you have the same rights and the same opportunities as everyone else, so my suggestion is start making your way up that investment ladder to financial freedom today.
Kevin: Great words. Thank you, Michael. Lovely talking to you.
Michael Yardney: My pleasure, Kevin.
The facts about tax benefits on replacement items – Ed Chan
Kevin: We’re going to answer a question on the show now that came in from Robyn. Thanks for the question. And by the way, keep those questions coming in; just send them in through the website. Ed Chan is going to answer this question for us. Hi, Ed.
Thank you for joining us in the show.
Ed: Hi, Kevin. Thanks for having me.
Kevin: Ed Chan, of course, from Chan & Naylor. The e-mail question from Robyn says, “Thank you for a wonderful show. I’ve been listening for a number of years and have gained an enormous amount of knowledge.” Thank you, Robyn. We really appreciate your feedback.
Robyn says that she has replaced a number of items in her rental property this year, 2015–2016, held in her own personal name. She understood from our program that she could claim up to $800 as an example – it was a couple who owned the property together, tenants in common – yet her accountant says that she can only climb up to $300 and others have to be depreciated. Can we please help?
Robyn, we will. We’ll ask that question of Ed Chan.
Ed, what would be your answer to Robyn?
Ed: I’m not familiar with the $800 limit that you made reference to. When you spend money on a property, it’s generally to bring the property back to what its original conditions were, and it falls into two categories. It’s either repairs and maintenance or it’s capital.
If it’s repairs and maintenance, it’s allowed fully as a tax deduction. The definition of repairs and maintenance is to replace what was there with a similar material. For example, it was a wooden fence and you replaced it with another wooden fence; that’s deemed a repair, so it’s 100% deductible.
However, if you improve the fence from a wooden fence to a brick fence, then that’s an improvement on what you had before, and that constitutes a capital improvement. With capital improvements, you can only depreciate the item, and the depreciation rates range between 2.5% to about 30%. Over a five-year period, you’ll be able to claim the whole lot back.
Kevin: There you go, Robyn. I hope that’s clarified for you. I’m sure it has.
Ed Chan from Chan & Naylor, thank you so much for your time. It’s always great to have you on the show. Thanks, mate.
Ed: Thanks for having me, Kevin.
How to tickle the banks fancy – Andrew Mirams
Kevin: Earlier in the show, we were talking to Gavin Hulcombe from Herron Todd White, who was talking about what improvements to a property actually add value. There is another aspect about values, and I want to ask this question of a financier, and that is what, in his opinion, do valuers look for in a property, and what are the key things that he’ll look at.
Andrew Mirams from Intuitive Finance joins us.
Andrew, thanks again for your time.
Andrew: My pleasure Kevin. Thanks for having me.
Kevin: In your experience, what is it that valuers look for? What’s going to impact the valuation of a residential property?
Andrew: There are a couple things that a valuer would look at. Probably the first key is the way it’s presented, it’s aspect, is it neat and tidy, is it in a good state of repair, or is it run down, does it need work? All that sort of things a valuer will look at.
If instructed from a bank, they’re looking at how do they get out? If the client can’t meet their payments and they have to sell it, what’s their get out? How do they realize the property to get their funds back?
The first thing to get a great valuation is present your property really well. Tart it up. Make it neat and tidy, as if you’re almost preparing it for sale. So that’s probably the first tip: when someone’s having a valuer come around present the property as if you’re going to go sell it.
Kevin: That’s a very good point. I just pick you up on that, too, I think valuers will look at it very, very commercially so you take the emotion out of it and they’ll look at it as a buyer will look at it.
Andrew: Absolutely – and/or an agent would want to sell it to attract the best possible price. If you’re trying to get a premium for your property, please present it in a great manner. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have some evidence with you of how you might have arrived at that sales figure.
Andrew: I guess in terms of getting to a figure, just what do they look at? There are a couple of methods they’ll use. The first one’s called a comparable or comparison method. The second one is called a summation method.
With the first one, really what they’re looking at is your property might be a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-car-space in a suburb in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, wherever it is. They look at like properties that are selling as yours, with a similar aspect, similar finishes, and what sort of market or what sort of salability they’re going for in your market. That’s pretty much how they get to a comparable.
On occasion when we get a difference of opinion, I guess it always comes down to a valuer’s opinion of what a comparable is and what a client and/or financier’s opinion of what a comparable might be.
The second method I said was a summation method. Really, that takes into effect the value of your land, the value of the improvements – it’s the house, pool, garage, landscaping, anything that might be in nature architecturally or anything else like that in relation to the property.
For example, in Melbourne, you can often get a great premium for your Edwardian, Victorian places with the beautiful lattice and things like that, if they’re presented really well because they’re unique and they have a rarity or scarcity factor.
They’re the two methods that people look at, Kevin, when all the value they look at when they’re looking to make a decision.
Kevin: Do they use a combination of both of those methods or is it one and/or the other?
Andrew: It’s probably fair to say a combination, but that’s really property specific, then. It’s probably fair to say they’ll use the summation to look at what they think it would cost you to buy that land and put those improvements on it.
I think that needs to be supported by “Does that stack up in the market in terms of what other places that are similar to these level of improvements and features that are getting in the market, as well?” It will generally be a combination.
Kevin: Yes. That second one that you mentioned is something you can have very little influence over is. The size, the shape, the location, the views – all of those are built into the property, you can’t change them. But you certainly can have some impact on that comparison method.
Andrew: Absolutely. The level of your improvements and how you maintain them, as I said earlier, is probably the real key that you can have an impact over.
Just because you’ve had your first and second child there, and that’s emotional for you, that doesn’t matter to the valuer. People aren’t going pay a premium for your memories; they’re going to pay a premium for the level of features and what the market is dictating at the time.
When a valuer does go in, if you said, “Well, how then does a valuer arrive at this decision?”
often before they even go to a property, in terms of a residential property, they’ll do some research on the land, what size, and they’ll have an idea of what like properties are doing.
Then they’ll generally visit a property, if they’re doing a full valuation, go around take some photos. That’s where I have plenty of examples of valuers, if they think it’s a bit short of what a client’s opinion is, they’ll take a photo of a crack in the wall or the dishes lined up on the sink, mate. So that’s why I’m saying, have it cleaned up.
Kevin: Yes. Good stuff.
Andrew: They’ll measure the allotment of the land, they’ll look at other physical improvements, and the level of the finish, and then they’ll generally prepare and provide their report on their assessment. That’s how they arrive at a residential valuation.
Kevin: Very good insight there from Andrew Mirams at Intuitive Finance; and a great website, too. You can always link to that through Real Estate Talk, the website there. Andrew, of course, has his own channel and that will take you through to Intuitive Finance where you’ll find a lot more blogs and articles, as well.
Andrew, thank you so much for your time.
Andrew: My pleasure, Kevin. Thank you.
Why cash flow positive property is NOT a strategy – Margaret Lomas
Kevin: I remember talking to Margaret Lomas from Destiny Financial Solutions about this time last year. I said, “Margaret, how is cash flow? How do you see cash flow as a strategy?” and you rightly pointed this out to me.
Hi Margaret, how are you going?
Margaret: I’m going really well.
Kevin: Cash flow is not a strategy; it’s more an outcome.
Margaret: Exactly. I know when we did talk about this last year, you asked me whether or not it was possible for people to use positive cash flow as strategy for buying property, and I said to you then that the thing about positive cash flow is that it isn’t a strategy; it is simply a tax outcome. And because all property is different, then it’s a tax outcome that will also be different for each individual investor.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you and are were going buy a property and we found a property next door to each other. We’re going to buy them to the same price, they would rent for the same amount, and fairly similar properties.
But Kevin, you’re very wealthy, and we all know how much money you earn, so you’re in that top tax bracket. And I’m a poor, struggling writer, so I don’t pay very much tax at all. I’m right in that bottom bracket.
Also, you happen to get one that has an upgraded kitchen, it’s had a brand new bathroom, so you’ve got a bunch of on‑paper deductions that I can’t get out of my property because I don’t have those kinds of deductions available.
The bottom line for both of us will be very, very different. Even though we’re getting the same purchase price and the same rent return, you may well get a positive cash flow because you’re going to get back more of your tax dollars because you pay more tax in the first place, plus, you have all that on‑paper, which you don’t pay anything out for but you get some of your tax dollars back for.
On the other hand, I haven’t paid much tax, so there’s not much to get back. I’ve got nothing on paper, so my property is likely to be negative cash flow because I didn’t have those tax dollars to plug up the gap between income and outgoings.
Kevin: It’s a very good example, Margaret.
Let me ask you this question. People who look for positive cash-flow properties, would you say they’re more risk adverse – they just don’t want to take that risk?
Margaret: Maybe. Let’s just sort of talk about how people go through that process, because people call me all the time and say, “Look, I want to buy a positive cash flow, and I only want to buy a positive cash flow.”
What that mean is they’re seeking a property that’s going to be able to give them enough money that they’re not really dipping into their own pocket. That’s really what their strategy is and that’s what they’re aiming to achieve.
Now, we need to understand, as I just said, all properties are different. There is a basis that you can start on, though. Some properties, no matter how much tax you get back, will probably still be negative if it’s got really low yield.
And if we’re in a really low interest rate environment, then that makes it hard to get positive cash flow too, because the more money you pay in interest, then the less money you’re going to have left over to meet all of your other costs.
If we’re in a low enough interest rate environment, and if we also can find areas where the rent returns aren’t too bad – say 5 to 6% in the minimum – then we could also find properties that have a decent amount of on‑paper depreciation – so they’re properties that are a little bit newer – then you have a better chance of getting a positive cash flow.
Now, the other thing that people have to understand is that first of all, it’s unusual and unlikely for you to find a positive cash flow property that’s positive cash flow from day one. When you first buy a property, remember that at that point in time your expenses are going to be as high as they’re ever going to be, and your rent is going to be as low as it’s ever going to be.
Over time, rent goes up and expenses go down because you start to repay debt. So a property that’s negative cash flow can become positive cash flow within a couple of years of buying it. That’s the first thing.
An investor should probably seek out a property that’s likely to become positive cash flow as soon as possible, because it’s already got good rental yield. But the trap that investors fall into is in looking for this positive cash flow, they often buy areas that don’t have anything else going for it.
Margaret: The important thing to understand about cash flow is cash flow might keep you in the market because it means that you are not financially burdened by a property, but unless there are other things about that area, such as the growth drivers that I always talk about, then if the property never grows, then you’re not going to achieve anything because it’s the growth in the asset that get you out of the market when you retire. You have the build up a net worth in order to be able to afford to leave the paid workforce.
Kevin: Now, you talked about growth drivers there. You and I have chatted on previous occasions, and if you only go back and search through some of the interviews that I’ve done with Margaret, we actually do touch on those key drivers.
Margaret: There’s so much information out there at the moment, yet still, we have too many of the property experts hawking the same message. They talk about things that really are relevant in terms of whether or not a property is going to perform well for you.
People still buy property emotively, as well, so they still want to buy property according to one they can get for a good price, or one that they think they can get a rental return for without having to look at what really drives growth and the importance of those growth drivers.
Kevin: Margaret, once again, thank you for your time. It’s always great talking to you.
Margaret: Thank you.