Tax and legal advice
Cate Bakos

Why tax benefits should never drive your investment goals

By Cate Bakos

Depreciation is a tax benefit often chased by investors, recommended by planners and revered by tax accountants – but it’s not necessarily a good thing when it comes to real estate investing.

Blogger: Cate Bakos, director, Cate Bakos Property 

While depreciation helps with cash flow, it should never be the reason for investing in property. In this pre-election period, when negative gearing and investor tax benefits are featuring daily in the media, it helps to put perspective around the issue. After all, why do most investors choose property as an asset class? Surely not just for tax breaks?

All too often, I meet investors who have a sad tale to tell about the limited value growth their brand-new or newly refurbished apartment has sustained. Whether it be in Melbourne’s Docklands, an outer-ring Sydney refurbishment or a southern Queensland coastal off-the-plan development, the stories have a lot in common. Many purchasers find themselves making a loss when they sell their property within a few years of the initial purchase.

Why so some properties sell at a loss within a few years after they have been purchased brand new?

The obvious consideration is that perhaps the vendor overpaid at the time, but in fact this is not the reason. Comparable sales evidence often suggests that purchasers all pay reasonably similar prices for comparable units within similar developments. Presumably, they bought with enthusiasm, whether the purpose of their purchase was for occupation or for investment.

Nobody ever purchases property and anticipates that over a seven-year period they will sustain a capital loss. In fact, a common misconception is that property doubles in value every seven years. Yet in many popular, inner-ring areas where amenity, public transport, lifestyle and desirability reign, certain blocks can perform counter to other properties in the same suburb, and these poor-performing investments are heart-breakers for investors.

One common but rarely mentioned factor plays a significant part in the negative capital growth that new apartments sustain: depreciation.

Quality finishes, trendy spaces, great fixtures and fittings, and high depreciation schedules entice many investors to consider opting into brand-new developments. Many investors get excited over these types of assets, particularly when hefty tax deductions through depreciation are on offer. We often have clients coming to us with clear instructions from their accountant to pursue a new property for tax-saving reasons.

This strategy can often present a serious roadblock to immediate capital growth, though.

When the value of the dwelling and improvements is greater than the land component, the impact can be more costly than the short-term tax savings. In the case of an apartment block, it is more difficult to exactly determine the land ownership percentage that can be allocated to one particular owner. Common areas in strata developments are often considered ‘undivided and equally shared’ among residents, but for the purposes of calculating the ‘relative share’ of the land value, apartments of varying sizes may be determined to have unequal ownership of the land. It varies between complexes. What is important to note, though, is that the relative land ownership per resident in terms of land value would be distinctly lower than the value of their dwelling. After all, the brand-new fittings and fixtures, quality build and exciting interiors have had zero depreciation at the point of occupancy.

From the moment of settlement, the calculated rate of depreciation will be quite high, and any investors in the block will presumably enjoy some decent tax savings. But as we know, depreciation is an inverse-compounding situation. As the years go by, the tax write-downs diminish, until one day they are negligible. What investors often forget is that depreciation means losing value. It is only acceptable for a dwelling to lose value if the land it sits on is growing at a strong rate; strong enough to offset the rate of the depreciation.

Sadly, the first few years of ownership can see a new property diminish in value while depreciation runs high.

However, with the slowdown in the rate of a dwelling’s depreciation at around three to five years, and particularly in tightly held, inner-ring locations where capital growth of established property is tracking positively, original owners in a new or redeveloped block can likely expect that their asset will start to turn the corner in terms of capital growth.

Often this three-to-five-year mark is the best time to buy for investors who value low maintenance, some depreciation and positive-trending capital growth prospects. The property is usually still glossy and fabulous, and the key to this is the land-to-asset ratio.

The land-to-asset ratio underpins so much of our decision-making as advocates and investment property advisers, and it’s always disappointing to see situations where vendors could have invested their savings differently at the time, but instead have sustained a market loss. We are often asked why new and off-the-plan investments decline in value in the early years – a low land-to-asset ratio is one key reason.

My most valuable tip I can share on this matter is for investors to always aim for a land-to-asset ratio of greater than 50 per cent. Try to ensure that the dwelling component represents no more than half of the value you are about to pay, and ensure that the land is supported by multiple genuine growth drivers. Ideally, the location should be supported by more than one major employer, and lifestyle features such as cafes, schools, transport and community. It should be obvious that desirable tenants will be easy to find, and likely to love the property in question.

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About the Blogger

Cate Bakos

Cate Bakos

Cate Bakos is an independent buyers advocate, a qualified property investment advisor, and owner and manager of Cate Bakos Property.

FROM THE WEB

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Many investors who would have been successfully approved for finance last year are struggling now to either begin or continue their property investment journey because of the current financial climate.

In this episode of the Smart Property Investment Show, broker John Manciamelli and Momentum Media director Alex Whitlock joins host Tim Neary to discuss how APRA changes and the royal commission have resulted in a tighter lending economy and what that means for Australian investors.

They discuss what traps investors should avoid if they are trying to obtain finance, the four key growth drivers in a property market and unpacking trust structures while revealing one type of trust that you should miss.

If you like this episode, show your support by rating us or leaving a review on iTunes (The Smart Property Investment Show) and by following Smart Property Investment on social media: FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

If you have any questions about what you heard today, any topics of interest you have in mind, or if you’d like to lend your voice to the show, email [email protected] for more insights!

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When buying property, it’s important to focus on what’s important. Investor Katarina Taurian shares just what exactly is important to her: having the mindset of looking past superficial cosmetic matters and homing in on the structural suitability and potential of a property.

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In this episode of the Smart Property Investment Show, Katarina joins host Tim Neary to unpack her entry into the property market and experiences of rentvesting, and how the Smart Property Investment Show was vital  in a number of decisions which she made along the way.

Katarina discusses about the team that she had help her along the way, why she thinks that you should never skimp on a good solicitor and accountant, and the red flags which tell her why buying a new property doesn’t necessarily mean buying a better property.

If you like this episode, show your support by rating us or leaving a review on iTunes (The Smart Property Investment Show) and by following Smart Property Investment on social media: FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

If you have any questions about what you heard today, any topics of interest you have in mind, or if you’d like to lend your voice to the show, email [email protected] for more insights!

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Why buying new property doesn’t mean buying better property
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  ["title"]=>
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Media hype would have you believe that the Australian property market is in dire circumstances at the moment and that there is no money to be made.  But is that really the case?

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In this episode of the Smart Property Investment Show, regular guests Steve and Victor of Right Property Group join host Phil Tarrant to discuss the current state of the Australian property market as it is portrayed in the media, and analyse if things are as dire as we are being led to believe.

They will compare regional markets with capital cities as investment options, reveal some areas which they consider to be poor investments at the moment while also discussing some of the markets where they see future potential.

If you like this episode, show your support by rating us or leaving a review on iTunes (The Smart Property Investment Show) and by following Smart Property Investment on social media: FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

If you have any questions about what you heard today, any topics of interest you have in mind, or if you’d like to lend your voice to the show, email [email protected] for more insights!

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AREAS MENTIONED: 

Hobart
Sydney
Perth
Brisbane
Shepparton
Cambridge Park
Geelong
Wollongong
Melbourne
Newcastle
Orange
Dubbo
Bathurst
Armidale
Bendigo
Cairns
Ipswich
Emerald
Port Hedland
Surfers Paradise

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Busting perceptions of a doom and gloom property market

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