Financial advice to consider before investing in property

Private Property South Africa
Property Power

Considering the financial aspects of property investment is crucial if you are to be successful. Find out what questions you need to ask yourself before committing to an investment property.

Financial Aspects

One of the most important aspects of purchasing property as an investment is the financial aspect of the transaction. Potential investors will often need to borrow money from a bank in order to finance the purchase of the property. The amount of debt that is required is also called the level of gearing. The higher the level of gearing, the greater the risk of financial distress should you lose your tenant or if interest rates go up. The advantage of gearing is that the interest that you are paying is tax deductible and therefore makes the investment more tax efficient.

You need to think about the following questions and issues before you purchase your investment property:

  • What is the return that I will be getting? – you need to determine what rental you will reasonably be able to charge and then you can calculate your gross yield from the property. The gross yield is calculated by taking the annual gross rental and dividing it by the price that you pay for the property. Compare the yield that you will earn with the interest rate that you will be able to get if your money was in the bank. Bear in mind that a holiday home will not generate a return if you do not want to let it out. Generally, holiday homes are not good investments as they stand empty for most of the year and are not able to generate any income.

  • What if I lose the tenant or interest rates increase? – can you afford to pay the bond as well as all the other expenses, like rates and taxes or the levy, if your tenant moves out and you cannot find a new tenant for a month or two? Will you be able to afford the bond repayments if interest rates go up by 2 or 3 percent? This is very important for you to work out as it may severely impact upon your cash flow.

  • Will the property produce positive cash flow? – there are many people who advocate using as much debt as possible when buying investment property. Although this will increase the amount of interest that you are paying and therefore reduce your taxable income, it does increase the risk of the investment for the reasons explained above. Ultimately, you want the property to produce positive cash flow for you. This means that you eventually want the property to be providing you with income, especially as you get closer to retirement. A property should be purchased because it will make you money, not save you tax. It is also pointless getting into a lot of debt to buy a property because you hope that it will increase in value. The property’s value may not increase the way you thought it would or at the same rate as might have expected.

  • Are you prepared to sell the property if you need to? – you must have an exit strategy if you need to get out of the investment. You cannot afford to be sentimental about the property and you must be prepared to sell it if the circumstances dictate that the time has come to move on.

  • How many properties can I afford to buy? – based upon the manner in which you have financed the purchase of your first investment property, how many properties could you afford to purchase? It is easy to get caught up with the excitement of buying investment properties, but it must be affordable and you need to ensure that you do not get into financial difficulty.

  • Have you done all your research? – you must do your research correctly and check that all of your facts and figures are correct. You need to think carefully about your intended property investment. We are all aware that property prices have risen tremendously and this means that the returns that you will be able to achieve are not as good as they were, say five years ago. This means that the property will probably not produce positive cash flow initially and you may therefore have to be subsidising your investment from your own pocket.

  • Are you prepared to manage your investment? – any investment needs to be properly managed and property is no exception. The question that you need to think about is whether or not you want to manage the property yourself or appoint a rental agent to look after the property for you. It can be a great burden to look after the property yourself and deal with your tenant directly. A rental agent can be very useful to use and it relieves you of a significant amount of stress.

As mentioned above, any investment needs to be correctly managed. We strongly advise you to obtain professional advice before committing your funds to any investment and you must be aware that you need to assess the performance of your investment on an annual basis. It is also important to educate yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of any investment before you spend any money.

This article originally appeared in Property Power 13th Edition Magazine. To order your copy at the discounted price of R120 click here.

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