The Block's auction flop: Five tips for investors

The Block's auction flop: Five tips for investors

This month saw Channel Nine’s hit renovation show, The Block, draw to an end but the shocking auction day results – which left three couples taking home a measly $40,000 between them – left audiences and blockheads stunned.

The truth is, investments don’t always pay off. No matter how much blood, sweat, tears – and apparently media hype – you throw into it. At the end of the day your property is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. Which could be less than you hoped for.

But there are always lessons to learn and certainly a few things investors, and renovators alike, could take away from The Block contestant’s sour experience.

The current auction market

Heading to an auction as a buyer with home loan approval is nerve-wracking. But if you’re the seller, it can be even more daunting — will bidders meet the reserve price and exceed your expectations?

Auctions are a popular selling method across the country, with a number of state capitals posting some impressive numbers recently. In the week ending October 12, the clearance rate in Sydney was 75.8 percent, with 917 auctions held, according to the RP Data Property Market Indicator Summary. This was followed by Melbourne (67.2 percent) and Adelaide (58.7 percent). While Sydney had the highest clearance rate, it was the Victorian capital that took out the top spot for total auctions, with a figure of 1086.

“The inner and middle south-east and eastern suburbs have consistently been the city’s hot spots in terms of the volume of auctions. But strong clearances in the outer metro areas have shown that buyers are increasingly seeking value in the more affordable parts of town,” said Enzo Raimondo, Real Estate Institute of Victoria Chief Executive, in regards to Melbourne auction activity.

Be prepared

If you’re putting your rental property on the market, you need to be prepared. You should present your property in its best light, but you equally need to understand that everything can hinge on bidders’ moods on the day.

“The concentrated pressure of an auction situation can work with you or against you,” said Peter Arnold, RateCity Product Director.

During the finale of The Block, a last-minute bid for Chris and Jenna’s renovated masterpiece sparked a heated bidding war, which ultimately saw them walk away with $310,000 profit. Without this bid as a catalyst, the result could have been quite different.

Check the trends

Are perfectly landscaped lawns all the rage in your property’s area at the moment or are kitchens with mod-cons a big draw card?

Make sure you understand what buyers are looking for in your area. There’s no point adding an expensive swimming pool or a home office if families just want an extra bathroom.

But beware: While an understanding of buyers’ desires is brilliant, embracing short-term interior decorating fads could be a big waste of your money. Just ask The Block contestants!

Watch emotions

Just because you own the property as an investment doesn’t mean others are purchasing it for the same reason. In fact, you might get some eager buyers showing up, desperate to secure that perfect family home.

When people are buying something as significant as a home, emotions can run high. This could cause them to place generous bids. But it could also lead to people being overwhelmed, and failing to bid at all.

“Even if people camp out over night for your auction, they may not put a bid in,” explained Arnold. 

So watch people’s emotions — and understand whether their enthusiasm really translates to an intention to buy. 

Don’t overcapitalise

It’s easy to get carried away with renovating your rental property, but it’s important to keep an eye on your savings account or line of credit.

Spending big bucks on renovations and pouring effort into styling should be done with care. Sometimes, a more practical approach is better than spending up large on pendant lights, marble countertops or spa pools. Plus, most of you don’t have The Block budget to do so.

Always consider what your return on investment will be. If you’re spending more on a renovation project than you’re going to make back, it’s probably not the best move.

Get promoting

Finally, if you want a big turnout at auction day, make sure you promote your property accordingly.

Hiring a real estate agent with experience running marketing campaigns for houses going under the hammer is a smart idea.

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Learn more about home loans

What does pre-approval' mean?

Pre-approval for a home loan is an agreement between you and your lender that, subject to certain conditions, you will be able to borrow a set amount when you find the property you want to buy. This approach is useful if you are in the early stages of surveying the property market and need to know how much money you can spend to help guide your search.

It is also useful when you are heading into an auction and want to be able to bid with confidence. Once you have found the property you want to buy you will need to receive formal approval from your bank.

What is a line of credit?

A line of credit, also known as a home equity loan, is a type of mortgage that allows you to borrow money using the equity in your property.

Equity is the value of your property, less any outstanding debt against it. For example, if you have a $500,000 property and a $300,000 mortgage against the property, then you have $200,000 equity. This is the portion of the property that you actually own.

This type of loan is a flexible mortgage that allows you to draw on funds when you need them, similar to a credit card.

Mortgage Calculator, Property Value

An estimate of how much your desired property is worth. 

What is equity? How can I use equity in my home loan?

Equity refers to the difference between what your property is worth and how much you owe on it. Essentially, it is the amount you have repaid on your home loan to date, although if your property has gone up in value it can sometimes be a lot more.

You can use the equity in your home loan to finance renovations on your existing property or as a deposit on an investment property. It can also be accessed for other investment opportunities or smaller purchases, such as a car or holiday, using a redraw facility.

Once you are over 65 you can even use the equity in your home loan as a source of income by taking out a reverse mortgage. This will let you access the equity in your loan in the form of regular payments which will be paid back to the bank following your death by selling your property. But like all financial products, it’s best to seek professional advice before you sign on the dotted line.

What is equity and home equity?

The percentage of a property effectively ‘owned’ by the borrower, equity is calculated by subtracting the amount currently owing on a mortgage from the property’s current value. As you pay back your mortgage’s principal, your home equity increases. Equity can be affected by changes in market value or improvements to your property.

What are the pros and cons of no-deposit home loans?

It’s no longer possible to get a no-deposit home loan in Australia. In some circumstances, you might be able to take out a mortgage with a 5 per cent deposit – but before you do so, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons.

The big advantage of borrowing 95 per cent (also known as a 95 per cent home loan) is that you get to buy your property sooner. That may be particularly important if you plan to purchase in a rising market, where prices are increasing faster than you can accumulate savings.

But 95 per cent home loans also have disadvantages. First, the 95 per cent home loan market is relatively small, so you’ll have fewer options to choose from. Second, you’ll probably have to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance). Third, you’ll probably be charged a higher interest rate. Fourth, the more you borrow, the more you’ll ultimately have to pay in interest. Fifth, if your property declines in value, your mortgage might end up being worth more than your home.

How much is the first home buyer's grant?

The first home buyer grant amount will vary depending on what state you’re in and the value of the property that you are purchasing. In general, they start around $10,000 but it is advisable to check your eligibility for the grant as well as how much you are entitled to with your state or territory’s revenue office.

What is an investment loan?

An investment loan is a home loan that is taken out to purchase a property purely for investment purposes. This means that the purchaser will not be living in the property but will instead rent it out or simply retain it for purposes of capital growth.

What is a loan-to-value ratio (LVR)?

A loan-to-value ratio (otherwise known as a Loan to Valuation Ratio or LVR), is a calculation lenders make to work out the value of your loan versus the value of your property, expressed as a percentage.   Lenders use this calculation to help assess your suitability for a home loan, and whether you need to pay lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI). As a general rule, most banks will require you to pay LMI if your loan-to-value ratio is 80 per cent or more.   LVR is worked out by dividing the loan amount by the value of the property. If you are looking for a quick ball-park estimate of LVR, the size of your deposit is a good indicator as it is directly proportionate to your LVR. For instance, a loan with an LVR of 80 per cent requires a deposit of 20 per cent, while a 90 per cent LVR requires 10 per cent down payment. 

LOAN AMOUNT / PROPERTY VALUE = LVR%

While this all sounds simple enough, it is worth doing a more accurate calculation of LVR before you commit to buying a place as there are some traps to be aware of. Firstly, the ‘loan amount’ is the price you paid for the property plus additional costs such as stamp duty and legal fees, minus your deposit amount. Secondly, the ‘property value’ is determined by your lender’s valuation of the property, not the price you paid for it, and sometimes these can differ so where possible, try and get your bank to evaluate the property before you put in an offer.

How much money can I borrow for a home loan?

Tip: You can use RateCity how much can I borrow calculator to get a quick answer.

How much money you can borrow for a home loan will depend on a number of factors including your employment status, your income (and your partner’s income if you are taking out a joint loan), the size of your deposit, your living expenses and any other debt you might hold, including credit cards. 

A good place to start is to work out how much you can afford to make in monthly repayments, factoring in a buffer of at least 2 – 3 per cent to allow for interest rate rises along the way. You’ll also need to factor in additional costs that come with purchasing a property such as stamp duty, legal fees, building inspections, strata or council fees.

If you are planning on renting the property, you can factor in the expected rental income to help offset the mortgage, but again it’s prudent to add a significant buffer to allow for rental management fees, maintenance costs and short periods of no rental income when tenants move out. It’s also wise to factor in changes in personal circumstances – the typical home loan lasts for around 30 years and a lot can happen between now and then.

Does Real Time Ratings' work for people who already have a home loan?

Yes. If you already have a mortgage you can use Real Time RatingsTM to compare your loan against the rest of the market. And if your rate changes, you can come back and check whether your loan is still competitive. If it isn’t, you’ll get the ammunition you need to negotiate a rate cut with your lender, or the resources to help you switch to a better lender.

What is bridging finance?

A loan of shorter duration taken to buy a new property before a borrower sells an existing property, usually taken to cover the financial gap that occurs while buying a new property without first selling an older one.

Usually, these loans have higher interest rates and a shorter repayment duration.

Do mortgage brokers need a consumer credit license?

In Australia, mortgage brokers are defined by law as being credit service or assistance providers, meaning that they help borrowers connect with lenders. Mortgage brokers may not always need a consumer credit license however if they’re operating solo they will need an Australian Credit License (ACL). Further, they may also need to comply with requirements asking them to mention their license number in full.

Some mortgage brokers can be “credit representatives”, or franchisees of a mortgage aggregator. In this case, if the aggregator has a license, the mortgage broker need not have one. The reasoning for this is that the franchise agreement usually requires mortgage brokers to comply with the laws applicable to the aggregator. If you’re speaking to a mortgage broker, you can ask them if they receive commissions from lenders, which is a good indicator that they need to be licensed. Consider requesting their license details if they don’t give you the details beforehand. 

You should remember that such a license protects you if you’re given incorrect or misleading advice that results in a home loan application rejection or any financial loss. Brokers are regulated by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), as per the National Consumer Credit Protection (NCCP) Act. 

What are the responsibilities of a mortgage broker?

Mortgage brokers act as the go-between for borrowers looking for a home loan and the lenders offering the loan. They offer personalised advice to help borrowers choose the right home loan for their needs.

In Australia, mortgage brokers are required by law to carry an Australian Credit License (ACL) if they offer credit assistance services. Which is the legal term for guidance regarding the different kinds of credit offered by lenders, including home loan mortgages. They may not need this license if they are working for an aggregator, for instance, as a franchisee. In both these situations, they need to comply with the regulations laid down by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

These regulations, which are stipulated by Australian legislation, require mortgage brokers to comply with what are called “responsible lending” and “best interest” obligations. Responsible lending obligations mean brokers have to suggest “suitable” home loans. This means loans that you can easily qualify for,  actually meet your needs, and don’t prove unnecessarily challenging for you.

Starting 1 January 2021, mortgage brokers must comply with best interest obligations in addition to responsible lending obligations. These require mortgage brokers to act in the best interest of their customers and also requires them to prioritise their customers’ interests over their own. For instance, a mortgage broker may not recommend a lender who gives them a commission if that lender’s home loan offer does not benefit that particular customer.