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Three unusual benefits to being a property investor

Three unusual benefits to being a property investor

As time goes on, the property investment market in Australia continues to grow. In the March 2015 residential property exposures from the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority, it was noted that the value of lending to investors had reached a total of $450.2 billion. That’s 34.6 percent of all home loans, and a 12.4 percent increase on the value of investment loans recorded a year before.

This is likely due to the low interest rates we’re experiencing at the moment, which have allowed people to compare home loans that have incredibly low interest rates. Property is a popular option for people looking to generate wealth or simply secure a long-term asset, but did you know about the other benefits of joining this group of Australians?

There are many benefits that people aren’t always aware of when they decide to make a property investment — here are some that you might have overlooked. 

You don’t have to spend money to make money

With this, we don’t mean at the initial purchase of the property. That’s more often than not going to be one of the biggest purchases of your life. But once a property investor has signed the papers and owns rental real estate, there are ways they can create wealth without spending a cent directly.

Firstly, there’s tax deductions based off depreciation. This is where the bricks and mortar that make up a home, as well as the equipment within it, slowly wear down over time. The decrease in value that occurs here can be claimed as a deduction on your taxes! However, you’ll need to get a quantity surveyor to draw you up a depreciation schedule so you can accurately and fairly get this money.

Of course, there’s also capital gains tax to think about for people selling.

Like a fine wine

Interest rate cycles are just that, as are real estate ebbs and flows; one year a market might favour buyers, the next it’s the best place in the country to sell. However, provided you can weather the storms, you might find that investing in a property can be stable when taking a long-term approach, continuing to rise in value despite a few short-term disruptions. It could be an excellent complement to investment funds or other types of wealth generation. Of course, there are always risks with any investment and property is no exception.

Regarding speculation about a property bubble, Real Estate Institute of New South Wales President Malcolm Gunning recently said that “property should be a long term investment which makes you immune to cycles,” which is an excellent reminder of the unusual stability it offers.

Losing money isn’t always a bad thing

Common sense would suggest that if you’re losing money, you’re doing something wrong. However, it can be a strategy that works for property investors. Negative gearing means, essentially, that the costs of owning an investment property outweigh your income from it — it’s an increasingly common strategy.

This is because it offers you tax breaks in the short term, and allows you to spread your wings and secure more investments properties for big capitals gains. And given the strong value increases recorded in the CoreLogic RP Data monthly indices, people are getting great results from it.

The Real Estate Institute of Australia found it might not be those with millions in their savings account that are doing this, either. In fact, two thirds of people doing negative gearing are on taxable incomes of less than $80,000 per year!

There are obvious benefits to being a property investor, and those less clear to the naked eye. What you do is going to depend heavily on your financial situation, but if this is a path you want to take make sure to try out our home loan calculator to process your finances. 

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Learn more about home loans

What are the features of home loans for expats from Westpac?

If you’re an Australian citizen living and working abroad, you can borrow to buy a property in Australia. With a Westpac non-resident home loan, you can borrow up to 80 per cent of the property value to purchase a property whilst living overseas. The minimum loan amount for these loans is $25,000, with a maximum loan term of 30 years.

The interest rates and other fees for Westpac non-resident home loans are the same as regular home loans offered to borrowers living in Australia. You’ll have to submit proof of income, six-month bank statements, an employment letter, and your last two payslips. You may also be required to submit a copy of your passport and visa that shows you’re allowed to live and work abroad.

Cash or mortgage – which is more suitable to buy an investment property?

Deciding whether to buy an investment property with cash or a mortgage is a matter or personal choice and will often depend on your financial situation. Using cash may seem logical if you have the money in reserve and it can allow you to later use the equity in your home. However, there may be other factors to think about, such as whether there are other debts to pay down and whether it will tie up all of your spare cash. Again, it’s a personal choice and may be worth seeking personal advice.

A mortgage is a popular option for people who don’t have enough cash in the bank to pay for an investment property. Sometimes when you take out a mortgage you can offset your loan interest against the rental income you may earn. The rental income can also help to pay down the loan.

When do mortgage payments start after settlement?

Generally speaking, your first mortgage payment falls due one month after the settlement date. However, this may vary based on your mortgage terms. You can check the exact date by contacting your lender.

Usually your settlement agent will meet the seller’s representatives to exchange documents at an agreed place and time. The balance purchase price is paid to the seller. The lender will register a mortgage against your title and give you the funds to purchase the new home.

Once the settlement process is complete, the lender allows you to draw down the loan. The loan amount is debited from your loan account. As soon as the settlement paperwork is sorted, you can collect the keys to your new home and work your way through the moving-in checklist.

Why does Westpac charge an early termination fee for home loans?

The Westpac home loan early termination fee or break cost is applicable if you have a fixed rate home loan and repay part of or the whole outstanding amount before the fixed period ends. If you’re switching between products before the fixed period ends, you’ll pay a switching break cost and an administrative fee. 

The Westpac home loan early termination fee may not apply if you repay an amount below the prepayment threshold. The prepayment threshold is the amount Westpac allows you to repay during the fixed period outside your regular repayments.

Westpac charges this fee because when you take out a home loan, the bank borrows the funds with wholesale rates available to banks and lenders. Westpac will then work out your interest rate based on you making regular repayments for a fixed period. If you repay before this period ends, the lender may incur a loss if there is any change in the wholesale rate of interest.

What is my property value?

Your property’s value is how much your property is worth to a bank or mortgage lender, when it comes to securing a mortgage over a property and calculating the loan to value ratio (LVR).

A professional valuer assesses a property’s value based on data about the property, its sale history, and other recent sales in the area. The valuer may also visit the property to assess its condition in person.

A property’s value may be different to a real estate agent’s appraisal, which indicates how much a property may sell for. It’s also often different to a property’s sale price at auction or private sale, which shows how much a buyer thinks it’s worth in the current market. 

What is a property report estimate?

A property report estimate is an approximate calculation of a property’s value, found in an online property report. These estimates are typically based on the property’s age, size, location, and number of bedrooms, bathrooms and car spaces. The property’s history of previous sales, plus recent sales of similar properties in the local area, may also help to calculate the property’s current value. 

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 secured home loan?

When the lender creates a mortgage on your property, they’re offering you a secured home loan. It means you’re offering the property as security to the lender who holds this security against the risk of default or any delays in home loan repayments. Suppose you’re unable to repay the loan. In this case, the lender can take ownership of your property and sell it to recover any outstanding funds you owe. The lender retains this hold over your property until you repay the entire loan amount.

If you take out a secured home loan, you may be charged a lower interest rate. The amount you can borrow depends on the property’s value and the deposit you can pay upfront. Generally, lenders allow you to borrow between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the property value as the loan. Often, you’ll need Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) if the deposit is less than 20 per cent of the property value. Lenders will also do a property valuation to ensure you’re borrowing enough to cover the purchase. 

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.

Do first-time home loan applicants qualify for tax benefits?

If you’re a first-time homebuyer applying for a home loan, you could qualify for some tax deductions, but only if your property is a source of income for you. For instance, if you rent out the property, you could get tax deductions on the cost of constructing or renovating it, the loss in value of depreciating assets such as furniture or electrical fixtures, and the home loan interest. 

Homeowners using their property as a residence could also get a tax deduction if a part or all of it is used for business. These deductions include tax write-offs for depreciating assets and deductions for operating expenses like utilities’ payments and service charges for phones and the internet. However, people running businesses from their residences don’t qualify for a tax deduction on the interest paid on their home loans.

Is it free to get your house appraised?

A house appraisal, in which a qualified real estate agent assesses a property to make an estimate of its value, is a service that is generally offered to homeowners free of charge.

Local real estate agents tend to offer free property appraisals to homeowners as a way to build a relationship with them, and potentially secure the listing if the homeowner has plans to sell.

It can also be a good opportunity for the homeowner to gauge the agent’s level of expertise and determine whether or not they would be an ideal listing agent for the sale of their home.

You may also like to consider using an online service like RateCity to get a free property value report. Similar to an appraisal, the report is a computer generated valuation based on a significant amount of data and insights, and can provide details including the estimated property price and information about similar properties for sale or recently sold in the area.

Is a second mortgage tax deductible?

If you take out a loan to invest in a property, you can claim a tax deduction on the interest you pay as long as the property is earning income. In other words, if you rent the property for the entire year, you can claim a tax deduction for 12 months of interest payments. But, if you use the home for six months and rent it for the other six months, you can claim deduction only for 50 per cent of the interest amount.

You also get tax benefits for items that lose value over the years. But, the entire amount is not allowed as a tax deduction in the same year; instead you’ll have to claim a portion each year over a number of years. 

Additional borrowing costs, such as maintenance fees, stamp duty, offset account setting up fees, Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI), and establishment fees, can also be claimed as tax deductions.

Before you claim second mortgage tax deductions, it’s often worth checking with an experienced tax expert.

What is appreciation or depreciation of property?

The increase or decrease in the value of a property due to factors including inflation, demand and political stability.

What is a valuation?

A property valuation is a formal assessment of how much your home is worth, to determine the Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) when you’re applying for a mortgage.

A valuation is carried out by a certified practicing valuer on behalf of a bank or mortgage lender, and is often based on available data about the property and recent sales of other similar properties in the local area. The valuer may also visit the property to assess its condition in person.

A valuation is typically different to an appraisal from a real estate agent, which is an informal estimate of how much a property could sell for at auction or via private sale.