Don't buy property from spruikers

Posted on 26/03/2012  

The two best ways to destroy a property investment plan is buy in the wrong place or pay too much.

If you do both in one investment, you’re almost guaranteed a horror experience.

The worst emails I get are from people who are approaching retirement and have an investment property that’s costing them money every week and is worth less than they paid five years ago.

No one should have this kind of experience in a country where middle-of-the-road suburbs have averaged 10 per cent a year growth over the past decade and resources-boosted regional centres have done considerably better.

The ones who have the nightmare outcomes are usually people who are seduced into an unwise decision.

No well-informed investor would have bought an apartment at Noosa in the past few years. The median price there is 30 per cent lower than five years ago.

Anyone doing the smallest amount of research would discover the folly of pinning your retirement strategy on a high-rise unit in Surfers Paradise.

But many are still making these kinds of investments because someone with a vested interest talks them into it.

Shonky marketing practices are still prevalent. Most state governments have passed laws in the past 10 or so years (headed by Queensland’s PAMDA laws in 2000) to stamp out the worst real estate practices, but it’s bit like trying to potty-train a puppy.

All those old methods used by the notorious marketeers of the Nineties are still being used. Investors are still being flown from distant locations and chauffeur-driven around the market before being signed up by on-tap solicitors, valuers and accountants.

The industry is still infested with spruikers who proclaim themselves self-made millionaires and promise to show you how to do likewise at a free seminar – but the seminar is just a pep talk to goad victims into signing up for products that costs thousands, or tens of thousands.

The market is awash with marketing organizations who call themselves “buyers agents” but they’re nothing of the sort – they’re marketing operations selling specific properties from developers who pay them big fees.

The old days of project marketing – where developers of a high-rise building would appoint a marketing team and set up them up in an on-site marketing suite – are long gone. Now developers pay independent marketeers big money to bring them buyers.

A street-corner real estate agent selling your house will earn of commission of 2 or 3 per cent of the sale price. The marketers selling off-the-plan apartments can earn commissions up to 15 per cent.

That wouldn’t be a problem except those big fat commissions are part of the developer’s cost and they’re loaded into the price paid by the buyer. The end-result, too often, is a sale price above market value.

If the unsuspecting investors are paying those inflated prices in a low-growth market weighed down by over-supply, they’re two-time losers. They start behind the capital-gains eight ball by paying too much and there’s no growth to cover for their initial mistake.

And it’s in the problem markets that such methods are likely to be used. Many of the apartment buildings mushrooming in inner-city Melbourne are being sold to out-of-towners.

Buyers have to protect themselves by seeking independent advice.

And if someone is providing them with a service, but not charging them a fee, buyers have to ask the question: “Who’s paying them?” Because that’s where their loyalties lie.

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