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Investing in Property The Smart Way

Paul McKenzie
Paul McKenzie

Property is the biggest investment class for Australians, especially with tax benefits, such as negative gearing and tax depreciation allowances. Property remains the "King of investment in Australia" for such tax benefits, as other investment classes, such as shares, are a small class, especially with blue chip shares.

This is the opposite in Europe and North America. People in Australia are known as "Bricks and Mortar Investors". They are wanting to save, invest and plan for a good financial retirement, and see property investment as the way to go. In recent years, they have seen how superannuation funds and old-age pensions do not adequately cover you in old age/retirement.

Buying property as an investment is different, as you are 'buying through the mind', instead of the heart, as you would if buying as an owner occupier. Suitable buys, especially in residential property, would be in good suburbs with rising prices and rents, together with good public transport, shopping centres, cafes, and being closer to the city and TAFEs/universities. Good suburbs have infrastructure and buildings that have been recently developed or are being transformed. Good suburbs are where there is big government and private sector spending. This includes substantial government spending on infrastructure (main roads and public transport) and services (health, education, location of government departments and agencies offices). Private sector big spending, for example, is where Westfield has big expansion plans for the local shopping centre.

Key areas that are considered good suburbs are Chatswood and Parramatta in Sydney. Chermside in Brisbane. Melbourne's eastern and northern suburbs. There are suburbs that are not good performers in property investment, due to the distance from city centres, aging infrastructure and other factors that do not attract tenants. For example, Fortitude Valley in Brisbane on one end of the scale to affluent Vaucluse in Sydney's far north eastern suburbs on the other end of the scale.

When you buy and invest in property, you want something new or recent to claim the maximum of the tax depreciation allowances. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) allows 2.5% over 40 years on the capital allowance (structure, electrical and plumbing infrastructure etc) plus the fixtures. The bulk tax depreciation allowances for fixtures are in the first few years of a new building, before these go down, leaving the 2.5% capital tax depreciation allowance. Strata units also have the common property (such as the lift/entry lobby, swimming pool, gym, common courtyard, etc.) to claim further tax deprecation benefits.

Years ago, I worked for a billionaire developer, who was involved with 2 Bond Street and Birkenhead Quays in Sydney. During my employment there, I noticed smart property investors were buying, then selling a few years later, and then buying something new again. Why? The tax depreciation allowances, especially with residential apartments in a strata scheme complexes. These have the best or maximum benefit of tax depreciation allowances in the first few years, including the fixtures.

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