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Property

At present property is something you should buy when you want to live there for at least 2-3 years*. If viewing as an investment (and there are good deals to be done), be very conservative in your income assumptions and borrowing, while assuming that interest rates will be somewhat higher than at present.

*In a flat market transaction costs - sales, legal, stamp duty etc - won't be recovered through price rises, and owning property can tie you to a location, making it harder to move for work etc. If you are not currently a property owner, renting may be more sensible than rushing into the market, at least until you are sure you are settled somewhere.

Property is a very popular form of investment, which we will look at after these words of warning:

If your house is worth more than when you moved in, it is NOT a sign of financial genius. It is a testament to the potential benefits of gearing an investment, especially in a rising market, as has been typical of the past few decades.

A mortgage is a mechanism by which people break the first law of investment – it is borrowing to invest. That’s a story that normally ends in tears, but with houses it usually doesn’t. The reason is simple, when you borrow to buy a house you end up with a place to live in. You might have a mortgage, but you don’t have any rent to pay.

A mortgage also allows gearing. If you have £20,000 and invest it, and the market rises 10% you have a £2,000 profit. If you have £20,000 and you borrow another £80,000, and the market goes up 10% you make a £10,000 profit (before payments in respect of interest on the loan which would be due).

This is all well and good when it’s your own home, but many people then think that they can extend that into other property areas, or get a generally over-optimistic view of property as an investment (and thus make poor decisions).

Ways to invest in property with a view to making money:

  • Property development
  • Landlord rental
  • Property shares/funds

Property development

Many people may have looked at a run-down building in their area and thought something along the lines of with a bit of effort that could be worth a bundle. And they’d be right. The tricky part is to add more value than the cost of renovating it.

This is not an article about property development, but it is worth noting that if you borrow to buy, then time is money and every month you delay is another few hundred pounds lost profit, and that the key to successful development is planning the works to minimise costs, and working with conservative figures (especially regarding the expected sale price).

Landlord rental

Previously a bit of a disreputable profession in which gouging owners let their properties fall apart while threatening to break the arms of tenants so much as a day late with the rent. This business has seen a bit of an image makeover courtesy of the buy-to-let mortgage.

This is not an article about being a landlord, but if you are attracted by buy to let what you need to know before you think about mortgages is what can I realistically expect to make in rent; how many vacant periods are normal; and how hands on will I be - very, or should I get an agent?

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate some forms of Buy to Lets.

Property shares/funds (and Unit Trusts etc)

Each of them is different - some will be all about residential development (housebuilders), others seek to build rent generating portfolios of commercial or retail properties, and others are more new development oriented.

Be fully aware of the investment strategy of your choice, and ensure that it matches the market sector you seek exposure to.

You may have difficulty selling this type of investment when you want to, at a reasonable price, and in some instances it may be difficult to sell it at any price. The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount you originally invested. Past performance is not a guide to future performance.

Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

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