If your family is like many Australian families, when you get together for Christmas this year, you might find that the conversation turns to property. As a nation, we have a love affair with residential property, and booming capital city prices of late have done little to change this. We might feel good when the value of the family home goes up, but does this mean we should be relying on residential properties to fund our retirement?
There is no doubt that many people have done well by investing in the Sydney and Melbourne markets. However, capital growth does not pay the bills in retirement. It is income and cash flow that become important, when work income stops.
What does the data say?
Data provided by the Core Logic RP Data Home Value index shows that the average gross yield for capital city properties is just 3.25%. In Sydney, it is lower than the national average at 3.08%, and in Melbourne it is a paltry 2.9%.
This means that $1 million spent on a rental property in Melbourne would be expected to generate $29,000 a year. From this, investors would need to pay costs such as rates, insurances, agent’s fee, body corporate, maintenance and land taxes (depending on the state). This could easily account for $10,000 or more a year, meaning that the net yield is below 2%.
On this basis, a retiree looking to fund a comfortable lifestyle (considered to cost about $60,000 pa) would need to have over $3 million invested in property. By comparison, a $3 million investment in a diversified Australian share portfolio is expected to produce $152,700 of gross income (before any fees and charges).
Income is only part of the equation though. Surely recent capital growth in property would compensate for the low income? Residential property has performed well, although the exceptional rates of growth have been confined to small pockets of the country. Nationally, the average growth rate for the 12 months to 31 October was 6.6%.
While this is a very solid return, by comparison, the top 50 companies on the Australian Stock Exchange grew in value by 10.1%.
Is your money accessible?
While growth is good, retirees often need access to money in excess of their regular income needs. If all your money is tied up in a property, the entire property needs to be sold, as it’s not possible to sell off a bedroom. The sale of a property can also take some time and comes with significant costs. If a gain is made on the sale, there would also be capital gains tax to consider.
It pays to diversify
For many investors, a sensible investment in property can form part of a well-diversified strategy for creating wealth. But to focus only on this investment to the exclusion of all else is foolhardy. Investors need to ensure that they assess each investment on its true merits, rather than making emotional decisions.
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