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Real Estate Investing - Negative Gearing

What is Negative Gearing?  Making a Loss to Make Money?

Negative gearing refers to purchasing an investment property (usually rental residential property) where your expenses on the property are is more than the income it returns.  Essentially, this means making a loss in the investment property annually.  It is losing money to make money.

Sounds stupid?  Why would you do that?  

Why is Negative Gearing Useful?

In the Australian property-related tax context, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) allows you to offset the cost of owning and maintaining the investment property against your other income streams.  Whether or not this works in your personal situation, is dependant on the structure of your income streams.  Have a chat with your accountant if you are not sure.

How is Negative Gearing Done?

In property investment, negative gearing involves buying the right property where you are effectively make a loss through renting it out, after all the costs and deductions are considered.  It is an popular strategy which all investors need to consider, at the right phase of your investment journey.  This is also a rather risky strategy, and it may not work for everyone.

Broadly, deductions and costs that can be claimed includes:

  • Legal fees on the property purchase, stamp duty, building and pest inspection costs;

  • Buyers agents fees;

  • Council rates, water rates, land tax and owners corporation fees;

  • Mortgage costs;

  • Regular maintenance cleaning and repair costs;

  • Landlord and/or Building insurance;

  • Property Management fees, etc

In exchange, and depending on your investment structure setup, you might be eligible for other offsets such as:

  • Depreciation;

  • Other expenses linked to managing your property such as travel and communication.

The Australian Taxation Office regularly updates the tax rulings, and these rules will change very frequently.  Have a chat with your tax accountant to understand the latest rulings, your situation and how negative gearing will or will not work for you.  

Risks of Negative Gearing

Negative gearing is NOT for everyone.  If negative gearing is an effective method to optimise your tax obligations, why is it not for everyone? 

The reason is simple. You are losing money, reducing your disposable income, while holding on to the property.  If you are just starting out on your property investment journey, and you are aiming to accumulate properties quickly, negative gearing can and will SLOW you down, unless you can expand your income stream, which... means, more taxes..

The loss will be considered unfavourably when you apply for your next mortgage, and it will negatively reduce your borrowing capacity.

Why are investors using Negative Gearing?

If negative is bad, why is negative gearing still relevant in property investments? 

The perceived tax savings is one.  Investors using negative gearing are also usually hoping for future growth in property value.  With the right property in the right area, a negatively geared property should usually turn positive the longer you own them.  This typically means holding on to them for 5 to 8 years, assuming constant average growth.

Other Risks of Negative Gearing

Getting a negatively geared is relatively easy.  The majority of properties in the metropolitan Melbourne are negatively geared. 

However, getting the right negatively geared property with constant growth is easier said than done.

  1. Property market conditions can change suddenly, and it has been proven to change rather unexpectedly in recent years.  When market conditions change, an investor can be left holding onto an asset that will usually affect his / her subsequent property investment plans. 

  2. Tax laws, political changes and mortgage lending criteria do change.  And they do change suddenly.

  3. Your income situation may change negatively.  As negative gearing effectively reduce your income, you need to ensure your income streams are consistent, which can be difficult in modern days.  Having negatively geared properties in your portfolio is going to further exacerbate your financial stress, if your income situation changes.  

  • You could be out of job with little or no warning. 

  • The lending criteria might change overnight, negatively affecting your borrowing significantly. 

  • The value of your property might crash overnight or it is not growing as quickly as expected, due to changes in government policies.

  • Your business or income might have to stop if there is a social issue beyond your control, eg, a lock-down due to COVID-19 virus outbreak.

Other factors to consider when getting a negatively geared investment property:

  1. High Entry Cost.  You have to factor in property stamp duty (approx 5.5%, depending on state), legal, mortgage, building and pests inspections fees.

  2. High Exit Cost.  Real estate agent fees (approx 2%), sales conveyancing, property staging, etc.

  3. Capital Gains Tax (CGT).  If CGT applies to you, up to 50% of your profit from the sale will be included into your annual tax returns.  Your accountant will be able to give you the appropriate advice for your circumstances.

In short, negatively geared properties can be a good way to optimise your tax returns, but, unlike a positively geared property, having negatively geared properties in your portfolio at the wrong time, will exacerbate your financial stress.  We had seen instances where It ended up putting the investor's entire investment property portfolio at risk.

We have helped many clients find and buy good negatively geared properties fast.  Remember, buying costs such as buyer agent fees are tax deductible, and the faster you buy, the faster you enjoy the benefits of the property.  Access to rental income earlier and faster access to growth.  If negative gearing is what you are after, get in touch.

Find out if our time-saving property buying service is a right fit for you.

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