Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Psychology occupies the middle-ground between who you are and who you want to become, and all that that entails. To become something you have to invest. Investment is about becoming better off than you are now. How long it takes to become better off depends upon a combination of two factors: the practical and the psychological.

The practical is the time that it takes to make a profit; the psychological the level of risk that the investor is willing to shoulder. How much profit depends upon your personal definition of whether the amount of profit is worthwhile. For example, if you want to make a profit to enable you to afford a property in a different league then the profit from each proposition could be likened to stepping stones.

A plan for creating a commercial property portfolio from scratch is to buy with a mortgage then re-mortgage the equity at intervals and use the released money to buy more property.

A difference ought not to exist between investment and successful investment but it does. Property is a depreciating asset whose value fluctuates depending on the state of the market.  Allowing for costs of buying and selling, management costs, mortgage interest including loss of notional interest on personal equity, and adjusting for inflation and taxes, an investment might not perform as well as imagined.

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If you ignore all those factors and simply calculate profit as the difference between how much you paid and what the property would fetch were you to sell it then growth is largely a delusion.

The rate of depreciation is not a constant so that in itself is challenging. To exceed or at least maintain parity with the rate of depreciation, the investment will have to perform. Property performance is the measure of growth.

Property has a reputation as a long-term hedge against inflation but, when you invest in property, you are not buying into the market in its entirety, but a particular property. Therefore, the criteria for whether the proposition is likely to perform needs to be assessed against that particular property, regardless of what might be happening in the market generally.

It may be suggested there is never a right time to buy property but there is. There are only two times: (1) when the seller has under-priced the value of the property, or (2) when mortgages are difficult to come by.

To assess whether a proposition is under-priced, you really have to know your stuff: the technicalities and the fundamentals. If you simply assess by reference to superficial criteria (for example, yield) then a proposition could appear cheap when actually it is not.

When credit is hard to get and market activity is driven by cash buyers, most investors will be left out in the cold. When bank lending criteria is relaxed, the number of investors increases and so do selling prices.

For successful investment, a rising market is a double-edged sword: on one side, an improvement in sentiment is comforting generally so can override caution.  On the other, higher prices bring better quality propositions onto the market, thereby testing buyer experience of the nature of potential and the challenge of whether the propositions are really that much better.

Most investments fail to perform, sometimes miserably, but if your luck’s in then they end up ordinary, nothing special. Two reasons investments fail to succeed is to do with misunderstanding initial yield and buying covenant.

Yield is a measure of the rental return you’ll get from the property, all being well, but it is not the only measure. Indeed, it could be the least important even though the inexperienced invariably regard yield as paramount.

Over the years, covenant, the tenant’s financial standing, has worked its way up the appraisal–ladder, so much so that it has usurped technicalities and fundamentals and created a new layer of analysis: sentiment.

If you are borrowing to buy then the cost of borrowing may need to be covered by the rental. I emphasise ‘may’ because not all investors suffer the iniquity of having to justify each proposition to a lender.

Many investors have facilities that do not require them to get the bank’s permission beforehand. When each proposition has to stack up so far as the bank is concerned, the buyer is less likely to apply for a loan on a proposition that the bank would reject. Hence, the popularity of readily-mortgageable investments.

For sellers, the measure of popularity amongst buyers is heaven-sent: attractively packaged, an investment dressed up to look good and ticking all the right boxes on the buyer checklist, such as long term lease and tenant covenant, is a guarantee that the price obtainable will most likely exceed the value of the proposition.

Value is not the same as price. Price is subjective. Price is the worth of the property to the buyer, the price that the buyer is willing to pay. Value is objective, how much the market would pay. Most buyers do not see it like that; most buyers think they are the market. Their concerns are for the attractiveness of the proposition.

The negative aspects are discounted in favour of the plus points. Criticism can sound illogical and be interpreted as out of touch.   In this scientific world we have created for ourselves, the only test is evidence.

Opinions don’t count for much. Pitfalls can be explained away, doubts dispelled by overlooking the blemishes. Excited by market momentum, itching to spend, money burning a hole in the investor pocket, infected with auction fever, a show of hands, enthusiasm carries them away.

Investors that think themselves the market and take comfort from prices obtained in auction rooms are living in cloud cuckoo-land. If you do not strip away the superficiality and expose the proposition for what it is, if you do not listen to what you don’t want to hear, then more than likely you are going to experience the difference between investment and successful investment.

Michael Lever

The Rent Review Specialist

Established 1975

Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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