Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Trick or Treat?

Did you have children knocking on your door for Halloween on October 31st?   It seems to have become quite popular in our neighbourhood over the last few years and again this year we had a few groups of kids knocking on our door, bags at the ready.  I never say "Trick" because I don't fancy washing eggs off the front windows of my house.  So we had our stock of treats in preparation for the hungry hordes and by treats I mean chocolate and lollies, not a piece of fruit, fresh or dried thankyou very much.  I understand the whole "healthy snack" principle but if I am a kid, I'm not getting all dressed up and running around looking for fruit!

Anyway, in the spirit of Halloween, The Trusted Adviser will make a habit each year around October 31st of asking a "Trick or Treat" question about investing.  

This year, we are going to talk about a certain type of "property educator" that promotes investing in property, often, but not always, through "wealth-creation seminars".  I will kick off by quoting directly from one of these "investment mentors":

"Our earnings come through property developers.  This means we can offer our advice and support free to clients.  We are not here to "sell you a property" - we are here to help you build a property portfolio and achieve financial independence."
OK, so how much do they receive from property developers for finding you "the best investment property": 4% - 6% of the property sale price.  That doesn't sound like "advice and support free to clients" does it. You don't have to be Einstein to work out that this is all about selling a property and it is being dressed up as financial advice ....... and it certainly isn't free!  

These property investment gurus sell these development properties for a commission and their sales angle is emphasize the tax benefits.  Principally, they show the "magic" of claiming depreciation allowances to reduce your personal income tax bill.

My advice to you if ever you find yourself getting the hard sell from one of these "property educators" - remember these three things:

  1. More than half of the purchase price of these development properties can be attributed to the building and yet we know that the building depreciates.  When buying investment property, you want to be putting most of your money into the land component because it is the land on which the house is built that goes up in value over time.
  2. The building depreciation allowance that is being used to promote these properties is deducted from the purchase cost (i.e. cost base) when it comes time to sell, resulting in a higher capital gains tax assessment.
  3. When the tax benefits of an investment are being heavily promoted, think twice about the quality of the investment.
So next time you are invited to a seminar selling development property and you are offered advice for "free", I would suggest that you give it a miss or at least take some eggs with you!  

financial advice
Image:  A Jack o' Lantern made for the Holywell Manor Halloween celebrations in 2003.  Photograph by Toby Ord on 31 October 2003.

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