Michael Sloan | 13 November 2012

Keep an open mind about the National Rental Affordability Scheme

There’s an easy trap to fall into when you’re a property commentator or you work in the industry: the lure of the blanket statements. As more and more of our lives get reduced to soundbites, it’s easy to release lines like “only buy houses” or “don’t touch it if it is more than 10 kilometres from the CBD”, then sit back and relax.

Of course, in property investing, like everywhere else, there are many shades of grey to each argument. Your skill and attention as a property investor should be focused on ensuring that you make the right decision for you and your personal circumstances, while our job as industry leaders should be to provide you with enough factual information to make that decision an informed one.

Unfortunately there has been a lot of misinformation from some property commentators or financial planners telling investors to stay away from properties in the National Rental Affordability Scheme.

While I’m obviously in favour of investing in the NRAS system, I should point out from the start that this is not a blanket statement. There are good NRAS investments and bad ones – it’s your job to make sure that you choose an investment that is best for you.

If you are new to NRAS let me explain it very simply:

•             You buy an investment property.

•             You provide a discount on the rent

•             You get tax-free money from the state and federal governments

The scheme is in place to provide affordable rental properties for middle- to low-income earners. However the income threshold is not as low as you may think. For example, tenants qualify with an income below $45,496 for a single person and $93,079 for a couple. If the couple has two children, the eligible income can increase by 25% with no penalty, which takes the threshold to more than $116,000 per year – a figure most would consider as well off.

According to the Australian Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, which is responsible for administering NRAS, properties in the scheme are typically indistinguishable from other middle-market dwellings. Rigorous criteria is applied to the location, design and amenity of approved dwellings, and investors can expect to benefit from the annual NRAS Incentive, rental yields and capital gain.

If you are a potential property investor what does this mean to you? Let’s say the normal rent is $400 a week. Under the NRAS program you rent it at $300 a week.

This means you lose $5,200 in income each year ($100 per week), although this income would have been taxable, so your actual loss is about $3,800. But you get $9,981 tax free!

As a comparison, we recently sold units in an Essendon North development where some were under the NRAS allocation and others were sold to either owner-occupiers or investors who did not wish to participate in the scheme.  For those investors, the cashflow was negative $90 a week in year one, $66 in year two and it took 10 years to become positive. But as an NRAS property, it was positive cashflow $54 a week in year one $81 in year two and $239 by year 10. Over the first 10 years this property is cashflow positive by more than $70,000. These figures are based on an income of $65,000 and a 6.5% interest rate.

This money can be used to reduce personal debt, to pay off the investment property or, yes, to have a holiday.


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