"While capital growth might have saved a lot of investors with negatively geared properties in recent years, I’d be cautious about relying on capital growth in the coming years."
Negative gearing a tool, not a long-term property investment strategy
Negative gearing should be viewed as a tool to get into a property investment rather than as a long-term strategy.
Investors should look to negatively gear over a short to medium time frame – no more than about five to seven years.
If you take a long-term view of your property investment, and property should always be a long-term consideration, if you are negatively geared for 20 years, that means that for 20 years you’re paying more money out of your pocket than you’re recouping from the property.
You need to view your investing in the same way you would a business. While it might be manageable to run at a loss for a short period of time as you establish and grow the business, it’s not sustainable long-term. At some stage your business – and your property investing – needs to be putting money back into your pocket.
Many people justify having their property negatively geared because they believe the capital growth of the property will make up for the losses in the long run.
While capital growth might have saved a lot of investors with negatively geared properties in recent years, I’d be cautious about relying on capital growth in the coming years.
Rather than focusing on capital growth, investors, particularly those on lower incomes, should be making investment decisions based on the income they can derive from their property.
Negative gearing generally works best for high-income earners than low-income earners. An investor on the highest marginal tax rate effectively gets 45¢ back for every $1 they spend on a negatively geared property. An investor on the lowest marginal tax rate gets 19¢ back for every $1.
When you calculate the net after tax cash flows of an investment property, being on a lower tax bracket means it’s actually costing more to run that strategy.
Ultimately, it’s actually the income that the property generates over time that is more important. For very long-term investments, it’s the income that has the most benefit and makes investing worthwhile.
Even if you get growth, that growth is really just making up for your losses, you’re not actually really moving forward.
It’s the surplus income over time – by having regular rent increases – that is going to make the difference.
A good mortgage adviser should be able to run some scenarios for you that will give you an idea of the cashflow of an investment property, potentially up to 20 years. These calculations will be indicative, but you’ll be able to see how much it’s going to really cost you.
It’s also important to seek advice from your accountant about the taxation implications of your investing.
Joe Sirianni is executive director of Smartline.