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Property Investment Updates

Is it really worth selling on Completion?

I was interviewed for a great story in one of the property magazines, the article was called Keep and Reap and it examines the pros and cons of holding onto property after you finish developing it.


One of the biggest things to consider before you start a development is entry and particularly exit costs - if you are developing to sell.


Around the same time I received a call I had from a guy called Dave.  He said ‘Hi Jo, can you help me with a dual occupancy project’.  To that I replied...’sure Dave, we’d love to. Tell me a bit about your strategy and what you are hoping to achieve from a property development’. 


'Well, my wife and I want to turn over a few developments, you know...complete one, sell and then use the profits to go again. Our aim is to use the proceeds to pay down the mortgage on our principal place of residence and keep investing’.


Dave certainly has a very good plan. As property development project managers, we are not qualified to give accounting or financial advice, but what I do like to check with anyone making this kind of enquiry is that they understand what selling or exit costs are involved.


Dave said he understood there’ll be agent’s selling commission and marketing costs to sell the new villas, we might have to pay some Capital Gains Tax and that’s it I think’. He said.   


My reply...’Are you sure Dave?’


If you take a look at the exit costs, then you may think twice about selling on completion, especially if it’s a small development like a dual occupancy.


In the Hunter Region of NSW where we manage developments for our clients, we can typically create around one hundred thousand dollars in equity on a dual occ project within twelve months. This sounds like a lot of equity to create and it is...if you are holding the properties you’ve built.


By holding on completion you'll not only get the benefits of depreciation and higher than average rental returns (everyone loves to rent a brand new property) but some clients choose to refinance and by doing this they can access some of the equity that’s been created through the development process.


But, if you are looking to sell on completion, then there is a whole list of costs you need to consider.


The big one is GST and as I explain this to Dave, I highly recommend he checks this out closely with his accountant.  GST is applicable when you sell new property, so Dave would need to ensure he pays 10% of his selling cost to the government. If he is not registered for GST, he can't claim back the GST he's paid over the life of the development so he's essentially losing 10% on his sales. However, if he holds the properties for five years, they are no longer deemed new and no GST is applicable.


Finance costs are another cost to consider. Dave needs to check with his lender what fees and charges may be applicable when he sells, these may include a prepayment fee, settlement fee, early exit fee or Government mortgage discharge fees.


There will be legal fees for your solicitor to prepare Sales Contracts and manage the conveyancing for you.


In some instances, Land Tax may also be payable on a property that is being sold.


Then of course, the sales agent's commission, marketing costs and perhaps auctioneer costs.


Also consider the holding costs. During the sales process you probably won't rent the villas and they'll be sitting empty on a fully drawn construction loan.


One of the advantages to holding and renting the properties on completion is that the interest you pay during the development process is tax deductible. However, if your intention is to sell on completion then you lose this important deduction during construction but also during the selling period.


I recommended Dave have a meeting with his accountant to make sure he understood the implications of selling.  A few weeks later, he called to tell me he's switched strategy and wanted to hold onto his properties. One of his reasons was to take advantage of the higher depreciation benefits and he wanted to build a property portfolio. His accountant showed him just how much income tax he could save himself as he was in a high tax bracket.


It wasn't long before we had found him a great site in Newcastle with a potential gross yield of 7%. This strong yield will make it easier for Dave to hold and continue on his property investment journey.


By going through the exercise of weighing up the pros and cons of holding, it helped Dave realise that if you are going to the trouble to develop property in the right location, you may as well hold to reap the immediate and future rewards.


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