THE aim of the game Monopoly is to collect as many houses as you can, the more expensive the better, if you want to win.
This game is being played out in real life by hundreds of thousands of Australians who are collecting properties in an effort to build wealth or prestige.
From holiday homes in exotic locations to a rental property or four, investors see real estate as a ticket to riches while other Australians struggle to scrape together a deposit for their first home.
So how many houses do you really need to own to be financially comfortable later in life?
Much depends on the value of the properties and debt levels, but here’s a quick look at the options.
Owning your own home is one of the best investments you can make, for security, financial gain and tax benefits. Everybody needs a roof over their head and homeowners don’t worry about paying ever-rising rents. Home values increase over time and unlike other investments their capital gains are tax-free.
A popular new strategy — renting your own home while buying an investment property — helps people keep up with overall rises in property values but doesn’t deliver tax-free gains.
An extra property potentially doubles the potential to increase real estate wealth, although if it’s a holiday home without rental income it also can be a financial drain.
Australian Taxation Office data shows that 72 per cent of the nation’s 2.1 million property investors own one rental property. A couple of decades of capital growth can create a handy retirement bonus but not enough to be a self-funded retiree.
A couple of good quality investment properties — in addition to your own home — that double in value over 15-20 years can build an impressive store of wealth much larger than the superannuation balances of most Aussies.For example, two investment properties worth $450,000 each today could be worth at least $900,000 in a couple of decades, although at least one would have to be sold to release the wealth and repay any debts. The ATO says 19 per cent of property investors have two rental properties.
FOUR OR MORE HOUSES
This is where property investment gets more serious. Three properties plus your own home can be worth millions of dollars many years down the track. Six per cent of investors have three rental properties while less than 4 per cent have four or more.
Metropole Property Strategists director Michael Yardney says if you want to earn $100,000 a year from real estate investments after tax and other costs, you’ll need at least $4 million of properties without mortgages.While that might sound out of reach, remember that Adelaide’s median house price in 2000 was $131,000 and today it’s about $450,000. Every other capital city has trebled too. You don’t need more than a handful of properties to be a successful real estate investor.
This left-field option is probably not attractive for anyone who likes real estate.
Some advisers say people may be better off financially by renting and putting their spare money into non-housing investments ranging from Australian and overseas shares to hedge funds and international commercial property.
This could work for people with the discipline to divert every dollar saved into other investments, but that behaviour is rare.