At GRA we have become concerned at the number of people thinking about buying leaky buildings. This was brought to our attention in our capacity as Professional Trustee, which means we (along with any other trustees) need to sign off on any planned property purchases for the trust clients we act for.
We were concerned when we found out about the first person but became alarmed when, over a matter of weeks, we had multiple clients say they were planning to buy leaky homes. As explained in Property School and in Matthew Gilligan’s book Property 101, we consider leaky homes to be ‘property lemons’ which should be avoided at all costs. When we asked our clients why they wanted to buy leaky homes, they said that the Auckland property market is so expensive they are the only properties they can afford.
While we agree that leaky homes are certainly cheaper to buy, we disagree that they cost less in the long run. In fact, they are likely to cost purchasers significantly more and will quite possibly put them in a much worse position than before they bought them.There are many reasons why you should avoid leaky buildings – and each of these reasons on its own should be enough to deter you. Combined, they are a financial disaster waiting to happen.
- Leaky homes experience less capital growth than their non-leaky counterparts. This means they go up in value less over time.
- They will need to be repaired to stop them leaking (often meaning a complete reclad), and this is a very costly exercise. The cost of a re-clad will likely negate any capital growth the property might experience.
- Even once they are repaired, leaky homes retain their stigma so they are much harder to sell because buyers are very wary of them.
- The sale price of a leaky (or once leaky) home tends to be significantly lower than other weathertight houses.
- You may make a capital loss, either because the cost of repairs is greater than the capital growth the property will experience, or because the market has slowed. When the property market cools, the first properties to be affected are the less desirable ones, like leaky buildings. The saying that “it’s a 6-lane highway to get into the property market, but it’s a goat track to get out” applies here.
So what should people do if a leaky building is the only type of home or investment they can afford?
There are plenty of ways you can invest in the Auckland market, and these are covered extensively in Property 101 and at Property School. Examples include:
- Buy a property with enough land so you can subdivide and sell off a section to reduce the cost of the property.
- Buy a run-down (but not leaky) property that you can renovate.
- Find a property where you can easily add extra rooms (e.g. turn a garage into a sleepout or partition existing large bedrooms) to increase the rental yield so the property becomes positive cash flow.
- Consider buying an investment property out of Auckland, in a region with good fundamentals (low supply, high demand and good employment). You need to be careful with this strategy for two reasons. Firstly, regional areas tend to be more volatile in value. Secondly, repairs and maintenance costs represent a greater proportion of the value of the property and can eat into your capital growth. (Chapter 3 of Property 101 goes into this in greater depth with a worked example.) Avoid ‘one-horse towns’.
- Wait for a couple more years – it is likely Auckland will see a cooling off of prices with more land being released once the AUP rules come into effect.