How To Plan For A Long-Term Property Investment

PropertyGuru Editorial Team
How To Plan For A Long-Term Property Investment
Property investment is a popular investment strategy.
Where more intangible assets like stocks and shares rise and fall on distant markets, property provides a reassuringly physical asset that many people can respect and relate to.
Investing in property isn’t a guarantee, but it has historically offered a chance for valuable return on investment (ROI) for many market investors.
That combination of physical asset and positive sentiment means property remains one of the more favoured long-term types of investment for many.
But let’s not keep you in suspense any longer, and dive right into some of the more common questions people have when it comes to planning for a long-term property investment.

Who Invests Long-Term In Property?

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Long-term property investment is undertaken by a variety of investors with different backgrounds, financial resources, and goals.
What fundamentally links them is a belief in the returns that they are most likely able to receive after an extended period of time.
These kind of property investments aren’t for get-rich-quick investors. They are a considered investment that takes into account the potential return over a substantial period of time.
Some property investors can hold onto their assets for many decades before deciding it’s a point where they desire to sell.
These investors include institutional investors, wealthy family investors, high net-worth individuals with expanding property portfolios, and even parents who’ve strived to earn enough capital to invest in property to deliver future returns to their family.

Why Invest Long-Term In Property?

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Property investment has powered some impressive returns for investors, particularly in the booming years of the 2000-2012 period.
While no investment can ever be guaranteed, and must be made with a recognition of the associated risk, this view of property as a secure avenue for returns means it remains popular with a wide range of investor types.
While commercial property offers a great avenue for investment for some, residential investment is the most accessible path to property investment for many.
And it’s one that’s had some notable success stories in Malaysia.
Hugely popular residential areas have enjoyed substantial growth over the last few decades, leading to a growing public belief in the potential returns in property investment.
Industry figures show that a condo in the popular Bangsar suburb of KL could have enjoyed capital appreciation of more than 160% in the years from 2001 to 2017. That’s a return that’s hard to beat for many!

How To Invest In Property Long-Term?

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Property investment can generate returns in two main ways, and it’s important to understand those opportunities before considering a property investment.

1) Capital return

Capital return is return on investment realised by the rising value of the property you own. It essentially accounts for the increasing value of the asset itself.
If you buy a property at RM100,000, and sell it at RM200,000 a decade later, the simple capital return would be RM100,000, or 100%.

2) Rental return

Rental return is about a flow of income generated by your property during the period of ownership. If you’re investing long-term, there’s a good chance that rental return will be an important part of your investment consideration.
Of course, if you’re buying the home for a family member to live in, this might not always mean rental payments will be part of the equation.

The Pros And Cons Of Long-Term Property Investment

If property investment is a certain return, then why isn’t everyone doing it?
The truth is there are pros and cons to long-term property investment, and deciding whether it’s for you might be down to several factors.
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Benefits Of Long-Term Property Investment

1) Physical Asset

You have a physical asset to see and touch. That means very little chance of it suddenly vanishing into the air due to fraud or financial mismanagement.

2) Historic Capital Appreciation

While Malaysia’s property market has slowed in recent years, there’s no doubt that property is still broadly expected to enjoy long-term capital appreciation.
That means many people continue to commit to the long-term capital returns that property could realise.

3) Chance For High Returns

The example of a Bangsar condo shows how substantial the potential can be for good returns if you purchase property in the right area, and at the right time.
As ever – there’s no guarantee you’ll get it right. The more you know, the better equipped you are to make the right decision.

4) Financial Leverage

Property is a class of asset that enjoys some unique elements of financial leverage through the established house loan system.
Loans from financial institutions are readily available (to qualifying parties) which assist you in investing in this asset class, boosting your investment potential.

5) Dual Income Potential

The potential for on-going rental returns alongside capital appreciation is an enticing prospect for many investors.
That works to complement the possible financial leverage from accessing a home loan by providing an income stream to offset loan costs.

6) Positive Sentiment

Property ownership is often seen as an aspirational thing, which means it offers an asset class that adds additional sentimental value to an investment portfolio.
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The Drawbacks Of Long-Term Property Investment

1) Not a liquid asset

Property is not a liquid asset, which means it’s hard to quickly access cash tied up in a property.
If a sudden life event means you need rapid access to cash, it’s often challenging to do this with property.

2) Substantial cash tied in one place

While bank accounts allow you to withdraw part of, or all of, your asset in one go, property tends to be more of an ‘all or nothing’ affair.
Liquidating the cash value of property is generally a case of selling the entire property.

3) Management Required

Some investment types such as bonds tend to live out of sight and out of mind. Property, on the other hand, can be a fairly demanding asset, especially if you’re renting it out.
While you can hire agencies and professionals to help with much of the necessary, that does come with a cost.

4) On-Going Costs

Maintenance, management, and up-keep of your property is vital to its ultimate investment return.
Keeping your property in good repair means on-going costs throughout the course of the investment.

5) No Guaranteed Return

While an investment bond might guarantee a return of 5% against the original deposit, there is no such guarantee with property.
It may be that a market downturn or overall costs of upkeep mean your return on investment falls below the 5% return that was guaranteed against that bond, or other investment types you considered.

How To Plan For A Long-Term Property Investment

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Any investment ultimately comes down to a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. You need to inform and educate yourself as to the potential for returns in your given asset class.
When it comes to residential property, that should include a detailed understanding of the property price, area, rental potential etc.

1) Explore Value

Compare the current house prices with historical trends to see whether an area has enjoyed capital appreciation over time.
Is there a sharp rise that has steadied out, therefore indicating a mature and stagnant market?
Have property prices fallen indicating a good time to buy? Is the market generally on the rise? The more you know, the more informed your investment.

2) Look To The Future

Look at the emerging potential of the neighbourhood, comparing it against other suburbs that may show similar amenities and infrastructure but at a more advanced stage of its lifecycle. Is there any insight here?

3) Calculate Loan Costs

If you’re taking out a home loan to finance part of your investment, you need to consider how the overall loan costs might impact your eventual financial return.
That’s especially important when you consider that interest rates can, and often do, change, which may substantially alter your on-going repayment costs.

4) Consider Potential To Add Value

Is the house in need of fixing up? Will you be able to develop a better garden? Can you gradually invest to expand areas or extensions of a landed property?
Consider value factors, and once again – research in detail how they might impact the price over time.

5) Consider Rental Alternatives

Not all rental alternatives are made equal. You could rent to students, long-term tenants, holiday rentals.
They each come with their own benefits and drawbacks, so research which type of rental works for you, and understand what that means for your finances.
You have to consider secure long-term lets versus potentially volatile but higher yielding short-term returns.
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6) Don’t Forget The Hidden Fees

With long-term investments, things like stamping duty or legal fees are less of a substantial consideration. But that doesn’t mean you should discount them. Factor in all the costs to your initial calculations.

7) Estimate On-Going Costs

Management fees, maintenance bills, insurance, these all cut into your ROI. Make sure these on-going costs form part of your overall equation.

8) Consider The Tax

Malaysia’s Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) will impact the return you receive.
Factor in RPGT, and any other relevant taxes at the time of purchase or potential sale, into calculations of your projected return.

9) Speak To The Professionals

When you’re investing hundreds of thousands of Ringgit, it’s important to think carefully to understand what you’re doing.
Speak to the professionals, whether that’s real estate agents, property lawyers, financial advisors etc.

So, When Is It The Right Time To Sell?

The most challenging part of a long-term property investment is understanding when it’s time to sell.
For some investors, that choice is part of a natural lifecycle. That means selling your asset when the time is right for you.
That could be to pay for a child’s college fees, or simply to unlock capital for your own retirement. But that choice can be at the mercy of market forces during times of a particularly slow market.
It’s important to keep an eye on the trends and prices within the local area. Monitor property sales in the neighbourhood, particularly those with similar property types.
This will give you an important understanding of transactions and how prices might relate to your own investment.
If there’s a particular surge in prices within the local area that then levels out, it might make sense to sell your investment and free up the capital to access potentially greater returns in other areas.
Property investment is an exciting opportunity, but it is never one where you can guarantee returns. The more you know, and the harder you work, the more likely you are to realise the benefits of your investment.

We can’t help you work hard, but we can help you know more! We’re helping build a better property market through informed insight via our guides. And if you’re ready to take that next step in property investments, you can read more about how to spot a great property investment opportunity!

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