Property Investing – The Art Of The Deal

How times have changed from the initial days of buy to let. The market has matured, investors have come and gone, and in particular, the way in which people invest has changed dramatically.Only a few years ago, then focus seemed to be on “The art of the deal”. You know, a decent return on investment, or a good yield. Things seem to have changed now to “how much is it, and do I need a deposit”, and there are a flurry of deals available out there.The “No money down deal” is now the holy grail for many property investors, as opposed to the old fashioned way of making sure that the rent covers the mortgage each and every month. I know I sound a bit old fashioned, but at 34, I wouldn’t say so. Just an investor with experience, who has seen enough investors buy below their “perceived” market value, only to either lose the property, or sell it at a loss later on, simply because they thought it was a short cut to success (There isn’t one by the way, despite what many property clubs may infer, at least not in my experience).Originally, The Art of The Deal I refer to was about the rental income, less the mortgage costs and any other fees, and whatever was left should have been profit at the end of each month.The profit was then multiplied by 12 (as in the months of the year), and divided by my initial investment. This is your Return on Investment (ROI). This was the way in which you could compare one property deal, against another deal especially at different rental values.For example, is a property purchased at £150k with a rent of £650, as good as a deal at £95k and a rental value of £425. Do you know the answer ? Well you need to know what the service charge is on each one, then add in the property management charges. Then you can do your comparison. Usually, it’s the lower price properties that give a better return on investment. An added bonus of a lower priced property is also the fact that you don’t need to pay stamp duty.As well as having a better return on investment, having two smaller properties rather than one big property helps with void periods. If one of your two smaller properties are empty, then its only a 50% void. But having the one large property empty means 100% void.In fact, when you’re first starting out in property investing, there’s a line of thought that suggests you should only buy properties under the £120k mark in order to avoid stamp duty, and to spread the risk across multiple properties, which takes advantage of a better Return, less risk in terms of voids, less up front costs (although you will have two mortgage fees, and two sets of solicitors fees).I think buying a property at £220k as your first property is potentially “property investing suicide” and you need to cut your teeth on something a little bit less risky, without all the massive upfront costs that come with such a high priced property (and potential mortgage commitments)But the main reason why I think that the Art of The Deal has changed, is that these days its not about doing the maths on the deal, its about the discount you get from the developer so that you don’t need to put down a deposit.While this seems like a good idea, in practice it can mean a lot of similar properties completing at the same time, all with lower rental valuations, and a potential loss of anywhere upto £250 per month. Incidentally, it is usual for rental valuations to be low on new developments, due to normal supply and demand, but not when you have already paid over the odds for a property just to get a no money down deal.That said, not all no money down, off-plan investments, are the bad deals. Some of them do stack up, but you need to do your research. For example, why buy a city centre brand new off-plan property, with no previous history of rentals, when you can buy a 2 bed back to back (or two of them) and know that the property has been there 100 years, its already got history of being rented in the local area.Of course you could say that you have guarantees for the first few years that the white goods (fridges, dishwashers, etc). But that sometimes isn’t the case (as my tenants in one of my Brand new Manchester properties discovered when they were left without a shower for 6 weeks).But do you do the maths? Do you know whether it’s a good deal or not.And that’s why I think that The Art of The Deal has changed.Let me quote an example. I spoke with an investor recently who had purchased a property off plan from a property sourcing company. The property was valued at £140,000 by the RICS approved valuer. The property however was purchased for £150,000, less a 15% discount, and the landlord didn’t have the funds available to fund the rest of the property, so he was going to lose the £3,000 deposit he had paid to reserve it.The property itself didn’t stack up either, as it’s a one bed and the rental value on this is £550 per month. The problem here is that the property just doesn’t stack up, the rent wont cover the mortgage, and it seems to be all about getting a discount on the purchase price. “But you make money when you buy property” said the landlord.Im afraid that’s too much Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the book that launched a thousand investors, which does quite rightly state that you make money when you buy.But the context is incorrect. What Robert Kiyosaki meant was that you negotiate well in order to secure a discount, not that you purchase an already inflated property at a discount just so that you don’t have to put any deposit in.It is by the way, still possible to buy a discounted property, and still make a decent return, but if you don’t know how to find out whether the property is a good purchase compared to another property, then you’re going to make mistakes and this may cost you dearly.The bottom line on this is, is simply that if you can work out how to value one property against another, then you can do a direct comparison and make sure that you reduce the chances of buying a property that may be too expensive, or not cover its costs.