Category Archives: Property Law

Factor’s driving continued Chinese investor interest in Australian property

The continued appreciation of the yuan could put pressure on the Chinese Government to ease the capital outflow restrictions which have impacted investment in Australian commercial property.

The issue for China is that the yuan is up massively over the last 12 months and that has been driven by the new capital control regulations which have been very effective in turning around the outflow of capital.

However that appreciation could see Chinese goods becoming less competitive and that is not what the Chinese will want to see.

If that is the case then it seems clear that some tinkering with those new capital outflow regulations, and among them those pertaining to real estate transactions, will occur and that will help to both stabilise the yuan at a level that is acceptable to China, and of course benefit Australian commercial property.

According to a report from London based Pictet Wealth Management, China’s total capital outflow was estimated at US$166 billion in 2017, down 78% from US$761 billion in 2015 and 67% from US$500 billion in 2016 as a result of the new regulations.

China’s initial tightening of capital outflow rules in 2016 followed a fall of nearly 7% in the value of the yuan against the USD which had been the largest depreciation since 1994.

The foreign exchange turnaround, he said, had seen the yuan appreciate 10.4% against the USD over the 12 months to December.

But more importantly if we look at the movement over the last two months from December when  1 USD bought 6.62 yuan and then last week when 1 USD bought 6.29 yuan we see an appreciation of 5.2% in just six weeks.

That is a huge appreciation of the yuan on top of the significant rise over the last 12 months, and, if it continues, then it must be troubling for at least some sectors of the Chinese manufacturing industry which of course is a hugely significant contributor to capital inflow.

The sheer weight of Chinese capital seeking offshore property investment remains very significant with Australia still the number two destination in the world behind the US for Chinese investors.

We need to keep in mind that while investment outflows from China have been curbed, Chinese investors are adjusting to the new rules and fine tuning their investment strategies.

To date in the new year we have seen little change in interest from Chinese investors, if anything, what may have restricted sales volumes, has been as much about the lack of quality stock in increasingly tightly held markets.

That has been particularly the case in the retail sector, while falling vacancy and incentive levels have been very encouraging for office market landlords.

A further factor driving continued Chinese investor interest in Australian property were regulations aimed at curbing Chinese domestic real estate activity in restricting developers’ ability to raise finance for their projects.

On the one hand we have the regulations restricting developers from seeking off-shore opportunities and on the other hand also being restricted in their activities at home.

It is a difficult time for property developers on the domestic front, who, under the centralised banking system, already face limited options for funding new projects.

It is not inconceivable then that the further restrictions on their ability to raise finance through debt and equity, may have them looking offshore where finance for their projects may prove easier to come by. Source CBRE

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Housing’s puzzling strength

Australian housing finance approvals beat expectations again in November, the number of approvals for owner occupiers up 2.1% vs expectations of a flat result. Approvals ex refi rose 2.4%mth to be up 9.2%yr.

The value of housing finance approvals to investors also posted a rise, up 1.5% but is down –8.3%yr.

The Nov detail showed continued strength in first home buyer loans (+4.5%mth, 36%yr) concentrated in NSW and Vic where state government stamp duty concessions are giving a big boost and activity is coming from a very low starting point.

Construction-related approvals were up 2%mth, 7.6%yr.

By state, gains in NSW (+1.9%mth), Qld (+4.3%mth) and SA (+2.1%mth) offset falls in Vic (–0.3%mth) and WA (–2.7%mth). Annual growth remains strongest in Vic (+16.8%) and NSW (+10.9%) bearing in mind that this is owner occupier approvals only (ex refi) and that the slowdown in investor activity has had a more material impact in these two states, NSW in particular.

Overall, the total value of finance approvals ex owner occupier refi was up 2.1%mth, and 1.7%yr. That compares to turnover, down around 16%yr, auction clearance rates, down over 13ppts, and an abrupt slowdown in price growth, down from a double digit pace mid-year to a sub-5% annual pace currently.

While the pull back in investor finance approvals is broadly consistent with macro-prudential tightening measures impacting this segment, the continued strength in owner-occupier activity has been surprising, particularly given material slowdown in wider housing market activity evident in other measures. Overall, the total value of loan approvals including investor loans and ex refi has firmed over the last year, up 1.7%yr.

The comparison with the previous macro-prudential tightening episode in 2015 is also intriguing. This resulted in a similar slowdown in wider market measures and a sizeable 10%+ decline in the total value of finance approvals.

The differences are puzzling but may be an indication that weaker foreign buyer demand – evident in the wider housing market performance but not captured by finance approvals – may have had a greater hand in the 2017 slowdown.

Matthew Hassan is senior economist with westpac

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Is it now possible to imagine Australia having a national affordable housing strategy, backed by funding, by the end of 2016.

At the National Housing Conference last week, there was considerable optimism about the newly appointed federal minister for cities, Jamie Briggs, whose infrastructure mandate includes housing. New energy is coming from the states with the largest affordable housing deficits – a social housing initiative from the New South Wales government and a “refreshed” metropolitan planning strategy in Melbourne with a stronger emphasis on affordable housing.

It is now possible to imagine Australia having a national affordable housing strategy, backed by funding, by the end of 2016.

Australia certainly needs such a strategy. The population is projected to reach 38 million in the next 35 years. Sydney and Melbourne are each expected to grow by at least three million people. The proportion of older people will be higher, with a lower proportion in the paid workforce.

This means we need at least six million new housing units in the next three decades. There is increasing impetus to locate these dwellings close to public transport, employment clusters and health and social services.

Cost pressures are intensifying

Rising housing demand and prices affect everyone, but low-income renters have fared worst in recent years. Capital city rents rose by twice the level of inflation from 2005 to 2010. By 2011, the shortage of suitable rental properties exceeded 500,000.

As a result, even most households that receive Commonwealth Rent Assistance (projected to cost A$6.6 billion in 2015-16) pay well over the recommended maximum rent. Some 55% of the A$7.7 billion annual cost to the government of capital gains exemptions and negative gearing goes to the top 10% of income earners. Only 4% goes to the bottom 20% of households by income.

Existing programs are not accomplishing policy aims. The Abbott government discontinued two small national programs, the Social Housing Initiative co-funding construction of non-profit housing and the National Rental Affordability Scheme subsidising below-market rental housing. No national strategy or infrastructure funding program has replaced those small but important initiatives.

Key steps towards affordability

What would be the basic elements of a national affordable housing strategy? Economist David Rosen led a review of the US$7 trillion spent in the US on federal finance, tax, lending, spending and regulatory programs and policies. According to Rosen, the place to start is a standard definition of “affordable housing”.

Malcolm Turnbull’s appointment of a cities minister, Jamie Briggs, has raised hopes of action on developing a national affordable housing strategy. AAP/Lukas Coch

The next step would be to calculate current and projected need for affordable housing by subtracting housing need from the available stock. There are local efforts to calculate this in cities like Melbourne, but it would need to be done in a consistent way across the country.

The cost of owning or renting a home includes rent or mortgage payments, property taxes and unit maintenance. A household can also incur onerous transport costs, if living far from employment and good public transport. Internationally, affordability is usually defined as housing that costs no more than 30-35% of household income, adjusted for household size.

For households earning less than 30% of their area’s median income, private market housing will almost certainly be out of reach without some form of subsidy.

In metropolitan Melbourne, for instance, the average weekly income is A$1333. A little over 11% of households in the city (159,000 households) earn less than A$400 a week, which is 30% of the median income. These households could only afford to pay a maximum of A$133 a week on the rent or mortgage. Less than 1% of rentals in Melbourne are available at those prices.

Social housing constitutes less than 3% of total housing stock. Most of it is occupied by these low-income households. So, at the most basic level, affordable housing would seek to fill that shortfall of more than 150,000 units in one major city alone, as well as building for future affordable housing needs.

How do we fund affordable housing?

After calculating need, the next requirement for a national affordable housing strategy would be to identify all potential revenue sources to fund it. These could be direct funding from national, state and local governments, but also indirect funding through tax rebates, low- or no-cost land, or mechanisms like reduced parking requirements or expedited planning approvals (which cuts land-holding costs and uncertainties).

A plethora of mechanisms used in other countries could be adopted here. For instance, in the US the Low Income Housing Tax Credit has, since 1986, allowed private investors to obtain tax credits in return for a ten-year investment in constructing or rehabilitating low-income rental housing. The stable and bipartisan program injects about US$6 billion a year in capital into affordable housing.

If a small proportion of the negative gearing tax credit were re-allocated towards investment in social housing, a similarly scaled program could be instituted in Australia. Similarly, if the Commonwealth guaranteed a 6% return on social housing investment, how much of the A$2 trillionheld in superannuation funds could be unlocked?

For the past two years, the Transforming Housing project has brought together state and local government, private developers, community housing providers and commercial and philanthropic investors to identify barriers to scaling up affordable housing in metropolitan Melbourne and how to overcome them.

Much of the emphasis has been on mechanisms at a state and local level, ranging from value capture financing to innovative design and construction. However, there is growing consensus that a Commonwealth affordable housing strategy is essential to enable integrated action by other levels of government and the private and charitable sectors.

With a clear sense of the numbers around affordable housing need and a stable financing and renewal model, the Turnbull government could reap multiple co-benefits. A national strategy could make cities more liveable, stimulate the property and construction sector, and reduce healthcare costs. The private and charitable sectors are waiting to swing into action.


This article was co-authored by: Dr David Rosen, principal of DRA Associates and an advisor on development, finance and policy; Rob Pradolin, general manager of business development for Frasers Property Australia; Catherine Brown, CEO of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation; and Dr Heather Holst, deputy CEO and director of services and housing for Launch Housing.

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Five of the major regions throughout Queensland are experiencing steady improvements in median house values.

The Sunshine State is establishing its growth potential according to data released by the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ).

“This report supports the REIQ’s long-held view that those areas of Queensland that have been doing well are continuing to do well,” according to Antonia Mercorella, CEO of the REIQ.

Brisbane is the fastest-selling area in the state with average days on market at 57 – a drop of eight days compared to a year ago.

Brisbane median house values have also risen 1.6 per cent over the March quarter, which along with Toowoomba reflects the state’s the highest quarterly increase.

The capital city’s proportion of profit-making sales increased three per cent in the year to reflect 96 per cent.

Toowoomba holds the state’s record, however, with 98 per cent of all houses sold recording a profit for the vendor.

Mercorella says Queensland is in the grip of steady, sustainable growth, although some regionals are in a recovery phase.

“Those areas that are struggling to recover from the resources downturn are still trying to stabilize,” she says.

“But what we don’t have is the start of another boom and bust cycle, which as we all know by now, doesn’t really benefit anyone in the long-term.”

Five of the major regions throughout Queensland are experiencing steady improvements in median house values.

Brisbane, the Gold and Sunshine coasts, Toowoomba and Cairns, all showed rising annual median house values of approximately 1.5 to 1.9 per cent on average each quarter over the past year.

Gladstone’s median house values rose by 0.8 per cent, which is the city’s first positive move in five quarters.

The rate of decline in Mackay’s median values appears to be slowing with a drop of one per cent to its annual median value in the March quarter.

In addition, Townsville’s median house values rose 0.7 per cent, and its proportion of profit-making sales has remained stable at 74 per cent since August last year.

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Our goal is simple: to provide the greatest possible net operating income, while continually enhancing the value of the asset. We believe in using proven and new strategies and continually looking for new ways to provide cost savings for the property and the owner Our vision To provide a flexible and all-encompassing management service for our customers' properties and assets. Our values Exceptional customer service.  Transparency, punctuality and reliability.

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Too many property investors are missing out on important cash flow by neglecting depreciation

Many property investors are missing out on beneficial depreciation tax claims. The annoying thing is how often this happens, when it really doesn’t need to happen at all!

Tax depreciation is often an overlooked method of obtaining tax deductions on investment properties. It is a big help in enabling investors to minimise their tax liability and improve their cash flow. Sadly though, we often see situations where depreciation either isn’t maximised to its fullest potential, or worse yet, overlooked entirely.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) recognises that the value of capital assets reduces over time as they approach the end of their effective life. These assets can be written off as a tax deduction ie. ‘depreciation’.

What depreciation should I be considering?
If you own an investment property (new or old, large or small), two areas of depreciation are available:

1. plant and equipment
2. capital works on the building

Different items within a rental property have different rates of depreciation based on the effective life of the item. These items are identified by certified quantity surveyors, who inspect the property assets and then calculate its depreciation through their expertise and knowledge of which items are depreciable and how savings can be achieved.

To claim maximum tax benefits on an investment property the ATO encourages property investors to obtain a fully compliant tax depreciation report prepared by a certified quantity surveyor. You or your accountant will use this report when preparing your income tax return.

Further, some property investors may not realise that they don’t have to wait all year to benefit from the depreciation deductions available to them. Instead, they can improve their cash flow throughout the year simply by nominating to use a Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding variation.

A PAYG withholding variation allows individuals to vary the amount of tax withheld by their employer in each pay to anticipate their tax liabilities. This means that they can take advantage of the deductions available to them regularly, rather than waiting until the end of a financial year for their tax refund. You should speak to your accountant about this.

When to obtain a property depreciation report

Ideally, a depreciation report should be obtained soon after the purchase of an investment property. This enables a quantity surveyor to separate the items included in the purchase price, from the expenses that will be incurred by the new owner in the future. This detailed analysis ensures the maximum investment property depreciation allowances can be claimed.

A depreciation report is critical documentary evidence required by the ATO to support any tax deductions for components of an investment property that are decreasing in value. All investment properties are eligible to have their assets depreciated where, generally speaking, construction costs are incurred after 18 July 1985 and structural improvements are incurred after 27 February 1992. This applies even if the previous owner paid for the construction. In the event that the original construction cost data is no longer available, the ATO stipulates that a quantity surveyor must assess this figure.

Where to start – immediate tax depreciation write-offs and the low value pool

Obtaining independent, professional property advice ensures investment property owners stay up to date with the intricacies of tax legislation and can make well-informed decisions that enhance cash flow. For instance, waiting until just before the close of the financial year to buy an asset for an investment property may entitle you to claim the full cost on your tax return for that year. For example, plant and equipment assets valued at $300 or less are generally able to be written off at 100 per cent in the financial year of acquisition.

Moreover, under the Low Value Pool Regulations, certain items can be depreciated more quickly. Items that enter the pool are depreciated at a set rate or 18.75 per cent in the first year but in subsequent years, the percentage rate of depreciation jumps up to 37.5 per cent on the diminishing total.

What can effective property depreciation save you?

In typical situations – say a commercial property investment of around $1,000,000 – using a quantity surveyor and well-prepared depreciation report can result in clear benefits. Potential tax deductions under a well-planned depreciation schedule could total in excess of $27,000 in the first year of claim and over $100,000 for a 10-year period following the purchase of the property. For an individual taxpayer on the top marginal tax rate of 49.5 per cent (2014/2015 individual tax rate), the tax saving would be $13,365 on a $27,000 tax claim.

Of course, depreciation is only one component of owning an investment property and the associated tax deductions. Other deductions could include:

• fees to property management agencies (SEE WHAT WE CHARGE VRS WHAT OTHERS CHARGE http://wp.me/p1qS3N-7YJ
• repairs and maintenance to the property and its fixtures (IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO NOTE:-

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The total deductions can be considerable and go a very long way to improving your tax bill at the end of the financial year and throughout your years of investment in the property.

Clearly, there’s a real advantage in obtaining a depreciation report on your investment property. Our recommendation is to make sure you have a good depreciation strategy, but consult your accountant and other advisers before you finalise this!

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Mirvac To Develop $850m Eagle Farm Residential Project

Leading property group Mirvac has been selected as Brisbane Racing Club’s preferred partner for the development of its $850 million Eagle Farm Residential Precinct.

Mirvac were chosen from a shortlist of three contenders to partner with the Club on this quality project.

The Eagle Farm Residential Precinct will be built alongside the Eagle Farm Racecourse and as one of Brisbane’s most exciting lifestyle developments to date, the tender drew attention from local, interstate and offshore developers. The 10-year project forms part of the Eagle Farm Master Plan and will see the delivery of over 1,000 trackside apartments alongside an exciting food, beverage and retail destination.

HORSE RACING

Located in Ascot, just 6 kilometres from the Brisbane CBD, the 54,000 square metre site offers a premium, large-scale development opportunity in a thriving part of the city’s north east. A range of retail, commercial, hospitality and entertainment facilities are planned for the adjacent land.

Mirvac’s Group Executive Residential John Carfi said the business was thrilled to have been selected as the Brisbane Racing Club’s development partner at such an iconic Brisbane location.

150515 eaglefarmres_620x380

“This location provides Mirvac with an excellent opportunity to deliver quality residential apartments in the heart of Brisbane’s popular racing precinct,” he said.

“Mirvac will draw on its expertise and strong track record of delivering major residential and mixed-use developments and we look forward to working closely with the Brisbane Racing Club on the next phase of this exciting project.”

BRC’s Chairman Neville Bell said Mirvac had been chosen after a vigorous selection process based on its experience in large-scale, mixed-use development projects.

“The redevelopment of the Eagle Farm Racing Precinct is an exciting step for us as part of our 10 year Master Plan,” he said.

“Mirvac’s extensive experience in similar projects aligns with our objectives for the future of the club.

“We are delighted to have a major developer of Mirvac’s calibre onboard as we work through this significant redevelopment.”

The announcement for Mirvac follows successful sales results at its Waterfront, Newstead development which has delivered more than $150 million in sales.

THE MASTER PLAN

Eagle-Farm

Situated six kilometres to the Brisbane CBD, the 5.431 hectare site is approved for residential apartment towers up to 15 storeys.

The site, known as Precinct 5B of the Eagle Farm Master Plan area, provides a rare opportunity to partner with the Brisbane Racing Club to develop its large residential development site.

Brisbane Racing Club’s General Manager – Property & Asset Management, Mr Jeff Kahler said the Club was seeking a joint venture partner for what will be one of Brisbane’s most exciting developments.

“Brisbane Racing Club has obtained planning approval for the master planned development of Eagle Farm and Doomben Racecourses and is seeking a joint venture partner for this iconic Brisbane residential opportunity which will appeal to large developers who want to be involved in a premium, large scale development,” said Mr Kahler.

Knight Frank’s Director of Commercial Sales, Mr Morrison said that the master planned development of the non-core land of Eagle Farm and Doomben Racecourses is a rare opportunity for a local or offshore developer.

“This approval is one the largest and most exciting lifestyle projects in Brisbane’s history and one we’re extremely confident will be well received by the developer community,” continued Mr Morrison.

“The Eagle Farm Residential Precinct is located alongside the Eagle Farm Racecourse and is designated as a high density residential area. This site is capable of sustaining in excess of 1,000 apartments and is situated immediately next to a proposed mixed-use development which may include a range of uses comprising retail, commercial, hospitality and entertainment facilities.

“The site is located in a popular lifestyle precinct, well serviced by public transport with rail, bus and Citycat all close by and easily accessible from all parts of Brisbane and beyond via Inner City Bypass,” added Mr Morrison.

Knight Frank’s Managing Director of Commercial Sales, Mr Paul Henley said that Brisbane residential site sales have gone through considerable growth the past 12 months.

“The Brisbane Apartment market has entered a new property cycle. Sales rates have now remained above long term averages for a full 12 month period. Sale prices have stabilised and stock transacting is a good mix of investment and owner occupier product which signals a suitable diversity of purchasers in the marketplace, as the development of Eagle Farm Residential Precinct is likely to offer.

“In addition to traditional markets Melbourne and Sydney, we have sensed a considerable shift in favour of Brisbane also in our recent visits to Malaysia and Singapore as a preferred Australian location for investment This positive sentiment in favour of Brisbane is in our opinion going to grow in the short to medium term,” added Mr Henley.

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