Is the end nigh?

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From: Terry Avery


Hi Everyone,

I would like to address the current state of property as an investment. This is going to be a long post so you have been warned! One of the regular queries runs along the lines of "Is this the right time to buy?" My proposition is that no this is not the right time to buy.

Now the experts say the current market has 6, 12 or 18 months left to run (depending on who is talking and whether they are in the business of selling property - read real estate institutes there if you like).

I don't know how long the current boom will last but I do know that we are in a boom. Before I go through my indicators that we are currently in a boom let's look at another recent boom, the tech boom on the share market. Wind the clock back ten years and you will find that the amount of information on the share market was limited. There were some courses around, some seminars being run and investor education services being sold. Suddenly everyone became interested in buying tulips, sorry, shares. We then had TV programs on how to do it (Money) followed by magazines (Shares, Money, Personal Investment) a plethora of radio programs (we used to have a weekly program by the likes of Bruce Bond but now we have market updates, property orientated talkback as well as general investment programs). Not to mention the huge number of operations set up to teach how to trade the share market and computer programs everywhere to help you trade. Everyone was talking about investing in shares, Internet sites proliferated and with a number of floats the mums and dads were involved. I forgot the sudden increase in the quantity of how to manuals on the stock market, trends and black magic methods. Oops and then Investment Clubs as well and don't forget easy money; banks, margin lenders and LOC facilities.

Now let's look at property. First we had the seminars, The Investment Club and its imitators, then the magazines (Your Mortgage, APM), second tier marketing companies, software to assist in making the buying decision or manage your properties. Radio programs dedicated to property, TV programs (Location, location, Auction, Hot Property) Seminar companies telling you how to do it, newspaper columns on it, books everywhere on how to do it, groups clustering to support each other (this forum, Freestylers, Wraps Association). You could also add in easy money; banks, mortgage brokers, non-bank lenders and LOC facilities.

Clarification here: None of the above sources of information are bad, in fact many of them have been responsible for the building of wealth of many individuals and I commend them for their efforts.

However, the point I am making is that the madness of crowds has taken over. When everyone is doing it then that is the clearest sign that the market is overheated and will correct. When, I don't know. One indicator is when the media latches onto the downside of something. The media were writing negative articles prior to the Tech crash a year ago and for the last six months they have been creeping in warning of the dangers. Unfortunately advertising and RE agent's bodies talking up the market drown the naysayers out.

Some more indicators closer to home. Gee Cee is cashing up by selling off old property. Gee Cee has been through three boom and bust cycles and has expressed his observations. TW has been rather quiet on recent acquisitions and has been more reserved in her comments on now being a good time to buy so I assume she is also keeping her powder dry. It seems the only ones on the forum who are buying are the newbies on their first or second IP with dozens of newbies impatiently sitting on the sidelines trying to get into the game.

The problem is that I think the game is in the final quarter, the siren will blow any minute to signal the end of the game and those entering late are going to be caught out. However, I COULD BE WRONG! Each person will have to weigh up in their own mind whether things are getting out of hand. Sure there may be opportunities out there but as people keep saying, they are getting harder to find. Last weekends news stories on people lining up four deep at auctions shows on one hand a preparedness to pay well over reserve for property but then comments from forum members of no sign of reduction of the oversupply of rental properties paints a different picture. I would rather believe the forum than media stories fed from the RE industry.

In my local area the agent's are putting for lease signs outside properties. I have never seen that before. The local papers last week started putting ads for rental properties WITH a photo. I have never seen that before! It seems more drastic advertising is required to rent properties or it could be agent's have found another way to get their agency's name in the paper and on the street more prominently and get the landlord to pay for their self-advertisement. In the local agent's window last week there were five properties being sold by mortgagee in possession. I have never seen that before!!!!

Recently a comment was made, I forget the author, that any time is good to buy because if you buy now and it goes up and then falls back a bit then you will still be ahead and you have gotten into the game. Another comment is that over time it won't matter, as in the long run property will increase in value. Yes, well maybe, maybe not. Well this got me to thinking about where the cut off point would be so I did up a spreadsheet that I will try to attach and invite comment from others as to whether I have got it all wrong. In my spreadsheet I calculated how well off I would be if I bought a $200,000 IP and it went up between 5-50% and then came back 5-30% in the peak value. The spreadsheet shows all combinations of these scenarios, for example goes up 40% and falls back 15%, or any other combination you care to look at. I stopped at a rise of 50% to keep it reasonable realistic to what I expect the market to do and the drop to 30% because any higher than that you would lose money, even if the market went up 50%.

For example, buy at $200,000, increases 50% to $300,000
Market drops back 30% to $210,000
Had the market dropped back 35% then the property would be worth $195,000

OK an increase of 50% and a drop of 30% still sees you ahead. Out of the 60 combinations shown you have 60% of the scenarios ending positively in terms of equity.

However, add in the interest payment for one year at 6% and the number of positive scenarios drops to 45%, pay interest for two years and it becomes 35%.

The spreadsheet looks at paying interest up to 10% and your odds of success drop to 20% if you have to pay 10% interest for two years. That means that in 80% of the possible combinations you would lose money.

OK I can hear some of you shouting "What about negative gearing, the interest is tax deductible". Yes, well you are correct and I don't have the skills to write that complicated a spreadsheet that would allow every individual to input their tax situation into the spreadsheet and come up with an answer. Depending on your personal tax rate would depend on the outcome you receive. However, a comment often made lately on the forum is that it doesn't matter if you have to negatively gear to get into the game "Just Do It". Hmm, highly dangerous at this point in time in my opinion. Two years ago when everyone was focused on shares, yes then I would have agreed. But while everyone is focused on getting an IP, all those mums and dads and young couple struggling to make ends meet then this is not the time.

Another criticism is that property won't drop 30%. Yes, if it drops only 10 or 20 % then your chances of coming out ahead are increased. In past busts values have dropped up to 20% so if you take that as the worst case scenario then you would find that 75% of the combination of scenarios would leave a positive result. Not to forget that the experts are predicting that when the boom stops then prices will remain the same and then take off at a more sedate pace. The most pessimistic is predicting a slight reduction in values.

What makes this property boom different to past ones? Well for a start the financial climate in the past was greatly different. Those who benefited were those who had money to play with or the savvy to use OPM. There were no seminars on how to invest in property, few books around (I obtained Jan's first manual back in 1991). So the masses did not have access to the knowledge or the money to build their wealth. At the time 6% of the population owned one or more properties and most sold their only one after a couple of years so the ratio has remained consistent over the years leaving good pickings for the rest of us. I don't know what the figures are now but if they have increased then that is bad for the rest of us.

What else is different this time around? In the last bust people had negative equity in their properties. That meant their mortgages were more than the house was worth. People paid top dollar for their homes at the peak of the boom and then saw their equity dissolve overnight. They hung in there because it was their home and people will go to great lengths to keep their homes. With IPs however, it is a different ball game. Many have borrowed against their equity to buy IPs, 105%, maybe 110% mortgages for IPs. Should prices drop by as small as 5% they could be in trouble. The banks will preserve their equity at all costs so expect more foreclosures, which are already happening.

So, to conclude this rambling post, it is my opinion that too many poorly educated investors are jumping into property (through second tier marketing). There are too many starry eyed newbies trying to get into IPs without understanding the risks they are taking. There are too many people who are not reading the danger signs or if they do see them are too optimistic in their projections and gloss over the danger. This forum is a great source of support but at times I shake my head at the amount of congratulations that are handed out for getting into the game when it is clearly a poor time to do so as an investor.

I know I am taking a contrarian approach to the rest of the crowd but I can only see a world of financial pain out there for a lot of people. Take what I say for what it is worth to you and thanks to the forum for being there so we can all have our say.

Cheers to you all
 
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Reply: 1
From: Michael Croft


Hi Terry,

Yes the market must peak, and probably sooner rather than later (the market usually waits for a 'sign' eg. interest rate rise). But what then, a fall back? Yes, with the qualification that it will be area and property specific. The better areas and properties will just stay flat for a few years, which is a loss when inflation and opportunity cost are concerned.

My point is that if you have purchased a good property in a good location and bought well, what happens to the general property scene is irrelevant. Take shares as an example, even in a "crash" some shares actually increase in value after the initial few weeks of shock. The same is true for property and that is it's beauty.

No two properties are identical (even if built the same)as they cannot occupy the same space. Which is why 'location' has been latched on to as the key to IP's. It is the key, and the individual property is the lock. A well located property with desirable features will weather the storm.

The ma and pa investors will be hurt in any slowdown or downturn, but the readers of this forum should not be overly concerned if they are applying what they learn here.

Of course I agree it is always better to buy low or near the bottom of any market but unlike GC I am not selling. My selection criteria get tougher as the market gets hotter or nears it's peak to the point where I haven't bought anything since December. That said I am negotiating on two properties and will be attending an auction this weekend.

The auction will be my gauge of the local market, I'll buy between $435 and 460k if goes over I'm not interested. The property in question has multiple income streams and will benefit from a reno.

Michael Croft
 
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Reply: 2
From: Gail H


Hi,
As a fairly new investor, it is difficult to wait when you are already mad at yourself for delaying so long. I'm aware that I should have bought a year or two ago, but I can't change that. To sit out for another couple of years would be horrendous - I've missed out on so much already.

So, my strategy is to buy in areas that I think are undervalued, and may still experience a ripple effect from surrounding, over-valued suburbs. That way, if prices drop, mine shouldn't drop too far as it hadn't risen that much to begin with. Plus, add value through moderate renovation.

I'm also looking at markets in other states (I'm in Melbourne) - areas that seem undervalued compared to neighbouring suburbs.

Maybe I should just wait out and buy nothing yet, but I figure the worst that will happen if I follow a cautious strategy is that I will stand still, which I'd be doing if I sat on the sidelines anyway. Plus I'd rather chew my arm off then put my money in the stock market!

Gail
 
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Reply: 3
From: Colin Mills


Terry you have hit the nail on the head. Could not agree with you more. Would not touch Syd/Melb at the moment with a barge pole. However, I'll be in there (Sydney North Shore) boots and all when it hits the fan in the next twelve months.
 
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Reply: 1.1
From: Nigel W


Michael wrote:

"if you have purchased a good property in a good location and bought well, what happens to the general property scene is irrelevant."

Pure gold once again MC!

Let's not get too overwrought about lies, damn lies and statistics!
 
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Reply: 4
From: Choon NG


Terry,

I am in Melbourne, and I agree that we might be near the peak, BUT not necessary there yet. You mentioned about foreclosure in your market. Do you notice them more foreclosure because you are trying to look for the sign ? (Have you not notice that there are more red cars on the road if you are looking to buy a red car ?)

As I saw from the property market activities over the last 2 weekend, there are still buyers out there - interest rate and jobless rate is under control. Investors are still making good capital gains. So where does the economic hardship/foreclosure come from ?? Can any fill in this missing link ?

I was in the last boom (tech share, and property in 80s), and I must say that I lost a number of big opportunities ($$$) because I retire to the sideline too early "as I looked for indicators, get scared and acted too early". I should have "play the game" to the end, and apply other strategies (to manage the risk and minimise lost) if the environment change.

choon
 
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Reply: 5
From: J Parker


Great stuff everyone- I love it when discussions like this are started as it benefits all of us.

As for my humble opinion, I'm with Michael here as I think that the type of property and the location are very important factors, as the better selected ones are those that will withstand market fluctuations more steadily over the long term. Picking an area with a low vacancy rate is also highly imperative. The more desirable the property is to the most no. of tenants, the better.

Choon, as for your astute observation about seeing more once you are focused, you are so right. You have no idea how many silver Hondas I've seen in my local area since we purchased one! They're breeding in garages all over the place! As for the red cars, well haven't seen too many of those.... not looking too hard, I guess!
Cheers, Jacque :)
 
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Reply: 1.2
From: Terry Avery


Hi Michael,

Yes, I agree with you on a number of points. However, you and a number of experienced investors have the knowledge and experience to be able to choose well. My point is that large numbers of people are making uneducated and emotional choices. They are not choosing well. It is the madness of the crowd which is pushing prices up and as any long term investor knows when everyone is getting on board then it is time to disembark.

The way I see it is that too many people don't understand the risks they are taking. Lately the forum has been bereft of discussion on risk and how to manage it so while your point about people getting educated here is a valid one I would argue that the discussion is not balanced.

My original post pointed out some of the signs I am seeing in my area. Today I rang an agent about a house that sold some months ago and is back on the market. The story is that it had been tenanted for the last eight years by the one tenant but apparently the rent was fairly low. It is, no make that was, a good candidate for a reno. It needs painting and new carpet and a good tidy up outside. The owner's intention is to "slowly" renovate it but they are prepared to sell. Now reading between the lines the current owners bought as a reno project and may be having cash flow problems. Either that or they can afford to lose money. The tenant has left and it has been vacant for a couple of months with no sign of any reno being done. Now my understanding of how to do a reno is to get in quick (before settlement if possible?), do the reno and sell it at a higher price or put a tenant in at a higher rental. To make renovations slowly is not my idea of making money. The house is 21 years old and they are asking $5,000 more than an immaculate one year old in a better area. In terms of location it has some positives but the amount of money you would have to spend would not give you the yield to service the costs and if the market doesn't increase hugely then there will be no capital gain either as you would have made it the best house in the street.

My argument is that not everyone knows what they are doing and when the market is peaky then it is a dangerous time to learn from your mistakes. As you point out, if the market drops back there will be areas which will still do well. Few people are doing the analysis to discover where those areas are because the research required is time consuming and at times difficult.

Good luck in the auction and please let us know what happens.

Cheers

Terry
 
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Reply: 4.1
From: Terry Avery


Hi Choon,

No I was not looking for foreclosures, as I said there they were in the agent's window and that is not something I have seen before, either blatantly put on ads in the window or the quantity involved. Usually the agent's are a bit more discreet about it although they will tell you the reason for selling is foreclosure. I also think it is not a sign to panic yet. I cannot see a bank letting it go for a song as they could be sued for using their power and not looking after the vendor's interests. So the short answer is I was not looking for foreclosures they jumped out in front of me.

Yes, thankfully our economy is doing OK and people are still making good capital gains. I don't have an answer as to why the foreclosures are happening but given the loss of jobs at Ansett, Boss and Holeproof (Melbourne based businesses) I think that there are a number of people in a world of pain (financially) out there despite what government figures show. Remember the statistics show the past and not the present situation.

What you say about jumping out too early before the final siren and missing opportunities is relevant. However, hindsight is always 20/20 vision. You wouldn't have known when the final siren was going to blow and could have been wiped out. I think it was Austin Donelly who wrote that the preservation of capital is of the utmost importance (as does Warren Buffet) and that it is better to take your profits and sit out the rest of the game than to risk losing all. That is the problem now, the signs of the madness of crowds is evident but just when it will happen no-one can predict.

I feel that greed is taking over, and fear. The fear of missing out, of not being part of something exciting, of being one of the group. I bought my first IP ten years ago to get into the market. In retrospect it was not a good buy but on the other hand I learnt a lot along the way. Shares I knew less about and studied the subject for five years before buying my first parcel and then selling at a loss just before they jumped. In investing patience is required and I see evidence everywhere and particularly in this forum of people champing at the bit to get in the game. It cost me so I am confident it will cost others too. I could afford the losses but I am not sure that others can given the highly leveraged nature of the deals they are doing. And they have no risk management in place, no fall back position other than bankruptcy.

Am I looking for indicators? No, I don't have to. They are yelling in my face. Human nature is to deny the negatives when someone believes in something. No matter what you say people will not hear the message. With your experience you seem better able to assess the risks and manage them as can a lot of other experienced investors on this forum so you should be able to increase your wealth or at the very least recover quickly.

As I said before I could be WRONG. Make your own assessment and do what you think is best. But please make it a rational, educated decision and not an emotional one. Don't be a lemming and follow the crowd!

Cheers

Terry
 
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Reply: 2.1
From: Terry Avery


Hi Gail,

Unlike you I see heaps of opportunities in the stock market and very few in property at the moment. Property is not the only asset class and to ignore the share market is akin to being an ostrich. :cool:

Cheers

Terry
 
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Reply: 1.2.1
From: Michael Croft


Hi Terry,

Agreed, the discussion board is unbalanced in favour of getting into property investment and there is little discussion of the risks involved. To be fair though the majority on this board are the elite few.

Less than 3% of the population directly invest in property that makes about 600,000 people, of that three percent more than half sell within 5 years. This leaves less than 1.5% of the population directly invested in property for the long term and we will assume that these 'know what that are doing'. Of this 300,000 or so real IP investors (and I really am guessing here) about 10,000 have visited this board and of that maybe 1000 are regulars which is 0.00005% of the population = 'the elite few'.

I am not disagreeing with you, as 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'(Voltaire I think). The hit and run visitors to the forum will selectively take what they want and may apply it without all the background info. The classics are the "help what do I do posts". Now I am all for hands on personal experience, and it is a great (if not the best) teacher but this must be tempered with due diligence. Sadly this area is often neglected and results in that 'half of the 3%' selling within 5 years. The typical 'ma and pa' investors and the impatient youth fall into this category.

So what do you do? On reading stories of financial self destruction I've often thought that people should be made to jump hurdles (invest in their financial IQ) that get progressively harder before they are allowed to invest in anything. However that's not how I did it (and it cost me big $$$) and to complicate matters I believe in self determination AND responsibility. So it's not an easy question to answer.

Here endeth the sermon.

Regards,

Michael Croft
 
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Reply: 6
From: Ross Sondergeld


Hi Terry,


Subject: Is the end nigh?


A brilliant post. And it sound make the hall of fame. It contained lots of
sounds reasoning and logic. And I'll read it again in 3 years to see how
right you were...

But i only think it applies to certain markets that have been booming.
i.e. melbourne overheated... sydney getting close, then an adjustment.

Then the undervalued pockets should move...


Ross Sondergeld ~ Buyer Agent

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...with a Buyer Agent on your side!!! "

Buyerside Real Estate Mobile 0412 289 464
Office 9b, 34 Glenferrie Drive Office (07) 5562 1555
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Reply: 6.1
From: Anonymous


Newbie question.. to those who feel that some sort of downturn in the property market is imminent:

What sort of things will you consider as indicators that the market has "bottomed" and it is time to jump back in?

When do you think this will occur? Later this year? Next year? Or later still?

Thanks.
 
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Reply: 6.1.1
From: The Wife



A quick 2 cents worth.....

Maybe you shouldn't say "TW is quiet/not buying".....because, you need to say , compared to what?

Compared to a newbie?

Compared to what strategy?

Should a newbie hold of because I am?

I am doing a lot of selling, so...I am still "active"....what's a newbie doing?

Nothing.

Maybe they SHOULD do something? Perhaps with good caution?

When SHOULD they start buying? when prices are low? when all the "professional adviser, who by the way are WORKING in their job as advisor and not out in the market LIVING it, tell them its a terrible time to be in the market.

Do newbies understand this?

Reality check, this boom, how many people are still going to want to be property investors when the market goes to mud.

And is it our place to try and save them?

Lets just imagine us "saving " them.......then where the HELL is my market in the bust time? nobody is selling cheap, jumping out of the fire, because we "saved" them.

Besides, if we did try to "save" them, can we? we can lead a horse to water, but we cant make it drink.

HAng on, lets speed it ahead a bit...say its a bust era, and we have managed to talk all the newbies into holding off from buying in a boom, can we now convince them to buy in a bust?

You can lead a horse to water......

All I know is, theres a lot of Mum and Dad Investors out there, that when the fire sweeps through, are going to be cinders.

What will be left, will be us die hards, AND the new breed. The new breed of die hards that are being introduced today to the fabulous wealth that is property investing.

Most of the old die hards, ARE still here, because we came thru a fire only slightly singed ( some of us suffered some hellish scars tho), but we were bigger, better, tougher , stronger and smarter for it.

Basically we just have to suffer all these wanna be's right now that are the mum and dad investors ( please note I am using the term mum and dad but am not picking on "mums" and "dads", I am a mummy myself),

I wish the mum and dads would just bloody well get on with it, or get out of the way , they are playing with my market, and its annoying me. But only a temporary annoyance and only slight...I am smarter, I can work "around" M&D's. When one of my markets are effected this way, I sorta just take my ball and go play "elsewhere".

My ball, My game...oops, theres the control freak in me again :eek:)

Cheers TW

~Do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be, yeah! - sung by the TW children, I'm so proud~
 
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Reply: 4.1.1
From: Paul Zagoridis


I look out for mortgagee in possession sales and agents have been using that as a marketing point for the last couple of years. If the property has no cosmetic problems it will sell for market value.

Banks also don't care about being sued for not protecting the vendors interests. By the time they have possession the vendor is normally tapped out.

Banks really only care about recovering their capital plus interest plus costs plus fees.

Banks will and do let property go for a song. The mortgagor is still liable for any shortfall. But they don't like to do it. So if the house needs money spent on it they normally don't. Hence it takes something pretty awful to get a bargain out of a bank foreclosure in NSW.

Paul Zag
Dreamspinner
The Oz Film Biz site is archived at...
http://wealthesteem.dyndns.org/
 
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Reply: 6.1.1.1
From: Paul Zagoridis


To cheer along with TW...

I have been saying the Sydney market is overheated for at least 12 months now. I don't know how people are making money as yields have fallen from 5.5% to 3% (capital gains obviously).

But I've made two offers at full asking price in the last five months and failed to secure the properties! The last one was last week.

I have no way of picking the peak of the market and really have no interest in trying to pierce the murky veil of the future. My crystal ball is broken.

Instead I work my strategy and have bought three houses last year. I have an exit plan if it doesn't work.

My personal theory is that unless you buy just before the correction then the market is very forgiving. Provided you can service the debt. I'm looking forward to buying bargains from people who cannot service the debt.

The basic advice is always to watch your debt serviceability. As long as the investor is never put in the position of HAVING to sell they can ride out the troughs.

All other strategies are designed to speed up the path to wealth with greater risk or effort.

Paul Zag
Dreamspinner
The Oz Film Biz site is archived at...
http://wealthesteem.dyndns.org/
 
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Reply: 6.1.1.1.1
From: Sim' Hampel


Brilliant posts from TW and PZ... Mike are you paying attention ? I think these need to be flagged for possible "classic post" status in the future ! ;-)

 
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Reply: 6.1.1.1.1.1
From: George M


Terry,
Congratulations you have just found some more reasons not to invest!,was i talking to you in Melbourne in 1991 when we were at
"The Peak", the whole reason we have the information we have today is so we can take responsibility for our futures and not listen to people always yelling the "sky is falling in". understand what your goals are, know what you need to do to achieve them, understand the risks and manage them, and then in 10-15 years time you too can meet with someone just like Terry that will be posting "I Wish i had....".

definition of insanity...doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.

and i couldn't agree with TW more!


George Mariotti
 
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Reply: 6.1.1.1.1.1.1
From: George M


By the way terry had a look at your very analytical spreadsheet and would just like you to do some research.

you are using examples of property that are
very affordable 200-280k range and if you look at the past cycles you will find affordable property that is property around the median house price never dropped by more than 4%.

property that has less buyers in the higher range will generally come off more i e 500k plus properties, however do your homework buy right, make certain you can afford to hold long term and keep going!


George Mariotti
 
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Reply: 6.1.1.1.1.1.1.1
From: Mark Laszczuk


Here's my scenario:
Partner and I have more than enough money to get into PI right now. However, we're sitting back a little while. Why? Cause we're patient. Cause we wanna get some things (finance, plans, strategies, etc.) in place first. All the while, we're looking, talking, questioning, NETWORKING. We know that when the time is right, Mr. Clock is going to jump out at us and start yelling and screaming and jumping up and down, and that's when we'll get in. We're not really concerned about booms and busts and turnarounds, just finding the right property at the right time, in the right area. And we're the only ones that know what's right for us. Really looking forward to joining 'the elite few' but we can wait until the time is right for us. Keep those posts coming people, it does wonders for the confidence of young-un's like ourselves in the world of PI.

Mark
'no hat, some cattle'
 
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