The price of Terra-firma.
I’m a property expert now. Well, in so far as I’ve been in the vicinity when property* was sold, eh… around me. Which… you know, in the nebulous world of internet prowess, I think, qualifies me whence forth to proselytize on property as an investment vehicle. Besides I love to seem like an all knowing oracle (its like my third favorite thing). And since I now imagine myself to be well versed in all things realty, here is my top ten list on all things real estate.
*my old man passed away recently so I’ve had to help my mom sell three properties in the last two months. And help buy her a smaller place. I’m also listing my own house today in the hope of making a quick sale and transiting myself to greener pastures. (Although really, when I think about it, the hues of my new locale are mostly olive… and eh… khaki, so I might be confusing my… I’m actually not even sure if this is an idiom or a metaphor )
I should warn you (right near the beginning) that we may not actually get to ten… and depending on how I feel towards the end, I may add an extra layer of equivocation or maybe obfuscation to push me over the edge… since… you know I’ve always wanted to be that guy at the barbeque with the magic property inside track (who won’t shut up about it). And also the guy that has a nice round number for their codified ruleset (for life).
- Property is male bovine manure.
I mean it is. And it isn’t. Like all things, value is in the eye of the beholder. All ‘investments’ are… kinda spurious in nature. What we really mean when we say ‘investments’ is speculation on a longer time frame. We tend to attach some sort of hallowed status to property which we feel differentiates it from, stocks or cryptocurrency or whatever. In my humble (and as yet not completely caffeinated opinion), they’re all the same.
2. Its less about how awesome your property is, and more about what your neighbor sold his crumbling shack for.
Property valuations are a serious community effort. Which means all your neighbors have to pull together to get your property soaring into the price stratosphere where you believe it belongs. Which is harder than you might imagine. Its also a little bit out of your control. Which infuses a tiny bit of chaos into your otherwise pristine machination to become a land baron. Having the nicest house (with all the household additives and accruements) on your block doesn’t mean you will be remunerated for it.
3. Real estate agents are not seers.
For some reason I always imagined Real estate agents to have… I don’t know, specialized knowledge. Like… mechanics. Or plumbers. (When thumb sucking a number to value your abode at, they’re looking at a list of what your neighbors place sold for, and not adding up the sum of your homes parts) Selling real estate is way more about people management. Also, you need to remember, the real estate agent is not on your team. They’re not on anyone’s team… they’re there to apply the economic principle to themselves. Maximum gain for minimum input. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing (we all do this), after all they offer the important service of connecting buyers and sellers and finding consensus (and/or managing expectations). But… its their clever people management skilz and all round charisma that tricks you into thinking they’re on your side. At best they are a neutral party facilitator. Remember that!
4. Your home is NOT an investment.
I think this might be a Robert Kiyosaki-ism. From before he became a bit of crazy person. This is one of the better concepts out there though, and one that a lot of people don’t appreciate. If you buy your home for $100,000 and sell it ten years down the line for $200,000. Your ‘investment’ didn’t double in value by ‘earning’ 8% (more or less) per year.
You need to appreciate that, in those ten years… you spent (for example) $50,000 renovating the kitchen… and the bathrooms. You need to add up all those invoices for things that broke… the water you spent on the garden, the lawn mower you bought to mow the lawn, the interest you paid on your mortgage, the insurance etc, etc. Chances are, at best, you broke even. More likely you’re making a loss. Don’t get confused between something that costs you money and something that MAKES you money.
5. And yeah, I get it…
… property is a tangible asset. You can touch it…. and taste it (if you’re so inclined). Its not a stock (which is just a series of ones and zeros stored on a server somewhere), it is a real physical thing. But its also often incredibly illiquid. And while I can sell my stock at the click of a button and have my money in my account tomorrow, converting land and buildings into cash is a serious time sink. Plus in a lot of worldly jurisdictions, selling property is a pay day for the government. Ergh. And we hates them!!
6. Opportunity cost .
Because I am an armchair economist I (unfortunately) live by these words. It means, what could you have done with that money, other than the thing you did. For example, if you had $100,000 and you invested it in stocks, bonds or even crypto-currency instead of buying that property… how well would it have done? We often congratulate ourselves about how much our property has increased in valve. But it often pales in comparison with almost any other asset class. And yes, I appreciate that every investment ‘type’ has its day in the sun… and really, as long as its in the ‘black’ we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about not choosing the runaway winner every time. Still, its a consideration you should be making. Of course, Murphy, being the son of biscuit he is, when you don’t invest in property, that’ll be the time it makes a killing.
And then there are the bragging rights that come attached to having titles deeds. People can see your wealth (or lack their of). Historically, land ownership has been an important right of passage. A metric (or imperial, ha ha) to gauge whether you have succeeded at life. We all know deep down that consumerism does not equate to happiness. But owning your own house totally will… eh… probably. Anyway, its a concept we should probably let go of. Stop bankrupting yourself to impress all the the stupid people you don’t like.
8. Part of a balanced portfolio
But wait, my dickhead financial advisor is always waxing on lyrically about having a balanced portfolio. *thinks* So, stocks, bonds, cash, property… in some sort of percentage pie chart. Property is always in there.
And… I kinda agree with them. Sorta, on a risk management level. But its often a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Property is often such a massive commitment that it robs you of the ability to get involved in any other asset classes. Stuff that will statistically probably do better for you over time (with less effort).
Also put your financial advisor to the sword. Seriously, there is slimy pond muck that is more deserving of that particular dollop of oxygen.
9. So what, I should just rent for the rest of my life?
Um… actually I was going to suggest living in your parents basement until you’re thirty. Or in my case living rent free in the cottage at the bottom of their garden. I mean if I can attribute one single factor to me doing ‘okay’ in my personal finances, that would probably be it. That, and not having to pay for my degree. (My folks also took care of that). So, yes, I was incredibly fortunate… not being saddled with debt in my twenties, and being able to save (and then invest that money). Still, most people aren’t as lucky as me. Renting should totally be okay. Don’t swallow the peer pressure load of owning your own home. Also, don’t marry a loser or get a liberal arts degree (until you’re much older) and don’t have kids until after thirty.
10. Wait… but you own property. (you damn hypocrite)
True. Actual property and property stocks (which might actually be the better way to own property) But I have carefully dissected my motivations for owning these things. And I’ve been very careful not to let it slew my financial journey off into a ditch just to flex on people.
Really there is nothing wrong with buying property as a speculative enterprise, hoping that one day you will be remunerated for your risk taking. Just know that there is risk and gains are never guaranteed.
*checks his phone*
Oh… I see the listing for my house is up online. Its a weird feeling seeing your home displayed for the world to peruse and critique. I’ll share because… I tend to have a deeply voyeuristic streak about people I follow online… and you might too.
So this is where I live. Or maybe its lived. That big blocky thing in the middle is my workshop. And that house in the upper right hand corner is where my mom lives. The property actually extended up past where my moms house is, but we’ve sold that section already. You can just make out the roof of the cottage (where I used to live in #9) right near the top of the picture.
Its autumn here at the bottom of the planet, so the trees are starting to turn.
In any event, in truth, while I’m putting on a brave front, I’m having some anxiety about moving. Ha ha. Not that I’m particularly sentimental about Jo’burg, its just… I don’t know. I think I might be one of those people that are resistant to change and weary of the unknown…
On the plus side, I know everything there is to know about the price of Terra-firma now. Can’t wait for my next barbeque so I can inflict my new found proficiency on someone lucky. Its going to be awesome.