When you have been looking for property investment deals you will certainly have seen a whole range of new build developments and off-plan properties which could have been either houses or apartments, or both.
The question is, do new builds make good investments or not?
Investing In Off-Plan New Builds
Off-plan property means, simply, that the property has not been finished, insofar as it is not ready for tenants to move in.
The problem with investing ‘off-plan’ is that things can change as the development reaches completion. The development schedule might change or the works themselves. The value of the property could change.
So that’s one thing you need to factor in with this kind of investment; the likelihood of change. But here, let’s step back and look at new build investment as a strategy in itself.
The Fundamental Principles of Property Investment
When you are looking at new builds, with an eye to investing – whether they are on the market with estate agents, or off-plan and brought to your attention by a property sourcing agent – you should never lose sight of the fundamental principles of property investment.
So, you want to understand the area and be happy that it works for you. You need to understand the rental yield, the capacity for growth, the rental demand and the discount you are getting.
You need to take everything into account to see if a property is going to be right for you.
The truth is, that some new build developments can have quite low rental yields. Some developments I have seen have had yields as low as 3% or 4%. Now, that’s far too low for a long-term buy to let strategy. With yields as low as that, and if you are mortgaged, your monthly income is either going to be less than your monthly expenditure or will barely cover it.
You have to check that the sums work in the long-term. Your rental income has to cover your running costs, your maintenance, your management fees. So, with any buy to let property, and not just new builds, you need to make sure that everything is balanced, that you have a contingency factored in, and that you are still able to turn a profit.
New Build Developments
We, certainly, see a lot of great off-plan new build developments. They are in the right locations, have the right tenant profile and have the right long-term potential for growth.
But I stress again, if you are considering these kinds of properties then, most importantly, you have to ask yourself, will the yields work, given your situation?
You also need to have a look at the developers undertaking the work. What is their reputation like? Do they have a long history, as a company, or are they relatively young? Do they have the right kind of pedigree?
And you need to think about time-scales. So, how long is the development going to take? The truth is, if you are buying a property that’s going to be completed in a few months then it’s going to be a lot easier to crunch the numbers than if the property isn’t going to be ready for a few years. After all, a lot can change in terms of rental demand, house prices and the location in a few years.
The flip side to this is that you can often buy a property at a much better price if you buy earlier on in the development process. So it’s a trade-off between gains and risk.
Maintenance and Running Costs
One advantage of investing in new build developments over existing housing stock is that new builds tend to be more energy-efficient and are therefore cheaper to maintain.
The existing, historic housing stock in the UK is great. It’s very stable, longstanding and in the right areas, there is a lot of tenant demand.
But, the reality is, that if you buy a typical two-bedroom terrace or three-bedroom semi-detached, if it has not been through a recent refurbishment, the roof might be getting towards the end of its life.
This is not going to be a concern if you are buying a new build.
Then, there will be other problems with older houses such as the electrics, plumbing, the boiler, bathrooms, kitchens or the decoration. These might all be slightly dated.
All these things are fixable but there will be a cost, both financial and with regards to your time. A new build development, however, will not need any of this work doing and could be income generating on day one of your tenancy.
So, if you are considering a new build you need to weigh up the pros and cons. Certainly, new build developments can have lots of potential benefits and if it’s the right deal, the right location, the right yield, the right tenant profile, then, absolutely, consider looking at new build developments over existing housing stock.
A word of warning, however. While new-build houses or flats may be more energy efficient, have fewer problems and can generally cheaper, in the long run, to maintain, they are unlikely to be in a perfect condition at the point of purchase.
A survey by Shelter conducted a few years ago, found that just over half of all new-build houses have major faults or flaws.
As such, when buying a new-build house it is always a good idea to do a snagging survey of the property. That way you can identify what needs to be done, giving the developers the chance to put things right.