The Blog

I Don't Know About You but I'm Sick of Feeling Like a Lemming - Poked by World Financial Events

We need to re-think how we view property. So here's a thought for 2013 - why don't we stop focusing on capital growth and see property instead as a potential income generator?

SO WHOOPEE! We haven't all plummeted over the fiscal cliff then.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of feeling like a lemming - poked by world events out of my control to jump in to the icy unknowns of financial oblivion.

And so the stock markets surge. Well that's all right then. For now.

But what will rattle the world economy next? Greece, Spain, the USA, the antics of an over-enthusiastic trader focusing more on splashing out on a few bottles of Petrus than protecting his employer's money?

And all this global economic claptrap has direct effects on the world I swan around in... property.

Oh yes, a two up two down in the north is buggered up by world events just like a nation's credit rating. And reading the New Year's property predictions it's impossible not to be struck by how downbeat much of the commentary is.

For starters, Nationwide is predicting the UK property market will remain subdued or even dip slightly in 2013.

The building society says average prices dropped 1% in 2012, reversing a 1% rise from the previous year.

Over at the Land Registry, it was slightly better news, especially if you're living in London.

The registry's data revealed prices in London rising by 7% in the year to the end of October, easily outstripping increases elsewhere.

According to them the average national increase was 1.1%. Though in the North West, North East, East Midlands and Yorkshire, prices have fallen.

None of this will surprise estate agents who know that - outside of local bubbles around schools, universities, and particularly sought-after postcodes - the market has generally flatlined or fallen over the past couple of years.

But something is being missed. We need to re-think how we view property.

So here's a thought for 2013 - why don't we stop focusing on capital growth and see property instead as a potential income generator?

As a nation there is no denying we've been fixated by the amount property values rise or fall: 10% one year, 15% the next - then a 30% drop when the bottom falls out of the market. It's staple dinner party conversation.

But if you see 'property' as something that can generate a pretty impressive income, irrespective of its capital growth (or lack of it) then maybe the future is IN FACT very rosy indeed.

And the good news is that if prices fall, the situation gets even better - because rents are going up. So it costs less to buy the thing that you can rent out for more.

In the most basic economic way this is pretty tickety-boo! Your yield - the amount you get back as a percentage of what you invested - goes up!

The practicalities of this are: If you're leaving your money in a bank or building society, you'd be lucky to get a 2 or 3% return on it.

Use that money to buy property, and with current rental yields you could easily enjoy a 4 or 5% return at least. In the right areas, something closer to 8 to 10%.

I met someone recently who was getting a 16% return off their rental property.

If that return continues, in six years they will have got back all their initial investment and be left with a mortgage free house. Imagine that. Happy days!

The truth is that no matter how gloomy the market, and the January predictions of the experts, property has never been doing a better job if you look at it as an income generator.

And there are currently some real bargains out there. So if you have money to spare, maybe you should think about investing?

Of course it all depends on having the cash or being able to raise the finance- not easy as we all know. And you need to pick your property and location carefully.

In many areas, the rental market is simply being overwhelmed by demand.

Driven by - amongst other things - first time buyers struggling to get onto the property ladder - so having to rent for longer.

Many experts now believe that overall we're moving to a more European-style system where people will buy later in life when, hopefully, they are more financially secure. But the knock-on affect on this in the short-term has been increased demand for rentals.

That must be good news for anyone who can swap to a different style of property glasses, and have an eye on investing in property as an income generator.

So here's a resolution for 2013 - try a fundamental re-think of how you view property, and rather than simply jumping with the lemmings because of the sluggish figures, focus on short term income production and long-term growth.

You never know. It might just make you feel a bit more positive about your finances.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, prosperous and peaceful New Year.