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What is risk? – Property

In this series of articles we are considering the different TYPES of RISK we take when investing in different assets. This should help to build a portfolio in which we fully understand what risks each part of the portfolio expose us to.

We, as Anglo Saxon and Northern European types tend to have a bit of an obsession with owning property; it is an important part of our culture and we feel secure in the knowledge we own real estate.

It is very understandable, especially for an Englishman, why owning your own home is a very good idea (control of what it looks and feels like, feeling of “home”, long term outlook etc) but I believe that many people will tend not to look at ALL of the basic investment factors when selecting a property to buy (to live in or as a pure investment)… including risk.

Of course, location (location, location), price, quality, taxes and running maintenance costs are normally considered to some extent but for some reason many investors tend to believe that property is in some way risk free; . Like all investments we should “buy with our heads” and “sell with our hearts”, too many of us get this the wrong way round and ignore some of the issues that can really cost us dearly. Let’s look more closely at the property specific risks.

Liquidity Risk – the biggest single risk when buying property! Can you get your money out if you need it (or if something better comes along)? On the whole the answer is no – or at least not quickly. If you find a buyer tomorrow you are unlikely to have your money back within 3 months; if you are looking for a quick sale then you can seriously damage your return by taking a low offer.

Interest rate risk – if you are borrowing to buy, as most people do (and probably should) then there is a risk that your cash flow will be affected and the total cost of your property over its life could go up dramatically, if interest rates move.

Market/Investment risk – as we saw in 2008 the price of property can fall as well as increase…. Again many investors feel that property is in some way a sure fire investment guaranteed to make money like all other forms of investment asset this is only true if you buy the right property, in the right place at the right price. When property markets crash they tend to do so heavily and take a longer time to recover than more liquid markets.

Tax/Governmental Risk – one of the easiest assets to tax more in times of economic strife are properties, especially those owned by investors (as they tend to be easy political targets). Increases in local rates and taxes on property are easy to push through and raise a significant sum for government.

This article is for information only and should not be considered as advice.
This article is written by Peter Brooke The Spectrum IFA Group

More on risk and investing in different assets