Landlords: youse are better off renting

Written By: - Date published: 8:43 am, July 23rd, 2008 - 28 comments
Categories: housing - Tags:

The graphic to the left was produced by the Property Investors’ Federation and was printed unquestioned in the Herald yesterday. The PIF uses the figures to claim Kiwis are better off renting. Here’s what’s wrong with them.

First, it’s comparing the average rent to the cost of buying a median house. Rental properties tend to be lower quality, cheaper – so are likely on average to be worth well below the national median. Comparing apples with apples would look at the rent on properties of the same value.

Secondly and most importantly, if you’re buying the house at the end of 25 years, you own a house. If you rent, at the end of 25 years you have nothing. That’s a pretty serious difference. If you buy rather than rent you might pay some more (less than the difference in the graphic though) but you end up with an asset in the end.

So, what is the Property Investors’ Federation‘s interest in trying to convince Kiwis they are better off renting? Well, as the name suggests, the PIF is a political lobby group that represents landlords – ie people who make money off others renting from them, people who obviously think that owning properties, multiple properties, is worthwhile.

Why would a group of landlords want people to think renting is better than buying?

– to decrease demand for buying houses, so PIF members can buy them more cheaply
– to increase demand for rentals, allowing PIF members to put up rents
– to undermine the demand for the Government to intervene in the housing market with a large affordable housing policy. If the Government builds lots of affordable houses, PIF members’ tenants will be able to find cheaper rentals and cheaper houses to buy. That’s good for most Kiwis, bad for the PIF landlords.

Landlord lobby group comes out with flawed figures suggesting renting is cheap just as the Government appears to be developing a housing affordability policy. Funny coincidence that.

28 comments on “Landlords: youse are better off renting”

  1. T-rex 1

    Onya Steve.

    For a moment I thought you writing in support of the position!

    All good points. That aside though, I think until house prices correct (say a couple of years) people probably ARE better off renting.

    But yes, the PIF are being total wankers and hiding many benefits. And some costs.
    For example
    1) they say 90% of a $345k house, yet ignore the cost of capital on the $34k deposit they’re implying.
    2) They ignore the effect of inflation. Rents will increase with inflation, but mortgage payments will remain fixed.
    3) They use 10.4% interest. I don’t imagine anyone in the country is stupid enough to get a floating rate loan right now. 9% would be a far more realistic figure, yet they haven’t used it for obvious reasons.

    See Trav, the world is full of lying bastards who are out to screw people, you don’t have to believe in invisible unicorns to find them.

    edit: I think the biggest reason not to buy a house right now under the circumstances they describe is that if (cough – when) values do drop, you could very easily wind up with negative equity if your deposit is only 10%. Negative equity = foreclosure = bad.

  2. higherstandard 2

    T-Rex

    Agreed.

    Caveat emptor ……. that being said there will always be good deals and bad deals regardless of whether the market is buoyant or depressed.

  3. T-rex 3

    Absolutely – course, it’s a lot harder to approach things with due caution when all media, REINZ, and agents are peddling the “buy now or be forever in poverty” line. f*ckers.

    On an unrelated note, GOD I hate our sensationalist media.

    Headline: ‘Batman Star Denies Attack on Mum, Sister‘.

    The article then mentions that no charges were made.

    The article completely fails to mention that the charges under consideration were verbal assault class 4/5. What a f*cking beat-up!

  4. coge 4

    Thanks for posting this story Steve. I will play the devils advocate to your position. The PIF do have a point, many of their own members are renters themselves. So in some cases their suggestion does make very good economic sense. Landlording is not an entirely risk free business, times like these it requires testicular fortitude that not everyone has.

    I know I have covered the Govt suggestion to build affordable housing for HNZ tenants. A good idea in principle, as many of the existing HNZ buildings are not up to standard. However I stand by my opinion, that building sufficient centrally located affordable huosing is a virtually impossible suggestion. Ask anyone who has built in the last couple of years if you don’t believe me. The emphasis is on the “affordability” If an equal sum was spent renting existing buildings off the private sector the Govt could house perhaps ten times as many tenants. In fact HNZ, to their credit, already lease many such homes for their clients.

  5. BeShakey 5

    All good points. Plus 10.4% interest is fairly high, and all signs are that it’ll be coming down in the future. So assuming 10.4% over 25 years is a nice way of significantly increasing the cost of the house.

  6. higherstandard 6

    Indeed the print media is asinine all to often.

    You seem a bit depressed lately – if you need a smile take a look at this for another spin on world news.

    http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/UnNews:Main_Page

  7. T-rex 7

    Ha!

    Awesome! Thanks 🙂

    Yeah, I’ll get over it. ‘Interesting times’ at present. Interesting in an awesome way, but still raised stress.

  8. MacDoctor 8

    Secondly and most importantly, if you’re buying the house at the end of 25 years, you own a house. If you rent, at the end of 25 years you have nothing

    Actually, if you put the extra $440.00 into an interest-bearing account, you will have about 1.7 million in 25 years.

  9. T-rex 9

    Actually, if you put the extra $440.00 into an interest-bearing account, you will have about 1.7 million in 25 years

    Aye. It’s still a poor comparison though. Especially since it wouldn’t be $440 for 25 years, as inflation would force the rent up over time. Swings and roundabouts, ups and downs, and in the long run it’s likely not all that different. In the short run, I’m with the “don’t buy a house” option. Sorry people who bought houses, that’s what you get for believing in the perpetual 12% capital gain fairy.

    I think the reason people who buy houses appear to end up more wealthy is that they’re forced to be. Your scenario is good in theory MD, but the reality seems to be that people put the 1.7 million into consumer products that end up worthless.

  10. MacDr. but, as T-Rex points out and I didn’t mention because the numbers get awfully complicated and too many assumptions are needed to model it, rents will be going up over those 5 years, the mortgage payments won’t – so the difference won’t be anything like that amount.

  11. Phil 11

    Good spotting Mac – Steve talks about ‘apples with apples’ and then ignores his own advice.
    I suspect he is right about rental properties being on average of lower quality. However the extent to which they are is debatable – I think the difference, on average, is going to be less that Steve’s implicitily assumed.
    A comparison of rental vs sale property on Trademe would be a good start for anyone with the time and inclination.

    “suggesting renting is cheap just as the Government appears to be developing a housing affordability policy. Funny coincidence that”

    The only funny part to the whole post is that you think this is new. One of the primary underpinning reasons we’ve been talking about housing affordability for the last, oh, lets say 4 YEARS, is because this type of analysis shows just how badly the investment doesn’t stack up.

  12. Phil 12

    “rents will be going up over those 5 years, the mortgage payments won’t”

    But the insurance component of ownership probably will as the value of the property increases. The maintenance will too as the house ages, and rates will continue ever upward.

  13. infused 13

    Rent will be hardly moving in the next 5 years. Also, your first point is wrong. I rent a very nice 3brdm house with double garage 5mins from work. It costs me $220 a week. It’s value is over $350k. GG assumptions.

  14. T-rex 14

    infused – Then your landlord is either a saint or a fool.

  15. Daveski 15

    There is undeniably a house affordability crisis.

    Without doubt, in the short term, renting is a far better option and all obligations and risks fall on the landlord eg think leaky buildings.

    Over the long term, house values tend to rise, mortgage payments remain static and bingo you have equity. As our Rachel says, it won’t happen over night but it will happen.

    I’m sure statistics support the view that people living in their own home tend to have better indicators of a more productive and happier, healthy life.

    However, I would like to see some robust debate around a couple of related points.

    First, the crazy tax laws that make owning a rental property so attractive (thereby increasing demand for entry level properties). I get benefits from owning a second home that I don’t get from owning my family home.

    Linked to this the fact that the Boomers have benefitted from the housing boom and have effectively cut many of the younger generation out. Add to this the generous super and we have upwards intergenerational transfers.

  16. Aaaaaarghhh! He said “youse” again! Steve, please stop murdering the English language!
    [I choose to use youse as a humourous rhetorical tool, not out of ignorance. Go have a cry about it on your blog, someone might read it some day. SP]

  17. uroskin 17

    If you put the difference between renting and paying mortgage into the sharemarket, or even Kiwisaver, you might end up with far more than what your freehold house is worth after 25 years. and then you still need a place to live when you want to realise that capital. And you have to consider all the other costs associated with ownership too which don’t stay constant either. And you still need an extra $1.7m to fill your house up with worthless consumer products!
    This obsession with home ownership can only be remedied by a proper capital gains tax on ownership of homes other than your residence, to level the investment playing field. Interest rates may come down sooner too then.

  18. lprent 18

    The only reason that I bothered to buy a place was because of Telecom and landlords cashing up.

    Had this little problem in the mid-90’s where I had quite a few phone lines including a couple of ISDN lines to get the kind of bandwidth I needed. ADSL was just starting to be talked about (and in a very expensive way). Then I had to move a couple of times mainly because of landlords. Each time cost a bundle to get the phone lines moved.

    There are quite a lot of hidden problems with renting. What I want to see is more of a lease based system where I can get a lease for say 5 years.

  19. ants 19

    The figures are actually too low for a lot of cases- once body corporate fees ($2500), property management fees ($2000+), accountant fees ($1500+) are taken into account.

    However, the flipside is the massive amount of tax that can be rebated.

  20. Draco TB 20

    Actually, if you put the extra $440.00 into an interest-bearing account, you will have about 1.7 million in 25 years.

    Nominal or Real interest rates? What was the interest rate you used? What is the chance that the interest rates will stay the same over the next 25 years?

    Basically, don’t expect to get any richer renting for the next 25 years over buying a house. And, as has already been said, people who own their own house tend to be happier and more productive than those renting.

  21. As long as you invest the difference between buying and renting you will be far more wealthy than if you just paid off a home.
    I mean, how many people had that plan – with the money tied up in real estate and will be retiring on falling house prices?
    It’s a lot easier to cut your losses when you have more liquid investments versus an illiquid family house or rental property at 4% gross yield lol.
    And how paying off a home with an 80% mortgage could possibly be construed as productive when that capital could be going into a business, farm or share investment is beyond me…

  22. Draco TB 22

    writeups:
    Things don’t stay the same. In the next 25 years interest rates will come down, house prices will drop in real terms and then they’ll probably reverse again. It’s probably not a great idea to buy a house ATM but that will change in the next few years. Rent now, buy when house prices are depressed and interest rates are low and in 25 years there’s a good chance that you will be better off than if you just tried to rent for the next 25 years.

  23. RedLogix 23

    First, the crazy tax laws that make owning a rental property so attractive (thereby increasing demand for entry level properties). I get benefits from owning a second home that I don’t get from owning my family home.

    The tax laws treat residential rental property EXACTLY the same as for all other business. If you think the law crazy for this purpose, then it is equally crazy for all other business purposes.

    The Americans addressed this issue years ago by making all mortgage interest costs tax deductable regardless if it was on your home of residence or not.

  24. RedLogix 24

    And how paying off a home with an 80% mortgage could possibly be construed as productive when that capital could be going into a business, farm or share investment is beyond me

    A little thing called risk.

  25. uk_kiwi 25

    The risk is very high in residential property investment, just ask anyone who bought a blue chip apartment!

    Seriously, anyone in their 50s/60s should have most of their savings in term deposits and government bonds. Anything else, you’re running the risk of having nothing to retire on.

  26. RedLogix 26

    The risk is very high in residential property investment, just ask anyone who bought a blue chip apartment!

    Blue Chip was not an investment, it was a scam pyramid scheme… a fact that should have been obvious to anyone who thought about it for more than 2 seconds.

    I agree that a balanced portfolio is sound practice, but even in this market… as soft as it is I made a $200k equity gain this week. Well it took me and my partner six months of careful planning and a lot hard work to do it, but it was still possible. No amount of term deposit or bonds will do that for you.

    It is of course just a paper gain. But if I keep the property long enough (and it is cash flow neutral at present) then I should eventually be in a position to cash it out… but that might be 10-20 years out.

    The fundamentals of the NZ property market are still sound. Demand will in the medium term exceed demand. More especially the demand for quality properties most definitely exceeds supply. Eventually the equity markets will hopefully rebalance themselves and the business cycle will start over again. (If it doesn’t then who cares? It’s Armageddon anyhow.)

  27. nick 27

    The calculation of whether it makes more economic sense to buy or rent involves lots of calculations involving the growth of house prices versus the interest one can earn on money saved through renting. Empirically, however, one would expect renting to make more sense from a purely fiscal perspective.

    The simple fact is that people prefer buying their own house, instead of renting, for at least two non-fiscal reasons that I can think of. One is that people like the security of owning their own home. They have an emotional investment in a particular house. The other is that a mortgage enforces fiscal discipline. It?s easy to talk of saving money in lieu of mortgage payments. But I think that many people are aware that if they weren?t forced to pay the money to the bank it would end up getting spent instead of saved.

    Since people like owning their own home, it increases the demand for houses. It also reduces the pool of renters, resulting in lower market rents. The upshot of this is that buying a house is relatively expensive and renting is relatively cheap. Thus I would be extraordinarily surprised if renting didn?t make more sense, purely in terms of a household?s bottom line.

    The security of owning a home is really a non-tangible asset. The price of this asset is the difference between the money saved by renting a home versus the money that would be spent paying off a mortgage. And I think if people value security, then it is perfectly rational for them to make the decision to purchase their own home.

  28. nick 28

    The calculation of whether it makes more economic sense to buy or rent involves lots of calculations involving the growth of house prices versus the interest one can earn on money saved through renting. Empirically, however, one would expect renting to make more sense from a purely fiscal perspective.

    The simple fact is that people prefer buying their own house, instead of renting, for at least two non-fiscal reasons that I can think of. One is that people like the security of owning their own home. They have an emotional investment in a particular house. The other is that a mortgage enforces fiscal discipline. It’s easy to talk of saving money in lieu of mortgage payments. But I think that many people are aware that if they weren’t forced to pay the money to the bank it would end up getting spent instead of saved.

    Since people like owning their own home, it increases the demand for houses. It also reduces the pool of renters, resulting in lower market rents. The upshot of this is that buying a house is relatively expensive and renting is relatively cheap. Thus I would be extraordinarily surprised if renting didn’t make more sense, purely in terms of a household’s bottom line.

    The security of owning a home is really a non-tangible asset. The price of this asset is the difference between the money saved by renting a home versus the money that would be spent paying off a mortgage. And I think if people value security, then it is perfectly rational for them to make the decision to purchase their own home.

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