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Five essential tools for active investors

Steve Waters

One of the investment rules I firmly believe is, “Property is not a passive investment vehicle”.

My clients and colleagues have heard me say it time and again. Because if you try to set-and-forget your investments, there’s every chance of losing money.

I’ve believed in active investing my whole professional life, but here’s the really great thing – as property investors, we live in fortunate times. The availability of information is extraordinary with a range of technological tools at our disposal to ensure we’re never under-informed.

Here are some of my favourite resources for active investing in order to stay at the top of your game.

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  1. Spreadsheet manager

Anybody who isn’t using some form of portfolio tracking is really doing themselves a disservice.

With spread sheeting available on just about every device, setting up a basic table of your holdings and their metrics isn’t that tricky. It’s a low-cost utility that’s a must if you want to stay ahead.

At our company, we’ve developed a tracker for our clients that’s an essential part of their success. It’s a tricked-up Excel spreadsheet, but it can make you thousands if you know how to fly it properly.

Our tracker allows clients to see all the important numbers for their individual properties, as well as their overall portfolio.

It paints a vivid picture of values, rent returns, debt and equity levels as well as descriptions of the investments they hold.

This sort of tool will quickly tell you what you need to know. It also facilitates scrutiny by a knowledgeable advisor who can look through the figures and help you maximise the results. We did a review with a client recently who believed their figures were fine. In the course of a few hours, we saved them over $6,000 per year by tweaking their rent and interest rate numbers.

That’s a pretty handy outcome from a fairly simple tool.

  1. Smartphone diary alarm

How did we ever survive without smartphones?

The iPhone only came into being just over a decade ago, but it feels like it’s always been here.

Don’t forget about the computer in your pocket when managing your investments. We suggest to our clients to set calendar events and reminders so they can stay on track.

The three most important include:

  • Rent renewal – Set a reminder of about lease renewals at least two months before they expire. This will allow you to do a proper rent assessment and give tenants heaps of notice about price movement.
  • Landlord’s insurance – At least one month before the renewal due date. Even insurance companies can forget to send a reminder that your cover is about to expire… and believe me, the one time you fail to renew will be the one time your investment burns down.
  • Bank loans – At a minimum, set a reminder one year before loans are due for change, such as when they’ll flip from interest-only into P+I. Why so long in advance? Because compiling and maintaining documented incomes and expenses is essential if you want to mount a case for more favourable terms, or look to switch lenders. 
  1. Online rental alerts

You can set up a range of alerts via listing portals like domain.com.au or realestate.com.au.

I love having rental alerts set for the suburbs where I hold investments.

They show me new rentals that come onto the market in particular price brackets. This helps me stay on top of tenant demand and rent returns so I know whether the next renewal should be an increase or a hold on the weekly figure.

I also use these alerts as a prompt to contact property managers and discuss my properties and their local market. These chats reveal their opinions and numbers of vacancy rates and overall tenant demand. This information is essential if you want to find and retain good tenants at the best possible rent return.

  1. Planning alerts

Possibly one of the most valuable and underutilised websites available is www.planningalerts.org.au – go there now and try it out.

Enter your investment’s address and this excellent resource will list all the planning applications and approvals within close proximity of your holding.

This allows you to see positives, like a nearby townhouse project, which might support the case for redeveloping your own site – or negatives, like someone building a huge shed that will impact the outlook and utility of your property.

  1. CoreLogic

While this subscription service comes at a cost, the information it provides is excellent.

Corelogic will let you flag individual properties to see when they’re being listed for sale or rent.

You should set alerts for properties beside and behind yours. Perhaps you’ll be able to acquire the neighbour, which will create a redevelopment advantage or easier utilities access.

Also, set an alert for sales data so you can spot those properties achieving premium results. These new, higher sales might be a justifiable proof your property’s value has risen. This provides excellent evidence for convincing a valuer to raise your figure so you can access equity.

These are just some of the brilliant tools available to active investors looking to maximise results.

Of course, getting the most out of them requires vigilance and experience. If you’d like more advice on how to monitor your holdings, don’t hesitate to contact us so we can show you what’s available to plan for success.

Steve Waters, director, Right Property Group 

Five essential tools for active investors
Steve Waters
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