How Can Some Property Investors Profit

By: Sean Wheller

The country is starting to face the repercussions of the new credit act. Lending is getting tighter and everyone's affordability has been dealt a double blow with increased interest Rates. Many people are not so happy about the new set of circumstances they find themselves in. For many property investors, months of long strategic planning seems to have been for nothing. As most investors go back to the drawing Board, we ask, 'Can one profit from such events?'

The answer will be yes or no, depending on your perspective. If you are a property investor the answer should be yes. We'll explain why in this article. If you are a speculator, you would be more likely to disagree.

So for the property investor we say the answer is a definite yes. Yes, if you can capitalize of the fact that, in lean times, many people will run to ground. Yes, if you are able to remain completely emotionally detached and yes if you see no moral wrong in taking advantage of the misfortune of others.

All industries experience good and bad times. Markets go up and down all the time. Most people are comfortable in an up market, doing a roaring trade with a fearless appetite, feeding off market confidence. Yet, not many are comfortable when the market turns down and the drip of market confidence is turned off.

For many South African property investors, this is the first time they are having to face a downward market. Many feel lost and are not sure what to do next. The natural reaction to this situation is to freeze, stop buying, hibernate, bunker down and batten down the hatches until the clouds disperse and the sun comes out again.

Sounds logical, conservative and safe, doesn't it?

Such investors could take a word of advice from investors that have already been through this before. Older, more experienced, investors know to well that if you can profit in the up market, you can profit in the down market. Younger investors just need to learn how, for the reality is that investors capable of trading in a down market can profit and profit they do.

So the NCA is one of the main topics of the day and seen to be a major contributor to a downward turn in market conditions. Lets see how property investors can profit from the NCA, and even be bold enough to look at the morality of profiting from such unpleasant events.

In recent years buy-to-let investors have purchased large amounts of properties on 100% and 110% bonds with significant shortfalls. This leaves many very tight budgets and little or no room for further purchasing. They are what we call 'Over Exposed'. When taking into consideration that most also have a primary residence Bond to service, car Finance, credit cards, miscellaneous loans and general living expenses. Most would find it difficult to refinance simply to improve their current homes, never mind getting additional bonds for property investments. Especially in light of the NCA.

This leaves a large amount of people unable to buy and faced with many month of treading water as hard as possible to stay afloat. Many will not have the stamina to stay the course of a market downturn. As pressure builds, any turn in market events that negatively impacts their situation could result in some very interesting opportunities for those investors with reserves.

Such investors do exist and have been holding capital in reserve for just such a day. Many have not made any significant purchases in the last year, buying only significant bargains or small caps with good cashflow but little or no Equity growth. If you ask most how they felt during the boom, they would say it was extremely frustrating to sit on their cash while everyone was buying, buying, buying. Yet, sit they did and focused on other things, all the while keeping one eye on the the market. What they knew was that, when the market turns, their gearing will be low and cashflow high at a time when bad fortune will abound.

As the market turns, these investors are starting to venture out more aggressively that they have in the up market. They start investigating more deals as the market cools down. They watch as estate agents frantically market properties and one bond application after the next falls through. They track the problems and when time is right the swoop down for easy pickings.

They know that in these circumstances they can make offers that suite their investment strategies. They ooze with confidence in the knowledge that they are in the bargaining position of strength for in almost every case they are the only substantial Person interested at the bargaining table.

However, being the only buyer at the bargaining table, with a desperate seller, and taking advantage of their unfortunate circumstances is viewed by many as immoral. Such investors are then often likened to vultures circling and coming down to feed when their prey is either dead or too weak to struggle.

Is it wrong to act in this way? Let's see.

Assume that such investors did not exist, that the market cooled down and a seller desperately needs to sell, but there is absolutely no one to buy for any price. Viewed in this light, could the acts of such investors look less like the acts of a vulture and more like the acts of a clever business person?

How will this situation benefit the market? It most likely will not. More insolvencies and sequestrations will be inevitable. So, lets ask the question again. Is it moral to save someone from their current situation when there is no one else that can do that? Or is it better to let them go to their unpleasant fate on moral grounds?

If markets did not have opportunists that can arrive at the right time to save what is left of the day, what would happen to all those that need a buyer at any price?

Having said this, we feel it is safe to say, that investors trading in down markets, can be viewed as the sellers 'saving angel'. Not because they save the seller, but because they 'save' the money to spend it when the seller needs it most. When taking a closer look at such circumstances, an ironic balance starts to emerge. The seller spent while the investor saved, to save the seller from their spending at the right point in time. It is a win-win situation despite the fact that one person is trapped in an unpleasant situation.

In the end, investors that invest in down markets can definitely profit from the NCA and in the process save some spenders that had no foresight. Furthermore, it can be argued that it is not only moral to do so, but a duty to help out those that are trapped, simply because they can and therefore should make a win-win situation for all parties involved.

And so, as the NCA continues to deplete the market of buyers, take heart in the fact that it is opening a treasure chect of opportunities. Just be patient, circle and swoop at the right time.

Happy pickings.

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