An island in Bass Strait? A treehouse? A tug boat? A lighthouse? But is it worth looking at non-traditional properties to invest in?
There’s been lots of weird and unusual property investments over the years. Let’s have a look at some of the more unusual properties you may come across. Are they just purely novelty items or are they a canny addition to your portfolio? And how easy is it to get finance for them?
Churches – Churches turned into houses have definitely become a hip addition to many urban areas. Since they first started appearing on the residential market in the last few decades, there’s been a real demand for them. It’s easy to see why. Churches with gorgeous sandstone exteriors, high wooden beamed ceilings and a delightful historic feel can look magnificent. However this comes with the proviso that they must be renovated, comfortable and thoughtfully designed. Be warned: some churches can be prohibitively expensive to renovate. Such as if they are a very old church that hasn’t been properly maintained and requires electrical wiring, plumbing and extensive renovation. This makes them costly to flip. It’s important to make sure that you don’t get caught out with a very expensive lemon that doesn’t create a decent long-term yield.
Warehouses – The abandoned warehouse was a real feature of both Sydney and Melbourne in the 80s and mid 90s. They were seen as failed commercial enterprises and no one quite knew what to do with them. In hindsight it seems amazing that such prime inner city real estate was left empty sometimes for almost a decade. These days warehouses are generally turned into commercial premises. Graphic design businesses flock to them like bees to hives. But they are still utilised as residential spaces. They are very amenable to subdivision and the interiors are something of a blank canvass and so are easy to renovate.
Empty warehouses are certainly worthy of investigation though they will no longer be the bargain find they once were. Indeed, as many reports show, they’ve never been so desirable.
Power stations - Power stations may seem a very odd and unlikely investment choice. But London’s Battersea Power station which was flipped into an apartment block is a high profile example that was highly successful. Closer to home a decrepit Sydney substation was recently sold with plans to flip it into a three bedroom house. While you’d be advised to get a building report substations are generally built to last. With a clever eye they can be converted into a residential property with a bit of quirk.
Source: Domain. Sydney Power Substation purchased by a family to renovate into a family home.
Islands – Buyers beware. Islands are high maintenance, limited capital growth and selling into a very niche market. There was a real surge in investment in islands in the late 90s and early 200s but the GFC has seen prices plummet and they haven’t really recovered. There are many problems with an island as an investment. For one thing, you’re facing a very different maintenance costs which can be extremely hefty. Then if they’re in another country, the laws surrounding development will be different. You may also fall foul of environmental regulations which could limit any development. Islands have often been described as the yachts of property investment – the two best days are the days you buy and the day you sell them. There’s a well known trail of high rollers who’ve bought investment islands off Queensland hoping to turn them into lavish resorts only to see their money sink into the sea. Moguls such as Peter Abele, Clive Palmer and Alan Bond have all been set back by the millions after being bitten by the island bug. Even smaller islands that can be rented to a single family as a holiday home don’t tend to make much money. The bottom line is, if you really love islands, either buy one for yourself if you’re lucky enough to afford one or go on holidays to one. As a property investment they’re not the most reliable.
To wrap up, here’s the overall pros and cons to consider when about to purchase an unusual property type.
Pros and cons
Pros: Unusual properties with good designs (ie. a transformed warehouse or lighthouse or church) can have a long lasting attraction simply because they are boutique and cater for a niche market. They will always appeal to renters who want a sophisticated dwelling and something out of the ordinary.
Unusual properties can often be bought for a lot cheaper than a more traditional dwelling on the same land size. This is because other investors may shy away from something out of the box (after all – what do you do with a disused power station?). If you’re able to see how the property could be transformed into an appealing residential property this gives you an excellent advantage.
Renters will be prepared to pay more for a well designed, unusual property type. This is part of the unspoken bargain; of how what used to be labelled “eccentric” is now “boutique” and thus attracts a bigger price tag.
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Cons: An unusual property type can potentially be more difficult to get a loan for, depending on things such as property size; the building’s infrastructure and condition or if there will be multiple properties on the one land title.
Unusual properties can cost more to maintain and repair. Often unusual properties can be in regional areas that are difficult to access. This can also mean its harder to find tenants willing to go there.
Unusual configurations. For instance, as romantic as a lighthouse sounds, practically it can be very annoying to dwell in with the limited space and multi levels. As much as you’re able to redesign and redevelop many structures simply can’t be changed. This in turn can be a major turn off for tenants.
Ultimately, don’t rush into any investment whether it’s unusual or not. Always seek out a professional for help and get a property plan tailored for your needs today.