Q. I am a first time property investor from Asia that invested last year for the first time from afar following a property exhibition in Singapore. To say that had had my fingers royally burned would be an understatement. Unfortunately I was completely trusting in the glossy brochures. I am now horrified to learn that what I thought was a luxury apartment in an ‘up and coming area’ on the crossrail route is actually in an area that is considered as one of the less desirable parts of town and the rental applicants that it is attracting seem to be giving me nothing but trouble, anything from not paying the rent to completely trashing the place. I was keen to build a portfolio but following this I am now cautious as to whether this is really a good idea considering how far away I am. Is there anything I can do going forward that would offer me some protection against making the same mistake twice?
A. Unfortunately when buying from overseas it is so easy to fall into this trap. Great marketing material can make virtually anything look desirable, that’s why developers hire companies to do this for them, fierce marketing will give great results guaranteed that’s why most developers have huge budgets for this, and actually they are doing nothing wrong at all, just telling you the truth but will a glossy edge on it. It is however easy to be hoodwinked into thinking you are buying something favourable that is actually not if you are not prepared to put any effort into doing your own due diligence to make sure what it says on the brochure lives up to your expectations as an investor. As always most investors are looking to buy in the next up and coming area, they are keen to get in first make a quick buck before most others catch on. But to do this you need to know your market and know your areas inside out. You can’t do this merely by reading speculative reports for instance about what might happen if a crossrail station were to pop up in your chosen area for instance and assume you will make a killing and that the transport connection will make a less privileged area turn into the hip place to be overnight, in reality this seldom happens. My greatest advice to avoid making the same mistake again is please don’t just take the developers word for it and reserve on the back of a great marketing suite and a glossy brochure. If you can’t get over to the said country then speak to people in the know be that agents that are familiar with the area already or a friend of a friend that is living in the surrounding area who is happy to have an honest chat over the phone and sound them out about the area in general. My best advice if your budget allows would be to hire a buyer’s agent – for a percentage of the purchase price, savvy and knowledgeable about the market as well as the said area they will be working for you and will only have your best interests at heart when recommending what you should or should not buy, unlike the selling agent who will be acting for their client and not you.