10 things investors should look out for when buying or renting commercial property

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    09 January 2017

    Key Takeaways

    • Do research in future development plans in the area where a potential investment property is located.
    • monitor interest rates throughout the duration of the loan tenure and refinance when it is prudent to do so.
    • Units in a nicely renovated building that boosts business prestige can usually command higher rents than those in a run-down office building in the same area.
    • Legal advice should be sought on how to structure the purchase in the mentioned ways. Investors who are concerned about this should not forget to raise this issue with their lawyers before commencing the matter.

    5 mins read

     

    Here are 10 financial concerns typically faced by commercial property investors.

    1. Property prices
    Property prices in Singapore have seen quite a bit of variance over the years. While commercial property prices have not been affected by the residential property cooling measures, the outlook for this market segment is more sensitive to local and global economic conditions.

    Also, certain property types and lease tenures may not always be available in certain areas, so more research might have to be undertaken before a suitable property can be located.

    It is particularly important for purchasers who intend to hold on to property in the short to medium term to monitor the trajectory of property prices over the years in all the areas where they are considering making a purchase, as well as to pre-empt any development in the area where the purchase will be made.

    That’s why it is a must to do research in future development plans in the area where a potential investment property is located. If possible, make visits to the site and building to inspect the property first-hand. It is also advised to compare the last transacted prices of other units in the same and similar buildings.

     

    2. Loan interest rates
    Comparing loan interest rates and understanding the difference between fixed and floating interests is important before deciding on a mortgage loan.

    Floating interest rates in Singapore are usually pegged to the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (SIBOR) or the Singapore Swap Offer Rate (SOR), which are constantly fluctuating. The SIBOR is calculated according to the local interbank market, while the SOR fluctuates according to the global markets, which tend to be less stable than the former.

    Fixed interest rates ensure that the borrower enjoys a pre-determined interest rate for a specified amount of time, usually several years, after which they pay a floating interest rate. Borrowers who wish to limit their exposure to fluctuations in the market might opt for fixed interest rate mortgages.

    Investors should continue to monitor interest rates throughout the duration of the loan tenure and refinance when it is prudent to do so.

     

    3. Rent
    Rents in Singapore can vary considerably according to location. It is important to conduct research not only on rent prices in the area you are considering of buying at, but also to examine the property type and location, as these can have a great impact on rental yield.

    For instance, for retail spaces, one must consider factors like how much walk-in traffic the unit can receive. For office spaces, units in a nicely renovated building that boosts business prestige can usually command higher rents than those in a run-down office building in the same area.

     

     

    4. Tenure
    The tenure of the remaining lease on a property being considered for purchase will affect not only how much an investor has to pay upfront, but how soon he or she will need to sell the property to turn a healthy profit.

    While shorter lease tenures tend to lower the price of a property and thus make it more affordable to purchase, this will also have an impact on investment gains when the property is sold.

    It is, therefore, important to think about how long the investor intends to hold on to the property. An investor who intends to hold on to the property in the long and medium term should be careful not to purchase properties with few years of lease remaining.

     

    5. Renovation costs
    The amount of renovation a particular property will require is an important factor to consider, as the cost of renovations on even a modest-sized commercial or industrial space can be in the tens of thousands.

    Unlike renovating a home, when renovating commercial or industrial property, it is important to do so with increasing rental yields and investment gains in mind, rather than simply making the property look more attractive.

     

    6. Property tax and maintenance fees
    While property purchases can be excellent investments, purchasers should know how much they would have to pay in taxes and for the upkeep of the property. For commercial and industrial property, property tax equivalent to 10 percent of the property’s annual value is levied.

     

    7. Security deposit
    Landlords in Singapore typically require tenants to furnish a security deposit—usually amounting one to two months’ rent—which will be returned when the tenant moves out.

    Landlords must be careful to document the original state and condition of the property before signing a tenancy agreement with a potential tenant, as well as obtain legal advice in the situations where they can retain the security deposit.

     

    8. Goods and Services Tax (GST)
    The sale and rental of commercial property in Singapore are subject to 7 percent GST if the owner is GST-registered. GST is also likely to be levied on the supply of furniture and fittings and real estate agents’ fees. This can have a significant impact on purchasers’ investment gains.

    Christine Yeo, a lawyer at Haridass Ho and Partners, says, “Investors can always reclaim the GST by setting up a GST-registered entity as a vehicle to own the property. Alternatively, they can buy over the shares of a company owning the property, thereby saving on GST.”

    Legal advice should be sought on how to structure the purchase in the mentioned ways.

     

    9. Legal fees
    Many property purchases are handled by lawyers who typically charge on a per-purchase basis. It is common for commercial landlords to receive legal advice when drafting a tenancy agreement.

    While a property purchase is usually charged on a per-project basis, it is a good to ask your lawyer for a quotation before commencing to ensure his or her fees are within your budget.

    Ms Yeo advises that tenancy agreements are usually billed on a time-cost basis, but many investors prefer to proceed on a fix-cost basis instead.
    ""If investors are uneasy about paying time-costs, lawyers can provide an estimation of their costs depending on the facts, such as whether there is an opposing counsel to negotiate with and the amount of rent being dealt with.""

    Investors who are concerned about this should not forget to raise this issue with their lawyers before commencing the matter.

     

    10. Agent fees
    Landlords who engage an agent to help them to buy, sell and/or rent out commercial property are liable to pay a fee. While fees can vary, agents usually charge 1 percent to 2 percent of the selling price for sales and 0.5 to 2 months’ worth of rent for tenancies, depending on the amount of rent and the duration of the tenancy agreement.

    It is common practice to pass agents’ fees on to the tenant in the tenancy agreement.

    Finally, never pick an agent indiscriminately and be prepared to interview several agents before finding one you are happy to work with in the long-term. Investors should be looking out for agents who are responsive and knowledgeable about the commercial and industrial property industry.

    This article was first published in the print version of PropertyGuru News & Views.

     

    Disclaimer:

    The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the position taken by PropertyGuru, UOB, and their employees.

    Information provided in this publication is general in nature and does not constitute professional financial advice. PropertyGuru will endeavour to update its publication and website as needed. However, information can change without notice, and we do not guarantee the accuracy of information in the publication or on the website, including information provided by third parties, at any particular time.

    Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, individuals must not rely on this information to make a financial or investment decision. Before making any decision, we recommend you consult a financial planner or your bank to take into account your particular financial situation and individual needs. PropertyGuru does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information which is contained in this publication or on its website. Except insofar as any liability under statute cannot be excluded, PropertyGuru and its employees do not accept any liability for any error or omission in this publication or on its website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person.

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