When investing in real estate, several tough decisions need to be made. One of the most significant decisions you will make as an investor is choosing the type of property you want to invest in, a house, unit, or even townhouse. Like all decisions, each option will come with its advantages and disadvantages. Generally speaking, most investors who purchase a unit will do so as they have a higher yield and are easier to hold onto. At the same time, owner-occupiers are more likely to buy houses as they are more important places for families to grow. To make the right decision, it’s essential to understand what you are trying to achieve with your investment and the pros and cons of each option.
Investing in Units:
Units are often more appealing to investors because they are cheaper in their initial price and generate higher rental yields. The lower initial costs make them easier to purchase and manage repayment costs as a rental; the income is often higher than the mortgage repayment price. Generally speaking, many units can achieve 4-5% yields, while houses in comparable locations may be under 2%, making units as an investment beautiful. Another advantage of purchasing a unit is that it provides the opportunity to buy into a highly sought-after area that may have been otherwise unaffordable if an investor was looking at houses only with the same budget. Many inner-city metropolitan areas close to water or amenities are often priced well over $1 million in almost all states in Australia. Comparably, units in the same site can be under $500,000, which is far more affordable for an investor on average wage with limited serviceability.
Land is scarce, particularly in capital cities and large metropolitan areas. Houses occupy more physical land, thus their increased cost. As units occupy less space, they are in abundance compared to places. This lack of scarcity can decrease your capital growth over a long time should you wish to purchase a unit. It is worth noting that not all units are the same. Directly comparing one unit with another could be comparing apples and oranges. One team in a block of three units is vastly different from a unit in a partnership of 300. You can see which of the two is a better investment based on scarcity alone. While yields on units are generally higher, strata (also known as a body corporate) fees must also be factored into calculations as they can significantly impact the overall result. Complexes with great features like pools and gyms often come with sky-high strata costs, making them yield similar to a house. Regarding price movements, units are the last to rise and the first to fall during a growth cycle.
The land scarcity factor is the most apparent advantage of purchasing a house over a unit. This rings true, especially for inner-city areas; as a result, populations rise, and demand is ever-increasing. Over long periods, houses have been proven to outperform units in capital growth, and we expect this trend to continue long into the future. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, research has found that people are opting for houses with access to a backyard and fresh air rather than a unit with limited space. A significant land component also provides an opportunity to develop further or subdivide, which is another way to manufacture equity that a unit cannot do.
Just like units, not all houses are equal. A brand new home in an estate 50km from the CBD is not the same as an inner-ring established suburb. Houses in housing estates are not that different from large off-the-plan apartments. There can also be considerable costs associated with holding houses, especially for older homes that require many repairs. Generally speaking, the best investments are a combination of all of these factors. Units in established locations in small blocks with low to no strata fees are often great investments.
Similarly, houses in designated areas with higher yields are also great investments, particularly when there is room to renovate, develop or subdivide. These are usually highly sought-after types of properties. Both units and houses have various pros and cons; the final decision highly depends on the investor and their specific goals. Ultimately, there is no “one size fits all” when investing in property!