‘Devastating’ property investments hitting SMSFs

Several SMSF professionals have revealed that their clients are increasingly becoming the targets and victims of dodgy property schemes promising high yield and minimal risk.

In recent weeks, several professionals have spoken to Mortgage Business’s sister publication SMSF Adviser, concerned that their clients are being targeted by property spruikers who are, in particular, touting the benefits of off-the-plan purchases.

They have also expressed concern that licenced financial advisers and accountants are pushing property onto their clients despite the risk posed by the investment.

Brokers, such as Thrive Investment Finance’s Samantha Bright, have seen instances of investors taking massive chances with off-the-plan properties, sometimes entering into contracts which lock them unconditionally into sales.

Speaking to SMSF Adviser, principal at Verante Financial Planning’s Liam Shorte, an SMSF specialist, outlined some potentially devastating circumstances his newer clients have been faced with after visits to “one stop shops”.

“I have had a number of new clients, three couples, in the last 12 months that have come in with existing SMSFs. They know very little about the funds and only have one asset, which is a property, usually in regional Queensland or the Hunter Valley mining towns and small cash holdings,” Mr Shorte said.

“Most are 58-65 [years old] and had $200-$250k in super between them, [they’ve] been told that's not enough to retire and had been looking to try and boost their savings before retirement. It seems their accountants/advisers felt a leveraged mining town property in an SMSF was the solution!

“The people coming in to me are not high-income earners or making large contributions. They now have properties where the rents are dropping, selling is not an option in a market where many are exiting, and the fund is struggling to meet the interest payments.”

Speaking to SMSF Adviser, Paramount Wealth Management principal Wayne Leggett believes there is “no question” that borrowing levels, including among retirees, are at all-time highs.

“There is a number of reasons for this, lower interest rates, more relaxed lending practices by banks towards older borrowers, interest only loans, lines of credit, 100 per cent offset accounts, LRBAs and reverse mortgages/shared equity schemes are but a few,” he said.

However, Mr Leggett stressed that any concerns about excessive debt in particular need to be tempered by what other strategies the borrowers have in place.

“For example, given that it is not unreasonable to assume a long-term earnings rate of 7 per cent per annum from a typical ‘balanced’ superannuation portfolio, as long as home loan rates are sitting at around 4 per cent, it makes more sense to direct ‘spare’ funds to additional super contributions, rather than principal reductions on your home loan,” he said.

[Related: Lawyer slams potential SMSF lending curbs]

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