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New Stamp Duty Opt Out for First Home Buyers – Are you better off?
Legislation has recently been passed allowing first home buyers to opt out of stamp duty in lieu of an annual land tax. This is a watered down version to the original proposal put forward a few years ago however likely that it is viewed as the first step in a major overhaul to stamp duty to occur over several years. Let’s take a look at a few questions and see what we can look forward to.
How does it work?In short, first home buyers forego paying a large lump sum stamp duty on a purchase to pay an annual land tax on the property for every year the property is owned. This legislation is proposed to be in force from January 2023. The land tax is calculated on the rating value (or Valuer Generals valuation) of the property as of that year.
How does it affect you as a first home buyer and will you be better off?There’s good and bad. Land tax is payable for as long as you own the property. So depending on your property strategy, you may still be better off still paying a one off stamp duty instead of land tax forever. We have run several scenarios internally using detached property (low density house, duplex and townhouse) assuming differing levels of value growth over time based on historic averages. The break even point seems to be consistently around 6-7 years. This reduces if there is significant capital growth during the period of ownership and conversely increases if there is a correction during the period of ownership. Using strata units, the average break even across our examples increases to around 11-12 years. This is consistent with average period of ownership in Sydney at the moment (unlikely to be a coincidence). If the property is your forever home or you plan to accumulate properties as an investment strategy, you might be better off paying stamp duty on purchase. For most people, their first property is a stepping stone and usually will be sold to fund an upgrade in years to come. If this is the case, land tax may be the preferred option. You can complete your own calculations using the Service NSW calculator found here. Just as a side note, the average period of ownership of a property in Sydney of 12.4 years. This has increased in recent years too from around 7.5 years in 2009. This is thought to be primarily due to transaction costs (Stamp Duty on purchase and CGT on sale being the biggest ones) as well as well documented affordability issues in the Sydney market. We may see in the future that a possible benefit of these changes is that property is more fluidly transacting in years to come. This benefit wouldn’t be evident in the market till the legislation is widened to cover all purchasers (the likely end goal in my opinion) and a generation of owners that have already paid stamp duty have washed out of the market however. Increased deposit If you aren’t paying stamp duty, you will likely have a few more dollars to throw at your purchase at the start. This may provide options of a lower overall loan amount, chance to buy something better with your money, or bring your purchase forward in time. This benefit will be partly offset by a slight reduction in serviceability due to higher ongoing costs of ownership being the new annual land tax. Off The Plan (OTP) Purchasers The decision to opt into this scheme with an off the plan purchase may be a bit more difficult when it comes to OTP strata properties. Reason being valuations for properties are not completed by the Valuer General till they are registered, often 12 months or more after you sign a contract for an OTP purchase. They are then apportioned using the Unit Entitlement which is generally only known just prior to registration of the Strata Plan. What this means for purchasers is they have to decide on whether they want to opt in to land tax without knowing the value of their property or its unit entitlement in the development that will be the basis of the land tax being levied. The most rational way to overcome this by developers is by making an estimate of this value. However, if you are making a financial decision of this significance, you’d hope it would be using hard evidence. My discussions with industry experts and developers have not seen a resolution to this just yet but I would imagine that a solution would have to be in progress somewhere given the volume of OTP sales in the Sydney Market. Has it been rushed in? Possible however unlikely. These changes are the brainchild of Dominic Perrottet for many years and were being discussed in the media as long as five years ago when the market was soft during the previous property downturn. In saying that, there is an election looming and housing affordability is one of those things that always swings voters, especially first home buyers. The result of the elections will also impact the staying power of this scheme given that the Labor government has already mentioned that this legislation will be repealed if they win the state elections.
Demysifying Rating and Taxing Valuation and Objections for Non-Valuers
Following on from with our last post here, we thought it would be helpful to provide a practical guide on how rating and taxing valuations are done in NSW and some tips when preparing an objection to your land value.
How Rating and Taxing valuations are done:Rating valuations are completed under the provisions of the Valuation of Land Act 1916. This piece of legislation is extremely complex so were not going to go into too much detail. This post is more of a guide to the practical application of rating valuations in NSW. The method used to provide valuations for rating and taxing is the Mass Appraisal approach. Apologies in advance for the use of jargon. Mass appraisal is completed by grouping like properties together into “components”. A sample of several properties are then selected out of the component that represents different statistical markers in that group. These properties are called “benchmarks”. These properties are typically the median value property, and properties in lower and upper quartiles as well as properties that may represent a different sub-market in that group (if required). It’s a little easier to explain with an example: There are 1,000 residential properties in Gotham City south of Wayne Mansion. All of these properties are placed in a component called Gotham City South. Three properties have been selected as benchmarks. The median property, a low value property with a smaller land area and a higher value property being a large 1,000sqm block. These three benchmark properties are individually valued. Based on the percentage change that results from the previous year’s land value, a factor is generated. The factors generated are then applied to the rest of the properties in the component. This approach has its benefits, its affordable to implement for the government, reasonably accurate and is able to be rolled out to every property in the state without being overly resource heavy. It also works very well with properties that have large groups of similar properties like the Sydney suburbs. Mass valuation does have its flaws though. It doesn’t work very well with properties with unique features, good or bad. Typically, some of the properties that mass valuation struggles with are constrained properties, properties with contamination issues, heritage properties, development sites etc. Also, by way of application of percentage factor increases, previous errors in land values can be compounded year on year if not kept in check. There are processes to stop values getting out of kilter. Were not going to discuss all of them but one of which is the objection process.
What to do you need to do to lodge an objection to your land value?Get to Know Your Property. Do a little bit of research and learn all the important features of your property. The area, the location, the zoning. The good and the bad. Is your property unique? Does your property flood? Is it heritage listed? Does something impact its development potential or its value? Arm yourself with this information first. Find Evidence to Compare to Your Property. Using what you know about your property, do some research and find the closest physically comparable sales evidence for comparison to your property. These sales should be as close to 1 July as possible as that is the relevant date for all rating valuations. Vacant land sales are strongly preferred as they require less adjustment than improved properties and eliminate some of the subjectivity from the equation. Work Out What Your Property Is Worth. Armed with your evidence, work out what your property is worth and see if its worth lodging an objection. If you get here and your value is too high, its time to jump on the Valuer Generals website and lodge your objection. What is Required by the VG for an Objection to be Accepted? If you plan to lodge an objection, there are a couple of things you should know.
- It needs to be lodged on time. You have 60 days from the date of your notice to lodge an objection. Extensions are sometimes permitted for extraordinary circumstances. For example; you were overseas at the time of the notice being issued or health reasons etc. Better not to risk it though.
- You need to provide evidence to support your objection. That means you need sales evidence, or a sale of the subject property for an objection to be accepted. The days of, “my neighbour has a lower value than mine” don’t cut it anymore.
- You need to justify why you are lodging your objection so make sure you have a few comments written down before you jump on the website to make the process easier.
What you are entitled to as compensation after an Government acquisition?
The Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 (Just Terms Act) dictates what landowners are entitled to as part of an acquisition. This post will provide an outline of the relevant sections of the Act that you should know about and what you may be entitled to. Section 55 of the Just Terms Act is critical information. It outlines the “Heads of Compensation” that are applicable as part of a compulsory acquisition. Section 55 is shown below: “55 Relevant matters to be considered in determining amount of compensation In determining the amount of compensation to which a person is entitled, regard must be had to the following matters only (as assessed in accordance with this Division)— (a) the market value of the land on the date of its acquisition, (b) any special value of the land to the person on the date of its acquisition, (c) any loss attributable to severance, (d) any loss attributable to disturbance, (e) the disadvantage resulting from relocation, (f) any increase or decrease in the value of any other land of the person at the date of acquisition which adjoins or is severed from the acquired land by reason of the carrying out of, or the proposal to carry out, the public purpose for which the land was acquired.” Different Heads of Compensation from the above are applicable depending on if the property is owner occupied, an investment, residential or commercial. Before we delve too far into the detail, its worthwhile defining a jargon term that will pop up regularly. That is, what is the Public Purpose? The Public Purpose is the reason the compulsory acquisition is required. Common examples are road widening or to construct infrastructure (airport, school, hospital, rail network, etc). Now let get to the reason why were all here. What are you entitled to as part of your compensation figure? This post will focus on residential property. The heads of compensation will be covered individually below: 55 (a) Market Value The market value of the property is defined in the Just Terms Act under Section 56(1). The individual sections have not been quoted but you can find them all in the Just Terms Act. Section 56 entitles the landowner being compensated to the market value is the property being acquired disregarding the public purpose for the land being acquired. Disregarding the public purpose means the valuation has to exclude the value of any disadvantage or benefit that would result from the Public Purpose. An example of a disadvantage is when you previously were in a quiet location and after the acquisition, your property will suffer from aircraft noise impacts. A common example of a benefit is a rezoning allowing a higher density use because of proximity to a new railway station. If the railway station didn’t exist, the land would probably would not be rezoned. However, most examples are not as black and white. This is where expert town planners often get involved and can point to what would have happened if the public purpose didn’t exist. 55 (b) Special Value Special value is value that the property has to the owner that doesn’t get captured in the market value. Things like modifications to a dwelling to allow wheelchair access. These modifications would be expensive to install but don’t attract any value to the broader market. Special value claims are typically rare. 55 (c) Severance, Severance is applicable if the acquisition bisects or severs the land from other lands. For example, a freeway cuts a parcel in half and the half of the land can no longer be accessed. The affect on value would be significant. This is a rare occurrence these days as most acquiring authorities will either acquire the whole parcel and make efforts to not to have severed parcels in the planning stage of the project. 55 (d) Disturbance, Covered in Section 59 of the Just Terms Act. Disturbance costs relate to:
- legal costs and valuation fees reasonably incurred – You get reimbursed for valuation fees (as long as the valuer is appropriately qualified like the team at Titan) and legal fees incurred.
- financial costs reasonably incurred - examples of this include including mail forwarding, mortgage discharge, removalists fees etc.
- stamp duty costs up to the equivalent value of the property being acquired - this only relates to owner occupied properties only,
- If you are running a business from the premises, there may be additional impacts that would result from business disturbance here.
How can a Buyers Agent help get an edge in a purchase by keeping you anonymous?
A recent purchase we have assisted a client with was to buy the next door property on behalf of a land banker. Most owners that have property with potential for medium density or high-density development, know that multiple adjoining properties are often required to unlock the full potential of a site Most investors and developers also know that the money is made in the purchase so if you can save a few dollars with a successful negotiation, you are ahead from day one. Mindful of this, our client engaged us to negotiate anonymously on their behalf to buy the property next door that was on the market in the inner western suburbs of Sydney. The Brief Without going into too much detail, our client owned a property in a retail strip in inner west Sydney that was zoned B4 Mixed Use. Our client’s property was 300sqm and had a shop and first floor office on the property. The B4 zone in this area allows residential flat buildings if the land size is larger 500sqm and the street frontage is bigger than 15m. Our client wanted to buy the property next door to maximise the development potential of his property, unlocking the potential for units that his property didn’t have at the moment. The Negotiation We were given the specific goal to save as much of the adjoining owner premium or what was colloquially referred to by our client as the “next door neighbour tax”. We provided our guide to value based on recent sales and the value uplift that would result from the property being amalgamated and being able to be developed with 12 units. Our client living and breathing the location, wasn’t surprised with the numbers that we came up with and gave us the go ahead to negotiate on their behalf with the agent. We engaged with the real estate agent and placed a strong early pre-auction offer for the property. Negotiations continued from here till an offer and acceptance was reached prior to auction. The Outcome As a consolidated site, the property was calculated in our initial discussions to be at worth another 15% more than the eventual sale price so our client realised a considerable saving. Our “faceless” client now have a development site in a fantastic location that they are pursuing a DA for at the moment. A great outcome. If you are in a similar situation or another where anonymity would be beneficial, get in touch for a no obligation discussion.
What do you do when the Government wants to compulsorily acquire your property?
Have you recently been notified by the government because your property will form part of a road, rail or other infrastructure project? Given the amount of infrastructure projects going on in NSW at the moment, it’s no surprise. The amount of people affected by new infrastructure projects is now greater than ever. When a Government authority acquires property, they have to work within the rules of legislation called the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991. They are also required to negotiate with owners using a valuation of the as a basis of the negotiation discussions. The steps that follow are usually (but vary slightly depending between authorities): Initial contact You are notified that your property is in the alignment of a proposed infrastructure project. Offer to purchase The acquiring authority makes an offer to buy your property using their valuation as a basis of their offer. Valuation Exchange You send the valuation you complete to the acquiring authority they send you their valuation in return. This is the start of the negotiation process. Valuers Conference The owners, acquiring authorities and respective valuers meet to discuss the valuations and their shortfalls with a view to try to reach come common ground. This process can occur multiple times depending on the market conditions or the complexity of the property being acquired. Updated Offers The authority sends you a revised offer based on these. This is accepted or rejected by the owners. The property either settles from here or goes to the compulsory acquisition process. PAN period If a settlement cannot be reached through negotiation, A PAN (or Proposed Acquisition Notice) is issued to the owners of the property notifying them of a notice period (typically 60-90 days) that the government will use its compulsory powers. Eleventh hour negotiations with the acquiring authority can still occur during this period. Gazettal After the notice period in the PAN concludes, the property is published in the NSW Government Gazette. The property has then been compulsorily acquired by the authority becomes the property of the government authority. The owners have not been paid anything for their property yet however. Valuer General Valuation A third valuer engaged by the Valuer General (VG) to complete an impartial valuation. Part of their role includes consideration of the valuations completed to date over the property and consideration of all the features of the are applicable to the property. The result of this valuation will become the eventual compensation amount that you will be paid. Generally within around 42 days of the date of Gazette. Appeal If the compensation amount provided by the VG is not acceptable, you have the right to appeal this valuation to the Land and Environment Court of NSW. This is another detailed process that will be covered in a later post.
All of this might be very daunting and confusing, but what do you do now?
- Engage a valuer early and make sure they are experienced with the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 – Our team works on these valuations daily and has all the experience you need to help get the best outcome,
- You will need a solicitor that also knows the process and legislation well – Titan works with, and can recommend several solicitors that work frequently with this type of acquisition,
- Remember that good negotiated outcome is often better than a hard fought one. Use this to your advantange and try to get an outcome that is mutually beneficial and less stressful for everyone.
- Your outcome and your experience will only be as good as the advice you are getting. Get the best advice you can find. This sounds expensive but assured, valuation and legal fees get reimbursed by the Acquiring Authority as part of the Acquisition process – check out our post on what you are entitled to find out what you are actually entitled to in accordance with the legislation.
- A good valuer will also point you in the direction of other advice if required, we regularly work with business valuers, engineers, town planners and contamination experts to make sure you have the most accurate and best advice you can get in what is a very stressful and daunting experience.