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Friday 11 July 2014

Investing: Everything you've ever wanted to know about . . .

... Pre '63 investments but were afraid to ask. Jacqueline Kavanagh has the low down on this peculiar investment that yields a great return and offers accommodation that is in great demand in the current climate

Published 28/03/2008|00:00

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Since the show Rising Damp hit our TV screens back in the Seventies, the character Rigsby, played by the late Leonard Rossiter, epitomises how many view the 'traditional' landlord. He entertained millions with his miserly, underhand methods of making money from his naive tenants and laid the blueprint for how not to be a successful landlord.

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Today, many of those bemused at Rigsby and his landlording skills have since become landlords themselves -- in the last 10 years alone, thousands have invested in overseas properties and apartments for rental purposes, which they view as long-term nest eggs.

But there is another group of investors who think bigger than just the one-off apartment and these are the investors constantly on the look-out for the much sought-after 'Pre '63' property.

The term Pre '63 is used to describe a property that was divided into multiple flats or studios prior to the introduction of the Local Government Planning and Development Act of 1963 -- which actually didn't come into effect until October 1964. Since the Act was introduced, property owners have been obliged to seek authorisation in order to divide a property into rental units.

Typically, these large, red-brick, two- and three-storey, over-basement properties are found on many of the main arteries into Dublin city -- on Harold's Cross Road, Rathmines Road, Morehampton Road and around Drumcondra.

Coleman Connor, director of O'Connor Shannon Estate Agents, specialises in the valuation and sale of Pre '63 investment properties and says there's always a demand for these properties, due the numbers of tenants looking for this type of accommodation.

"I would say that the Pre '63 type of housing would house the largest percentage of tenants in the city," says Coleman.

In his experience he's found two different types of investor interested in Pre '63 properties.

"One type of investor will look at a Pre '63 that is in very poor condition," explains Coleman. "They buy it and refurbish into comfortable units. This is often someone with a trades background who can do a lot of the work themselves."

On average, refurbishment costs for an eight-to-10-unit building can run to anything from €200,000 to €300,000 and can take from six-to-nine months.

"The other type of investor is the professional type, who will want to buy something completely renovated. There are not as many opportunities like this in the market," he explains.

These investors often hand the management of the properties over to agents whose fees average at around 12-15pc of rental income.

Investors need to look at the long-term benefits when it comes to these types of properties. Someone investing €1m would need to see they could earn approximately €50,000 a year in rent before considering it a worthwhile investment -- giving a five per cent gross yield. There are expenses outside that -- net yield, depending on location, could be on average 3.75 or 4pc.

"It has been the build-up on equity that investors have had their eye on," says Coleman.

Larger properties, close to the city, that have the potential to be reconverted back into a family home, maybe with a potential mews site out the back, are the coveted Pre '63s, which the wise investor would be on the look-out for. He admits that these properties did have a reputation for being rundown and badly managed, but things are changing, and the type of investor in the market now is different to the traditional landlord.

"You'll find teachers, guards, solicitors and architects have all invested in Pre '63s as a retirement fund," explains Coleman. "And anyone coming into the business is choosing to go the route of refurbishment and good quality units."

David Kennedy bought his first investment property nine years ago as his "pension". He now has two Pre '63s in his portfolio (six- and 11-unit properties) and "is always on the look out for more".

"They have a much better chance of paying for themselves from day one," he explains. "If I buy a house for say €2 million to rent out and the tenant moves out, I might be down rent for three months before I get another tenant. If I buy a Pre '63 and one tenant moves out, I still have five or six other tenants."

But he says that renting multi-unit properties is hard work.

"You learn a lot of DIY skills very quickly," laughs David. "If a washing machine breaks down, I go and take the sock out of the filter. A plumber might charge €60. If you're running it as a business, you really have to look at the bottom line."

He suggests that offering a good-quality product also attracts the right type of tenant, but it's also the landlord's duty to take care of the tenants.

"You've to go in every couple of years to update the units, so when a tenant comes in they feel they're getting good quality and they'll treat it with respect. You can't just let the place to someone and not go and visit them for three years and then be surprised when you come back and the place is trashed."

Despite all the hard work, 4am phone calls from tenants and DIY jobs, David is still convinced that this type of investment is well worthwhile.

"If you buy a two-bed apartment you might get a yield on average of about 3.5pc. With a Pre '63 you might get a slightly higher yield, but if it washes its face from day one, then you're doing pretty well."

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