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How to buy real estate for just $50

Tony Yoo
·4-min read
Happy couple is taking keys from their new house from hand of estate agent.
Home ownership for cheap? It is possible. (Image: Getty)

Despite real estate prices coming down due to the Covid-19 recession, decades of prior growth have left many Australians unable to get a foot on the property ladder.

Even though some millennials now feel like they can afford a house – there are still many hurdles before those feelings can be converted to reality.

On top of the challenges of saving a deposit and securing a massive loan, stamp duty is prohibitive in most states due to the inflated prices.

For example, buying a million-dollar house in Sydney, which is roughly that city's median price, will mean you have to come up with another $40,490 to pay the government.

But if you're okay with renting the home you live in, there are many routes to property ownership without forking out millions of dollars.

In fact, just $50 could get you started as a real estate mogul.

Here are three ways to buy for just a few dollars:

Fractional investing

This form of investment sees many investors each chipping in a little bit to collaboratively form a big lump sum, enough to buy a house.

A modern example of this is the BrickX platform, where 19 homes are split up into units called "Bricks".

These units, which cost as little as $50, represent a tiny ownership of an investment property. They can be bought fresh when BrickX first on-boards a property, or they can be bought and sold in a second-hand market.

As a Brick owner, you get the same benefits (and risks) of an investor who bought a whole house – including rental income.

The company is about to unleash its 20th property, which is a four-bedroom double-storey house in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

BrickX estimates the Clyde North home will bring back a net rental yield of 9.12 per cent, which is a remarkable return in these low-interest times.

Real estate investment trusts (REITs)

Investors contribute money towards these funds, which the trust managers use to buy up real estate.

They have the same mechanics as managed funds for shares, where the fund manager will take a commission for their work and the investor can add or withdraw money with relative ease.

Just like share funds, REITs are now popularly available as exchange-traded funds, meaning the minimum amount to invest is just the cost of one share.

The great thing about REITs is that it allows the average Joe and Jane to invest in commercial or industrial real estate, which generally have better rental returns than residential properties.

Do you want to buy a piece of Westfield Shopping Centres? Buy Scentre Group stocks.

Do you want to own the massive warehouses that Amazon uses? Buy Goodman Group shares.

You can even invest in overseas property with a product like State Street DJRE, which in turn invests in 218 different REITs around the world.

Another advantage of REIT is that your money doesn't all go towards one property.

The trusts will invest in a diverse variety of properties, so if one investment doesn't go so well others that are performing better will buffer the losses.

Like any stock, there can be price volatility with REIT ETFs – the cost can go up and down depending on demand and supply at any given time.

Bargains in desperate areas

Fractional investing and REITs are great – but if you don't like sharing and still want to own an entire house to yourself, you can look to some desperate areas around the world.

Once in a while, a city, town or district will offer houses for ridiculously low prices to attract investment in the area.

For example, the local government in the US city of St Louis last year sold off rundown public housing for US$1 (AU$1.43) each.

The council figured it was cheaper to do that than spend taxpayer money renovating them, plus it would bring in money from outside the area.

Japan has long suffered from an ageing and shrinking population. According to 2013 government numbers, there were 8 million houses left abandoned from elderly residents moving to nursing homes or passing away.

As such, some areas in that country actually give away houses for free.

The catch with these super-cheap houses is that there will be a requirement that the new owner spend a minimum amount of money to renovate the house, or spend a certain proportion of the year living there.

But unlike fractional investing and REITs, buying a home this way will mean you actually have a tangible object that you can touch, smell and feel – a sense of ownership that is entirely different from financial satisfaction.

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