Over the years, many investors have bought property through their SMSF, to build wealth for retirement. While there are plenty of benefits to buying property through your SMSF, it isn’t the right choice for everyone.

Here’s what to consider if you’re thinking about using your SMSF to invest in property.

1. Your fund’s investment strategy

Not all SMSFs are structured the same way or follow the same investment strategy. Check your fund’s risk profile, rules and policy on diversification before you buy property. Most allow the purchase of both residential and commercial property, but it’s best to confirm if yours permits both and what the rules around it are.

2. Legal compliance

SMSF funds are governed by a strict set of regulations. These include:

  • Passing the sole purpose test. You need to prove the property is for investment purposes only and that the income generated is for retirement. No member of the SMSF nor their relatives may live in the property, rent it, or use it as a holiday home.
  • If you purchase a commercial property, a fund member is allowed to rent the premises for their business. However, it must be leased at the market rate (no discounts) and the rent must be paid into the fund.
  • A commercial property that produces a gross rental income in excess of $75,000 per annum must register for GST. Once registered, the SMSF can claim 100% of GST against any expenses associated with the commercial property.

3. Financial cost

While property investing through an SMSF can help boost your retirement savings, there are several costs involved that can eat into profits.

  • Upfront costs. Buying a property comes with stamp duty, conveyancing fees and other costs.
  • Ongoing costs. The property’s running costs may include maintenance, property management fees and strata fees. Other ongoing costs may include annual accounting and audit fees.
  • Property taxes. Once the property begins to yield a rental income, 15% of it will go to tax. If, after owning the property for more than 12 months, you decide to sell it, a 10% capital gains tax applies. However, if you keep the property until your SMSF reaches pension phase, then no capital gains tax is payable, provided the sale fits within the member’s $1.6m balance cap.

Final considerations

The passive income from rent and the savings on capital gains tax can make buying an investment property through an SMSF an attractive prospect for some people.

However, investing through an SMSF is a more complex process than doing it through conventional channels. Also, the income the property earns will be locked in the SMSF until you reach retirement age.

That’s why it’s important to do your research and seek professional advice before deciding to buy an investment property through your SMSF.

Adam Zuchowski is a property lawyer at SMSF Conveyancer.

For legal advice on buying an investment property through an SMSF, contact SMSF Conveyancer. Call us on 03 9070 9810 or fill in this online form for a conveyancing quote.