SMSFs and property

Mixing property and your self-managed super

You may want to set up an SMSF primarily to invest in residential property. Here we explain when you can use your SMSF to invest in property and what you need to consider before you do.

Self-managed super fund property rules

You can only buy property through your SMSF if you comply with the rules.

The property:

  • Must meet the 'sole purpose test' of solely providing retirement benefits to fund members
  • Must not be acquired from a related party of a member
  • Must not be lived in by a fund member or any fund members' related parties
  • Must not be rented by a fund member or any fund members' related parties.

However, your SMSF could potentially purchase your business premises, allowing you to pay rent directly to your SMSF at the market rate.

See the Australian Taxation Office's webpage on self‑managed super funds for more information.

Case study: John and Barbara consider an SMSF

couple-on-pcExperienced property investors John and Barbara are in their early 50s and want to set up an SMSF to use their super to purchase another investment property. They have a property portfolio worth $1 million (with investment loans of $800,000), a combined $200,000 in super and no other investments.

After discussing their options with a financial adviser, Barbara and John decide that an SMSF is not right for them. They realise that a property investment through an SMSF would further increase their debt and reduce the diversification of their assets. Barbara is also concerned about the cost, time and responsibility required to run an SMSF, especially as they get older. Instead they decide to concentrate on paying off their debt and making extra contributions to their super.

What it will cost you

SMSF property sales may have many fees and charges. These fees can add up and will reduce your super balance.

You should find out all the costs before signing up including:

  • Upfront fees
  • Legal fees
  • Advice fees
  • Stamp duty
  • Ongoing property management fees
  • Bank fees

Be wary of fees charged by groups of advisers who recommended each other's services as it is important to get independent advice. Anyone who gives advice on an SMSF must have an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL). ASIC Connect's Professional Registers will tell you if the company or person holds an AFSL.

See investing in property for more information.

SMSF borrowing

Borrowing or gearing your super into property must be done under very strict borrowing conditions called a 'limited recourse borrowing arrangement'.

A limited recourse borrowing arrangement can only be used to purchase a single asset, for example a residential or commercial property. Before committing to a geared property investment you should assess whether the investment is consistent with the investment strategy and risk profile of the fund.

Geared SMSF property risks include:

  • Higher costs - SMSF property loans tend to be more costly than other property loans which must be factored into your investment decision.
  • Cash flow - Loan repayments must be made from your SMSF which means your fund must always have sufficient liquidity or cash flow to meet the loan repayments.
  • Hard to cancel - If your SMSF property loan documentation and contract is not set up correctly unwinding the arrangement may not be allowed and you may be required to sell the property, potentially causing substantial losses to the SMSF.
  • Possible tax losses - Any tax losses from the property cannot be offset against your taxable income outside the fund.
  • No alterations to the property - Until the SMSF property loan is paid off alterations to a property cannot be made if they change the character of the property.

Be cautious if someone related to the property you are planning to purchase offers to arrange your loan as sometimes unscrupulous advisers work in groups and recommend each others services.

See borrowing to invest for more information on the risks of gearing.

Think twice about investing in property markets you are not familiar with, do your own research first.


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Last updated: 07 Aug 2015