The current housing market is hot and everyone wants a piece. But as many new homeowners are finding, it’s harder to get on top of the game than you might think. Many people are struggling to keep their head above water and don’t have time to strategise long-term. If you want to make sure your property investment is a success rather than an expensive lesson, here are some things to consider.

Please note: this is intended as a general guide and does not constitute financial advice. For advice specific to you and your situation, you will need to make an appointment with the relevant professionals to discuss your unique circumstances.

1.      Know where you want to go

Goal setting is important for many parts of your life, and long-term financial planning is no exception. What is it that you want long term? You might have a staged goal, where you’re building up for retirement but you want to ensure regular growth over five- or ten-year blocks. You might want an aggressive property investment strategy based on quickly turning properties over. Either way, your goals will impact the decisions that you make in the future, so you need to know what they are. This will also make it easier for you to avoid being swayed by panic or fear in the future.

If you have a goal in mind, write it down to remind yourself when the tough decisions come up. Knowing your time frames and remembering what you were planning will make it easier for you to choose one opportunity over another.

2.      Purchase strategically

You might start looking at properties close to where you live, but don’t be afraid to look around your state, or even the rest of the country, for good opportunities for investment. The recent population shift from central and capital cities to outer suburbs and the regions have put pressure on regional areas to provide more housing. Many of these areas already have long-term growth plans in the pipeline. As such, a purchase that you make today closer to the ‘centre’ of town will be worth more as the population of those areas increases and demand to be closer to the centre of town also increases. If you have a longer-term strategy, you might focus on areas where council are just beginning to discuss opening more land up for expansion. You may not have those kinds of opportunities where you are. Don’t be afraid to talk to friends, family and workmates about where they’re heading for their weekends away and start researching those places. Your perfect investment might be in a place that you’ve never even heard of.

3.      Accelerate your gains with renovation

Properties are often sold on potential, but there are sometimes much larger gains to be had by doing the work and making those improvements. We’ve all seen how demand can change in areas, leading to a lift in prices across the board, even for properties that are slowly falling apart. However, as housing markets enter new price brackets and appeal to new audiences, there are often opportunities to make gains through renovating properties. Improving a property’s street appeal could potentially increase the value well beyond the cost of your investment. While the value of the property will likely go up in time as demand increases, making improvements will potentially increase the price quicker.

To make the most out of this, find out why the neighbourhood you’ve bought in is appealing to buyers and make changes that will best suit their lifestyle. Young professional couples will want something different to people with school-aged children, so make sure that the changes you’re making are relevant to your target market.

4.      Watch markets outside of real estate

Generally, property investment is about growing your wealth long term, but there are other ways to invest capital. Keep an eye on the potential investments outside of real estate and be willing to diversify, especially as your goal dates start to approach. For example, you might be used to a certain percentage return on real estate investments over ten years, but you wouldn’t get those after two years from real estate because there are more fees associated with purchasing and sales, or you might have the potential to do so, but it’s risky. If that’s the case, stay true to your goals and try to find other investment strategies that will move you closer to your goals without the heavy risks involved with short-term real estate deals.

Sometimes it’s not just a question of how you build your portfolio, but how to most efficiently use the resources that you have to grow it in the most efficient way. The clearer your vision, the more focused you will be. The earlier you make those gains, the more time you’ll have to grow them as well. Think strategically about how to use what you have and you will likely find yourself ahead of your goals and on the road to an easier financial future.