4 Fundamental Rules of Property Investment

In any investments especially in property due to its high illiquid nature, there are 4 fundamental rules of property investment any ordinary investors have to adhere to, no matter what. We want to make sure our money:

  1. Must Be Capital Preserved (the ability to at least preserve the initial investment capital without losing it),
  2. Must Be in Constant Velocity (generating immediate returns)
  3. Must Be In Control (YOU Control the investment, not the other way)
  4. Must Never Invest in Something We Don’t Understand Well

These are the 4 rules which have I followed religiously ever since embarking on my property investment journey 10 years ago and these crucial rules have helped cushioned my property investments in the ups and downs since 2003-2012. These rules are not entirely created by me, but rather they have always been used by successful investors and entrepreneurs whom I have the privilege to learn from. One of them is my late wealthy grandfather who had built a multi-million dollar business and property empire by simply adhering to these 4 fundamental investment rules.


Rule 1: Money must be Capital Preserved

Sounds logical and simple enough, yet many gullible investors forget this rule when greediness, arrogance, ignorance and a gambling streak arise.

As often proven, when an investor tries to find those investments that will give them the best possible returns on their investment capital, they will ultimately absent-mindedly ignore the potential downsides of the investment and economy. Greed and arrogance will chased them to pursue investments that promises so called ‘high returns’ that looks very good on the surface yet amass a dark conceiving nature with unsubstantiated claims of potential high rental yields or capital gains that the properties or investment can fetch.

Take for example, buying overseas property in exhibitions and property seminars. Smart overseas property marketers know greed & ignorance always sells and how to use it to prey on unsuspecting investors who may be completely ignorant of the market, especially in an overseas market which one may be unfamiliar with. Greed has foreshadowed fundamentals. Most of the time, the investor does not realise it unknowingly, and we all know that greed will always lead to dire financial consequences.

If you want to do well in any investment, you must possess some basic business background. Knowing how to differentiate between a winning investment and a losing investment takes many years of ground experience, humble learning and a basic understanding of reading a simple business financial statement. The problem lies with most amateur investors cannot even well manage their own personal finances properly or fail to distinguish what an asset & liability is.


Rule 2: Money Must Be in Constant Velocity

If the investment does NOT give immediate returns today, it’s not an investment. Fact – Any investment bought on future price gains and yield is gambling! Example, buying a property bought off-the-plan only to see completion 4 years later is more of a consumer choice than an investment choice.

If you have an obese bank account with tons of many other income producing assets, I say sure, go ahead and speculate on some off-the- plan property projects or other investments that will only ‘ripen’ years down the road. You can richly afford to wait and play the game patiently.

However, for the ordinary investor, where time is of crucial importance in growing wealth, who has yet secured his retirement funds, has no other passive income from zero assets or no million dollars in the bank account today, ‘trapping’ your limited capital resources for 4 years or more with zero returns in the period (not to mention the potential downsides and economic changes that might happen in 4 years-time) can prevent you from seizing other potential opportunities to grow that wealth earlier.


Rule 3: Money Must Be in Control

It’s called the control of money. The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer because the rich understands about the importance of having absolute control in any investments. They control the money; sufficiently protect the downsides; control the investment itself and the returns they want through managing income cash flow and expenses.

Holding Power – This is NOT a protection of downside:

“Never mind, my downside protection is if the property cannot be rented out or fetch the price I want, I can always stay in it or use it myself.”

It’s the same as saying if I fail to woo the girl I like, I can still hope to win her heart back with more flowers and expensive gifts. For god’s sake, don’t try to get emotional! There are plenty of other good choices around. ‘Dump’ the losing property & move on. Holding power is for the people who have already made their wealth, and not for ordinary investors who have very limited capital resources for more productive uses in other opportunities.

Property developers take their initial investment back within 5 years by selling units to property buyers as soon as securing a land. Banks (and even loan sharks) take back their money lent to borrowers in the form of immediate monthly loan re-payments as interest income.

The middle class becomes poorer because their one & only ‘Get-Wealthy’ strategy is to buy off-the-plan-properties and have mutual funds for retirement plans.  No control here. The only people in control are the property developers, the economy and the fund managers themselves.


Rule 4: Money Must Never invest in Something We Don’t Understand Well

You don’t know what you do not know

We need to understand Risk Vs Risky. All investments come with risk, but not all are risky – if you know what you are doing. A professional mountain climber knows he/she faces risk when doing this sport, and they love to do it as it gives them high adrenalin and a strong sense of satisfaction (‘high returns’), but he/she does not view it as risky because they follow a set of strict rules, proper system, proper safety techniques and constant training to minimise those risk associated with mountain climbing. The untrained ones like us, however, will view mountain climbing as a very risky ‘investment’.

The whole point is this: If you do not know what you are doing, it is considered risky. And surprisingly, most untrained investors (arrogant & ignorant) think they know what they are doing.

Focus on ONE key investment area you know very well, before even considering venturing into the next. Focus, NOT diversify! Diversification is for those with no control and do not know what they are doing.

David Beckam, the famous professional football star, does not say he will diversify playing professionally into other sports like golf (and hope to become another Tiger Woods) simply because his managers tell him there is a danger of tearing his leg ligament just by playing soccer alone. Yes he plays golf but that’s for a hobby he can afford to and never a career.

Luciano Pavarotti, the famous opera singer does not diversify into singing rock songs, because there are fewer opera listeners and rock is more popular.

Take commercial and industrial property investment for example. With massive cooling measures on residential property sector, many unwitting home-buyers have gone into the commercial and industrial sector. Being only residential buyers for their own homes, most small-time ordinary retail investors have very little, no knowledge or inkling how the commercial and industrial sector works, yet they invest on hopes of returns if any. One must grasps the investment dynamics and structure of the commercial & industrial property sector is completely different from that of residential homes.

Implement Strict Personal Investment Criteria & System

Do you have a personal investment system with strict set of investment criteria?

I follow all 4 of the fundamental rules strictly and if an investment does not meet just one of those rules, I do not invest at all. All my property investments are ‘low Risk, yet high returns’ (returns which meet my criteria according to my personal goals) because I understand them very well, fits my strict personal criteria & system, and they follow strictly to the 4 Rules of Investment.

You need to have constant training, ground experience and implement a set of rules and system catered specifically to your own needs and life priorities and most importantly, follow them without fail!  I have my own set of strict investment system and criteria, and I follow them to the very core. If a particular investment does not meet any of my set criteria, I do not invest, no matter how promising the returns are.

Having a personal investment philosophy would also help tremendously. Having first evaluated these goals will help determine one’s preferred investment returns, to preserve or grow one’s wealth, and what sort of investments should you invest in.

As Sun Tse‘s ‘Art of War’, “Know yourself and know your enemy’ is the key to winning all battles.”

Follow strictly to your rules of engagement for any investments. The investment can either be your dearest friend or it can be your deadly enemy. You decide.


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To your investment success,


About the Author

Gerald Tay Author, entrepreneur, professional investor and loving father, runs with a tongue-in-cheek approach to property investment - and himself. He is widely regarded in the industry as 'The Common-Sense' Investor. Gerald writes with passion and straight-forwardness, disclaiming wild claims and impractical investment strategies behind lies and ignorance pervasive in the property industry for vested interests. His well-known statement, "All I did is to value my investments with science, logic and common sense.'

Comments (5)
  • wealth creation Apr 2 2013 - 7:14 pm Reply

    Thank you for this. I know everyone that wants to have a wise decision in investment can get a lesson out of this post. Then you can be a wiser buyer in terms of investment.

  • Lucy Apr 5 2013 - 8:39 pm Reply

    Hi Gerald

    We are in a fix. We have been searching for a landed property since Jan 2012. We thought the prices are high and therefore were not very active in our search. Also, there were talk that prices will fall. However, such is not the case. Instead we are affected by CM7. We have to pay for ABSD as this is not our first property.
    There are rumours that the govt may be announcing CM8 which limits the MSR ratio to 30%. That will effectively pushed us out of the market as there’s nothing one can buy with such low quantum.

    What can we do? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    • Gerald Tay Apr 9 2013 - 2:47 pm Reply


      my straight forward advice to everyone: Leave your limited resources in the bank and WAIT PATIENTLY.

      Honestly, Is there really a need for you to go out and buy now at high prices? unless its going to be your home, but if is for investment, honestly I do not see any positive yields at today’s prices even with the low interest rates.

      Pushed you out of the market? The people who are buying today, on hopes of capital gains and positive yields in future are sorely going to be very disappointed. You should be glad that you are considered the smarter buyer than most of the other ‘foolish’ buyers out there today who are queueing up with a balloting system just to secure their ‘dream’ property.

      Government policies are only temporary, smartness, education and knowledge is permanent and your key to your financial survival.

      hope this advice helps!


  • Greatsage Apr 9 2013 - 1:08 pm Reply

    Excellent piece of article! Thank you so much, I have gained some knowledge on proprty investment. I would like to invite you to be guest blogger in my blog, SG Web Reviews ( You write very well, and obviously the articles in your blog were based on life experiences. I hope my readers can benefit from your articles.

    Please contact me at
    Hope to hear from you soon.

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