Real estate assets

Information about how real estate assets affect your payment under the assets test.

What’s included in the assets test

We include most real estate you own in your assets test.

The only real estate asset we don’t include is your principal home.

We include real estate you:

  • rent out
  • leave vacant for any amount of time
  • let someone else live in for free
  • live in when you’re not at your principal home.

What your principal home is

Your principal home is the home you live in and the first 2 hectares of land it’s on. It must be on a single title.

Land over 2 hectares

We normally include any land over the first 2 hectares your home is on in your assets test.

For example, if your home is on 6 hectares of land, we’ll include 4 hectares in your assets test.

There may be some exceptions, read about rural customers and primary producers.

Business use

If you use a part of your principal home for business only, we’ll include this part in your assets test. This could be land or buildings.

How we work out what you own

Real estate values can change. To keep your payments fair, we update the value of your real estate regularly. If there’s a significant change, you must tell us.

Market value

We use current market value when we assess your real estate. This is different from how state and local governments value properties.

Mortgages

We only include the amount of the real estate you own in your assets test. If you have a mortgage, we work out the percentage you own. To do this, we take away the loan amount you owe for the property from your share of the total value.

Ownership checks

We check land title records to see what real estate you own. If these records don’t match what you’ve told us, we’ll contact you.

If the value of your real estate is more than what you’ve told us:

  • your payments may reduce or stop
  • you may need to pay back money we’ve paid you.

If you disagree with a decision we’ve made, you can ask for a review of the decision.

Valuations

We index the value of residential properties each year to keep them up to date. If we can’t index a property’s value, we’ll arrange a valuation when needed.

If the new valuation affects your payment, we’ll let you know. Normally you won’t have to pay anything back. But, you will need to pay us back if we’ve paid you too much because you didn’t tell us about:

  • significant upgrades that have increased the value of the property, for example adding a pool
  • new real estate you own.

If you disagree with a decision we’ve made, you can ask for a review of the decision.

Financial hardship

You may be able to get help if a new valuation of your assets stops you getting a payment. If this happens, and you’re in severe financial hardship, you may be able to access help through the asset hardship provisions.

You may also be able to receive a loan through the Pension Loans Scheme if you’re over Age Pension age.

How we assess your former principal home

If you leave your principal home to go into aged care, we may include your home in your assets test.

Read about aged care means test assessments.

We won’t count it as an asset if either:

  • your partner is still living there
  • you leave your home temporarily.

If you rent out your former principal home, we’ll consider the rent you get as income.

How we assess life interest assets

You create a life interest in an asset if you sell or gift the asset but either:

  • keep the right to use it
  • get income from it
  • benefit from it in any other way.

You can also purchase or inherit a life interest asset. An example is someone’s will giving you the right to keep living in a house.

Assets someone else has a life interest in

You have a remainder interest if you own an asset someone else has a life interest in. The remainder interest is the future right you have to the asset while the person who has the life interest is still alive.

You can’t use and benefit from the asset until their life interest stops.

Life interest in a home

If you have a life interest in the place you live, we don’t include it in your assets test. That’s because we consider it your principal home.

In some instances granny flat interest may apply. It may apply if someone gives you the right to live in a property they own, in return for either:

  • assets
  • money.

Life interest assessment

The only life interest or remainder interest assets we include in your assets test are either those:

  • created by you or your partner
  • left to you on the death of your partner.

The value we use for a life interest is its actuarial value. This is how much the benefits would be worth if you paid for them directly.

Life interest disposal

If you give up your life interest asset, we may assess it as a gift. This may happen even if the life interest asset:

  • wasn’t created by you or your partner
  • was left to you after your partner died.

If so, we’ll:

  • get an actuarial valuation to work out the value of the life interest asset you’re giving up
  • add the value to your assets as a deprived asset
  • include the asset in the income test under the deeming rules.

How we assess retirement villages as assets

A retirement village is a group of purpose built units for people over 55 to live in. Some include services such as meals, house cleaning, laundry and personal care.

Fees and ongoing costs

Retirement village fees help us work out if we consider you a homeowner or not. This will affect how we apply the assets test.

Retirement villages set their own fees, costs and rent amounts, not the government.

Before you can move in, you normally have to pay an entry fee or entry contribution. This can be up to the full market value of a unit.

You may also need to pay ongoing costs for services and facilities.

We use the size of your entry fee to decide if you’re the owner. We don’t include any ongoing fees and charges in this amount.

Non-homeowners have a higher assets test limit than homeowners. We call the difference between the 2 limits the extra allowable amount. We compare this to the entry fee you paid.

If your entry fee was more than the extra allowable amount, we treat you as a homeowner. This means we don’t count the entry fee in the assets test.

If your entry fee was equal to or less than the extra allowable amount, we treat you as a non-homeowner. This means:

  • we count the entry fee in the assets test
  • you may be able to get Rent Assistance.

Types of units

Retirement village real estate may be self care units or serviced units.

A self care unit:

  • normally has 1 or 2 bedrooms
  • has its own kitchen
  • may include meals and personal care at an extra cost.

A serviced unit:

  • normally doesn’t have a kitchen
  • may mean you eat in a communal room or have meals delivered to you
  • may include help with cleaning and maintenance.

We only consider serviced units as aged care facilities if they get government funding. If they do, you must have an aged care assessment to live there. The assessment must find that you need low level care.

You can find out more about aged care assessments on the My Aged Care website.

Tenure

Common types of tenure for retirement village units are loans, licenses and leaseholds. Some units are strata title and company share. Some villages also offer rental places.

All of these protect tenants’ rights. Only some give you owners’ rights.

You should get legal advice before you buy into a retirement village.

Resorts, caravan parks and over-55 villages

The rules about retirement villages can include:

  • lifestyle resorts
  • caravan or mobile parks
  • over-55 villages.

They must be places the state or territory retirement village law covers.

What changes to tell us about

You must tell us about any changes to your real estate assets within 14 days. These include if:

  • the value changes
  • your mortgage balance changes by more than your usual repayment amount
  • your share of an asset you own with someone else changes
  • you sell the asset or purchase new real estate.

Page last updated: 14 June 2019