08 Sep The missing piece of the property puzzle + Meth labs causing untold damage
A story today that might send chills through property investors. There is an emerging problem that has been unrecognized in Australia – and that is the increase in methamphetamine poisoning in properties though the use and manufacture of meth in residential properties. The costs can be horrendous and, by default, will have to be borne by the property owner. We look into this with Garth Brown from Brown and Brown Conveyancers.
Whether you are starting out as an investor or are well into developing your portfolio, a plan is something that most investors do not do. Michael Yardney will explain why this is crazy and he gives the 4 best pieces of advice you are likely to hear about formulating a plan.
Our feature guest this week is Cherie Barber – the queen of renovations. In this extended chat with Cherie, we hear about the mistake she made with her first property and how that lead her to become, as she says, an “accidental renovator”. Now, of course, Cherie is the best known and most respected renovation expert with a worldwide audience.
We answer a question from Courtney and James who need help with the purchase of a property in a highly sought after area but it needs considerable work – work that they cannot afford to do just now. Their question, that we put to Patrick Bright, is “what to look for in an investment property”.
The secret to understanding the next big thing that will change how business is done in any sector is to look at what is happening on the fringes of technology. We took a look at four pieces of fringe tech that are starting to have an impact on real estate now and we tell you about blockchain.
You will find us at iTunes under podcasts as Real Estate Talk. Listen there for free, leave a review which helps us grow and tells us what you like and how we can improve the show. Don’t forget to subscribe at the site as well –even if you do get the show through iTunes – so that we can tell you about the bonus offers we make to subscribers. Your questions are welcome through the site as well.
What to look for in an investment property – Patrick Bright
Kevin: In just a moment, we’re going to answer a question in the show that came in from Courtney and James. It was a very interesting e-mail, which prompted a number of other questions that were mulling around in my mind. I want to dig into a few of those first before I read your e-mail, Courtney and James. My guest is Patrick Bright from EPS Property Search.
Good day, Patrick. How are you doing?
Patrick: Very good, Kevin. Nice to speak with you.
Kevin: That’s good, mate. I have sent you the e-mail from Courtney and James, and we’ll address that in just a moment because it talks about buying an investment property or buying a personal property. I wanted to ask you – because it’s question I’m asked a lot, and I’m sure you would be, too – what makes a good investment property? What do you look for?
Patrick: There are a number of things to look for when you’re looking for an investment property. You want to look at property that’s going to be easily rentable. It’s going to actually be good for its purpose. Not all property is what we would call investment grade or investment-type property to live in; a lot of stuff is more owner-occupied. So that’s important to get that right.
Kevin: That actually raises a very interesting point, because one of the questions I wanted to ask you is if, as an investor, I think I’d like to live in it, does that necessarily make it a good investment property?
Patrick: It doesn’t necessarily make it a good investment property, no. It can be. If you’re the sort of person the target market is going to be renting to, then yes, but if you’re a family and you’re buying an investment property that’s – let’s say – an apartment, then it doesn’t matter what you think; it matters more what type of tenant is in that area. What’s the demand like? You have to work out what type of tenant is looking for property to rent and what do they want? Then buy that.
Kevin: It makes a lot of sense. I’ve often wondered, too, about buying in the area in which I live, because I know it quite well. I know the area I live in. I feel comfortable with it. Is it always good to buy an investment in the same town or at least the same state you live in?
Patrick: There’s not a lot of downside to doing that because you’re less likely to get hoodwinked on price. The good thing about buying somewhere you live or locally to where you are, if you can afford that market, if it has good investment fundamentals, that’s not a bad decision to make because you’re not going to get caught out on buying price.
Most people overpay or get it wrong – as in they buy the wrong type of property for the area that’s not really well in demand or pay too much money – when they’re buying out of an area they have no idea about, inter-state or in a completely different part of the state that they’re in. Particularly, people get it really wrong when they try to be really tricky and clever and buy overseas. Those sorts of things add a degree of risk into it the further you’re buying out of your area of influence.
While where you live may not be the best location to buy, if it is, that’s great. If it’s not and you’re going to buy in another state or another part of your state, then really get some expert advice that’s local on the ground, or get to know that area as well as you know where you live before you make a buying decision to avoid overpaying or buying the wrong type of property.
Kevin: A lot of it comes down to getting a good rental return or getting a property that’s going to rent quite well. How would an investor go about finding out if a property is going to be a good renter and in a good area?
Patrick: If you’ve picked an area, that’s a part of the equation. Let’s say that you’ve decided on a location, for instance. “What type of property? Do I buy a house? Do I buy an apartment? Do I buy a semi? Do I buy a terrace? What do I buy in the area? It’s a good idea to talk to property managers in the area and ask them what’s always in demand. What can they just never get enough of? I find that’s a really good question you could ask to somebody in an area you’re not sure about.
If they say, “We can never get enough apartments,” great; that’s interesting. Is that one-bedroom, two-bedrooms, or three-bedroom apartments? You need to narrow it down a bit further.
Then you also need to think about demographics and where the market’s shifting, because buying an investment property shouldn’t be a five-year decision; it’s a ten-plus-year decision, preferably indefinitely if you buy well. Then you can leverage off it and benefit from it for decades to come, and you can leave it on to the kids, if you choose.
It’s very important to get it right. Do the research upfront and get help. Probably the best thing I could suggest is to get some professional advice. Remember, if you’re not paying somebody for their advice and their opinion, they’re not acting in your best interests, so you need to get someone who you retain to represent you and your interests.
Kevin: That’s really good advice. I love that piece of information about going to a rental manager, too, because they’re the people on the ground. They know what’s in demand.
There are two things with property. One is the return, and the other one is the capital growth. When it comes to an investment property, is it all about the rental return?
Patrick: No, it’s not, but it’s part of the equation. Rental return is important and it’s part of the calculation, however I don’t believe you should buy a property based on the rental return alone; I think that would be a mistake. It’s the same to buy a property based solely on the potential for capital growth, not taking into consideration the rental return, either. You need to have both of those parts come into the calculation and the equation. You have to be careful about that and weigh that up.
There’s always the debate amongst circles of “Do I buy positively geared or negatively geared?” Most people are in one of two camps, and they will defend those positions quite strongly. My view is that I look at property as a business investment. I treat it like a business.
When you start a business from brand new, from scratch, you’re often putting in money and putting in time, which is essentially money. You’re not making a lot of money. You’ll generally make a loss in the early stages because you know that you’re going to build something and it’s going to have a value later. I look at property a bit like that.
Typically when you’re buying a good, strong capital growth property, it tends to have what we call the negatively geared part to it. Now. all property can be positively geared, and I’m not against buying a property that pays for itself from day one, but we know that those properties typically don’t lie in high, strong, long-term capital growth locations.
You need to weigh it up. If you can’t afford to buy a property that doesn’t look after itself from day one, then maybe doing that is better than nothing. If you can afford to buy a property that may not look after itself from day one, then maybe you can look at doing that. You have to have a future, but it has to get to a point where it’s going to be paying for itself. All properties can be positively geared if you have enough equity, so it’s generally just about having a bigger deposit. That’s part of the conversation.
Kevin: That’s right. I’ll get to that e-mail now from Courtney and James, if I could, thanks, Patrick.
Courtney and James both write: “Kevin, we’re looking at an investment property on the southern end of the Gold Coast.” Palm Beach is what they’ve said. “It’s quite literally the worst house on a lovely street. We can afford to buy the property as it is, but we can’t afford to do the renovations at the moment, despite it needing both the kitchen and the bathrooms done. It’s currently rented with long-term tenants with a decent rental return. Is it silly to buy a property that we know we’ll need to spend some money on, even though we can’t afford to do the work right at this very moment?”
What’s your reaction to that?
Patrick: It’s a good question, and it’s one I’ve had thrown at me before. First of all, I’ll say that I don’t know the area very well or that part of the state, so I’m not going to comment on whether the area is good or not. Is it fine to do that? Yes, it could be fine to do that. In fact, I do it all the time. Provided that Courtney and James do the calculations to ensure they’re not going to overcapitalize, it could work out really well for them.
Manufacturing capital value is something I’ve been doing for property renovations for over 15 years, for myself and clients. In my view, it really is one of the fastest ways to get ahead because you’re creating something out of thin air – if you like – equity, which you’d need to leverage off to buy more. That’s an important thing to do. I’m a fan of it.
A bit of a shameless plug: I’ve written a book on renovations, on doing that. It has ten case studies in it and over 50 tips on how to do that because I’ve been doing it for that long. In my background, I’m actually a carpenter, so I have the experience and time. I’ve done all of that many, many times, so I know the pitfalls and the ways to make money out of it.
Kevin: What’s the book called? Where can we get it, Patrick?
Patrick: It’s called The Insider’s Guide to Renovating for Profit. You can get it either off our website – probably the easiest place; we don’t charge for postage – or you can chase it down at a bookshop.
Kevin: The website address?
Patrick: It’s EPSPropertySearch.com.au.
Kevin: Good stuff. Just before I let you go, just an extension to that: is it a good idea to buy an investment property that you plan to use as a holiday home a little bit further down the track?
Patrick: Ah, that one, yes. That’s another question.
Kevin: It’s two different things, isn’t it?
Patrick: Yes, it is. I’ve asked this a lot, and I’ve looked at it. While it can work out, and there are examples of people where it has worked out for them – I have seen the odd example – it very seldom does. I think it’s a bit of luck meets opportunity where those things work out. I would call that a speculative approach to investing, rather than having an investing approach. It’s more of a risk. It’s not tried and tested. It’s not solid.
There’s no problem with doing that if you have several investment properties or you’re in a good financial position and you decide “I want to do this and it may or may not pay off.” If you can wear that, go for it, but if you’re starting out and you’re trying to get ahead, I wouldn’t be taking that kind of speculative risk.
Kevin: Unfortunately, it’s what happens when a lot of people go to a holiday location somewhere, either around the world or in Australia. They really enjoy their holiday, and they think, “We’d actually like to buy an investment here, come back, and use it as a holiday home.” It can be a big mistake.
Patrick: It generally doesn’t work out. I’ve been in real estate nearly 20 years now, and I’ve come across a handful of people that’s worked out for, where they’ve said that’s been a good thing, and it hasn’t really come out hugely in front. They haven’t done any better than just buying a good quality investment property and renting it out permanently. The fact that they didn’t lose money on that type of approach is considered a very good outcome.
Kevin: Mate, great talking to you. Thank you very much. I’ll remind you of that website again. It is EPSPropertySearch.com.au. Patrick Bright has been my guest. That book of his is waiting for you there now. Go and check it out for yourself.
Patrick, always great talking to you, mate. Thanks for your time.
Patrick: A pleasure, Kevin.
What is a ‘bolockchain’? – Kylie Davis
Kevin: What are the emerging trends that we as consumers will notice if you’re dealing with a real estate agent? Let’s find out. Kylie Davis is the head of Property Marketing with Core Logic.
Kylie, tell us about some of the things that agents are currently talking about in terms of technology.
Kylie: Probably the most common one that everyone is talking about is virtual reality. What that lets you or what it can let you do in a real estate sense is for buying off the plan or buying in another country or in another state where you can’t get to the property, it lets you walk through the property virtually, sort of see it, feel it and then change the color scheme or change the furniture even though you’re not able to physically go there or even if the property hasn’t been physically built.
Kevin: Is this another step from virtual tours?
Kevin: Virtual tours have been around for quite a few years, but this is actually a lot more detail, isn’t it? This makes you feel like you’re actually in there. Is this the one where you wear glasses?
Kylie: Yes, or you can put your phone into the cardboard glasses and put them over your eyes, and it gives you that whole 3-D experience. A virtual tour is more of a guided tour where you have someone showing you the things that they want to show you, whereas virtual reality is actually you being able to feel like you’re immersed in the property and go and explore the parts of the property that you want to explore.
Kevin: Kylie, do you think that consumers will be happy to buy from just watching something in virtual reality, or will they really want to go and see it and feel it?
Kylie: Have a look at what we’re doing already. We buy off the plan having only seen a model home, which may or may not look like the changes or the corrections or the differences in the plan that you’ve requested especially if you’re in a unit. If you’re buying in a unit block, you often only get shown one or two different types, but then you modify it maybe according to what can be incorporated into that, but you never really see that; you only see drawings or pictures of it. This is an opportunity to experience that before you pay the final amount.
Kevin: Something else that I notice agents talking about is push technology. The difference between push and pull technology – tell me where that’s headed.
Kylie: Push technology is about once you’ve registered your interest in something, then it starts to kind of follow you and let you know when updates have happened. We’re seeing this already in real estate with some fringe apps that are out there.
Domain is using push technology with its Check-in Homepass app, which lets you check in really quickly into a new open for inspection rather than having to stand with an agent and give your details every time you go into one.
We’re also seeing it in the use of iBeacon technology. iBeacon’s most gimmicky stuff are the little discs that you can put on your key ring to find your keys or on your phone, but you can also attach them to sign boards.
Then once you’ve logged in to the portal and said, “I’m really interested in four bedroom homes with two bathrooms in this area,” then the properties that at the moment, you would go onto the portal and you would put that as your criteria and then it would look it up for you, but once you’ve told the technology once that that’s what you’re looking for, every time something new pops up, it starts to alert you.
Even out in the real world when you’re driving through the suburb that you’re interested in, your phone beeps to say that there’s a property around the corner from where you are that fits your criteria.
We’re seeing apps like Followit starting to use that kind of technology to push information to you once you’ve expressed an initial interest without you having to necessarily go through an agent but to help you then engage with the agents that you want to speak to.
Kevin: These apps – you mentioned Followit – are they available now?
Kylie: Followit is still in, I think, preliminary trial stage, although it’s expanding. It has some trials happening in the northern beaches, and I think it might be starting to go into its next stages. Homepass is being used, and I know Ray White has invested in that.
There are quite a few of these things that have not been universally adopted yet but are doing some really interesting trials that are showing some really fascinating results.
Kevin: We’ll keep an eye on that. Tell me about Blockchain. What is that?
Kylie: Blockchain is a little bit fringe for real estate, but what Blockchain is is a way of creating a banking system without having to build a bank or a banking payment system. The banking system globally at the moment requires extraordinary amounts of capital and infrastructure in order to keep the money safe.
What Blockchain does is it’s a way of dividing the transaction of a loan or a payment into multiple different what they call blocks. They break it into lots of different bits, and it gets processed in those bits. It gets pulled apart and processed in all sorts of different places and then put back together. It’s using the speed of the Cloud and the Internet and technology to disassociate transactions from each other and then put them back together to create the security.
This sounds a bit geeky, but the reason it’s important – it could affect real estate agents – is that at the moment, there are a lot of agents who offer the ability to organize finance through the agency. They have a finance system, but they’re always underwritten or supported by a full-on banking system.
What Blockchain is going to do is disintermediate banking down the track, so it will make it easier for people to share credit with each other and support each other’s credit goals without the risk of it being an exposed transaction. It means that not only could you go and find a real estate agent and find the property that you like, but he could not just help you organize the finance for that property but possibly even underwrite the finance for that property.
Kevin: A real estate agent can do all of this?
Kylie: Blockchain is still very nascent, and this is the way that we see that it’s heading and the impact that it is likely to have on the real estate industry.
Kevin: Where can I read more about that? That’s totally new to me, I have to say.
Kylie: There’s been a lot about it in the commercial press even over the last couple of weeks. Blockchain is the technology that sits behind Bitcoin and it’s what’s enabling all of these virtual currencies.
Kevin: It’s called Blockchain. Go and check it out. I am certainly going to do that.
Kylie, thank you so much for joining us and bringing me up to speed on some of this technology. It’s just fascinating. Thank you.
Kylie: No worries. Nice talking again.
Kevin: Kylie Davis is from Core Logic.
The missing piece of the property investment puzzle – Michael Yardney
Kevin: No matter whether you are just starting out as an investor or if you’re a seasoned investor, the words of advice really don’t change. The man who I always turn to, Michael Yardney from Metropole Property Strategists, joins me.
Michael: Hi, Kevin.
Kevin: It doesn’t matter – does it? – whether you’re talking to a seasoned investor or a new investor, the need to create or formulate a plan is very important.
Michael: It is, but interestingly, Kevin, most investors don’t have a plan and that’s why they never get to where they were hoping to go – because they don’t even know where they’re heading. The first word of advice for all investors is understand what you want to achieve and even more importantly, why. Then in your plan, is it a cash flow strategy or is it my favorite strategy, capital growth?
Kevin: Is it a matter, too, of writing all of this down to start to formulate your plan?
Michael: It’s been shown over and over again that if you write it down and then you annually review how it’s going, then you’re much more likely to get there. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road can get you there but any road can get you lost, also.
Kevin: One of the things you and I have talked about on a few occasions, too, is just who you should be listening to and being very careful about that.
Michael: Sure, Kevin, because when you start investing, everyone is going to give you advice – well-meaning friends, well-meaning relatives – but it’s important to only listen to people who have already achieved the financial independence that you want.
Kevin: A number of the people who you’ve put me in touch – and these are seasoned investors or people who are just putting their portfolio together – will tell me that they actually read a lot of books, yours included.
Michael: Sure, there’s good advice in books, there’s so much on the Internet, but the big problem is you have to be careful who you’re listening to, first of all, that they’ve achieved it and kept it through a couple of cycles and also that they’re not a salesperson.
There’s a big difference between salespeople and advisors, but today, many salespeople are cloaked as advisors and they suggest they’re representing you when, in fact, they’re representing the seller or the property developer. There’s nothing wrong with them being a salesperson but at least they should be honest about what they’re doing.
Kevin: Is that the warning sign? Is that what you should watch out for – if they’re representing a particular property as opposed to giving you advice?
Michael: That means they can’t be independent. Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t buy from an estate agent or you don’t buy from a developer – sometimes it’s appropriate – but just understand who they’re representing and that they’re not on your side – they’re on the side of the developer – and maybe you need somebody on your side to level the playing field
Kevin: I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? They’re more salespeople; they’re not advisors.
Michael: Exactly right. They’re salespeople. That’s the point I guess I was trying to make, maybe not as well as I could have, Kevin. Be cautious and understand who are salespeople and who are advisors – because for advisors, you usually have to pay them yourself so there’s nothing wrong with having good accountants, good depreciation people on your team, good property strategists on your team or even a buyer’s agent, and be prepared to pay because in the long run, it actually saves you money.
Kevin: No such thing as a free lunch?
Michael: There isn’t. The other cliché is that not everything that glistens is gold. Just because it looks nice, pretty, shiny and new, not every property is a good investment. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and make sure every purchase you make gets you one step closer to your end goal.
Kevin: Going back to your earlier point there about being prepared to pay for advice, that would include things like buyer’s agents. I know that this is becoming more the norm in Australia. I know it’s very much the norm overseas, particularly in America. What does it cost to actually have a buyer’s agent represent you?
Michael: Usually there is a small – maybe $1000 – upfront fee to get them to give you as an initial strategy and then they charge a success fee, which is in the order of 2.5% of the purchase price of the property.
Some people would say, “Why should I pay that?” The answer is they can save you time by knowing the market, they can save you lots of time by doing the research for you, they can save you money by negotiating well, and they can save you hassles, also. In many ways, it’s paying for your apprenticeship and getting yourself into a good property.
Kevin: Yes. It’s also someone who you can sit down with as a partner and say, “What do you really think about this property? Or what’s good about that?” They don’t necessarily have a vested interest apart from helping me get the best property.
Michael: They don’t have a vested interest; they represent you. It’s their job to do their best for you to buy a property – as opposed to a seller’s agent. You’re right, Kevin, in what you said a moment ago. There’s a large proportion of investors now using buyer’s agents and interestingly, an increasing proportion of homebuyers are now recognizing the benefit of having somebody on their side leveling the playing field.
Kevin: That point you made, too, about not everything that glistens is gold is like if it looks like a duck and it quacks, it probably is.
Michael: The problem is beginning investors don’t have much perspective. They haven’t been around long enough, so they can’t tell the difference. Good buyer’s agents have had 15 or 20 years of experience in the real estate market. Many of them are experienced real estate agents who have now gone on to help buyers.
If you’re an investor, you should be choosing a buyer’s agent who is already a property investor themselves. They have a gut feel, but that’s from years and years of experience, while the average investor, when they have a gut feel, that’s nerves; that’s butterflies in their tummy.
Kevin: Bottom line there from Michael Yardney is make sure that you listen well and seek out the people you want to listen to, make sure you know the difference between a salesperson and an advisor, be prepared to pay for advice, and not everything that glistens is gold : if it looks too good, it may just be too good.
Michael, thank you very much for your time.
Michael: My pleasure, Kevin.
Why Cherie barber calls herself the ‘accidental renovator’ – Cherie Barber
Kevin: Cherie, tell me, how did it all start for you? How did you get into property renovation?
Cherie: I bought my first property when I was 21. I was working as a customer service person. I had really just gotten my first job when I was about 19 or so. I set up a deposit for my first property. I bought it on a main road in Sydney purely because that was the only type of property that I could have bought. I bought a house for about $250,000 on a main road. It was an un-renovated house.
After I moved into that property, I realized what I had done in terms of buying in a very poor location. I went to bed each night with one eye shut and one eye open, thinking that some runaway truck was going to come smashing through my window. About a month after I moved in to that property I wanted to move out of that property. So I got in and did a quick cosmetic renovation. I did some basic things like: painting, picked up the old, grungy carpet and polished the floorboards. I tile painted in the kitchen. I painted some cabinetry. I did a basic refresh of the kitchen. I didn’t really do much to the bathroom because I had no money.
I cleaned up the entire gardens and made it look better than what it did when I bought it. I actually sold that property fairly quickly and made a $40,000 profit margin. My first project was an accidental renovation.
Kevin: When you say accidental, you obviously didn’t set out to turn that property over. Did you buy that with the purpose of wanting to live in it?
Cherie: Correct. It was my own principal place of residence. I bought it as a home to live in, but unfortunately, at that point in my life, I wasn’t educated enough about what a good property was and what a bad property was.
Kevin: When you bought that property, whose advice did you work on or did you just purely say, “Well, I want to buy a property” so you just went out and shopped for one?
Cherie: I didn’t have any advice whatsoever. I was uneducated, like most people. I bought the property on the basis that it was close to my work. It was about 715 meters down from my actual workplace. Looking back later in life, I’m probably thinking, “Why on earth would I have wanted to actually have been so close to work?” But I did it more for convenience. It was just a terrible property. It was on a six-lane highway.
Kevin: Why did you buy it to start with? Was it purely price driven?
Cherie: Price and convenience. I was a first-time buyer at 21. I didn’t have much money. In terms of saving my deposit, obviously it was a [02:51 inaudible] to start with. I actually bought the property with my boyfriend at the time. I worked a second job. I worked at 3:00am [?] during the day, which I started as a customer service assistant. In the evening, I worked at a club, [03:09 inaudible] Club. I worked sitting at the change desk. Sometimes I was working behind the bar. I just worked in the club. I was a bit of a gopher around the club at night. So I worked nights and worked during the day. That’s how I managed to pull my deposit together for my first property. It was really hard.
Kevin: So do you think your first renovation, even though you made a $40,000 profit, was down to more luck than skill? Or do you think the lessons you learned from that is what carried you through to today?
Cherie: I think it was a bit of both. Cosmetically, I didn’t know what I was doing back there. I just did some really basic changes. But the changes that I made actually made the property look a lot more spacious. Even ripping up the old, grungy carpet and polishing the floorboards made that property look so much fresher. The property was a lot more appealing to somebody to buy from when I bought it. I think that was one of the reasons why it sold so quickly. It did look better. But it was still at an affordable price point.
I bought it in the $200,000s. I can’t recall the exact price but I think I sold it in the high $200,000s or the low $300,000s back then. It wasn’t a radical price jump. In terms of the actual renovation, I spent less than $10,000 on it so it wasn’t a huge renovation. It was cosmetic spruce-ups here and there, as much as I could afford on a very low income back at that stage of my life.
Kevin: When you bought that property, had you intended to go into property renovation, or did that inspire you to do it then?
Cherie: It did. When I made that money, I said, “Oh, this is all right.” I think I was on about $40,000 or $50,000 a year in my full-time customer service job. When I had actually sold that property and walked away with $40,000 all said and done, I said, “Oh, that’s actually not a bad thing. I’ve actually made some good money there.” Definitely my first project was an accidental renovation and an accidental success.
Kevin: Where did you go from there? What was the next property?
Cherie: I went and bought a property reasonably straight away. I bought a property on a nice, quiet street. It’s what I call probably a third tier road. It wasn’t a highway. It wasn’t a secondary main road. But it was a thoroughfare road through a suburb. I typically think any property that has the word “road” in it means traffic of some sort, as opposed to“street, so I bought on a road. But it was only one lane in, one lane out. It was a road that a lot of cars used to cut between suburbs. It was definitely much quieter.
I had no issues with that property. It was set back from the street. So I went and bought another un-renovated property when I was around 21 or 22.That second property was a major cosmetic renovation for me, but it needed some structural work as well. I lived in that one for about seven or eight years. I renovated it while I was living in the property.
Kevin: Did you renovate that property, or did you renovate others while you were living there?
Cherie: No, I only renovated that one because that was a higher-value property. I went and bought that one for about $300,000 or $400,000. I was committed. I literally had no money. I had to work a lot of shifts on my second job to pay for that extra property. I did get myself into debt back then. I was literally fully mortgaged to the hilt, which is probably a better way of saying it. I had to work a second job in the evening to actually pay for the mortgage because I was on a very low wage back then. It was only $40,000 to $50,000 a year.
The mortgage repayments on that were quite hefty along with the fact that I was living in the property, so I had to work that second job. Any money I earned from my second job paid for the renovations. I did little bits and pieces as my finances could afford. I was very much one of those 20-year-olds who didn’t go to the party scene, who didn’t go clubbing. I was very much at home on the weekends renovating and trying to add value to the property, and the pursuit of getting one step ahead more so than my friends that were out clubbing and getting drunk every weekend.
Kevin: Let’s talk a little bit about those first two properties you purchased. It’s one thing to do the renovation, which you’re very, very good at in adding value. But you also have to buy well too. How important do you think it is to be a good negotiator when you’re looking for those kinds of properties? How long did it take you to learn that skill?
Cherie: Definitely being able to pay the right price for a property when you buy is so critical. I always say it doesn’t matter what award-winning renovation you do inside and externally. If you fail to buy a property in the right location, a location that has very few buyer objections, the property value will always be capped and you will struggle to sell at the price you hope to sell for.
I might as well have been blindfolded when I went and bought those first two properties. I just bought them on gut instinct which is what a lot of people do. Luckily, I was able to add value through the renovation that covered any mistakes that I did by doing the buying process.
Kevin: When you’re buying properties like that, I guess it’s important, too, to buy them at the right time in the market, so that the market can sometimes be very forgiving. In a market like this, do you think it’s even more critical that you don’t over pay?
Cherie: Absolutely. The worst thing you want to do is buy in a high market and sell in a low market. That’s the beauty of renovation. Typically, with quick cosmetic renovations, you’re transforming a property in six weeks or less. The market doesn’t radically change in six weeks. If you look at the whole process, from the time you settle on a contract to the time when you re-sell it, the whole process is typically about three to four months.
Thankfully the market for renovations doesn’t typically change that much within such a short period, in comparison to other property options like property development, where you might buy a site two years earlier, develop it, and go through the building process. You might be on-selling [?] those properties two to three years later. That’s when you can actually get into trouble because the market has radically changed. I’m a big advocate of renovating, because for me, it’s almost recession-proof.
Kevin: Would you say that renovation, therefore, is your strategy or are there other strands to your strategy as well?
Cherie: No, definitely property renovation. I’m a big believer that if you want to make money in property, then go and do a renovation. It is the most aggressive property strategy out of all strategies in terms of being the fastest strategy. It’s a strategy that doesn’t rely on capital growth. The underlying premise of renovating is all about manufacturing growth through the value adds that you make to a property in a rapid period of time. It’s why I’ve focused on that and that only.
I’m also a big believer in focusing on one thing and doing it well, rather than spreading your wings too far and being a jack of all trades. I say be a master of one. What has worked brilliantly for me, and a lot of other experts, financial experts would say, “It’s a risky strategy putting all your eggs in one basket.” But I do believe one reason why I’ve been so successful is because I focus on renovating. I became an expert at it. I knew everything about it. I’ve rarely made a mistake. It’s been my sole strategy and it’s worked for me. I think it’s because I’m so focused on it.
Kevin: Cherie, when you’re looking for a property to renovate, what are the key things that you look for?
Cherie: Cosmetically, it’s the age of the properties. The most ideal properties to target are what I call the “late Twentieth Century” properties. Those are properties typically circa 1960 to the year 2000. The properties in between the 60s, the 70s, and the 80sI call “sleepers”. They are perfect for cosmetic renovation. Even properties in the 1990s aren’t going to have enough scope of work to significantly uplift the value of the property. Age is definitely one thing. With those late Twentieth Century properties, you’ll find that they’re now cosmetically tired, but structurally, they’re still in good condition. They are beautiful ones to target.
Obviously the location of the properties. There are a lot of things that people should know about the types of properties they buy in relation to the location. For example, I say don’t ever buy an un-renovated property, an un-renovated residential house on a main road, because if you ever have to sell that property at the end, you’re going to struggle to find buyers on a main road. You greatly reduce your market and that’s a very risky thing at the end if have to sell.
So don’t buy on main roads. Don’t buy on secondary main roads. Don’t buy things like low-set houses, houses below street levels. Don’t buy property close to adverse development (i.e. you don’t want to buy a property too close to a school, a childcare center, or a hospital). I have a general rule of thumb: if you can see or hear any adverse development, the property is too close.
Kevin: I guess you would have learned those lessons from the first property you purchased.
Cherie: It was a brilliant lesson on my very first property where I went and bought a property with a major bar [?] objection which was a six-lane highway with noise impacts, traffic impacts, and potential impacts of runaway cars through my front bedroom window.
Kevin: What’s the most successful property purchase you’ve ever made?
Cherie: I think the most successful purchase I’ve ever made was a splitter block. It was actually a renovation and development site all in one. It was a water front property in Balmain. I went through the open for inspection. It was a Heritage listed house that had been passed in an auction. The vendor wanted $2.6 million. I think it got passed in an auction at $2.4 million, or somewhere around there. I came to through the property through [14:00 inaudible] auction. I immediately saw the potential for the block to be subdivided, and for the existing house to be renovated, but also saw the potential for the block to be subdivided and a new house built on the side of the land.
My problem was that it was my second year into being a professional renovator. I never thought I would be buying a $2.5 million dollar house in my lifetime, let alone my second year as a professional renovator. I found a deal, but my problem was I never had any money to fund the purchase.
So I put an offer in on the property. Before I put the offer in, I found a debt partner. I found somebody who was on a good income who could service the loan. I had thrown in my job at this stage so I had no serviceability from the bank’s perspective. I also had another renovation project on the go at the time, so I had no money to contribute to the project.
I approached a person. I said, “Look, I found this deal. It has this opportunity; X amount of money that I believe can be made from this deal. My problem is I don’t have any money to fund the project because my money is tied up. I don’t have a job so I can’t service the loan from the banks. Where you potentially come into the equation is that you can service the loan.” I required from him that he service the loan. We went on the mortgage together so I had shared liability and ownership of the property as well.
He actually funded the cost of getting the property developed [?] and approved through council. He paid all those costs. My agreement with him was that any cost that he outlaid during the project, they were all paid back to him at the end of the project. In return for him being the debt partner, I actually did all the work. I basically got the whole site approved through council. I did the DA [?] drawings. I worked with the various experts, the Heritage experts and the town planners to get that property development approved through council. I had to go to Land and Environment Court, so I handled that whole process as well. I knew I would have to do that prior to buying the site because it was Heritage. I factored all of those potential costs into the feasibility.
I got that property DA [?] approved. It was nothing more than a paper shuffle. I bought the property for $2.51 million. I got an extended settlement of five months so I managed to get a significant way through the process without incurring any holding costs on a high-value property. I took it through council. I took it to Land and Environment Court.
I sold that property about 14 months after I bought it for $3.75 million. I walked away with about $750,000 in profit which I obviously split with the other person. I didn’t contribute any of my own money. All I contributed was my intellectual property, knowledge, skill, and my time for nothing more than a paper shuffle. I do consider that one of my more successful projects. It’s definitely not the project that I’ve made the highest amount of profit from, but for me, it was probably the easiest and I still made great money from it.
Kevin: What you’re talking about, of course, is a joint venture. It sounds like a great way for someone who wants to get started in developing or renovating. What are some of the lessons you learned from that experience? If you don’t mind, I would also like you to tell me about the agreement you had with that person and how well documented that was.
Cherie: Absolutely. Before I embarked on that agreement, obviously I got the deal done. There was a joint venture agreement that was done by my lawyer. It basically set out the roles and responsibilities of each party. It was very clearly documented that the other person was the debt partner; that they would fund all of the holding cost of that property during the course of the actual project. All of those costs would be paid back to that person in full on settlement of the property. It stated what my role was. It was a very detailed, legal contract.
I always say it’s worth getting good legal advice and getting good water-tight legal contracts locked down because it can be one thing that’s misunderstood that can send projects off the rail. Be prepared to spend good money on legal contracts because they can save you a hell of a lot of money in legal disputes afterwards.
Kevin: Have you done another one since then?
Cherie: No. I did that one purely because it was very early on in my career. I had made such good money from renovating for the first two years of my full-time career that I didn’t need to do joint ventures with anybody else. What I say is joint ventures are fine when you’re starting out in property. I’m a bit of an advocate against them when you have built up enough money that can do deals by yourself. At the end of the day, you can control yourself as one person, but you can’t always control what other people do that you may have in a joint venture.
I’ve heard many stories where people have entered into joint ventures with other people and one party is gone off the rails where they’ve got a perfectly normal life one day and then they’re life is upturned the next by some sheer accident or some event.
I’ll give you a practical example. For example, let’s say you did a joint venture with a husband and wife and they split up. One day they’re together and the next day they split up. They suddenly hate each other and you’re tied into this joint venture. That’s where things can become unraveled, through no fault of your own, because of somebody else.
I always say try and have 100% control of your property projects. For that reason, I won’t do joint ventures with anybody else but myself, because I have enough money to do them by myself and not put myself at risk. But they are appropriate for when you are first starting out, building your equity.
Kevin: All the more reason too. If you’re going to go into joint ventures, you highlighted it. Make sure you talk to a solicitor. Get it documented well because a solicitor may be able to, through his or her own experience; be able to foreshadow some of the problems you may come up against.
Cherie: Exactly right. A lot of people jump into these development deals and they think they know everything. Then lots of little surprises catch them by surprise during the course of the project. This is where things can become unraveled.
Kevin: In the early stages when you were starting out, did you do networking with anyone? How did you gather enough information to know you wanted to do this, and how to do it really?
Cherie: Not really. I didn’t network with anybody because I was too busy up on a ladder painting most of my weeknights and weekends, and working my full-time job. I really learned hands-on. I made lots of mistakes. I got ripped off by tradees beyond belief. I didn’t know how to deal with them. I didn’t know how to manage them. I didn’t know how to buy my fixtures and fittings. Throughout the course of my 20s I probably made all the mistakes that normal, uneducated people make. It took me a few years. I became a professional renovator when I was 30. I started renovating when I was 21.
I renovated all my own homes, my two properties, during my 20s. I lived in those renovations, which I tell people to really try to avoid doing at all expenses. Not only because you feel like you live in a worksite and you go to work with dust and Gyprock stuff all over your clothes most days. It’s uncomfortable [21:40 inaudible] out boxes and shuffling from room to room. But also, it’s sending a wrong message to the trades people that are coming out to your home. If you’re living in your renovation site, it’s saying to tradees that you’re tight for money and you’re not a serious renovator.
When tradees know that you’re an owner/occupier/renovator, that’s when they’re more likely to extract more money from you because you’re not a serious trade person. No serious renovator lives in their renovation project. I like to advise people against doing that as well.
I became a full-time, professional renovator when I was 30. It really took me the first two to three years to really become very savvy at what I should and shouldn’t do in renovating. That’s purely because I had to learn the hard way. There was nobody around to teach me so I learned the hard way. That’s why I’m so passionate about educating others now, because they don’t need to make the same mistakes that I made.
Kevin: When you started out, did it require much of a change in mindset to become successful?
Cherie: No. I believe it happened by default because I had the passion within me. I was very motivated to create a better life through myself, and I knew that property renovation was the easiest way for me to do that with somebody who didn’t have a high level of education. The reality is I only went to year ten. I came from a very basic school, a very basic upbringing in Sydney’s West. We certainly weren’t on Poverty Street, but we weren’t rich either. We had a very basic existence and a very basic education.
For me, I felt renovating was within my skill level. It was the easiest thing for me to transition into very quickly. I was driven by the motivation to actually create a better life for myself financially. I just found renovation was the answer to that.
Kevin: Cherie, just thinking about growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, who was your inspiration? Did you learn much from your parents about investing or was there someone from outside?
Cherie: No, absolutely not. I had no mentors in my life. Like I said, we had a very basic upbringing. My parents, while I love them dearly, aren’t very money smart, so they weren’t good role models for me financially. But what they did instill in me is a very hard work ethic. My dad was an incredibly hard worker. He worked seven days a week. He was an earth mover. As a little girl I quite often sat on the side of his tractor. I think that’s probably where my love of renovating probably started to form, then and there alone.
My mom worked for my dad in managing his earth moving business, in terms of making sure pays [?] were paid for, his two or three workers that he had. They definitely instilled in me, somewhere along the line, the ability to actually work hard. I truly believe that nobody gets rich without actually working hard these days, unless you become an overnight sensation through some freak accident. It’s very rare that you do become an overnight sensation, or overnight rich success story.
Kevin: Looking at someone like you who we see as the guru of renovations and obviously very successful at what you do, it’s easy for us to think that it was an overnight success. But listening to some of those stories, we know now that it’s not. It is a hard road, isn’t it? Therefore, you have to really stick at it and be motivated and enjoy what you do.
Cherie: I always say if you have passion for what you do, it doesn’t matter if you’re renovating, developing, baking cakes, a school teacher, or whatever. I know it sounds very cliché, but if you have passion it goes so much further in terms of driving you to a certain level of success because when you’re really passionate about something, what you do will not be a job. You’re naturally interested in it and you want to dedicate more time.
I think if you dedicate more time to something, you’re going to be a success at it no matter what. For me, renovating feels more like a hobby that I happen to earn fantastic money from.
Kevin: Do you have a mentor or coach now?
Cherie: I found that I had no single, profound mentor in my life. But what I’ve done is taken single pieces of words of wisdom collectively from many people that have helped shape me. I got really good advice from people about negotiating tips here or there. I’m somebody that likes to continuously educate and read things. I feel that today, even as a very experienced property person, even if I read a magazine and I pick up one new tip, it’s one new tip that’s going to make me smarter in my next project. You should always never stop learning.
These days I have a very busy life and I have various people that help me with aspects of my life – a life coach, a coach for exercise, health, and nutrition, and all that sort of stuff. Obviously the more money that you earn, the more that you can afford to hire these sorts of people. It’s all in the pursuit of trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance where you can still continue to succeed professionally, but also look after yourself personally.
Kevin: You said when you are successful, you’ve got to have these people around you. Do you think these coaches have contributed much to your success in recent times?
Cherie: I’d probably say no. I think the coaches help me keep things in check because it’s very easy the more successful that you get, the more your life becomes very unbalanced. I personally felt that over the last 12 to 18 months. More demands for me had been coming in as a public speaker. There more demands for me to appear on TV during intense renovations all over the country. I felt that I was losing control of my life. That, in itself, was making me a little sad about my life. Also, I’m a single mom as well. I have responsibilities for a little girl, so I was losing time with her that was upsetting me very much. I was starting to lose control.
You’ve got to be smart enough. I think any entrepreneur or any successful person will say making money is one thing but it’s not the be all and end all. Money is not real; it’s just an avenue to get you to where you want to be ultimately. There’s no point in making heaps of money if deep down you’re really unhappy inside, or the people that you love are not getting to spend time with you, or your missing out time growing up with your children, for example.
For me, I needed to seek the help of other people. I recognized where my skill sets are and where they aren’t. I can’t be an expert on all things to all people. That’s when it’s okay to bring in other people to help you still do what you want to do to fill yourself professionally, but also enable you to have a good personal life as well. It’s all about the [28:51 inaudible] of work-life balance. I still haven’t mastered it. I’m still not saying have a perfect life, but I’m in a better space than where I was 12 or 18 months ago.
Kevin: You make an important point and it resonates well with me. That is that a coach is not going to actually solve your problems. I think we all know what the solution is inside. They’ll probably direct you and herd you in the right direction.
Cherie: They do. They give you a reality check, because it’s very easy. They give you the discipline to say “No”. That’s what I’ve been doing now. Before I would say, “Yes, I’ll do this. Yes, I’ll do that. Yes,” because you want to please everybody. You want to try to make everybody happy. But saying yes to everybody actually makes you quite unhappy. It also has other business effects that aren’t all that advantageous either. I’ve actually started saying no to more things in the last 12 months.
It’s like that 80-20 rule. You can do a lot of stuff and be very busy, but what’s the big 20%? I’ve just been focusing on that. When I actually did less, my business has actually profited more. I’m happier. I think if I’m happier, then I present happier at a public level. All sorts of stuff has [30:06 inaudible] on benefits. The coaches and the mentors definitely give you that ability to see black and white, assess reality, and be more disciplined.
Kevin: I’ve heard many successful people say that they’ve actually made more money and had a happier life by knowing what to say no to. I guess that is really the message you’re giving there. Cherie, what do you think stops people from achieving the level of success that they desire?
Cherie: I think a few things. They don’t have passion for what they do. Again, it sounds very cliché but it is so important. There is nothing worse than trudging off to a job each day that you hate. Life is too short for that, so do something that you’re really passionate about. If you don’t have the finances to actually do that, then find a way. Put some goals in place. Most people don’t do goal setting. I always say that the first of January is a great time to actually set new goals and make New Year’s resolutions about what you want to do. What I do know is if you don’t do anything, nothing is going to change. We all come from different places, different education levels, different backgrounds, and different money levels, but nothing is going to change if you don’t put some plans in place to correct that.
Get education on your chosen profession. For example, if people are passionate about going and buying old dumps and getting in and renovating them, then it’s like any career. You need to have the right training. Yes, you can wing it, but the reality is you’re probably going to make a lot more mistakes and take twice as long as what it needed to if you actually invested some money and got the proper training to begin with. Definitely trying to read as much about what you want to do as possible. There are so many free seminars these days and $30 books that you can buy that can really give you a lot of insightful tips to eliminate any mistakes that you do make.
If money is your main problem in starting your new business or it’s stopping you from doing what you really want to do, then think outside the square. Think about things like debt partners, bringing other people into that fold that can potentially bring something that you don’t have. There are so many ways that you can do whatever you want to do these days.
I think people lack a lot of imagination. They have fear in themselves. They’re so scared to step outside their comfort zone that that fear actually stops them. I say, “What have you got to lose? Just do it. The worst that can happen is that people laugh at you or you lose money. So what? You can always start again.” Most of the worlds’ billionaires have gone bankrupt at some point, but they made their money back. I just say, “Have no fear.”
Kevin: Cherie it’s fantastic talking to you. Thank you for giving us so much of your valuable time.
Cherie: Thanks Kevin. You’re welcome.
What are your tenants really up to? – Garth Brown
Kevin: This story is probably going to alarm many property owners, especially if you have tenants in your property because it’s an emerging problem: meth labs in units or houses that are being rented out.
Let’s have a look at this situation, because there are precedents around the world where this could be happening. I think in Australia, we tend to have maybe just turned the other way and thought that it’s not so much of a problem, but it is an emerging problem. We’re going to talk about it with Garth Brown, who is a conveyancer from Brown & Brown.
Garth, firstly tell me, how broad is this problem?
Garth: It’s actually a huge problem in Australia. Per head of population, Australia is one of the highest meth users in the English-speaking world. 2.1% of the Australian population has been reported to be using crystal meth or ice.
Kevin: These are the users, but what we’re talking about is the production where someone sets up a meth lab. They may be using it for themselves, but it’s more what it does to the building. Could you just tell us what the dangers are there?
Garth: Yes. These meth labs produce these strong, toxic fumes that get into the plasterboard and they get the floorboards. What happens is it slowly start to emit itself and causes health problems to people who are living in rental accommodation or who have bought a new home.
Kevin: Are there any outward signs? Would you know if you walked into one of these? Would it be the smell, or would it be the discoloration of the paint?
Garth: No. The only way you can find out is basically by doing a meth test.
Kevin: Okay. How do we do that?
Garth: There are particular people that specialize in testing for meth contamination. They’re able to take samples from the floor and the walls, analyze the air, and things like that.
Kevin: I guess we’d find out about those fairly easily. I imagine this would be a big problem for property managers, too. I’m just doing a little bit of reading about this and reading your blog article.
By the way, Garth, I first heard about this from New Zealand. They’ve been on top of this for almost a decade because I remember being there about ten years ago, and they were doing it then.
Just reading straight out of your blog article, 50% of all New Zealand government rentals that have been tested for contamination have returned a positive result. That’s a phenomenal number of properties. Close to 400 New Zealand government rental properties are actually tagged as uninhabitable due to meth contamination.
Is it an even bigger problem in Australia and we don’t even know about it?
Garth: That’s right. It’s not a well-known problem, but it’s a real sleeping giant. As I said, 2.1% of Australia’s population is involved with using crystal meth or ice as a user.
Kevin: Then who is responsible for making sure that the premises are clean? I’m talking now about investors who have a property. Is it their responsibility?
Garth: Yes, it is a landlord’s responsibility to do that. And if a property is affected by this meth in the woodwork and in the floorboards, the only way you can really get rid of it is to rip it out.
Kevin: Goodness. The costs of this are horrendous. You’re better off finding out while the tenants are in there. Thinking this process through, if I have tenants in my property, if they are in fact doing this, I find out, I report it to the police, and they are arrested, would my insurance cover this? Do you know? That’s probably a question you can’t answer.
Garth: It’s a bit of a gray area. They could or they couldn’t. There are some preventions in place. I notice on a website here – IPSMAustralia.com.au – this particular company can put a monitor in the house, and it alerts your smartphone or your iPhone when it starts to detect these odorless fumes coming from a meth lab or someone who’s using meth in the house.
Kevin: Could you give me that website again, please?
Garth: That’s IPSMAustralia.com.au.
Kevin: Does it tell you there what the cost of that is?
Garth: It doesn’t, but it gives you a number to talk to them. It’s known as the Ice Breaker.
Kevin: That’s appropriately named. Garth, thanks for telling us about this. It is an emerging problem. It’s one that we need to be aware of, not only as landlords and investors but certainly as tenants moving into a property – I’d want to know that my kids are going to be safe moving in there – and rental managers, as well.
Garth: Some of those health issues are breathing problems, behavior problems, sleep pattern changes, and eye and skin irritation. This is from previously using the property as a meth lab or people using ice in the house.
Kevin: Wow. Yes, I can see what the problem is. Garth, thank you very much for your time and for sharing that information with us.
Garth: My pleasure. Thanks, Kevin.