Young property millionaires share their tips on how to break into real estate
IF YOU’RE 35 or younger and have attended an auction in Sydney or Melbourne in recent times, then chances are you are well acquainted with the feeling of despair that accompanies these suburban circuses.
The runaway prices in Sydney and Melbourne are largely out of the first homebuyer’s budget, and the homes often go to cashed-up investors or your parents (who may or may not be buying the property for you, depending on your good fortune).
In Generation Less: How Australia is Cheating the Young, Jennifer Rayner argues that hers is a generation heading backwards: The property ownership dream has died, retirement is under threat, and insecure and casual work has replaced the job for life.
“I didn’t doubt we’d continue the golden trend tracing back to the Great Depression, yet another Australian generation to enjoy more wealth and opportunity than our parents did,” she writes.
“I doubt it now.”
But there are, as always, exceptions to every rule. In fact, in the property investment sector, in particular, a handful of young investors are bucking this trend with astounding successes.
Here are some of the most successful of the success stories, which offer a glimmer of hope to those still clinging to property ownership dreams.
Portfolio value: At least $3.1 million (nine properties).
Background: Sydneysider Steph Brennan started young. She bought her first property in 2012 was she was 22 in Manly Vale and now owns nine. She has recently started an app business called Invest With Steph, designed to help millennials get a leg-up in property.
Her advice:“Where younger people go wrong is they try to enter the property market without a strategy, which is why they feel defeated. There are more ways than one to enter the property market and if the way you’re pursuing isn’t working then try another approach, such as … not limiting yourself to your home country or state. I also believe that young people shouldn’t buy into ‘hot spots’ because they can be inaccurate.”
Portfolio value: $2 million. In 12 months’ time, this will grow to more than $5 million after completion of a townhouse project.
Background: Newcastle-based Jade Hamilton learned everything she knew about property — which is quite a lot — from her parents. “I have been around it my whole life, as my Dad’s a builder and my parents have built up their portfolio from nothing and now own a 184-home rental community,” she said.
Ms Hamilton, who became a licensed estate agent to help manage her properties, bought her first property 10 years ago, and recently sold two to fund the development of a 10-house townhouse community in Newcastle, that she will hold on to and rent out.
Her advice: “Do your research and don’t give up. It took me 12 months to find my most recent property deal — many late nights of trawling through realestate.com.au The other big lesson is to start out buying where you can afford, even if it means buying a little further away or a little, crappier home than you would like.”
Portfolio value: $1.3 million. (Two properties).
Background: Lauren Robinson purchased her first property at 22, the second at 24 and started her own Property Management Company, Rental Results, before she was 30. She now has six employees with 350 properties on the books that she manages. She wants to resume buying properties as investments and is aiming to own five.
Her advice: Get in early, the younger you can start, the better off you will be. And save. So when I was living with my friends in share houses, I would always dream of buying my own property and having my own space and that was a really good motivator. There are still lots of good deals in the market, you may have to start somewhere other than your dream location.”
Portfolio value: $20 million (14 properties).
Background: Raghav Goel grew up in New Delhi, but moved to Melbourne when he was 17 and founded the Oz Property Group not long afterwards. Mr Goel moved into property development because he could see the potential for enormous growth, owing to tax concessions and the ability to leverage to build more wealth.
“Also fundamentally the immigration boom and limited supply (of property) seemed to be a certain driver for long-term growth,” he said.
His advice: “Recognising limitations in experience and knowledge is crucial and it’s best to work with experts at the very beginning, albeit at a cost. Buy property, then hold and if you can, ignore the temptation to sell. And be very picky with your money.”
Portfolio value: $3 billion in projects on the books. (The business was partly built off the property investment success Mr Smedley enjoyed in his 20s, during which time he owned six properties valued at around $5 million).
Background: Melburnian Nicholas Smedley bought his first investment property at 18: A renovator’s delight in Richmond, which he later flipped for a profit. Mr Smedley also co-founded property development company Steller in 2006.
“When I started investing in property, there were far less banking regulations than there are today, so there’s no doubt it’s harder to do it than when I started,” he said.
“All this being said, my business partner and I … only started with $10,000 to invest into what is today a business with $3 billion worth of projects.”
His advice: “Stick to your principles. This isn’t so much about emotional principles, but investment theories. The property must be close to amenities, social infrastructure, schools and trains. It is easy to spend money on the wrong projects, so if you are clear on your criteria from the outset, then this risk is eliminated.”