BMT’s Managing Director, Bradley Beer recently sat down with Property Observer author Jessie Richardson to discuss the lessons he’s learned over the past thirteen years as a property investor. Throughout this interesting insight into his strategy Brad details some of the trials and tribulations he’s faced as a property investor including some invaluable tips for new investors.
Below is the full transcript of his interview.
I bought the first property in 2001. It was an old, very rough, four bedroom house in the Newcastle area, with a big shed out the back, which I still own. Then I went straight into a serious amount of renovation.
I’ve done a number of renovations over the years, and that was the first one. I was up at whatever hour of the night, after work, whenever possible on the weekends. It was pretty ugly to start with.
I did that on the first one, and I did that on the second one. Then I bought some land. At that time in my life I didn’t have much equity. So I bought, I renovated, I revalued. I pulled the equity back out so I could go again.
There was a lot of buying and renovating; manufacturing more equity out of the properties by going, “This is a two bedder but I can do this, this and this to make it a three bedder”.
The fact is I just didn’t have equity at the time; I didn’t have any money. Hindsight is a wonderful eye-opener, and one thing I might have done differently was to use Lenders Mortgage Insurance on my first property instead of saving 20%, allowing me to buy two properties at the same time. It would have been beneficial in this instance as there was a lot of growth in the New South Wales market in those first couple of years, and in hindsight I realised I missed a chunk of it because I was trying to do things the “right way”. But you learn from these things.
On any renovation you budget a certain amount to do works, and even as a Quantity Surveyor, you live in a dream land.
There have been mistakes along the way, but did I make any major mistakes and completely ruin anything? The answer’s “no”.
Did I find bigger problems than I expected once I pulled the walls off? Yes. You’ve just got to allow for those sorts of things.
There are properties I own now that I wouldn’t have bought if I had my time again. That’s because I know more about investing properties now than I did back then.
I bought land at a time when I shouldn’t have. We had the GFC a couple of years later, around the time that I settled. It wasn’t the right time in my portfolio to buy land, based on the cash flow (or lack thereof) it was going to generate. I was speculating and purchased the property on its growth potential, and I had to settle when the GFC hit, which I was financially able to do at the time, but it did tie up equity in something I shouldn’t have bought.
Fundamentally, a lot of things I believe about investment haven’t changed. I would probably buy a lot of similar properties to what I have bought, even though hindsight can change things considerably, of course.
I don’t have the physical time or the want to go and renovate at the moment, especially not personally. So that changes the cost of things considerably.
My position is more comfortable now from an equity perspective and from an available cash perspective. The fact is, one of the keys to investing in property is learning to manage financing properly and having control of cash. I have control of more cash now through my property investing.
RENOVATION: A CASE STUDY
- Property in Newcastle area
- Purchased in 2006 for $262,500
- Two bedrooms
- One bathroom
- Spent $25,000 on renovations
- Bank valuation after renovations $360,000
- Rent after renovations $310 per week
- Current rent $430 per week
- Current valuation $460,000
I’m not a “put it all on everything” kind of guy.
I haven’t really got any properties in mining towns. There’s a risk associated with that. I have the kind of portfolio where I could take some risk now, but I’ve just been too busy to find one. And I think properties in mining towns should not be an early part of your investing, they should be part of your portfolio when you have the ability to take some risk. They certainly have risk attached, but then they have high returns attached as well.
You need to learn a lot of things about investing in property before you invest in property. You need to learn how to structure your finance in a way which provides flexibility with cash, as well as control of your own journey or property investing “destiny”.
One of my main mistakes was not investing in property earlier, based on my risk profile at the time, due to lack of knowledge.
It’s all about gaining as much knowledge as possible as early as possible, learning how to manage financing, understanding what type of property, based on your risk profile, you should be buying and also what you can reasonably afford. I also did a bit of research into property markets, tax and that sort of thing during my university studies. So I understood that is a part of it too.
I learned by hanging around the property industry, going to property events to talk about depreciation, reading books and actually learning about the fundamentals. I’ve continued to do that over time.
Unfortunately Australia, like any other country, can sometimes assume a herd mentality – especially with property investment. Buying in areas that have hot growth but which lack fundamental reasons for that growth to continue is not something that you should do. But we do it in Australia.
It’s why we have cycles in property values in this country. I believe in long-term investment – I haven’t sold a thing since starting out.
I want ways to create equity through property, including buying, renovating, getting extra bedrooms out of houses so I can increase rent and valuation, and getting involved in small developments. I’m in a bit of a construction phase through the course of this year. I’ve bought properties where I have the ability to subdivide blocks and build additional houses on those blocks.
I’m not operating as a developer who’s required to develop. I’m operating as an investor, with the ability to develop properties, should I so choose to. That’s taken the risk out of my developments.
If you’re a budding investor, make sure you’re not staking it all on being a property developer. You should have a fall-back position where if you can’t develop right away, you can do X. To develop you need a lot more money and a lot more equity. It’s not as simple as it sounds sometimes. Like a renovation, there are hidden costs.
You’ve always got to compare the development feasibility to the potential sale price of that property at the time you do the development. My fall-back position is always, “Do I like the property as an investment by itself?”
That means I end up doing small developments of course, but that’s okay.
I firmly believe in investing in property now, and in the future. I’m actively keen to continue to do that. A lot of my investments are in New South Wales, however I haven’t spread to wider areas as much as I’d like to.
In the future I will be investing in more property in different states and would like to practice what I preach: not following the herd mentality, buying in areas where I’m not sure whether things will turn around in six months or six years – because I’m here for 10 or 15.
This interview was first shown on Property Observer