All Posts by Jo Vadillo

Kathryn Fantov

Kathryn Fantov:The Woman in Focus

Doing Things Differently.

Okay, we’ll admit upfront that this month’s Woman in Focus has an advantage when it comes to property investing.

During her 22 years of experience in the real estate industry, Kathryn Fantov has worked as a property manager, residential sales manager, residential and commercial selling agent, leasing agent, and is currently undertaking an advanced diploma in valuation. She also became a successful property investor during this time, buying and selling property as a single woman, renovating, and building two homes with her husband, all the while raising two sons.

On top of all that, two years ago, Kathryn decided to become one of Sydney’s first seller’s advocates after becoming disillusioned with the behavior of many real estate professionals and founded Innovative Property Advocates.

What can you learn from her extensive experience? Turns out, plenty!

Early Success

Kathryn hit the ball out of the park with her very first investment. She was acting as a selling agent in 1997 when she negotiated with the owner to make her first property purchase. Her experience and knowledge of the rental market and comparable sales in the area gave her a leg up in choosing the right property in a good area.

“The property owner and I were both happy with the deal.”

Kathryn purchased the property for $240,000. She rented the property, then moved in, updated the kitchen and made other minor renovations. Ten years later, Kathryn was able to more than double her money by selling the property for $510,000.

Needless to say, she was hooked on investing!

Simple but Successful Strategies

Kathryn continued to invest in properties and went on to build two homes with her husband, who is a builder. She is now focused on purchasing properties in the Sydney metro area, a region she knows well, with a buy and hold strategy.

Her latest purchase was in May 2014 using Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs). Kathryn wanted to have more control over her Super Funds while building up her real estate portfolio at the same time. However, she found that purchasing property within the fund was more time consuming and costly than she anticipated.

Her advice if you are considering this option:

“Make sure you are fully educated beforehand on how much time and money it will cost you to set up and maintain the fund. Also, make sure you are diversified. Do your research upfront.”

Why You Might Consider Using a Seller’s Advocate

What exactly is a seller’s advocate and what do they do?

A seller’s advocate serves as an intermediator advisor between the seller and the real estate agent. Their services include interviewing agents and making recommendations, negotiating commission fees and marketing costs, and providing advice on how best to prepare a property to maximize profits.

“It seemed to me that agents were working more for the buyers than the sellers. Ninety-five percent of the people I interviewed before starting my business who had sold property within the last five years said they were not happy with the level of service and integrity from their agent. I wanted to provide a trustworthy, independent, honest, and transparent experience for sellers during what can be a stressful time.”

For example, last year, one of Kathryn’s clients was not happy with their agent who estimated their property was worth $795,000. Adding value through renovations and property styling are two of Kathryn’s specialties. After helping her client reconfigure the upstairs floor plan to add on another bedroom at a cost of only $11,000, the house sold for $920,000. Kathryn was even able to negotiate the agent’s fees which then covered her own fees.

Kathryn also specializes as a buyer’s advocate or agent, helping clients search, locate, and negotiate on properties. She will also bid at auctions for clients if requested.

Kathryn’s Top Three Tips

  1. Do not make emotional or impulsive decisions when it comes to property investing. Some people tend to overpay or buy out of desperation or frustration. Avoid this practice at all costs and spend the extra time to find the right property at the right price.
  2. Do your research. Know the values of properties in your chosen area. Get to know local agents.
  3. When buying at an auction, write down two figures. The first dollar amount is how much you would like to pay for a property; the second amount is the absolutely maximum you are willing to pay. Do not deviate from those amounts in the heat of the moment.

Benefits of Property Investing

Property investing has made it possible for Kathryn and her husband to build a beautiful dream home in the Sutherland Shire area located in the southern region of Sydney – an area where she and her family always wanted to live. In addition, investing in real estate has allowed their family to have a comfortable lifestyle.

However, property investing has meant so much more to Kathryn and resulted in a rewarding and fulfilling career.

“When I was young and working as a legal secretary, I saw some of my friends enjoying a nice lifestyle which attracted me to property investing. However, as time went on, my career in property investing became about much more – it became about helping people achieve their goals and dreams.”

Future Plans

“I plan to open five more offices in the future – three in the Sydney area, one in Queensland, and one in Perth.”

Kathryn says this with the kind of confidence that makes you believe that she will see this dream come true as well.

Sonia Woolley

Sonia Woolley

Sonia Woolley bought her first property as a single woman when she was just 20 years old. She was off to a good start; however, in her 40s, she found herself starting all over again due to a divorce. That didn’t stop her for a second. Sonia successfully turned property investment into a career and not just her passion. She has completed 17 renovations, four subdivisions, and currently holds 11 properties. In addition, Sonia is principal and director of her own real estate company, Vision Property Group, and director and joint owner of Ipswich Granny Flats.

How’d she do it?

The Beginning

Growing up, her parents never owned a home and Sonia lived in government housing. After finishing school, she leased a property which made Sonia swear that she never wanted to rent again.

“A girlfriend and I moved out – you do it when you’re young – we were only just 19, just under 20. We took a lease on a place for 12 months. Boy, what an experience that was. So, I moved back home after that and told my Mum and Dad that I am never renting again in my life.”

Sonia meant it. She worked seven days a week – five days at a bank and weekends at a local street market – and saved up money for a deposit on her own place. At 20, she bought a two-bedroom small unit. That was the start of her journey.

Overcoming Fears

Although Sonia started young and her first investment went well, that didn’t     mean there weren’t any obstacles along the way. Getting financing as a single woman 35years ago wasn’t easy. In addition, she had to overcome fears that included incurring debt, a lack of confidence, and the fear of the unknown. She was slowly able to overcome these fears and continued investing.

However, life through Sonia another curveball when she was in her mid-40s and lost everything in a divorce. She was forced to start all over again “with a kid and a cat.”

Instead of letting that stop her, Sonia fearlessly foraged forward and came into her own as a successful property investor. She had purchased a small house for $46,000 as a place for her and her daughter to live. Four years later, after the divorce was settled, it was worth about $200,000. She bought some land for $21,000. That property is now worth $150,000 and can be divided into six blocks.

“Although at first I feared debt, after you’re a million dollars in debt you quit caring and worrying so much. You need money to be able to move forward. I can understand that now, but it took me a long time before I was comfortable with it.”

And move forward, she did! Sonia went on to purchase eight properties in three years. She admits she didn’t have a specific strategy and because she was still working didn’t give much thought to creating cash flow. Sonia simply bought undervalued properties, did extensive research to find future hotspots, and made purchases based on what she could afford at the time. Her simple but effective plan of action was successful.

She once again fearlessly started over by moving to Ipswich seven years ago where she didn’t know a soul and began working in the real estate industry. After several years of dedication and determination, Sonia carved out a niche locally and teamed up with another property addict, Julie Adams, to form her own real estate agency. That company now has one of the largest sales teams in Ipswich.

Lessons Learned Along the Way

Sonia quickly learned that it pays to treat tradesmen with respect and consideration. Although some of her renovations were “hands-on” – for example, Sonia loves to paint – she has learned to establish good relationships with her tradesmen for renovations she doesn’t have the knowledge or desire to tackle herself. She lets her workers know they are part of a team, pays them promptly, and even provides tea and coffee for them.

 

Although Sonia has been successful, she did lose money on one transition in Cairns with an off-the-plan contractor because she did not understand the full implications of the deal. However, Sonia didn’t let that stop her from jumping right back on the saddle again. She went on to purchase another property in Cairns and was able to double her money. Later – in what she considers her most exciting property investment – she purchased an uninhabitable, condemned property for $90,000 that she estimates will double her money once again. Sonia also discovered that land development was more profitable than renovations. She and her partner are now focusing on subdividing and land development which for them has been a natural progression.

Inspiring Others

Sonia likes to think that she has inspired her daughter, who just turned 27. However, Sonia also hopes she can inspire other women who find themselves in difficult circumstances. She firmly believes that if she can start over again in her 40’s anyone can do it.

“You just need to start and you just need to do it. Get yourself a mentor, write down some goals, and surround yourself with other like-minded people.”

The monetary rewards are great, but Sonia talks to dozens of women on a daily basis and finds helping others achieve their dreams is one of the most rewarding aspects of her career.

“If I’ve even inspired just one woman in a day, I believe that I’ve achieved something that day.”

Gina Ray Zwar

Woman in Focus:Gina Ray Zwar

Creativity Abounds

Think you have to have a real estate or accounting background to get into property investing? Think again.

Gina Ray Zwar, a former teacher and artist, started investing in property at the tender age of 19. Currently married and a mother of four, Gina is a full-time successful property investor and loving every moment. She currently holds 11 investment properties and has five renovations and four developments under her belt. How did it all begin?

Here’s her fascinating story:

A Mother’s Motivation

A burning desire to provide for her son, Richard, started Gina off on the road to investing even though she was very young.

“I had a child at 19 and I guess it wasn’t planned but it was a big motivator for me to be a grown-up person and to take charge of my life. I was interested in property already because I saw my parents invest in property – not as investors – but we moved around a lot. We were always at open inspections so I had that experience behind me. I heard them talk about different areas, seen renovated houses.”

Her parents typically renovated their homes, cashed in on their investments, and then started over again. Gina thought that was a mistake. She wanted to use a buy and hold strategy that would allow her to continue building on her investments.

Gina went to work and saved up to buy her first block of land with her parents’ support.

“I saw myself having a nice home and being able to do things on my own. It was certainly my child that spurred me on.”

Going Back to School and Getting Married

After purchasing that first property in 1983 and building a house, Gina went back to school and became a teacher in the country where she met her husband. After they married, the couple decided to move back to Adelaide into the house Gina owned.

Gina was very aware that properties were doubling in value during the 80’s. She didn’t have a strategy at that time except to simply get into the market as fast as possible. Gina had to fight for her next purchase when the owners realized they priced the property too low. They tried to back out of the deal and offered to give Gina her deposit back. However, she hired a lawyer and was able to seal the deal.

Shortly thereafter, Gina and her husband decided to sell her first house, buy another block of land, and build a four-bedroom house. This investment did not come without bumps in the road and some sacrifices along the way.

“We thought we had an agreement to rent the house we were buying, but the owner changed his mind and we had nowhere to live. We lived in a stable on my mother’s property for eight months and commuted to school and where my husband worked in Happy Valley. This enabled us to save extra money that we ended up spending on the foundation.”

Boulders required expensive rock breaking machinery which Gina hadn’t anticipated. The unexpected expense resulted in living on concrete floors for a while and putting off some of the renovations, but Gina knew it was worth the sacrifices.

Reno and Development Projects

Her husband was a great handyman which proved to be useful during their renovation projects. Their strategy was a simple one.

We tried to get bargains on poorly presented or unfinished houses…We made cosmetic changes so it was okay to rent, bringing it up to a decent standard. I looked at it as, ‘Would I like to live in this?’ We would make the properties functional and tidy.”

Sometimes Gina had a toddler by her feet as she painted or her Mom would watch the children while they did many of their own renovations.

When the couple felt ready to tackle their first development, they purchased a 5-acre property on the waterfront for $425,000 with plans to subdivide. However, complications soon sprung up. Because the council tightened their standards, there were issues with the septic being near waterways. In addition, an easement ran across the property.

Gina not only had to work with a surveyor but a planning consultant that charged by the minute. Even though she had to be creative, they subdivided the property for about $15,000 and were able to sell 2 ½ acres for $230,000. The other 2 ½ acres is currently valued at $425,000.

Even with the obstacles, the property investment resulted in about $200,000 in profit.

Her Biggest Success

Gina considers the home they are in now her most successful investment. She researched for a long time before finding the ideal property to subdivide. She stumbled upon a deal that was listed in the wrong section of a real estate advertisement under rural property. Even so, in the end, other people discovered the property as well and Gina had to compete with other investors.

“We made a slightly better offer and bought it without selling our house which was nerve-wracking. We sold out house for $521,000 at a quick sale…it was a good move for us.”

Indeed it was.

The property was purchased for $595,000 and it cost $45,000 to subdivide. Two acres with a tennis court sold for $341,000 and they built their current home on the other half of the property which is now valued at low to mid $600,000. They profited approximately $300,000 on the deal.

Overcoming Fear

Gina had to overcome many fears along the way. She admits that doubt and worry are still part of the process. For example, she is currently considering getting a line of credit on their house to invest in property which she finds a bit scary. However, Gina is developing more confidence as time goes by.

“I am not 100% confident in what I do, but I bite the bullet and do it. I have an easy going husband and that helps. Definitely, I have a fear of debt, a fear of things going wrong. If I did not have so much fear, we would probably have invested more…You get more confidence and more knowledge, but it was not a quick thing. It was a gradual thing over the years.”

Gina’s Top Three Tips

  1. Buy something you can afford and expect to do some work.
  2. Be flexible with what and where you buy. Do not be an area snob. Research and be familiar with the areas you are targeting.
  3. Look for areas with potential. Focus on infrastructure, population growth, regeneration, long-term stability, and a low vacancy rate. Look for areas where people want to live for more than just one reason.

Looking to the Future

Gina plans to continue investing while helping her children make smart property purchases.

“We found a unit recently for our 20-year-old son. It is his first property and he’s scavenging around for salvaged materials.”

So the baton is passed on to the next generation.

Linh Whyatt

Linh Whyatt

This month’s Woman in Focus, Linh Whyatt, had a strong desire to find her own way in the world without tying herself to  a conventional job. This ambition led to her first property investment at the young age of 22.

Starting her investment journey so young along with subsequent property purchases catapulted the young woman to millionaire status by the age of 28. Sixteen years later, Linh owns 17 properties in Australia and the United Kingdom and is living her dream.

Keep reading to learn how this fascinating young woman got started and the lessons she learned along the way.

Her Inspiration

Linh credits her parents for getting her interested in property while she was still in primary school.

“My parents bought a plot of land in Western Australia and built their own house. It was fascinating to watch the whole process unfold and, at an early age, it had a real impact on me. At the time, I wanted to do the same. I wanted to be able to create my future and I saw property as being a vehicle that would enable me to – not only create a place for myself – but also as a wealth-building vehicle.”

Even so, Linh did not think her parents would understand her desire, independence, and ambition to build wealth through property instead of focusing on her career. Therefore, she bought her first property without their help or even informing them of her decision.

Her First Property Investment

Linh freely admits that she did not have a strategy or knowledge about property investing when she bought a one-bedroom unit in West Perth, Western Australia. She relied on the advice of a real estate agent who helped her find the property as well as advised her on how to get financing.

Although Linh was only working part-time, she was able to take advantage of a no doc loan, which were fairly common 16 years ago and often did not require borrowers to provide documentation of their income if they could come up with the deposit.

“I was quite naïve at the time. I didn’t have anyone to guide me…I didn’t even think about it or over-analyze it…But it turned out to be my best purchase to date.”

Linh bought that first unit for $38,000 and it is now worth $275,000. Her advice?

“People should take the first step. Sometimes people sit on the sidelines for months or years waiting for the right opportunity. Or they’re not even sure what that first step should be. That’s where a supportive network of people can assist you to take the initiative.”

Her Strategy and Lessons Learned Along the Way

Linh compares her strategy in those early days as “buy wholesale and sell retail.” Most of her properties were purchased in the UK while living there and her investment properties in London proved to be very lucrative. Five properties were purchased in Perth, and one in Sydney, which serves as her primary residence.

Sue Hardwick

Sue Hardwick is our action taking

Sue-Hardwick

Woman in Focus

When life becomes difficult you have two choices. You can become paralyzed by fear and indecision or you can take action. Our July Woman in Focus is an action taker.

In 2003, when Sue Hardwick was in her 40s, she and her family immigrated to Australia from their native South Africa. They had lost the majority of their wealth and didn’t have any job prospects. With retirement looming ahead, Sue and her husband were nervous but forged ahead.

Amazingly, in just 12 years she and her husband accumulated 13 properties and life and retirement never looked better! Read how this remarkable woman turned her life around.

Bravely Immigrating to Australia

Born in Zimbabwe, Sue and her husband, Ant, lived in a six-bedroom house in Namibia with a beautiful view and had an investment property in Johannesburg. When they decided to immigrate to provide a better future for their children and move to Perth, the couple sold both of their properties. Unfortunately, they had bought the investment property at the top of the market and were forced to sell at the bottom.

Our property in Namibia turned a nice profit, but the money was divided by eight – we didn’t come across with much.”

Undeterred by their financial setbacks, Sue attended a local property investment seminar and realized that although they could not yet afford to buy a home for their family, they had enough funds to purchase a unit in Scarborough as an investment. Once there was enough equity growth from that unit, the couple purchased a second investment property in the same area.

Even though the two properties were negatively geared at the time, the investments eventually paid off. The first property was purchased for $318,000 and now has a current value of $650,000 with a profit of over $300,000. The second property has also increased in value by over $200,000.

These investment properties gave the couple enough equity to buy a family home for $685,000; however, the purchase maxed out their borrowing capacity and cash flow. The two had updated their education and Ant had found a new job when they purchased their family home. But money was still tight.

“We were stuck for a while.”

Turning Things Around

Not ones to sulk and with an ever-present positive attitude, the Hardwicks attended another investment seminar. They met a mentor who gave them a vision and suggested changing strategies to help them take advantage of tax benefits and to look at properties nationwide instead of simply focusing on West Australia.

In less than two years, the mentor asked Sue to join him and she now works with him as a property advisor. With an increase in their income and equity from their family home which had gone up in value, they decided to reach for the stars.

Starting in 2010, Sue and Ant purchased 10 more properties including off-the plan units, house-and-land packages, a luxury beachfront unit, and properties at the bottom of the growth cycle. Instead of putting all their eggs into one basket, the couple made a conscientious decision to buy properties in a diverse range of locations and educated themselves about other areas of Australia.

“If you do nothing, you have nothing. That’s what kept driving us. Once we saw what we could do and where we could go and what we needed for retirement, there was nothing stopping us. We made our vision board – this is how many properties we want to buy, this is what we want to retire on, and so on. Regardless of ups and downs or curve balls that came along the way, we pretty much put our strategy into place.”

The couple has consistently used a buy-and-hold strategy that has served them well. Sue focuses on buying new, low-risk, and low-maintenance properties. Working in the industry gives her an advantage when it comes to identifying areas at the bottom of the growth cycle with good rental potential and capital growth.

Sue also educated herself about the option of using Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSF) for investing in properties and currently holds three properties within those funds.

Overcoming Fears

Sue was by no means immune to fears that typically come with property investing. She admits that she jumped into her first investment property in Africa confidently since her father, who was a farmer in Zimbabwe, always told her there was value in land. However, by the time the couple purchased their third investment property in Australia, the usual doubts and worries that come with property investing began to surface.

Nonetheless, Sue didn’t let fear stop her.

“The fear of retiring with nothing was greater than the fears that we came across in investing. We had a lot of things go wrong but what kept us going was we were looking at long-term goals. You can’t look at properties every day to see what they are doing. We look back at what we had 10 years ago and what we have today and that sort of settles the nerves.”

Sue’s Five Top Tips

Sue has learned a lot along the way. Here are her top five tips:

  1. Believe in the process. Historically, property has been a good investment. People always need houses to live in. Do not give in to fear.
  2. Have a vision and long-term goals.
  3. Find a good mentor and advisors. A good team of professionals is invaluable including a skilled mortgage broker, accountant, as well as property managers.
  4. Sue feels that buying older properties with high maintenance and depreciation took money out of their pocket and negatively affected their cash flow. For her personally, buying new properties in diversified locations paid off.
  5. Be a giver.  Sue believes in the philosophy that what you give you will get back tenfold. She recommends being generous and giving to charity.

Reaping the Benefits of Property Investing

Property investing has not only provided retirement savings, but given Sue and Ant back precious time that can be spent with their family and traveling.

“My husband was able to retire from his stressful cooperate job last year and now is following his passion.We would not be in that position without property. We were able to take a year off and travel around the world. We were able to attend our son’s wedding in Africa and had Christmas together with our family. It has given us time with our family and special memories.”

In addition, they have been able to pass their passion for property investing to their children. One of their daughters has four properties, her fiancé has one property, and they are building their own home. Their other children have also begun to make their own property investments.

“It has been really exciting to see them getting into the market so young. It’s going to give them the financial freedom quite early in life to enjoy their families and do what they love in life. I’m very excited for them.”

Indeed, it is Sue’s fervent hope that her passion for property investing and taking control of their financial future will inspire others to do the same.

Aliyah Leung

In-Focus with Aliyah Leung

Aliyah Leung, this month’s Woman in Focus, began worrying about her retirement years as a young, single woman in her early 30s. She didn’t see how she would have enough in her Super to retire at the age of 65. That was then. Now the 37-year-old has almost $1 million worth of real estate and a rental of income of $91,000 a year. Her new goal is to retire in her early 40s with the freedom to live the life that she chooses.

Getting Started

After working for a couple of years in London, Aliyah managed to save enough for a deposit on her first home – a two-bedroom unit in Narwee in western Sydney for $205,000 in 2007. She spent about $13,000 renovating the unit, installing a new kitchen, flooring, and air conditioning. It paid off. Just one year later, the home was revalued at $240,000 – $35,000 more than she paid for it. Aliyah still lives in that home which is now valued at $310,000.

After dipping her toes into real estate as a homeowner and successful renovator, Aliyah decided property investing was her path to financial security and freedom. She became engrossed in learning factual information about real estate, reading books and property magazines, and was captivated by success stories.

“I would not listen to anybody who had an opinion but didn’t have investing experience because their information was likely fear-based and wrong, even though well-intentioned.”

Aliyah’s simple but successful strategy was to buy cheap property in a forecasted growth area that would require a makeover, then renovate it and lease it out.

Fast-tracking her Property Portfolio

With an average income of $50,000 a year, Aliyah still managed to save almost $40,000, but wanted to fast-track her property portfolio.

“I knew I had the funds to do one investment property but was hoping for more without having to wait 10 years to build up my savings for the second one.”

An advertisement for Property Secrets caught her eye and after talking to the Director, who owned several properties with a system that worked, she used their buyer’s agent to make her first two property purchases.

She focused on buying properties in the most affordable segments of the Sydney market which were expected to boom over the years. Renovating made the most sense to Aliyah.

The renovation part is important as it increases the value of the property so that you can approach the bank to release the equity straight after the renovation, enabling you to use those funds for further investment. It also allows you to rent the property at a higher rate and increases your likelihood of getting a good tenant.”

Her first investment property, purchased in 2008, was a three-bedroom house in Tregear that cost $200,000. She spent about $14,000 in renovations. The property is now worth $310,000 (translating into a whopping profit of $96,000) and earns a rental income of $560 per week.

Two years later, Aliyah used the equity from that property to purchase her second investment property – a three-bedroom house in Colyton for $264,115, spending $22,000 in renovations. The property is now worth $370,000 and earns $570 a week in rent.

Using Granny Flats to Boost Rental Income

Aliyah discovered another successful property investment strategy when she wanted to purchase a third investment property, but the banks wouldn’t lend her money because she didn’t have enough income. Her buyer’s agent suggested adding a granny flat to make her properties positively geared as well as increase her income.

The tactic worked. After adding a granny flat to the house in Tregear, it is currently cash flow positive by over $400 per month due to the extra rental income. This improved her financial standing with banks when applying for loans and gave Aliyah some peace of mind.

“If interest rates go up, I probably won’t have to worry for some time because I’ve got that second rental income to help me with the mortgage.”

Aliyah’s Top Three Tips

  1. Make sure you know your position financially before committing to an investment. You want to have peace of mind knowing you can maintain your lifestyle as well as your investment property.
  2. Get advice from successful property investors or read success stories in property magazines or online.
  3. Once you’ve done your research, gathered expert advice, and are able to commit financially to an investment property – don’t procrastinate! Begin looking for a property right away. Taking action will help you become confident and positive about the investment process.

Plans for the Future

Aliyah’s goal is to have at least five more properties in her portfolio within the next five years. She may also dip her toes into property development.

“Property investing has given me confidence in my abilities and a sense of achievement. I want to live the life that I choose. I may retire early or only have to work part-time – or not at all. I’ll have freedom and choices. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

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