All Posts by Jo Vadillo

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.”

Bernadette Janson

This Month’s Woman In Focus

Bernadette Janson

This month’s Woman in Focus, Bernadette Janson, became interested in renovating in her early 20’s as a stay-at-home Mum with four children while improving her own house. Shortly thereafter, when Bernadette and her husband, a builder, began investing in property, she quickly discovered her knack for turning ordinary properties into spectacular family homes.

Bernadette’s property investments have not only included renovations but also heritage properties, developments, and subdivisions. Learning some valuable lessons over the years, she now enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience to inspire, motivate, and empower others to create a brighter financial future as well.

Bernadette is also the director of “The School of Renovating”.

How she got started

During the 1990’s, Bernadette and her husband began buying high-end investment properties. After renovations were complete they would sell the property for a quick profit. The properties afforded the family a nice lifestyle and disposable income, but lessons were learned along the way.

“At first, we were driven by a one-size-fits-all mentality and built to a standard that most people were not prepared to pay for. I learned to tailor the renovation to the buyer and found out I was really good at that. Being a woman helped me since women are typically the ones who influence a property purchase. I learned from my husband technically, but I also learned that I needed to be strategic and that the renovations needed to be of good quality but also efficient.”

In addition, the way Bernadette approached investing was hit and miss due to her view of debt. For example, during the early days of property investing, she sold a small development simply to pay it off even though there wasn’t any profit in the deal.

“I really struggled with the concept of debt. I would buy something then I would be panic-stricken about the debt and all I wanted to do was sell it. I know now that I should have held on to that investment and I would have had a great cash flow property now.”

Bernadette also discovered she was suffering with depression which was influencing some of her decisions.

Once I received treatment, it opened my eyes to what I could do with investing.”

Changing strategies

In the beginning, Bernadette focused solely on buying high-end properties valued at $1 million-plus, which she would then renovate and sell. She still purchases properties for this purpose once a year to provide immediate income.


However, as time went on, she became interested in renovating “bread and butter” properties which she defines as houses that the average person can afford. These types of properties were more suitable as Bernadette and her husband began looking at their retirement years.

“I turned 50 and looked at what we needed for retirement to provide the type of lifestyle we were used to and thought I needed to do something about this. Renovating is the only thing I knew that would make the amount of money I would need without physically working hard. However, I saw lower-valued properties as a better way to provide long-term cash flow and a strategy that was less risky.”

Bernadette began putting her new plans into action. A year ago, she owned three properties including their own home. They downsized and moved into one of their investment properties and sold the other two properties.

Bernadette is looking to replace those properties with a portfolio of lower-valued properties which she plans to keep over the long term as rentals.

Bernadettes top 3 tips

  1. Get educated. Not only through books and seminars, but also through people who specialise in property investing. For example, a good real estate agent is gold and will have his or her finger on the pulse of the market. An experienced mortgage broker can open your eyes to different ways of financing. Learn from these experts.
  2. Research and due diligence is critical. Attend auctions to see what people are buying. Get to know the “lay of the land.” The expectation of buyers will vary significantly according to the area.
  3. Surround yourself with specialists. Find an accountant that specializes in property investments and has an understanding of various tax structures and issues you will be facing. Use mortgage brokers that invest in properties themselves. Property Women’s events can help put you in contact with people who have invaluable expertise.

Reaping the benefits of property investing

Bernadette’s retirement is looking good and her future bright because of her property investments.

The majority of women are facing a poorly funded retirement, particularly those on the wrong side of forty. The average superannuation payout for an Australian woman is $37,000 which is a fraction of what I make on just one project. Property investing is a powerful way to fast track your retirement savings while keeping risk to a minimum.

In addition, Bernadette has been able to teach her four children entrepreneurial skills. Her son is now her architect and her daughter has completed a renovation and is looking to buy a second investment property.

“I know my children are well-equipped to buy in this market. They don’t need me because they have been living with property investing throughout their lives and have learned the principles they need to be a savvy investor.”

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The future depends on what you do today.” Bernadette has lived by that philosophy and is reaping the rewards.

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