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Property Girl

Posted: 08.06.2012

As part of this month’s (August 2012) focus on all things property related, we have women from the 10thousandgirl community sharing their property journeys. Here is our first one!

Name: Jo
Age:
Do I have to?
Profession:
PR
Location:
Sydney

Tell us a little about yourself (personal, professional, fun, family) so we can get to know you a little better!
I’m a self-employed PR and communication import from the UK, a Hello Kitty enthusiast. Love exercising outdoors.

When did you buy?
My first, July 2009, my second, May 2011.

Did you buy alone or with someone else?
By myself – very happily. I read articles about whether girls should buy alone or not, such nonsense, of course they should, every wants/needs a home and everyone needs financial security at any point in their life, if they can afford it.

When did you first think you wanted to buy?
Like most people, I had lofty ideas of self-employment, first property and marriage by 30. Ha, try telling your life how your life is going to pan out…

How did you know property was for you?
I’m a relentless researcher, I put exactly the time it takes to find what I want. So, when I do, it’s usually the right side of perfect based on research, realigning according to needs, wants and price.

I’d been looking longer than most, probably eight or nine months, so when I found it, it was an easy & quick sales process, and most importantly, it felt like home when the minute I walked in to the viewing. It was a top floor sunny haven that when I closed the door, the rest of the world disappeared. Also useful was that I could go to viewings in office hours when many can’t, that way, I got to move quickly and secure the deal.

I’d come from renting a great property in terms of location, price and size – right on Bondi Beach, but it was ground floor and dark. I’d had a peeping Tom and I didn’t realise how much I appreciated moving into a sunny top floor safe haven. I still appreciate it three years on, and have that nice feeling of ‘home’ every time I walk in.

When did you get serious and start taking the steps to buy?
As an import, with no family or experience of buying in Australia, let alone Sydney’s unique, expensive and competitive Eastern Suburbs, I attended a one day course on first-time property buying through the Eastern Suburbs Community College. It turns out to have been the best $130 odd dollars I’ve ever spent as far as wealth management and creating a home are concerned.

Who did you talk to during the buying process (professionals/family/friends)?
I asked the guy taking the course, Scott Durrant of Successful Ways (property coach, buyer’s agent, mortgage broker, and other financial/property services) what else he did beyond teaching – that’s what was great, he imparted his knowledge without selling his other services. There was instant trust there as a result.

What questions did you ask?
Subtly, reason for the sale, how many in the block, planned works, owner/tenant occupation, strata fees, company title vs strata, how long it had been on the market.

I worked with Scott as my property coach, I’d go and trawl every Saturday and report back. People who are in property love talking about it, they don’t get tired of the questions. He’d help me with the next set of questions to ask the agent and filter the good properties from the bad.

What other research did you do?
Pavement pounding – I went and looked at everything in my price range and certain specifications, just to be sure, it helps narrow the criteria for what you will and won’t compromise on.

How did you save for the deposit?
It’s kind of a weirdly bad story with a good outcome. I went through a really tough few years in my personal life, I’d quit a very well-paid job to start a business in a completely new area, my boyfriend dumped me shortly after, a parent (in the UK) had cancer, a sibling (here in Aus) went through quite a serious situation so I threw the new business idea aside, focused on family and keeping myself sane, started freelancing and eventually grew a good set of clients. During the three or so years, I was quite isolated as a result and this pot of money kind of grew itself. Almost accidentally. Good things do come from bad!

Also, somehow, I’ve never had a credit card and have been debt-free since paying off my student loan in my late 20s so I was lucky not to have the mental drain that I understand debt can be.

It’s daunting but just get saving, sooner rather than later, and establish a budget and plans. I’d allocate myself a certain amount of cash each week, no card payment allowed. When you realise how much you fork out on rent and socialising along the way, it’s sickening.

Did you buy as a home or for an investment?
Both – always as home to live in for a few years, and always with the intention it would be a good investment in the longer-term.

Where did you buy?
Bellevue Hill, near Bondi in Sydney’s East.

What was the most difficult or challenging thing during the process?
Wondering if the deposit pot was ever going to reach the magic number!

Giving up those gorgeous Saturday mornings to do the mad dash between apartment showing times for eight or nine months, have your hopes raised and dashed when somehow, they weren’t quite right. You start wondering where you need to compromise.

What was the most fun or rewarding thing during the process?
Always the potential of what I was going to discover …but the most rewarding thing was that I found a beautiful home with great rental and sale potential, at what could almost be described as a bargain (for Eastern Suburbs prices).

What was the most important thing when looking at the mortgage?
Take advice, shop around, consider offsets, consider whether you’re cautious or risky to decide on fixed vs variable.

Who or what was the most helpful?
I keep saying it, but seriously, Scott Durrant at Successful Ways was invaluable & patient. I’d research the properties, go and view, report back, and he would help me evaluate each one, and how to negotiate with the agent. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend doing a course, or working with him.

What has it been like after the purchase?
So painless that I did it again! Scott helped me work out that there was enough equity in my property to buy again. I went through the process a lot quicker this time, probably helped by the fact that I wasn’t going to live in it so could make an impartial good decision. That said, it’s great and I would consider living in it if I ever had to! It’s a one bedder with sunroom, study, terrace, lock-up garage in a small block just back from the beach in Bronte. It’s rented out, I cover some of the mortgage each month, which with my existing mortgage is something not everyone could manage I guess but I’m doing the hard yards now for the future.

Do you have any other property related goals?
Well, I’m currently looking to buy my third actually for a business idea, and ultimately would like property in New York and London in the not too distant future, also part of a business & property strategy I’m currently looking at.

I’m essentially using well-bought property as part of my superannuation / retirement strategy.

Any tips you would give other 10thousandgirls who are thinking about buying?
-Work out what you will and won’t compromise on, garage, balcony, light, two rooms etc – I compromised on the location, I had my heart set on Bondi but realistically, the quality, and the quality vs price quality just wasn’t there. Especially when you’re competing with couples and their dual income, and often rich couples with parental backing.

I knew that without the beach on my doorstep, I needed a balcony. I also personally prefer the art deco blocks vs the new builds, because they’re better quality and won’t crack in ten years.

-Check on the hidden costs and don’t pretend they’re not there – sinking funds, insurances etc, strata fees. Older blocks don’t tend to have as high strata fees to cover lifts, pools, concierge etc. do the reports, get the advice.

-It took me a long time to get my head out of Bondi and look at surrounding suburbs. Best thing I did. I almost bought a lemon right on Bondi Beach, thankfully, Scott and his team had done the research to show that insurances for the awnings over tourist cafes hadn’t been paid for a while, so if anything happened to them, I and other owners would have been liable.

-Buy with head and heart, not just heart. It’s easy to say but only by spending a good period of time researching will you come to a happy medium.


Thanks Jo for sharing your story and your tips!

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