The hot seat

Money Magazine Australia - - CONTENTS -

What was your first job?

I grew up in Syd­ney’s western sub­urbs in a fam­ily that strug­gled fi­nan­cially af­ter my par­ents di­vorced. I was re­moved from school at the start of year 11 to work in a re­tail shop my mother bought that wasn’t mak­ing money. I man­aged the shop solo while my mother found other work that paid the bills. I was just 17, and there were many in­valu­able life les­sons I learnt in those two years be­fore I branched out on my own.

What’s the best money ad­vice you’ve ever re­ceived?

A penny saved is a penny earned. I see that all the time in the ren­o­vat­ing game. Peo­ple frit­ter away money on im­prove­ments or ma­te­ri­als that aren’t nec­es­sary and do lit­tle to lift the value of their home. Or they pay way more for the prop­erty than it’s worth be­cause they haven’t done their due dili­gence. That ex­tra $50,000 they over­spent on the pur­chase is profit straight down the drain.

What’s the best in­vest­ment de­ci­sion you’ve ever made?

The eas­i­est money I’ve ever made was on a prop­erty deal very early on in my ren­o­va­tion jour­ney, when I had lit­tle money but loads of mo­ti­va­tion. I came across a wa­ter­front site in Syd­ney’s Bal­main with an ask­ing price of $2.51 mil­lion. I could see mas­sive po­ten­tial, as the site could be sub­di­vided and then on­sold with DA ap­proval. A friend agreed he’d put up the money and I’d put in all the work. We pulled it off and walked away with $750,000 clear profit, af­ter all ex­penses. We split the net profit 50/50.

What is the worst in­vest­ment de­ci­sion you’ve ever made?

Buy­ing my first home at the age of 21 on a ma­jor road (six lanes) in Syd­ney. I re­alised the big mis­take I’d made once I moved in. I de­cided to get out ASAP, so I painted, ripped up the car­pet and cleaned up the gar­den. I still man­aged to make a mod­est profit. This mis­take kick­started my in­ter­est in ren­o­vat­ing and is the rea­son I of­ten re­fer to my­self as the “ac­ci­den­tal ren­o­va­tor”.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

I’ve al­ways loved clas­sic cars, and on a bit of whim I flew to Ne­braska, in the US, when I heard about a huge clas­sic car auc­tion. I came back with an un­ren­o­vated 1956 Chevro­let Bel Air. I named her Mil­dred in hon­our of the for­mer owner back in the ‘50s. I got her ren­o­vated in Syd­ney, keep­ing all of her with orig­i­nal parts. She’s the only one of her type in Aus­tralia, owes me $160,000 and is def­i­nitely not a ren­o­vat­ing for profit project! She is my favourite pos­ses­sion.

If you had $10,000 where would you in­vest it?

Well, I cer­tainly know how far you can stretch $10,000 on a mod­est, highly strate­gic cos­metic reno, so if I had a prop­erty in need of a re­vamp I’d in­vest it there.

If I had no prop­erty I’d in­vest that $10,000 in ed­u­ca­tion, be­cause I know from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence the re­turn is at least ten­fold.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in your bank ac­count?

Prob­a­bly panic.

Do you in­tend to leave an in­her­i­tance?

I didn’t have the eas­i­est start in life and the most im­por­tant per­son in mine is my 11-year-old daugh­ter Mi­lan. I’ve made sure she is cush­ioned from fi­nan­cial hard­ship, but it’s im­por­tant to me she grows up with the right work ethic and out­look on life. I try to teach her the value of money and that you have to work for it. I don’t want her to as­sume she was born with a sil­ver spoon in her mouth.

Can you still make money from flip­ping in the cur­rent mar­ket?

Ab­so­lutely. I’ve made money in ev­ery prop­erty cy­cle and I’ve been ren­o­vat­ing for 25-plus years. The rules never change re­ally. It’s all about adapt­ing to the mar­ket you’re op­er­at­ing in and al­ways do­ing your due dili­gence. That said, if you have the fi­nances to buy and hold, that’s al­ways the pre­ferred op­tion.

Fin­ish this sen­tence: Money makes…

… life eas­ier. If ev­ery day is a fi­nan­cial struggle, it’s hard to have peace of mind. I learnt that early on in life. Hav­ing loads of money was never my goal: fi­nan­cial free­dom was al­ways the end game. And I feel blessed I got there.

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