Wise moves in property investment have given a young Ballan family a lifestyle most people can only dream of.
Having accumulated 14 properties in eight years, John Smith, 37, and wife Veronika, 31, have been able to ditch the daily grind to focus on their real estate portfolio, pursue their dreams and raise their children, Jonathan, 6, Charlie, 4, Jasmine, 2, and Lilly, 1.
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Mr Smith recently resigned from his high-paying job as a stevedore to start his own landscaping business, Happy Home King, while Ms Smith has taken extended maternity leave from her job as a bank manager.
“We have had some amazing changes in our life over the years,” Ms Smith said.
“And because of our investments, John is now doing what he loves and I can focus on our family and get involved in local community groups.”
The family can also now afford to spend every winter in Slovakia, where Ms Smith’s relatives live.
The pair met in 2008 and soon discovered they both had a passion for property investment.
“We were both attracted to the idea of investing as a way of wealth creation,” Mr Smith said.
He had bought and sold two properties before he met his wife to be, starting with a three-bedroom miner’s cottage in Mt Morgan in Queensland for $50,000 when he was aged just 24. A year later he bought a 1.2ha block of land in Ballan for $120,000.
The couple’s first investment property was a two-bedroom apartment in Melbourne’s Lonsdale St that they bought for $270,000 in 2008.
“It was a nerve-racking time as the GFC (global financial crisis) had just hit and we were terrified,” Mr Smith said. “But we took the plunge and scraped together enough to buy
A few months later, when interest rates fell and the property acquired equity, the pair bought two more apartments in the building.
“We had three dwellings in 12 months generating a 9 per cent gross return,” Mr Smith said.
Rent also went up about $80 from $450 to $530 a week.
“So from a neutral cash flow we started making $200 a week within 12 months, which was quite a buzz for us,” he said.
The Smiths went on to acquire two to three properties a year in Melton, Ballan and Ballarat.
“We had definitely caught the investment bug by then,” Mr Smith said.
By 2014, they owned 14 investment properties that included apartments, townhouses, three-bedroom houses and their 4ha home in Ballan.
Mr Smith said their basic strategy was to buy and hold as many properties as they could.
“If we held numerous properties we could refinance a couple each year and release the built-up equity to continue expanding,” he said.
The plan worked perfectly for the first six or seven years and gave the family a privileged lifestyle while their property holdings expanded.
As their employment income more than tripled and their investments generated high rental returns, the couple was readily able to borrow more money for investments.
However, banking reforms in 2015-16 soon made borrowing more difficult.
The couple came up with a new strategy to slowly sell a few properties and release their built-up equity.
“We used the money to renovate and carry on with our life plans,” Mr Smith said.
Between 2015-2018, they sold nine properties and kept five, including four in Ballarat.
The fifth property they kept was the five-bedroom house on the 4ha block in Ballan, which has become their family home.
Having tripled in value over the past eight years, the property at 519 Ballan-Greenvale Rd is now on the market.
“While we love our home, we’re on to our next project,” Mr Smith said.
The Smiths plan to build their dream home on a property nearby where they hope to create a wellness centre, day spa and holiday accommodation.
“Property investment has given us the freedom to work less and enjoy life more, spend more time with our children and make our dreams come true,” Ms Smith said.
“We’re looking forward to our next adventure.”
SUBURB PROFILE: BALLAN
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