Melissa Morgan is a property manager, licensee and founder of Progressive Property. The business helps the client manage their property and look after it as if it were their own. Melissa Morgan has nearly two decades worth of property investment and development experience and can provide invaluable stories and lessons that she has encumbered along her journey.

Come with us as we delve into her background and where she grew up as a child, what inspired her to get involved in the property industry, the role her parents played in her career, an unbelievable story that everyone can learn from and much more on this episode of Property Investory!

“I was lucky in that they still trusted my instincts and allowed me to do it by helping me with a deposit. I think by that point I sort of well and truly started my passion for property.”

– Melissa Morgan

Morgan is a property manager and licensee for Progressive Property and we find out what her typical day looks like. 

I sort of follow the 80/20 rule. I probably spend about 80% of my day running the business, which is basically my day job. The rest of the time I spend either sort of looking after my kids, managing my own personal portfolio and also I often have a development project here and there. So currently I’ve got one that’s wrapping up. So I spend a bit of time doing that as well.        

Finding that work/life balance can be quite difficult when you add a couple of children into the equation. 

When you have young kids, the household has always got a high level of intensity. But at the end of the day, I think the kids kind of respect that their mum and dad also work and we both work at home. They’re around us a lot while we’re working and they’re quite good at giving us our space.        

The property seems to be quite a large focus within the Morgan household. 

He quit his full-time day job to be a mortgage broker nearly three years ago. He runs Freedom Funding.        

We delve into her upbringing as we learn about where she grew up as a young child. 

I grew up in the St George area of Sydney. I was born in Shanghai, so my parents both came here as migrants. I came when I was six and spent most of my younger years moving around in the St George area.

I ended up going to St George Girls school. And then probably about 10, 15 years ago, my parents decided they were going to move to the east and sort of completely change where they lived.        

It is always a big change as a kid when you spend so much of your childhood in one area and you move to a completely new location. 

I think for everybody in our family it was a bit of a shock, you know, suddenly we were very far away from the shops and friends that we were all used to. But I think they saw that there was possibly more potential in having an owner-occupied property in the east and there was bigger growth. So they sold all their assets and moved.        

Growing up with parents that had an interest in property seems to have rubbed off on her from a young age. 

I remember when I was maybe 13 or 14 just going from property to property with my parents trying to find another home. And my mum was very picky so she dragged me around to lots of properties and I think that’s probably what sort of kickstarted my interest.        

We find out about what Morgan got up to once she had finished high school and what her interests were at that time. 

At the time I was always a very hands-on person and IT was all the rage back in a sort of around the year 2000. So I went and did an IT degree. I went to UNSW and got a Bachelor of Science in Business Information Technology. But actually halfway through the degree, which was probably where I’d sort of started my investing journey and got really passionate about property, I realised actually I wasn’t so passionate about it. But at that point, I just finished my degree and moved forward.        

We delve into what she did after completing her university degree and what that enabled her to do. 

I went into corporate, I went to work for Macquarie Bank and I started in their investment lending area in operations. But then a couple of years after that I asked to move into property because I realised that that was where my true interest lies. And then they moved me into the real estate group and I spent three years there. But in that time I was actually fortunate that they helped me with getting a Masters of Commerce in property investment and development. So it actually enabled me to sort of get an extra qualification.        

Morgan shares with us how she was able to get the job she did once she completed her degree. 

It’s all because the degree I did was a co-op scholarship and Macquarie is one of the sponsors. So during the degree I already spent six months working in Macquarie’s IT division. Then I made a few friends and basically just begged them to get me into the corporate division.        

She was able to be a part of some projects which allowed her to get some hands-on experience whilst working for Macquarie. 

When I was in the real estate area, I was in a team called Prudential, which is essentially compliance. So it was managing Macquarie’s risk on the balance sheet for their development projects. So I got a bit of exposure to their very large projects. Some of them were like Greg Norman’s golf course developments of 200 properties. Some of them were smaller, sort of maybe 20 townhouses.         

Then she was able to be involved in some high-level projects which helped her gain valuable experience.

I think at the time I didn’t appreciate what I was working with. I was in my 20s and these projects were tens of millions of dollars. So for me, I knew what I was doing day today, but I didn’t see the big picture. And I think the role probably suited someone that had more experience in the real world. It was very interesting to see how a project came to fruition and the way they structured it and how every project had its own company and they did joint ventures with other companies. But it was never something I could actually apply because it was too far above what I understood at the time.

Especially when you’re dealing with means it means the dollars of development. It’s kind of like, okay, how do I take all this away and apply to our thing? Because to raise funding and all that kind of stuff is no small feat.

It was huge hugely complicated deals. There were like lots and lots of contracts and paperwork involved. There were options, there were subdivisions and things that were subject to different DA’s. The people that worked on it only focused on one small area and nobody ever really, you know, had control of the whole project.

I guess you have multiple teams as well too, which made it even more challenging and more complex as well. So it’s not like just a small little development that you’re doing where you can take these skills and apply it.

It was interesting times, but I always felt a little bit frustrated because I never fully understood my role because I didn’t have enough exposure to the real world to be able to focus on how much risk there was that I was seeing day today.        

We delve into how she got started on her property investing journey and what inspired her to go down that path. 

The year was 2000 and I was 18. I just graduated high school and I basically had enough saved, a small deposit, about $20,000 saved up since I was probably about five or six. I was just looking at the paper and I’d sort of, you know, had that interest in property from my parents and saw that there were studios in Potts Point going for about $100,000. And then, my parents said, “Hey, you know, why not get your first property?” And I’d actually done a bit of temping at a mortgage broking business, so I had some exposure then as well to loans and sort of the whole mortgage process. So I had income from working for my parents as a family business and I went and jumped in and bought a little studio for $105,000.        

Buying a cheap property at Potts Point is an exciting way to start off your property investment portfolio but we learn about some of the difficulties she faced. 

It was a horrible little place. It was 24 square metres. It didn’t even have a window that looked onto the outside. It looked into a lightwell and people kept throwing rubbish into this lightwell. The whole thing smelled like pizza because of the pizza shop downstairs.

I had some interesting experiences there. I went to a local property manager and they put some tenants in and those tenants ended up defaulting on their rent. Not vacating the property. The property managers sort of just wave their hands and weren’t proactive. So I actually at 19, I went to tribunal to represent myself to kick those tenants out. So that was a very early exposure to property management for me thanks to this property. I decided after that I wanted to manage my own properties from then on and didn’t really want to work with property managers anymore.     

It’s easy to be discouraged from continuing on your journey after having a bad experience with your first property but Morgan chose to continue on her way. 

The following year I went to Brisbane on a little holiday and looked at the returns there and I went, wow, this is phenomenal. And this was in 2001, so it was well before Brisbane sort of had a big boom. I bought another one-bedroom property there for $97,000 and that rented for $170 a week. So it was very positive cash flow right from the beginning.        

Already having purchased 2 properties around the age of 19 is extremely impressive and we learn how she was able to afford these properties. 

My parents had a fashion business, so I’d always, ever since I was growing up, worked for them. So I think when I turned 17, 18, they were able to monetise it a bit more. So maybe I realised that I wasn’t going to be working for free anymore. So I did a lot of work for my parents doing deliveries and tagging and then sorting and so there was a lot of work that I did growing up and all through uni I worked for my parents. That helped with my income. For my second property, I actually did borrow the deposit of my parents. Well, actually it was sort of gifted to me in the end. I never really repaid it, but it was only maybe another $30,000 that I needed for the deposit and the stamp duty. And it just made sense to me at the time to go and, you know, invest interstate. For some reason, I didn’t think about it too much. I just went and looked at what the returns are there, it’s a great little apartment, so why not? My parents at the time said, you’ve already bought a property and now you bought a second one, time to stop. Time to just settle back and not worry about property anymore. But that really wasn’t my plan.        

Morgan shares with us just how much of an influence her parents were in regards to her property investment journey. 

My parents were very, I guess, risk-averse and traditional and they were like, why would you buy interstate? You can’t see it. Are you sure you want to do this? I was lucky in that they still trusted my instincts and allowed me to do it by helping me with a deposit. I think by that point I sort of well and truly started my passion for property. I also did a very quick cosmetic reno to the first Potts Point place, which then gave me some exposure to seeing that value could be added. And a year later, two years after I purchased the Potts Point place, I actually sold it for $165,000. Which was a significant gain? I guess if you look at that, you know, the property was only $105,000 to start with.

When I started at Macquarie, it was probably nearly two years of wages, but it did give me a deposit then and I’d put it straight away into another property in Elizabeth Bay. So I traded up and got a decent, like a one-bedroom with parking with the gains that I made from that property. And then also save some of it for a deposit a couple of years later for another Queensland property.        

Buying in at, what we know now, are high-end locations, what did Morgan do with the property she purchased in Elizabeth Bay?

I kept that one. I don’t have it anymore, but I kept it for quite a few years. Basically after that, in my twenties, I then graduated and started my job at Macquarie. So I was able to actually borrow more money. Plus I had a bit of equity from my first Brisbane property, so all through my twenties, I just ended up basically buying properties every couple of years. So I ended up going to Queensland and buying three properties. I also bought two apartments in Sydney. Then I bought like a duplex, a dual occupancy property in Adelaide also in my twenties.        

After having such a successful start in her twenties we find out the current situation of her property portfolio. 

When I got into my thirties, I stopped sort of wanting to buy and hold and I wanted to do more. So then the strategy changed quite a bit over those years. So I mean currently I suppose, my husband and I together, have nine investment properties that we hold around the country for growth over time. Then I’ve got development projects, but I suppose we should probably take a step back to talk about how I got into development.

Melissa Morgan Manage Assets With Husband
Melissa Morgan Manage Assets With Husband

If he can share with us on that side, that’d be excellent.

Back to when I was at Macquarie, I was dissatisfied and I saw an ad one day for someone that was passionate about property and helping other people buy property. That was for an ad for a buyer’s agent and this was 2010, so buyer’s agents weren’t very common, but the ad resonated with me. So I quit my job at Macquarie and I went to join this startup buyer’s agency.

The company was called Capital 360 at the time. They’re no longer around. They expanded a bit too quickly and tried to do too many things. I spent two years with them until they went under, but I did learn quite a lot in that time.        

How did Morgan get from working in a buyer’s agency to going into property development? 

I just wanted to be more and more hands-on. I decided that the cosmetic reno in the first place I had done in Potts Point worked. So I did a little flip of another studio somewhere in the middle and saw that I could make money. Then I just wanted to get into some bigger and bigger things, I guess as most people do. I jumped into the deep end and bought a development site in Hurstville for four townhouses. And that in hindsight was actually probably one of my biggest mistakes. So we actually lost money on that site, but it was a huge learning curve. I went in there without knowing, you know, how to really develop at all. I knew that I could build four townhouses, but I got referred to architects, consultants, and I sort of trusted them and I got led a little bit astray by a few of them. So it really just resulted in me throwing a lot of money into the project. Spending a very long time, a couple of goes at getting a DA, and eventually, after 18 months I finally got the DA for the four townhouses.        

We learn more about the story of one of her worst investing moments. 

By that point, I was very mentally tired of managing it. I’d learned the heat from just the process of what was required to show council that a DA was suitable for the site to what sort of consultants I needed. And what sort of reports the council would be wanting, but by that point I was fatigued and I decided to sell the property. But the process itself, it was really tough. It was so many unknowns and so much learning and having to trust people that I didn’t really have prior experience with was a challenge.

I sold it to a builder when I got the DA. So I basically exited after about 18 months. I went, well, I’ve got the DA now. I’ve learned a lot, but I don’t have the stamina to go through with the building. I again didn’t have any contacts, hadn’t had the experience of getting a CC or the construction, so I just took what I could for the property and sold it onto someone else.

How much of a loss did you make on that one?

It was probably close to about $200,000 by the end of it.

It was sort of all our savings at the time and really sort of all the gains that I’d made on flipping my little properties and doing other things along the way.

Morgan shares the difficulty of that time and how she was able to pick herself back up after that.

It was a really tough time. It was also the same time that Capital 360 went under. So overnight I’d lost all my savings, I had no job. Then at the time were managing some of my interstate properties and I struggled a little bit to get some of the cash flow back from that when they went into administration. So there was a whole heap of, I guess, negative things going on in my life at the time. I just slowly sort of had to crawl out of it I guess and pick my life back up one piece at a time. One of the things I did was actually jump straight back into property, we bought a little home actually by that point. We went and bought a house in the Inner West in Annandale. We did that just to sort of ground ourselves like my husband and I just wanted a base. We want to, I guess we didn’t have, there were so many places up in the air at that point in our life. We wanted to sort of settle down into something. I started working for a construction business. A friend of mine had a civil construction business and wanted some help. So it actually gave me something new to sort of learn as well along the way.        

We hear about another investment story which did not go to plan and what Morgan was able to learn from it. 

That was actually last year. After a few successful developments, I bought a duplex site in the Inner West in Dulwich Hill and it was very similar to one that had been very successful. So I thought it was pretty low risk, but I underestimated actually how much the market would fall in Sydney sort of about 12 months ago. And I got to a point where I actually had a bit of a health scare. I finished the project, you know, the election was looming and not looking too great. So I just, I sold the project, I wanted to take the cash out on a project and hold onto it for maybe more opportunities. And I just felt that selling out of the project was a better decision than indefinitely holding on. I mean, in hindsight, you know, now that the market is what it is today. Maybe not so much, but no one would have known, you know, that was going to happen with the election and the interest rate falls and the lending changes.        

It was a valuable learning experience for Morgan about how many various influences can factor into the success of a project. 

If I’d held on, the market bounced back and I would’ve made a profit on this project instead I sold at a time when things were looking very bleak and I lost a little bit of money. It was probably the worst investing moment because by that point I’d learnt so much, I felt a little bit more bulletproof. I wasn’t dumped in the deep end. I’d had the experience, but I still lost money. I hadn’t built the wrong product. I hadn’t made any major mistakes. So it was a reality check on how much the market can really influence the success of the project.        

She tells us about what her initial vision was for the Dulwich Hill property before outside forces took hold. 

So it was a DA approved site. It was an old house that had approval for two [inaudible] title duplexes. So really large ones, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, you know, well located Inner West area and on paper it made sense. I’d already had a really great builder I was working with. I was coming out of another duplex project that was making good money. I bought this one thinking it wasn’t going to be a high-risk project at all.        

Sometimes luck just is not on your side when you are trying to make the best deal you possibly can. 

I didn’t anticipate how much the market would fall. The weekend that we marketed the project was when that 60 Minutes storey came out about properties falling by 40%. It was just bad timing and bad luck. And then after that we really had no interest because if you were a buyer and you saw that story, you wouldn’t go out the next day and buy a property, you would wait for the market to fall. And it did.

It was the sentiment of the market and the loss of confidence that the media created. Looking forward at that point we didn’t see a huge amount of improvement. The economy was not looking great. The election was, you know, Labor was gonna make changes to the housing market. It really didn’t look like it was going to go up in the short to medium term.        

If everyone could operate in hindsight then everyone would be making successful deals but it’s important to be able to look back and say that you did the best you could. 

I think one thing is to sort of accept your decisions. You make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time and really hindsight, you know, can bring on a whole heap of regret and other emotions, but really there’s no point in it. It’s just sort of accept that you did the best you could. But really it is to factor in that the market could fall when you do your figures and it can fall significantly. In that area, it probably fell at least 15 to 20%. So it really did take out the margin that I had factored in at the beginning of the project. We did have a few unexpected delays when we started building which caused the project to drag on for a little bit longer and increase the holding costs. So that also was something that maybe I could have avoided if I’d known how the end result was going to turn out.        

You never know what kind of issues are going to arise once you get started working on a property project. 

The fact is that you just don’t know when you start what problems you’re going to run into. But I think a lot of people have said to me, look, it’s great that I’m talking about unsuccessful projects because there’s a lot of people talking about how great development can be and how successful and how much money they’ve made. But you don’t often hear stories where things have gone wrong or learn from people’s experiences where they’ve lost money.

Melissa Morgan Shows You How To Turn An $800,000 Profit: Managing Assets to Improve Profitability

Morgan shares with us a moment where everything seemed to fall into place for her and she knew she was on the right track.

It actually was the bounce back from what happened in that Dulwich Hill project. It was sort of, maybe it’s time to do something a little bit different. Starting progressive Property, my property management business, there’s probably a big aha light bulb moment for me. And I was actually a licensed agent from back when I was at Capital 360. I had actually done my real estate agents license course. So I had some experience with property management and plus I’d been managing all of my own Sydney properties for a good decade or more. So by that point, everything made sense. The kids were a little bit older. My husband’s mortgage broking business also had exposure to contacts and investors. I was very passionate about property management and really offering it at a different level of service. So it really made sense to get into property in a business sense and not so much a development or investing sense.

Let’s just put things into sort of a bit perspective in terms of timeframe. The Dulwich Hill project, when was that started and finished?

It was sort of the start of 2016 and sold in 2018.

After that, that’s when you started, last year in 2018, Progressive Property?

Yes. The Royal Commission was also one of the things that helped us start with that. The mortgage broking industry was looking a bit shaky for a while. So we actually thought, well, what’s something else that we could do, you know, because we’re selling off property so much that still was in the property arena, but help mitigate that risk.        

Morgan explains to us what some of her main priorities were when she was thinking of starting up her own business.

I think one of the earlier decisions was sort of how am I going to run this business and what software was a major consideration. The systems and the trust accounting and compliance processes have in place. And because I had spent years at Macquarie in a very regimented process-oriented sort of role, it actually was helpful for me to see things in a strategic way and build a business that had good foundations.        

We find out more about what her strategies were when she started her business and what she learnt from her previous experiences. 

I’d say Capital 360 grew too fast. So I straight away wanted to grow organically and I wanted to be able to take the time to do it right and be able to service each client properly and not rush things or have pressure. I think buying a rent roll was going to definitely do that to me. All of a sudden having, you know, X number of new clients and new properties that I didn’t know from the very beginning. So I basically grew my client base from people that I’d known over the years. Friends, friends of friends and referrals. That’s sort of where my business is growing. So it’s still a very boutique agency. But I like it because it’s a way of doing things organically and slowly and making sure that they’re done properly.        

“Someone said the price is what you pay, but you have to actually look at the value that you’re getting from what you’re paying. ”
-Melissa Morgan

We delve into what it is that separates her property management company from the rest of other businesses out there. 

Usually, the licensee of that business is working in sales and they’ve got generally some junior staff running property management. Often these staff, you know,  are inexperienced, they don’t have their own investment properties, so they don’t have the right mindset. They’re very reactive I guess. They think their job is collecting rent and repairing some leaky taps. But really it’s about partnering with investors to manage their asset, to help it grow over time and to ensure that asset produces good cash flow. So right from the beginning, I think my agency offers a very different product. It’s really, you know, looking at an asset from a higher level and a holistic point of view. So I do things like I’m very strategy focused on trying to minimise vacancies, maximise cash flow, and look at where value can be added through maybe a simple reno, look at values of how their property is changing every year. So we run a bit of a comparative market analysis every year and see if they’ve got new equity and maybe that fits in with their goals of wanting to grow a portfolio over time. So it’s more like a portfolio manager I suppose as opposed to a property manager.        

Does she have a hands-on approach when it comes to her clients’ properties or is there another way that she assists them?

I have where I can, but it does mean that it takes me away from the core business. So I did have an owner that bought a lovely little art deco house in Marrickville, but it was very rundown. So I assisted them with a project management type of project in getting the house ready for rental. But I did find that it took a lot out of me and a lot of time away from the property management. So now I’ve also got a bit of a team. Like I’ve got a property manager that doesn’t work for me, but I can recommend that they can help the client with that sort of thing. So it, I guess, giving the client the resources to go and do what they need to with the property.        

By having so much experience in the property industry, Morgan is able to help her clients find the right match when it comes to trades. 

Over the years I had so many projects and so much exposure to different trades that I’ve got quite a lot of people that I know that I can call on to help do those things. After I bought the house in Annandale, I did own a builder for the house. So I actually built an extension from the ground up twice. And so I have a really good understanding of the building. And then if there’s an issue, I straight away know a little bit about the potential cause and the potential cost it might be to rectify.        

We dive into what some of her strategies were when it come to property development and advice she has for any aspiring developers. 

After the first decade also right around about when I started with that Hurstville project that didn’t go so well, it was a mental shift of, well, if the house is interstate, it becomes quite hard to actually do anything with it hands-on. And also because at the time we bought houses without looking at what potential they had as development sites. So it became let’s go and find something where we can be hands-on, we can learn the process of developing and then use that as a kickstart to future projects. It’s a good learning lesson for people that don’t jump in the deep end and buy something that’s too far out of your capabilities. Like I did start small. And so after I sold that project, I went back to starting really small and I started doing extensions. That then helped me understand sort of the DA process and the CC process. The construction certificate process after that. Then what it took to sort of project management and build and how much is involved in building a house.        

Taking on such a big project by herself, there were plenty of learning experiences for her and she shares some of them with us. 

That if you’re doing I guess an older house, there will be unexpected things that pop up. Once you start may be opening up the floors, you find that some of the peers, the supports, the foundations are not what you thought they were, there might be previous termite damage. So you’ve always got to have a bit of a buffer I think in place to allow for things like that. I guess also that you’ve got to trust your trades. You’ve gotta be able to try to find people that you work well with. Then sometimes it doesn’t come down to price. I learned that if you always go for the cheapest person, often it comes back to bite you. So I sometimes go for the person that gives you confidence and has the most experience.

I’ve had problems with pretty much everything. But sometimes they’re too busy and they’ve quoted too low on too many jobs, so then they say they’ll come next week and they just drag it out, you know, week after and the week after that. And you know, on any project you don’t want the holding costs to build up. Also quality. Sometimes they say they know what they’re doing and you’ve always got to check that they’re licensed, but still, sometimes, the quality of it becomes quite poor if they’re rushed. And sometimes they just give you a headache, they complain about everything. They’re not happy about the job they’re doing and it’s just not worth that sort of stress.

I’ve had friends who have developed their own house and stuff like that and a project that they expected would probably take no more than 12 months turned into a three and a half to the four-year project because they chose a builder who was a bit cheaper, even though they saved a lot of the costs themselves. They purchased a lot of stuff overseas and brought it back here. But just the amount of time that it took, you know, the delays, the build and so forth, like that just wasn’t worth it. And I think at the end of the day, sometimes as you said, choosing the cheapest tradesperson doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best. And that happens again in a lot of things, I can vouch for that. Even in just choosing the developer for a site, choosing the cheapest doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to get it done. Well, it’s just at the end of the day they could be cheaper just because of their lack of experience.

Someone said the price is what you pay, but you have to actually look at the value that you’re getting from what you’re paying.         

Morgan talks to us about what kind of developments she was doing whether it be structural or townhouses or units. 

I did a couple of structural ones. Then I came across a site that allowed me to build a duplex and it made sense and it was brought to me by a draftsman that I had done some work with. So it was someone I trusted and he was actually looking at buying it but didn’t have the funds. So I ended up buying that site. And actually, funny story, I had to buy it twice at auction. I was the underbidder the first time. And then the developer didn’t settle, he actually didn’t have the funds to complete the settlement. So he lost his deposit and three months later went back on the market and I bought it for a $100,000 less. So that was a really good project all the way through. So I found my builder through that project. And he’s an excellent guy that I’ve done multiple projects with after. We built this compliant development duplex because the site was already on two lots. So it actually allowed us to do compliant development. I didn’t have the pain of going through a DA and I learned so much about the compliant development process and sort of how straight forward it can be compared to process through council.        

We find out more about her duplex development and also the final outcome.

I think half of it was that the market was on an upward cycle, so there was a good chunk of the profit that was attributed to the growth in the market. Then the other half was that the project was on a great street, it was a fairly quick project as it was about 12 months end to end. There weren’t any delays with objections from neighbours or drama along that side because there was no DA involved. The compliant development is so powerful in that, you know, within a month you will basically be able to start the project because as long as you comply with what the guidelines are, then your project is automatically approved. And it was a four-bedroom duplex with a studio and garage off the bat. And it was a good product for the market at the time. So I was able to sell it for a premium.

What kind of profit did you make out of a project like that?

So it was somewhere around 700,00-$800,000. A lot of money.        

Did Morgan decide to use those funds to reinvest in other properties?

I did invest in a joint venture, so that has been going on for nearly two years now. And it is a good project. It’s a four townhouse development in the Eastern Suburbs. So it allowed me to try different things like joint ventures and be able to go into a bigger project that we as individuals wouldn’t have been able to do on our own. But with our funds combined, we were able to invest in a project that had bigger margins. So four townhouses now and nearly complete. And hopefully, by the end of the year we will have them, you know, two of them are presold. We sold them at a time when we saw the market going down and now we’ve got two left that we’ll get really good prices on as well.

I mean we haven’t sold all of them yet. But it should be around about sort of the 20, 30% mark which we’ll probably leave each joint venture party with maybe $500,000 plus at the end of the day.

We walked into it having a good amount of trust for the joint venture partner and they were very similar. They were another couple that also had experience with small developments like us and it was very much 50/50. We decided we had similar experiences, similar cash flow and together we were able to put in the funds and experience at a time to make the project work.        

When you are working with other people you can not only learn a lot about them but about yourself as well. 

I think it came out as who was stronger in certain areas. One of my strengths is finishes. I love doing nice finishes like marble and timber floors and that sort of thing. So that’s sort of become more of my focus. Whereas they’ve done a lot of accounting and admin and the financial side of things. But it wasn’t set in stone from the beginning. It was more as we went along whose strengths came out and who was better suited to doing each role.        

If you are passionate and love your work it does not matter about how much money you have, you’ll always want to do it. 

It’s actually quite interesting because my husband and I have just been talking about this over the last few days and we’ve been financially free for awhile. If we wanted to, we could basically retire, but it’s not what we want to do. On paper, we’ve got financial freedom, but in our heads we really want to achieve a lot more. It’s good in a way, it’s good to be in this situation because work is a choice and we work because we’re passionate about what we do. We want to build up great businesses that help people versus working because it’s something that we have to do.        

Successful people have a number of driving or motivating factors and we learn about some of Morgan’s. 

I think it’s a mindset, I’ve always been an ambitious and entrepreneurial person. I think it’s about building a strong base for my family and my kids whilst also teaching them the value of hard work. But also just making myself feel productive and satisfied in my life. And I think if I ever retired I would go crazy in about two weeks.        

Melissa Morgan Manage Assets With Family
Melissa Morgan Manage Assets With Family

Sometimes you just need to trust your gut and learn from your decisions whether they be good or bad. 

I have not had any mentors or followed any one person’s path which probably I guess is fairly unique. In that, I sort of formulated my own plans based on instinct and some good and some bad decision making. I found the property chat forums a few years back. And that has actually helped me quite a bit in terms of mindset in that there’s a community of like-minded people out there that are passionate about property. In my early days, I didn’t have much support and even when I did my Hurstville project and it was going badly, I had very little support, very few people I could turn to. But having since found the property chat forums and also now I organise the meetups in Sydney, I love the social aspect and even if people don’t like talking about property, it’s still people that are very like-minded.        

It is important to learn from as many people who have had a lot of experience in the field you are trying to break into. 

I just found that I read a lot in the earlier days when I was catching the train to Macquarie, all I did was read nonstop. And nothing actually jumps out at me, which is probably a good thing. I think people should try and absorb as much as they can from other people’s experiences, but then try to formulate their own view that makes their own situation. And it is really about continually reading and continually sort of educating yourself and listening to podcasts and hearing other people’s experiences because then they trigger sort of little things to inspire you. Well, they did for me to continue to look at my own portfolio or to go and assess what I could do with my existing properties. It was just the continual thing that helped. Not any one particular book or person.        

Morgan shares with us a piece of advice that has stuck with her and that she has applied to her career. 

Something comes to mind and it’s actually a saying that I read somewhere. And that is, it’s not what you do in a day that makes you tired, it’s actually the opportunities you miss and what you don’t do in a day. And that’s been very much my philosophy is that I love being productive. And when I do that, I actually feel really good. But if I don’t do anything then that’s when I get really tired and run down.        

Being able to bounce ideas off your partner that understands your business can really come in handy. 

One of them is probably talking to your partner. I’m fortunate that my husband and I are very similar in our goals and our approaches. Actually, no, that’s not true. We are very different in our approaches, but we are very similar in our end results. And we bounce ideas off each other constantly. And I think that that’s really important to do so that you’re on the same page. And when we talk to each other, we’ll come up with new ideas and come to new conclusions because we’ve sort of thought out loud what we’re dealing with in our day to day jobs and our mindset.

The thing we do is try and reward ourselves a little bit. Like, you know, we go out for a really nice dinner and we both love our food. He’s got a passion for cars, so he’s bought himself a Porsche race car. It’s the little things, like we go for overnight trips away, can’t take much more than overnight away. And in nice little places. It just recharges us and makes us sort of appreciate how hard we work, but we’ve got the rewards for it.        

Throughout her years of experience, she shares what she would have liked to have done a little earlier in her career. 

I probably would’ve started the business earlier if anything. I would’ve said, “Hey, jump into the property management business because there is so much potential there and so much you can add.” And maybe focus less on the glamour of property development. I think everyone thinks probably development is hugely profitable and a very glamorous type of job, but really it’s super hard work and there’s a lot of risk there as well.

How does it compare to property management?

Property management is day to day in managing risk for yourself or for other people. But as a business, it is almost no risk because you’re providing a service. And as long as you do a good job, your client base will grow.

It’s a customer service job at the end of the day. It’s about doing the right thing by people. Especially I think the tenants, if they’re happy, then they’ll stay in the property and look after the property, which at the end of the day results in a better asset for the owner.        

Having achieved so much already throughout her career, there is still so much that Morgan is looking forward to in the future. 

I think it’s continuing to see what we’ve done over the last 20 years, grow over the next 20 years. Just to see the buy and hold properties grow. Hopefully, Queensland will go up a bit more. I think everybody’s waiting for Queensland to go up a bit more. And you know, these businesses that we’ve built, to see where they can go. I think of my business like an investment property. It’s got its cash flow coming in, but it’s also sort of an equity base. And I love to see how that will grow over the next five years. And then also trying to sort of, I guess help our kids grow and give them a good understanding of investing and how powerful, even things like compound interest can be, those things that they don’t really learn at school.        

Everyone needs to have a little bit of luck along the way but through hard work and passion is where success is achieved. 

I think there’s definitely a component of luck in everyone’s success. I’ve also had some fair share of bad luck. But it comes down to a passion for what you do. I think because I really always wanted to be ambitious and to achieve things, I kept pushing myself and what I do doesn’t feel like work. It’s more just what I do. So I think without that mindset and that drive and then it becomes harder to achieve what I have.        

If you want to keep in contact with Melissa Morgan after the podcast she provides details of how to do so. 

The website is www.progressiveproperty.com.au and feel free to shoot me an email at melissa@progressiveproperty.com.au. I’d love to chat to anyone that needs help with property management or even their portfolio. And I’m happy to even throw in the first month of property management for free just so they can try it out.

This episode was produced by Andrew Faleafaga with narrations and interviews conducted by Tyrone Shum.


Tyrone Shum
Tyrone Shum

Host of very popular podcast called "Property Investory". It is ranked #1 for Property Podcast on iTunes Australia with over 1.2 million downloads since 2017. The podcast shares the latest investor stories, strategies, and examples from Australia’s most innovative property experts. His been interviewed across 30 different podcasts from around the world, featured on numerous world-class blogs and invited to speak at numerous events with over 100 attendees.