Hosted By Tyrone Shum

Renovation Tips For Your Investment Property With Oliver Jackson

Updated 26/08/2019

Oliver Jackson is a property buyer’s agent so he will help his clients on valuing properties and also get it for a good price. He and his wife started a business called Living Property in order to not only help buy but give renovation tips to clients on how to rejuvenate their property. Jackson started off working in construction but eventually made the transition to property and quickly become immersed in that world. 

Join us as we find out more about Oliver Jackson and how he becomes a property buyer’s agent. We talk about some advice he would give to first-time renovators and what you need to look out for and also avoid when you are hiring people to come and work on your property. You’ll also hear about some of his fantastic travel stories and much more, all on this episode of Property Investory!

'I like to have money and a good portfolio was the only way really for someone from middle-class Australia to make money'

Oliver Jackson

Jackson is a buyers agent based in Victoria. A typical day for him is waking up very early before the sun rises and moves through a very hectic schedule from start to finish.

My day consists of, I wake up at about 5:00 AM. I go to the gym. I do some yoga. I go to the beach, have a swim, summer or winter, I'll still get in there. I had a sauna. I wake my children up, give them some breakfast and then my day starts with my business.  I do a lot of emails and phone calls in the morning and do some research. I mean I head off and do different meetings with different business partners or clients.

Gosh, that's an early start. And what time does your day usually end?

You go to bed around nine o'clock.

That’s a pretty full day. You've got quite a lot on every day then.

Yeah, it's seven days a week. I got two and a half-year-old twins, so it's always hectic.

Their beautiful twins

I mean, it's funny because when you go to three kids, you end up having to get a second car and then all the logistics just get thrown out the window.

Yeah. As soon as they’ve all got friends, you're in trouble.

Jackson grew up in ACT and spent most of his childhood and teenage years there.

I actually grew up in Canberra. So I did all of my schooling career in Canberra. Pretty much the week after I finished year 12 I moved to Melbourne. Well, I think 19 years ago now and I haven't been back since.

He tells us what he would get up to as a kid living in Canberra. 

I just went to the public schools. Went to Deakin High and Narrabundah College. Played quite a lot of basketball. To tell you the truth, there's not much down in Canberra. I used to skate when I was younger, skateboarding. Played a heap of sport, there’s not really much you can do in Canberra. Caused a little bit of trouble here and there. That's pretty much it. Just hung out with friends and played sport. It’s a pretty small place to tell you the truth. 

Jackson decided on his own that he wanted to move to Melbourne. 

I think I was 18. I just moved down with a bunch of friends that lived there already. One guy that I went to school lived here. So I actually just packed up and left.

Moving at a young age meant that Jackson needed to find some work to make some money. 

I left Canberra; I think I was 18 and moved to the snowfields of Melbourne for the season and then I moved to Melbourne and just lived in a house with a bunch of friends and did some hospitality work as you do. Then I got my personal training certificate and was doing some personal training and some hospitality and kind of just enjoying being 19.

Then he discovered travelling and that enabled him to enjoy the rest of his twenties.

Well, I got the preapproval like 16 years ago, I got the preapproval and I was going to look at purchasing and then I decided to do the travel thing. It ended up going for longer than I thought it would.  

How long did it go for?

Probably eight years. 

That would have been a very good eight years. To travel the world would be amazing. 

I reckon everyone should actually do it. You know, you've got to travel and hang out and enjoy it. Enjoy life before you get too serious I guess.

You need to take full advantage while you’re young according to Jackson. 

It’s not as fun is it when you’re older. When you’re young you don’t really have any worries or cares and you just do it. It's kind of like a life experience. 

Jackson shares with us some of the places he has visited. 

I did a fair bit of traveling through Europe, through Spain, the UK, a bit of Holland and France and went through North America, Canada, fair bit of Asia, Thailand, Japan, South America in my late twenties and Cuba and Central America. Kept coming and going like I only used to go for say a month, two months, three months, and then just come back, work, save up some money, do it again. It was pretty fun. 

Many people have asked, how did he manage to save enough money at a young age to go on these trips?

When I was in my early twenties, you can kind of travel with not much money. You know, you meet a lot of people and stay on some couches. I think the first trip I did I was 21. I did three months through Europe and Japan and a bit of America. When you’re 21 you don’t really care, do you? Save enough money, you’ve got enough for a flight, you kind of saving enough money to last you the whole time you’re there and you seem to make it work. Every time you come back you realise you might just have to save a little bit more for the next time. The last big one I did was my honeymoon. I think I was in my late twenties; we did three months through Central and South America. So obviously, you know, I was a bit older and wiser in those times. So we saved quite a long time for that. The life lessons you learn are unbelievable through traveling and the people you meet.

Wow. So what has been your favourite country to travel to?

I'd have to say Mexico, Cuba, and actually went to Vietnam a couple of weeks ago and the food in that country. Mind-blowing.

How does it compare to Vietnamese food in Sydney or Melbourne?

It doesn't compare. I don't know if it's because you're there, but the food, obviously when you're in their native countries, it's just something about it. It's like local love.

It's authentic food. It's just naturally fresh. You don't have it all processed.

Exactly. And you're sitting on a chair in an alleyway. You’re in the culture. It's just everything about it just makes the experience so much nicer.

As a man of many trades, he tells us about some of the other professions he has worked in. 

With the personal training, I did for most of my twenties just on the side, like this little side business, train a few people and have a few group sessions. And then 25 to 28, I actually owned a cafe in the suburb of Toorak in Melbourne with a friend of mine. So we ran that for about three years, and then I obviously learned a lot from that. Running a business at quite a young age, especially in hospitality, I learned a lot. Then I ended up actually going into the construction industry because the money in Melbourne and construction is pretty amazing as you probably know. I got offered a job where I was going to make some really good money and there was a good 10 year run in the construction industry in Melbourne. So we actually sold the cafe, and I moved into the construction industry.

Personal Training Days

How long were you in construction for?

Seven years. 

During this time, Jackson decided to look into property investments and he shares with us when he started the process.

It was about probably two years into it. You make pretty crazy money in construction. So I thought about me and my wife, she wasn’t my wife then; she was my girlfriend actually, though we needed to get into the property market soon. Because with my building background and she’s from the artistic side, so her interior design is incredible. So together we bought a place in Melbourne and fully gutted it, renovated it, pretty much did the whole thing ourselves apart from the electrical and plumbing. I’d work all day and then we’d renovate all night. We actually made a heap of money and we’ve still got that property today, actually. So our plan was to stay there for the long haul. Then we found out we were having twins, so we needed to upgrade. So as we were going, we kind of just built the portfolio just for buying. We renovated every property we’ve had, built the equity up and used that to buy the next place. 

Jackson has always been driven to retire early and we find out where the inspiration came from.

My mom just lives in a house that she bought, and she still lives there and my dad, I think he’s the same. I’m not sure if he actually has a property portfolio. I’ve always been driven to retire early. I like nice things. I like to have money, and a good portfolio was the only way really for someone from middle-class Australia to make money. To work, put that money into something that’s going to make you money and property, as you and most people in Australia know, is a good way to build wealth and my wife was on the same page. With our backgrounds, me in the construction industry and hers in the artistic industry, together we work really well. She designs,  can walk straight into a place and just be like, this is what we have to do and then I can do the physical side of things. We must work really well together. So we’re just going to keep doing it.

Since buying his first property, what else has he added to his portfolio?

So we’ve got three at the moment. All in Melbourne.  The house we actually live in, where we bought a 4,000-meter block in Frankston, South Mount Eliza area in Melbourne. So the plan for the future obviously is to develop that and until then we're just going to keep buying units or houses until we can develop that cause it's got a covenant over it at the moment. But that's up for renewal soon. So that's just like a land banking play and it’s a beautiful house. 

This is Oliver Jackson on site within the construction industry

Explain to listeners what the covenant is and, and how does that affect your property?

So the Covenant is, they put an overlay on our street. So every property in the street is either half an acre or over an acre, so 4,000 metres. To subdivide it, the blocks have to be a minimum of two and a half thousand. So every three years it comes up for renewal and the council goes over it and they decide if they're going to keep the covenant or not. So over time, obviously they're going to have to lift the covenant because they’re going to run out of the room. So every three years we'll just wait until the day they say that we can do it, I guess.

You could easily subdivide a 4000 square metre block, couldn’t you?

I dare say with the area that it is because it's quite a beautiful area on the back of the hill. I dare say you won't be able to do more than two. That will still keep blocks big. It's still an awesome size block.

So just out of curiosity, how much does that cost to buy in Frankston.

So that is worth about $1.3, 1.4 million today.

Was that a recent purchase?

I bought that two and a half years ago for 900,000

Jackson loves the area so much he struggles to bring himself to subdivide it.

It's beautiful. That's a beautiful area. We love it down there. I don't want to subdivide to tell you the truth because I actually love it. Things change. So it's good to have the option later down the track.

Jackson and his wife turned out to be the perfect team when it comes to renovating property. 

I think it was the fact that we both felt that we could actually buy the property and do something to it ourselves. We were sick of paying rent basically and we wanted to have something that was our own and we could add value and make it how we wanted it with both of us together. I could do the renovation and she could design it and she loves getting her hands dirty as well. I think we just felt that we can buy a property and make it our own. When you start to think we’re going to get married, we’re going to settle down. We want to have our own place, our own home and together we did it and then we made some really, really good money out of it. So we’re like, wow, we need to keep doing this. Like we need a bigger place now, let’s keep this one, get something bigger and it kind of just flowed on from there.

Inaction is a mistake that Jackson tries to avoid. 

Renovating doesn't always go according to plan. The only bad ones is not buying more when I had the borrowing capacity to do it. That's pretty much the worst thing you could do is not do anything at all. I've helped a lot of friends buy, renovate their properties and just me telling them, ‘You've got to do it, you've got to do it.’ It's just not doing it is the worst thing you can do. Overthinking it and just not getting involved.

Property is always tricky and he talks about some of the challenges he has faced when it comes to renovating properties. 

The first for me it was like dealing with tradies. For someone who doesn't know how to deal with tradies, I'm sure it can be a nightmare. Because I know a lot of different tradies being in the industry. If one of them was messing me around, I could go to another one where I'm sure there's a lot of people like a tradie says to you, ‘I’ll be there on Tuesday,’ and then they go, ‘No, no, sorry, Thursday, no, no sorry Tuesday.’ So there's one week where you've lost a lot of money because he hasn't turned up and the next guy can't do the work. So it's the time management with the tradies and them turning up that can cost you a lot of money if it doesn't go according to plan. And then obviously sometimes when you're renovating you change your mind along the way. So the one thing that I will say is if you're going to renovate, stick to the plan because changing your mind could cost a fortune. 

It’s easier for Jackson to stay on plan and make less changes if it’s an investment property. 

The investment properties we own, we stuck to the plan because we're not going to live there. We just did it as a space that was going to work well. But when you were going to live there, you kind of go, actually, maybe I want this, but you don't realise until you get to a point in the renovation and then you're like, oh, actually maybe we want it like this. And then that's the kind of things that cost you money because everything has to kind of change around it. So for an investment property, it's much easier because you just like to stick to the plan. You don't have emotion involved.

“To actually see people doing it is one thing, but then when you've actually done it and then you've actually made money and you get to be proud of what you've done is a pretty awesome experience.”
-Oliver Jackson

Taking some time to reflect he shares with us one of his most memorable moments during his property journey.

The Aha moment was actually buying the first property, renovating it, finishing it and sitting in it and just being like, wow, we just did this and we made money. This actually works. It was just amazing. So to actually see people doing it is one thing, but then when you've actually done it and then you've actually made money and you get to be proud of what you've done is a pretty awesome experience.

The first property was a huge success for them. 

A friend of mine is a buyer’s agent, and he’s actually the one that got me into the buyer’s agency world. I didn’t actually even know what a buyer’s agent was until I met him and he actually bought the block and we all got an apartment each because there was a group of us. So we renovated the external part of the block, and then we all did our internals. I think it was $364,000 for a two-bedroom unit with a massive, massive, massive courtyard. So we put fences up, subdivided all the common areas, and we gutted it. We pulled down three low bearing walls inside it. Really opened it up, did a massive deck. We went all out on that. It was beautiful. We did a really beautiful job. And I think when I finished it was worth 600,000 about six months later when I got it revalued. 

How long did the renovation take?

I think the renovation took five and a half weeks. I worked on it from 4:00 PM to midnight every day.

That's full time.

After work. I don't think the neighbors like me too much. Obviously had some trades in there when we needed them five weeks. We did it pretty fast. We really wanted to get in there. And obviously the longer you're out, the more money it costs you. I think six weeks, this was in 2013 maybe? I think it was.

There are so many factors when it comes to how a property is valued. Jackson talks us through some of them. 

I think it was a good buy. It was bought well under market value because we actually renovated the whole outside of the building. So we bought the value of the whole building up, not just our apartments. The whole building value came up. It looked nice. We had nice fences up, did a lot of landscaping plus the renovation we did inside. We really opened it up. We had the new big backyard. It was pretty rare for that area. It's in Ormond, which is a really good area in Melbourne. So with the good buying and the good renovation, I think it was just well under market when we bought it and the renovation really pushed it up.

How many units were in a complex like that? Just curious. 

I believe it's 12. Two buildings. It was two buildings so six and six. 

That's still good. I mean it's not that much in the sense to compete with as well too. So there’s not as much supply and more demand for that area because you know, at the apartments nowadays they're building hundreds of them all in one complex. So it makes it very hard...

This was the 1960s or 1970s building. 

Has the property raised in value since then?

I got it valued five months ago, I think it was worth about 720 with the bank valuation that we just got. So we’ve done pretty well. 

Jackson and his wife were already looking towards the future when they moved in there. 

We lived there for a couple of years. We actually bought the other house and then literally a week after the kids were born, we moved to the new house. 

Oliver Jackson’s Expert Advice On What To Do When Buying A Property.

Jackson has experienced an interesting property journey where it’s intertwined with his family. Receiving the news that he was going to be having twins was something unforgettable.

The next one was, ‘Oh my God, we’re having twins, we’re going to run out of space very quickly. Let’s move now.’ So that’s when we bought the block, that 4,000-metre block in Frankston South. We just went down there. I actually knew that real estate agent that was selling it and we fell in love with just the street, the house and obviously the potential for the future for what we can do with it. And I think we literally bought it that weekend. It was like we put in the offer that weekend. It was a great buy. We really wanted to live in that area. It’s a very, very good area as into the Frankston High School zone and Derinya primary school zone, which are really good signs. It just made sense at the time and with the future development possibility, and it was a no brainer.

Having equity and being on a solid wage was helpful for Jackson when buying a property. 

We used the equity and obviously I was on a very good wage so it made it a lot easier.

We find out more about his third property purchase and how it comes about. 

The third one we bought last November. It was another unit in the Frankston area. It was actually another block purchase as well, we bought a block with a bunch of people, did the same thing, the renovation of the outside of the building. Then we did the internals. Purchased that for only 233,000 and I’d got the bank valuation a month later and it was 365, so that was a better renovation because it was less emotionally involved. It’s a really big 1970s block again. There are only six apartments in a block and they’re just really big apartments in a really good spot.

Strategy is a key component of any property investor’s success and Jackson shares how he applies this.

I’m a fan of the buy, renovate and hold forever. Use the equity instead of selling it and making some quick money, I'd rather hold onto it because they're all good assets in good locations and then just keep buying more.

Mainly based in Victoria, he discusses his future aspirations for buying locations.    

The next place we buy we’re not actually sure yet. Possibly in Melbourne, possibly Brisbane, LA. There are so many options out there at the moment. I really like the block strategy, so I’m always looking for blocks. It’s just a really good way to buy good assets. You get a discount because you’re buying it in bulk. So I’m looking at blocks also in Brisbane to possibly purchase. It just so happens that I know a lot of the people in Melbourne, so it makes it a lot easier. And you get these kinds of deals happening. I’m 100% an [inaudible] investor that just hasn’t bought interstate for myself.      

We find out about some of the connections that Jackson has made and how they help him with his properties.        

These are pretty unique properties. So obviously, as I said, there's a lot of off-market properties. So with the relationships, I've built these come up, I don't think any of them have actually been on market. So when I do look for properties that are on the market, I just look for the fundamentals of good areas, blue-chip areas, good population growth, close to the schools. The school's zones in Melbourne are a big thing. There are a few public high schools in Melbourne that people go crazy for. So I'm finding a lot of good properties around those areas. As for interstate, it's the same fundamentals Australia-wide to tell you the truth.      

An interesting factor that comes into play when buying a house in Melbourne affects how Jackson finds properties for himself and his clients.      

I think a lot of people they think there's some really good high schools in Melbourne and instead of spending $30,000 a year on a private school, they can pay an extra couple hundred thousand dollars for their property and send their kids to a good public school, which their quality of education is not much worse than the private schools. They don't have to pay the school fees. So they're getting a better house in a school zone for a school that they can send their kids to and be happy about it. Instead of spending $30,000 to $50,000 a year for a private school.    

There is a key element that usually becomes a hindrance when buying a property.        

The first property we actually bought, we wanted to actually live in a different suburb and for what we could get, to what we actually ended up getting in, it was just two suburbs away which wasn’t such a big difference. So we decided to go. You know what, let’s sacrifice two suburbs to get something that’s going to make more sense in the long run. And then we ended up spending the extra money on the renovation that we didn’t spend on the suburb we really, really wanted. And it was home anyway because we made it how we wanted it and it was only two suburbs away. So if it’s for an investment, you just got to follow the numbers. It’s almost better not to go through the property, just to do the numbers get the building and pest inspection and get the real estate agent to go through the property and take video of it for you so you don’t actually have to walk in there and get emotional if it all makes sense to you. If you like the floor layout on the plan and then once you purchased the property then you can go in there and renovate it or even get a project manager to do it for you.     

He gives us a tip on what you should do to make sure you get the job done in the best way.          

That's the best thing about a professional is if you hire a professional to go through it like a building and pest inspector, they're going to check it for you anyway. So you can actually pay someone who actually knows what to look for instead of you just thinking that you know what you're doing. The only reason you're going in there is for the emotional side of things and stuff like that. So if you get a professional to do it, you're kind of ticking all the boxes and he's going to do a nonemotional walk-through for you.      

It is always hard to know who the right people for the job are especially when you have little experience.    

I have connections in the industry, so I know people. You’ve just got to get referrals. So basically if you find someone, let's say Google, Facebook or you find a friend that's done a renovation, ring them up and ask them how they went. If you find a project manager who's going to run a job for you, ask them for the number of five clients they’ve serviced in the last year and then ring them up and just go, ‘Look. I was just wondering how the experience went.’ Even drive past the house and have a look if you don't think they’re legitimate. Do your due diligence, ring around. Don't be afraid to ring people and just ask the questions because the only way you're really going to know is by knowing what they've done before that.    

Everybody learns from life experiences and we find out what Jackson learned from his.  

Initially, it was money. So we're lucky enough that my wife's dad had a bit of equity in his property. To use him as the guarantor, we didn't have to put as much money in for the deposit so we could actually use that for the renovation. So it made a big difference for us. Like the best thing about the guarantor is the person that's doing it doesn't actually have to give you any money. They just have to use their equity, sign a piece of paper and then once your property goes up in value, they get signed off and they're not even involved in it anymore. So it's a really good option for people because it’s hard to save for the deposit.     

Jackson talks about his first property and how they were able to purchase it.    

We put in a 10% deposit and if you don't have a 20% deposit then you need a guarantee or you can pay more lenders insurance. So we had the 10% deposit and he just guaranteed the rest of the deposit against his property and then we used that cash for the renovation.       

After his first property, it become easier and easier for Jackson and his wife to secure other properties. 

Then we just used our own properties to leverage for the next property. We didn't need his help again. Initially get in. Because to save 20% plus stamp duty plus legal fees, it's very hard for people when they're in their twenties plus you're paying $600 a week rent. It's hard no matter how much money you're making.  

Jackson lets us in on how his family helped shape his career path. 

Towards the end of the seven years, I wasn't getting to see my kids too much because I was working 12 hours a day, six days a week. Obviously the portfolio was bubbling along and I was kind of helping a lot of friends with building their portfolios and helping them renovate. I kind of got to an organic stage where I was like, I've got to turn this into a business. So it just kind of naturally happened that I ended up going to the buyer's agency space and starting my business with my wife. You get to work from home. We work together, we've got the kids and by helping other people do what we did. It's super beneficial and I just like helping people and I get to spend more time with family. It was a no brainer.    

Happy Clients of Living Property

There are so many different avenues nowadays to educate yourself on new topics.       

Podcasts are probably the greatest invention for anyone in any form of education, especially property. There’s a lot of really good property podcasts out there. Mindset podcasts, there’s so much information these days, it’s unbelievable. So for people that don’t know, it’s crazy. There’s so much information. If you put in the time and effort, you can learn so much. The same with renovation, you can learn through YouTube videos and learn how to do it. Anyone can do it.     

To keep his mind ticking over and continued growth Jackson tells us what resources he uses.   

I try to read a book a week. That's the plan, doesn't always happen. So I do audiobooks and podcasts when I'm driving or walking or running. And I do actual books at night. I read about for about one to two hours every night from business to mindset, property, sleep books, like all sorts of random stuff. Every day I’m trying to educate myself as much as physically possible.

Jackson also shares with us some of the books that he likes to read. .

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss, the FBI hostage negotiator. That’s a really, really, really good book. Obstacle is the way is a really good book by an American entrepreneur and there are so many good books out there.     

Advice can do different things for different people and Jackson tells us the best piece of advice his been given.   

If you have fear about anything, just face it head-on and just overcome it. I reckon it’s fear of, ‘It's not going to work out.’ There's always noise about the property market but if you’re in the right place at the right time to do it, just do it, overcome it and face it head-on.   

Some of the most successful people in the world are creatures of habit and Jackson is no different.  

I’m a pretty driven person. Like if I decided to do something, I do it full on. I might even get a little bit psychotic about it. I literally have had the same morning routine for 10 years and I’m religious about. It starts my day, which obviously sets up the rest of my day. I’m pretty driven and I really, really like to follow schedules and I’m very organised in that way. So if I don’t start my morning the way I like to start it, then the rest of the day goes pretty badly.      

Sometimes routine does not always go according to plan day in and day out and this is how Jackson handles it.  

It makes me a lot more patient. I've become more patient as the older I'm getting. If you're having a bad day, you're having a bad day. There’s not much you can do about it. You just deal with it best you can and wait for the next day I guess.    

We find out what kind of life experiences Jackson has learned over his career. 

I’d say you should have bought that property. What would I say? Honestly just enjoy your 20s because when you get to 30 and 40 and it is really hard to do what you could do in your 20s. You got kids, you go get married, serious career. So if you're in your twenties just enjoy it. Think about your future and don't be crazy but you just got to enjoy it, man. Cause you know, you only get one chance to be in your 20s       

It is always important to think about where one is headed in the next few years and Jackson shares his plans…   

Lifting the covenant off my property maybe. No, I just think about building my business and building my property portfolio. I’m in no rush to build the portfolio. It will happen when I find the right place for myself at the right time, I'll do it. But at the moment I'm just focusing on the business before I worry too much about the portfolio.  

Jackson shares with us whether intelligence, skill, and hard work played a role in his success or whether it was just pure luck.       

I believe you could create your own luck. It’s all the hard work and intelligence as in if I don’t know something I ask someone who’s a lot smarter than me. If you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room. So if I don’t know something, I’m not afraid to call someone who does know and ask them the question, no matter if I’ve never met them before. Then luck comes if you keep trying to do the right thing and keep pushing forward. Then luck’s just going to happen for you.     

It always helps to have a mentor who one can call on that can provide nuggets of gold and Jackson shares whose mentor has been.

It's been an interesting year and eighteen months where I've had a lot of mentors and a lot of education to more of the business side of things. Cause I know the property side and the renovation side. The running a business side was hard, it's been a long time, been a decade since I'd had the cafe. So I've just reached out and paid for a lot of education. I read a lot of books or ring people that are doing really well in the space. I'm not afraid to ring anyone up and ask them to sit down with them for five minutes or whatever the time they can give me, just ask them questions about how they run their business. So I just love learning from people who've done it because they've done it, they've been through the same struggles I’ve been through. I try to share my fears and learn from them.  

If you want to stay connected with Jackson, he gives us some of his social media details.   

Linkedin, Facebook, and Instagram are Oliver Jackson. I got a website

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

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