Investment Game Strategies for Renovating, Boarding and Leasing
Struck with unfortunate loss at an early age, Corina Sell had to deal with managing her own living conditions from the young age of 15. With years of personal renting experience under her belt, numerous jobs on her resume and a drive for success, Sell eventually discovered her passion for property and the out of the box winning game strategies she could create homes for others while providing herself with an income.
So join us in this episode of Property Investory as we discuss Sell’s early childhood, the challenges she faced and self-motivation she gained in the process of moving out as a teenager and how an unexpected recruitment job sparked her interest in making money and property work for her. We’ll also be talking about the interesting deal Sell made when securing her first property, the moment she realised she could create communities with property and the tips and tricks she’s learnt along the way.
Investing and renovating in regional unit’s, much of Sell’s property journey takes a different approach to your normal buy and hold or flip and sell investing strategies…
I do a lot of property with most of my time and I also do some stuff with The Small Is The New Big.
So yeah that’s me, and I guess what I’m up to is I renovate regional units and I’m into boarding houses, rooming houses and leasing rooms that you can lease out by the room.
She adds that because of this, no two days are the same, every day involving both reactive and proactive responses in regards to her property projects…
Every day looks a little bit different to the next. So some of it is reactive following up to trying to put tenants into bedrooms, trying to respond to maintenance requests on units. Sometimes I’m working on a reno. There’s the proactive part which is where I’m actually going and getting sorted and trying to move deals that I’ve got along, or searching for new ones, talking to joint venture partners. And then there’s the bit with The Small Is The New Big where I’m actually helping with enrollments and helping with stuff with them as well.
Growing up in a small suburb in Victoria, Sell describes how her early childhood lifestyle was much different from her current one now…
A nice little suburb called Noble Park. It’s in Victoria and it was almost considered nearly the ghetto. So let’s just say it’s not a high-end suburb. It has changed a lot now, but certainly at the time I grew up in it it wasn’t a sought after suburb at all anyway.
It’s completely different now. So I grew up in Victoria. I’m now in Sydney. I grew up around a lot of poverty. We always were struggling to come up with money. We had debt collectors at our doors, I moved out of home at 15 and was making it on my own. At 16 I was renting my first place through some government support. Now I’m in Sydney in Rose Bay living in a penthouse a minute from the beach, so very different now.
Having to experience the unfortunate passing of her mother, Sell’s living conditions as a young child changed before she ultimately decided to move out and live on her own and continue her education…
I did primary school, went to high school. When I was 15 I actually lost my mum. When I grew up my mum was a sole parent pension. So it was me and my sister. So I had to change schools. I went to move in with my dad in Geelong, so the opposite end of Victoria and that lasted a year. I wasn’t happy around the friends and stuff there, my Dad and I now have a great relationship but at that time it wasn’t amazing and yeah I chose to move out of home, move back to Victoria – sorry, move back to end up living in Dandenong so that I could go back to the school with my friends and yeah I was living at a home with credit card debt.
I don’t know why they gave it, you know I was 16 when I got a credit card. I don’t know why they gave one to a 16-year-old with no job at the time but they did and I managed to get through Year 11 and 12 like that. And I did a year of university in psychology.
Having to survive on her own at such a young age, Sell delves into the challenges she had to face and what pushed her to achieve the mindset that brought her to where she is now…
Self-motivation was – I can’t say I’ve mastered it completely – but it was one that I did have to get there. I just had this burning desire to finish school. I guess ever since being a kid I always you know I just thought I’ll grow up and be a millionaire, like that was that was set in my mind and I thought at the time that it would be through a job of some sort. So I had a flatmate that started dating a drug dealer, all sorts of stuff in the house that no kid at that age should be exposed to and I could’ve easily touched it myself but I thought if I do that I’m not going to get there and I just kept myself very, very focused on the goal of finishing my year 12. I guess other things was money. I was on Centrelink payments coming through and you know realising that I had a budget but the money coming in didn’t cover, it wasn’t enough to cover the money going out, so I was working part-time while I was at school and learning. I’d love to say I learned how to prioritize, I’m not necessarily amazing at that anyway but I learnt to get by, I learnt how to get the probably the 20 per cent done that’s going to cause 80 per cent of the results.
By surrounding herself with like-minded people and realising the life she had was not the one she wanted, Sell was able to stay focused on achieving her future goals of financial security…
I think it was just having that lack of money around so consistently that it made me want something else. Now I’m not saying, when I grew up it only was when friends told me I was broke.
That I realised I was. Like I never felt like I wanted. I knew my mum was stressed about bills but I didn’t know. Yeah that was just life. That was what I was used to. But I think what I really mean it really hit me what I didn’t have, I just I think it was just completely self-driven to get there at that moment in time.
I was lucky that I was in an accelerated learning program at school, so the friends that I had around me were really dedicated to their education and to you know being out to get themselves into you know the jobs that they wanted. So I guess we kind of were nearly a tribe of people there all you know who wanted something more. So there was some support there even though we were on a completely different journey.
There was a lot of common ground there as well.
Prior to getting started in her property journey, Sell had a number of past jobs on her resume and a variety of experience under her belt…
My friends made a poem up about me on my 21st birthday about all the jobs I’d had. I pretty much stayed in anything until it didn’t serve me and so I worked at a shoe shop, I worked at Hungry Jack’s, I worked in formal wear, I worked in a call centre.
Pretty much everything seemed to last about a year but just support in the background to keep me, to keep some surplus income coming in.
It was after these jobs, and after leaving University that Sell fell into a sales job that led to another job, that eventually change her whole outlook on how to utilise money…
Once I left uni, well I wasn’t planning to leave uni, I was planning to do the whole 3 years in psychology and possibly even move onto doctorate and I just kept thinking you know I’m studying this stuff and I’m fascinated by psychology and I’m fascinated by behaviours of the brain but I just looked at the end outcome and I thought I don’t know if I actually want to be a psychologist. I certainly don’t want to be a counselling psychologist and then just on the question what this path was about and over the holidays I fell into one of those jobs where they don’t tell you what you going to be doing, you show up at the office, they drive you to a shopping centre, and I was one of those girls in the shopping centres trying to get you to sponsor a kid. I cut my teeth on sales in that and basically ended up with a team underneath me that I was training up and it was really exciting and I realized well this is too good an opportunity to go back to uni and then eventually I got a bit older and tired, all the travelling hours it was crazy. And I fell into recruitment and I landed a new job, and I went okay I’m in a new job now, they were flying me up for training in Queensland and I wanted to be all business. So I went to the business section and I bought a business book and that was Rich Dad Poor Dad, and I could not put it down the whole flight. By the time I landed, I just had this little sick feeling in my belly, I’m going into a job, like what am I doing? On the lunch breaks, I was sneaking out and reading the book. I was obsessed with it and I read just about everything in the series and it just made me go like I don’t shouldn’t be working for money, money can work for me.
And so that was a pivotal turning point for me.
That’s great. And do remember what year that was?
I would have been, so I’m 32 now and I would have been maybe 24 or 25.
Despite being inspired to make money work for her after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, Sell explains how fear held her back and what she did to further educate herself in the property sphere…
It took me a while actually so I read the book and then I had a bit of a look around I had a lot of fear come up.
I couldn’t see how this actually made sense in Australia, so I just started attending lots of different property seminars and equal share trading and different things but property was the one that resonated with me the most.
After staying in recruitment while also building up her property knowledge, Sell ended up in the seminar industry which assisted with her education.
I did another year in it, I loved it, sorry I didn’t love it. But then I fell into the seminar industry and started promoting speakers. I was a salesperson there so I’d get to travel and see different speakers and I’d get to sell their programs as well.
I’m still technically in it. But I did that particular role for three and a half years and I only stopped because of changing state.
With so much knowledge under her belt and a little money in her bank account, Sell finally decided to jump into the property market, however, doing so on rather out-of-the-box conditions…
I had a heap of education and then I still didn’t have much cash behind me. So I had $13 000 in my bank account and I managed to save that up and I was going well, “What do I do?” Like everyone says go and save until you’ve got a least a 5 per cent deposit, some say 20 per cent, and I was thinking, you know, what do I do? I can’t do property, I don’t have enough money yet I’m selling all these courses and some of these people are showing you how to do stuff with no money and people want to join programs and I’m saying to them well if you have no money just do a no money grand strategy and I wasn’t taking my own advice.
Eventually it just hit me and I found a place in Notting Hill and I still remember it was $565 000 and there was a brand new agent who was new to the industry and I said to him I’m giving you an offer for full asking price and I think he nearly had a heart attack and then I said to him but there’s a couple of terms here, I don’t actually want to pay for it for two years. And he goes, “Okay how is this going to work?” And I said, “Look I’ll give you twenty thousand dollars now, that’s my thirteen thousand dollars in savings and at that time in Victoria there was a seven thousand dollar first home owners grant.” The owner agreed. So I put my twenty thousand dollars in. I also had the clause that I could move into the property immediately that I could make some minor changes to the property and that I could sublease the rooms out in it as well. So I packed up moved in and had my own place.
But how exactly did she get the owners to agree to that contract?
What it was was they at the time Victoria was a flat market. And look I got lucky I swear, the day after I moved in the market just shot off and it was great for me. But you know there’s this thing and the market had been flat for years and years and what we’ve got and we’ve been in a flat market, soon I think that these sorts of opportunities you know start to come about a lot more in this style of market we’re moving towards now. However it had sat there, it did nothing it hadn’t moved. They had a price on it. They wanted to get it and the other thing I’d put into the clause was I would pay rent and I would pay about 100 bucks and almost 50 dollars more than what their current tenants would. So for them, they knew that they were locking in their high price, that was a bit above market. They knew that they were going to get consistent rent and it was actually going to be better. So from day one, they were in a better situation. Now that twenty thousand dollars only I think two grand went to them. The other 18 paid the agents. So the agent was happy with the deal because he was getting paid straight away.
While all of her conditions were agreed upon, Sell adds that a few clauses were given to her as well
Basically they gave me a few clauses, so six months later I needed to provide them another $20 000 years and six months after that, I need to provide them another $20 000. And at the time I was earning really good money I was in a commission only role and I thought yeah easy that’s no problem I can do that. So basically I got six months down the track and I didn’t have the 20 000. I was able to negotiate to pay them seven and the rest at the end when it came to the next 12.
Despite her initial belief that she could meet these conditions, Sell adds that by the time one year was up, her mindset had fell off track…
The payment was due 12 months down the track and my mindset was in a bad place. I was starting to go through all you know, I don’t deserve I’m not meant to own property, all that sort of stuff. And so what happened then was I was in my commission only role and instead of earning heaps and heaps of money the last six months on the job I only earned ten thousand dollars. I had this habit because it’s commission only and you know every three months you have a really crazy ridiculously good month then you might have an average one and then you have it pretty much an empty one and it was okay to spend a bit of a credit card cause you pay it off or the interest rate period kicked in.
I had a credit card debt and I had no income to show the bank how I’d be able to settle.
The whole idea and this was two years down the track I was going to be able to walk into the bank show them the improvements I made to the property, show them my serviceability and say okay well the property is now worth more than I paid and because I’ve renovated it give me the finance but it didn’t quite work like that. So I’m 12 months in and I’m just starting to freak out going okay.
Not only am I running the risk of losing this house, potentially being sued although probably not because the market had gone up, but I’m also you know I’m sitting here with credit card debt if I lose the house this credit card debts for nothing. And you know crazy interest rates all sorts of stuff happening there and I just went well what do I do? The only way to fix this is to get a steady income.
Utilising her recruitment skills, Sell decided to search for a job that would provide a steady income that would get her back on track…
So being an ex-recruiter I started – I was in sales recruitment for most that time too – I started just calling sales managers. And I called them up and wanted to be still related to property so I called up all these different companies that were in building products and I ended up calling a couple of lift companies and they pay pretty well and I end up having an interview with them and they said yes you’ve got the job but it doesn’t start for six months. And I said, well that doesn’t work I’m going to lose this house if I’ve got to wait for six months and they had a six month trial period as well once you did start.
And so the banks would want to see you know that you’ve got through your trial period. And then he said at the end of the call, “Oh unless you want to take a job in Sydney which is available right now?” and I just said yes, I packed up my life and I moved to Sydney.
It was this sudden and last-minute move that changed Sell’s life…
It was scary but I’d always wanted to do a year away and in my head, I was only going for a year. So I kept thinking you know what, I’ll go for a year old you know, create myself as who I want to be out there or get to know all these new people and it’s not too hard to move back yet. However I didn’t love the job but I did get my finance. The property had gone up in value three hundred thousand dollars and that’s tax-free income when I sold it because it was my PPR and I just fell in love with Sydney, fell in love with the peer group. I put myself all-around property investors, it was so long before I actually had any friends outside of my work colleagues that weren’t property investors just solely because I go to meet up after meet up and you know really got a great group of people around me.
While in hindsight Sell shares that she would have changed aspects of her first property deal, she believes it taught her a lot about property…
I do think it taught me a bit about you know what loss can because when you are young and you’re investing and you know you don’t have stuff behind you. It’s very easy to go into things and not really understand risk and I think this really taught it to me and I had so many sleepless nights, nights where I’d have to do is get out get my car, listen to some music, calm myself down.
Because I really did think for so long that I was going to lose it and I think that helps me have better judgment going into future deals. And I think it has lowered my risk tolerance.
I would still do that deal again or something like it. But the $20 000 and $20 000, you know the next two payments wouldn’t have sat like that.
And the other thing is like if I’d been trying to save money in my bank account, like the speed the prices shot up and property in Melbourne was just ridiculous. Like I would have never got in the market I’d still be waiting now. Instead, I was able to close that off with a hundred grand went towards some bad debts and all that sort of stuff and 200 grand in my pocket like it was just a no brainer.
With so much experience in property, Sell shares the important aspects one needs to understand before investing and the game in strategies she keeps in place to minimise risk…
A bit of a lack of knowledge, like really understanding that you don’t want to see every deal in rose-tinted glasses but you also know, sometimes it’s kind of a mix between not being too optimistic but also feeling the fear and jumping anyway.
I think there’s got to be a healthy mix on both sides of that. And so what I do with every deal I jumped to now is I have exit strategies, so I have okay if I’m going into this deal, my number one plan might be to settle on it and so everything’s fine. Number two might be to sell it. Number three might be to bring a finance company into that, that can lend me money at 15 per cent. Number four might be to bring a joint venture partner into it. Number five might be something else, but basically having exit strategies and heaps of them so that you know if there is risk in the deal you’re mitigating it by knowing if it doesn’t go to plan what’s the next plan I’ve got lined up?
And if you can’t get a couple of exit strategies on something then I don’t think it’s the right strategy for you, unless there is very limited downside on it, if you’re going in with standard finance and you know if it’s not going to stop you from moving forward if something goes wrong. But if it will stop you from moving forward if something goes wrong I think you need a few things in place.
Thinking back to her past investments, Sell explains why the first property she bought was what she considered one of her worst investing moments…
I would say that is the lowest of the low.
It was literally the lying in bed, not being able to sleep. I actually thought I was going to lose it and there was anxiety every single day. I wasn’t thinking straight. My family were really worried. You know that was that would be the low point of it. Yes it worked out in the end, you know pretty much everything I touch has worked out in the end or is still in the process and hopefully will work out in the end.
But there was that period of time where it was, “Oh my god I’ve just completely ruined my finances how will I ever recover from that? It was a very tough time.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sell talks about the moment that changed her perspective on what property could do for her and others…
This would be a block of eight units that I got I’ve got in Goondiwindi. Basically I was in negotiation to pick these up for what would have been probably 12 months. Basically there was an owner that had fixed an interest rate and was at eight point nine per cent. They fixed it for 10 years and there were still 12 or 18 months left to that fixed-term period. If it were to be sold they’d have to pay a seventy thousand dollar break. So they were in a bit of trouble there with this specific deal. In addition to that, it was bright yellow, it was run down. Only three of the eight units were tenanted. There was a lot of maintenance that hadn’t been done and I guess there was a good 12 month negotiation period where when I look back on it now I probably could have made it work in three months. But there was a lot of fear on my side so every time it was coming together and looking like it was going to work I’d think of another reason why it might not. And it really took I entered a competition to share my story and it literally took having a strict time frame on the line of you know what if I haven’t completed this and I don’t really have much of a story to share, and I’m about to speak on stage in front of seven hundred. So it was really in the months leading up to that where all the magic happened. I just had this you know this urgency to make it happen and I started to say you know to everyone in the process I said, “Okay well you know if you can make it work, my lawyer, I’ll give you an extra thousand dollars. If you can make it work by this date I’ll give this person an extra thousand dollars.” And it just you know basically acting like there was no other option except to get it. And that pushed it across the line. Whereas that was not the same energy I was acting with for the first probably 11 months of that negotiation.
While at the moment, demand for one of the units is generally high, Sell shares that this wasn’t always the case…
I think there was a tenant moving out but I’m finding that now generally speaking a tenant moves out and we have one moving in the same day.
Basically what this one needed was to be clean, neat, working air conditioner you know somewhere that at least on the inside someone could live there and feel happy with their home. That was the first point to it.
The next bit was getting some faith in the community because this one had had drug dealers in it, , they had you know the worst tenants you could imagine in some of them and you know I was told it was a really good area but no one wants to live in it because of the reputation it had.
In fact the whole town had a nickname for it. They you know if you said the nickname everyone in town knows what it is. It was the worst property in the area probably. So the first step was making it look nice inside. The second was getting faith which I did by you know advertising a lot on Facebook and different locations for tenants and picking up a couple of tenants from outside of town to start with, so people moving from Melbourne or Sydney to the area. And then what happens is people say, “Oh I can’t believe you’re living there that’s horrible. And they’d say “No it’s not.” And suddenly before it even touched the outside with a paintbrush the whole town was started just either reputation had changed.
Describing the general feel of the town, Sell shares the aspects that made it a good area to start renovating, despite these stigmas…
It’s a cotton town. It’s got greens it’s got a lot of heart in the community more than anything else. What I’ve noticed there is how much everyone has got each other’s back. There’s a lot of retail shops in there, there’s a lot of farming around and all that sort of stuff. It is quite affluent in you know with some of the people there anyway, so it’s always held a lot of money in it and it’s just it’s on the border of New South Wales and Queensland. So if you’re doing a pretty much straightforward trip from Sydney to Brisbane you’re likely to drive through it unless you drove along the coast. But the faster way is to drive through Gondi. So a lot of people use it as a stopover as well but it’s certainly not high demand of you know it’s certainly not the short term tenants that I’m looking at.
It is long term ones.
But how did she actually come across such property and opportunity?
I actually called an agent because he had a set of units in Victoria that looked like they made a lot of sense and I called him up and he said sorry they’re already sold and I said well look this is what I’m looking for. I’d love something preferably a bit more rundown something where I can add value, I’m not interested in standard yields, you know I want to get something good. And he said look I’m not even from Melbourne so I don’t think I can help you I said that’s okay. I’m not even from Melbourne. So we got chatting, we both used live there and now I said look there’s actually nowhere I’m restricted by if you can find me a block of units that matches these criteria, I just want you to call me. And he said look I don’t have anything, but we had a really good chat and built a lot of rapport, and he’s a lovely guy and you know we got along a lot. So the next day he actually called me up and said you know what this isn’t even on my books, it’s not my property but I do have a friend who has a block of eight units. Have you ever heard of a suburb called Goondiwindi? And I said no but I’ll go do some research, he goes it might not be what you’re after but have a look. And then I looked it up and the more I did the numbers on it the more it just made sense. So basically I didn’t look for location first, but I knew the style and deal I wanted and I end up driving up to Goondi. I went to the police officer and asked them about crime rates and how my property was doing. I went to the information centre for tourism and spoke to them about what’s in Goondi and what you can do there. I knocked on all the neighbours doors at this property and asked them about how the crime rate had been. I went into the council and met the CEO there and spoke to him a bit about the property and just basically forced myself to speak to as many people as I was up there to really understand what the community was like and also did the numbers part of things as well.
She explains the lead up to renovating the property and how she was able to increase the rental price by making changes to the units…
People were looking at this particular project but it was quite a messy one.
So you know they were probably hoping someone will come about and pay you know, pay a higher amount, pay it out and make it easy. However I negotiated quite complicated terms because that’s what I do, and I have basically negotiated to take it over, pay the seller’s mortgage for them, pay a small deposit that cause things up to date and basically take it over, make all the outgoing payments on their behalf but keep incoming payments. So I actually went in and renovated this block of units one by one, started with the empty ones and renovated one. You know, new kitchen, new floor, painted all the walls, not yellow anymore, made it pretty, but white goods in it and then leased it out and I was able to lift everything from $160 a week up to $240 a week by having a complete product. Even when it was still bright yellow on the outside and ugly.
It was during this process of renovation that Sell made two realisations that led to the ultimate aha-moment and allowed her to realise the success behind this property…
The first one was the just this you know when you really want something go for it like don’t – it’s really easy to think you’re doing all the actions to get something done but it was really what I went, “No I have to make this work in the next month, no questions asked,” that it really happened but the second is what happened next.
So once I had a couple of out of towners in there. I started looking at the existing empty ones and the existing community and what we or what I actually did was got a real mix of tenants. So rather than know if you put all young mums in a complex you start to create a certain vibe. If you put all people with a disability in a complex you start to create a vulnerable community. What I’d learnt was how to create almost the circle of life living or even écarté for Small Is The New Big talks about. But basically building a community within there. So I ended up and look at changes as tenants move and all that goes.
I had two young mums in the units there. I had two older women. One was a grandma and what would start to happen is one of the young mums where she need to go to the shops she’d leave her kid with the grandma and the grandma would have grandkids over in that place and she suddenly had a baby sitter. She needed that. We had someone that had a disability and look to the outside world, seemed quite confronting. But when you got to know him not at all. So what happened was he now had a home, he now had people around him that knew his behaviours, knew what he was like and would absolutely protect him if he needed it. We had backpackers in one who had people that we’re able to show them around town and make them feel welcome while they were there for their six-month stay. They’ve only just moved out. We had a young guy who I found out was helping some of the others change their light globes when their light globes went. So just creating that circle of life living where people, you know people communicating with other people, people are trying to create a real you know family sort of culture. They’re all hanging out. You know they’ve all got their own individual unit but they’ll hang out and have a chat. It’s like the old days, you know you know your neighbours, everyone knows who lives around them and just going you know what I’ve got all the tools that I need to create a community and to change the environment of where people live and you know I’ve had the mayor come up and tell me that you know he thinks it’s a great job what I’ve done and we eventually changed the outside from being yellow and got it all looking modern. But his comments were coming before any of that happened. It just it’s made the street a better place, a much safer place to be.
Renting With A Twist: Renovating Rooms With Corina Sell
Delving into the mindset side of things, Sell shares that while she was originally motivated by the prospect of changing her lifestyle and financial standing, she has come to realise that the true purpose of her property journey is actually about others…
The why definitely started off as being about me, me, me, lots of money, or maybe I’ll help a few people and as I’ve gone on the journey it’s really started to click you know I’m on this planet to make a difference and I’ve got a purpose and really part of it is providing you know great solutions for people to live in. When you create an environment like what happened in Goondi or in the house I mentioned, you know that the community didn’t exist without me. So that is one part of it. It actually gets me quite passionate. But the real purpose behind it all is inspiring other people. So you know nothing makes me feel as great or as grateful as seeing someone else inspired by something that I’ve been able to show them or be a part of the process is doing. So my mind now has really shifted to inspiring other people.
With the goal of inspiring people in mind, Sell talks about an investing strategy she uses, and how she was able to double the value of a set of units and why she’ll be repeating this strategy…
An 18 month period of renovating one by one, the positive cash flow after taking out all expenses is forty thousand dollars a year just over. So for me that was really magic and that makes a lot of sense to me, so I’ll be repeating that again and again. However the other thing I do is again not with property that I own and that is I – in New South Wales rent larger house and basically lease them out by the room. There is quite a bit of rule you need to follow for that to be legal with fire safety and the right insurances. And if you don’t follow those you can actually get yourself into a lot of trouble but I basically create households and put people together and this community thing that I learnt from Goondi has really helped in this area. I’ve got one house that I lease for I think it’s around the eight hundred mark that brings in thirteen hundred, sorry eighteen hundred a week when it’s full. but you pay bills out of that money and you sometimes have vacant rooms so call it Thirteen hundred that it brings in after taking that into account. But rather than creating a household of one style of the person again, I play a lot with the international market but I don’t like putting the same culture together because people come to Australia to experience Australia.
So what I have had really successful in one house is we have an Irish couple, we had an English guy, we had a guy from Ecuador, we had a Sri Lankan guy and we had a girl from New Zealand. And just creating you know a completely dynamic and diverse household, we found out that one of the tenants was driving two of the others to work in the morning before he went there. They started a veggie patch in the backyard and it’s just all about building community. Whereas if you are playing in the international space and you say rent to one particular nationality, it doesn’t matter which one it is, even if it was New Zealand, you find that it keeps their old culture there and rather than them getting to experience what they’re here for. So I love mixing those different cultures together. Everyone gets to learn, everyone’s coming from the common ground that you know their birth country was different. Some have been in the country for seven years already. Others have been here for you know a couple of days when they move in. And you know from time to time an Australian goes into it as well. But it’s just a really diverse household of people that get to have a common background but also get to teach each other a lot about their cultures too.
While creating a community is certainly an important aspect of what Sell does, she shares that finding properties suitable for this type of investing is still an intricate process…
I’m doing this mostly within an hour of Sydney. So yeah basically the numbers can work north, south, east and west. And yeah I’ve certainly done feasibilities even around the city that can make sense as well, but basically, it’s just finding someone that’s open to the concept and then explaining to them, we’re always putting our brand name and our professionalism out there and letting them know the additional things we do that you know make sure that their insurance isn’t valid.
Because If you don’t have the fire safety the owners just lost their insurance. If it burns down and it was used in that particular way, there can be some massive consequences for both you and the owner. You actually are now in many ways considered to be the landlord because you’re using this strategy too.
Through professionalism, her previous rental success and taking into consideration the owner of a property, Sell explains that she is able to secure many rentals…
It’s about making sure you get all that right and when you’re putting in an application, owners love to see that it is professional. So that’s one big step is explaining the professionalism behind it and the different steps you do. And the next one I guess is just explaining the picture to them. I like to take on longer leases. I like to have a property for three years so they won’t have to deal with tenants moving in and out, I’ll be the easiest tenant they’ve ever had to deal with. I’ve got rental histories on multiple properties showing that I always pay on time. You know it’s all about finding about who the owner is. If it’s someone who you know this is their pride and joy and the house they used to live in, then it’s about how it’s going to be taking care of. If it’s someone who’s an investor and they’re going to bulldoze it in three years and build units, then don’t care too much about that. They’re all about the money, might offer some extra rent or whatever it might be and the other thing is explaining that we’re not putting people in like sardines, there’s not going to be bunk beds, there’s not going to be for people sleeping in a room. We do singles, we do some couples and it’s just, yeah it’s a shared house it’s a place where it’s going to be a home. So once that’s all explained you still get people that say no but we certainly get a lot of yeses as well.
Following this process, Sell shares that she also likes to fully furnish the houses
I absolutely like to furnish the house. Yeah we- lounge room, kitchen, all the bedrooms although sometimes we’ll pull a bit of furniture back out of the bedrooms.
If someone moves in with their own stuff. So some people have their own stuff that most don’t, in the market that I’m targeting anyway.
What I guess someone that is not originally from Australia looks at is they may only have plans to be here for two years and for them to go out and buy all the furniture freshly, design their own place to get everything set up is expensive. And if they can just move in and have it all sorted, they’ll pay a premium to do so. However, they don’t have that upfront expense of doing all that stuff. So yeah, I furnish everything and then if there’s a request to take anything out I’ll do so.
With multiple people to accommodate and other factors to take into consideration, how much does Sell end up spending on each of these rental properties?
I like to say 20 grand. And that will be about five grand on fire safety, it will be the bond and the first month’s rent I like to take into account there and then the last thing is the furniture. I’m very big on hotel seconds. I think I can go out and I can go to fantastic furniture and I can make a house look beautiful. But six months later it’s all going to be very aged, whereas if I’m getting high-end seconds. The moment a tenant moves in and sleeps on a bed and moves out later, that furniture is all second hand. You know, the moment someone sits on a couch that’s all second hand. So hotel seconds and stuff you find on Gumtree and Facebook marketplace, I’m comfortable with that, with a few caveats. So I learnt very early on, we’ve had beds that we’re told we’re in perfect condition delivered but they’ve had bed bugs on them, they’ve had stains on them, all that sort of stuff and I’m not into supplying furniture like that. So really having to view things or get a trusted supplier is really important. I do sometimes deal with new mattresses as well.
Having deadlines to meet, Sell adds that with every one of these investments, comes the need to fill up rooms at a rather fast pace…
At the start.
It is time-intensive. When you are filling a room. So finding the deals not the hard stuff, you can flick off a few emails here and there, a few phone calls. But once you pick up the keys the clock starts ticking because you’re paying rent in most cases. Now I’ve negotiated somewhere I got two weeks free rent or I’ve got nine weeks before you know with the rent going up every week a little bit more.
To counteract these deadlines, Sell shares the out of the box strategies she implements in order to make the most of her time and expenses…
I’ve got a bit more time to set things up. Or I’ve even painted a house for an owner and got free rent during that period of time but also been able to show people through. But yeah in the setup point, it’s literally getting the furniture and stuff all in the house and no matter what checklist I follow, no matter all the things I’ve thought of, whenever I’ve set up a house there’s always been like things I’ve had to run around again and get. This house is different and doesn’t have a wardrobe in this room, you bought the iron but you forgot the ironing board or whatever it might be. So there’s a fair bit of rushing to get all the stuff into the house but then it’s the rushing around to get the tenant into the house to at least get them signed up. A lot of them won’t be there for up to two weeks from when they signed but basically the important thing there is, they’re not allowed to sign an individual residential tenants agreement either, that is not allowed. So yeah that’s one of the things that you don’t do but there is an agreement that they sign. Basically it’s getting viewings done, having people show up, so I found that two out of three people that say they’re coming to inspect a property, depending where you market, some places have better results but their applications, the two to three that say they’ll come to inspect it don’t end up showing up.
So getting a bulk lot of people all coming at the same time and doing it as many days as you can until it’s full, once is full it’s easy. The management you know there’s bits and pieces you have to do for management to make sure it all runs smoothly and I work with a manager that does all that stuff for me. But I still help at that start because no one is ever more interested in filling a house than the person who the deal belongs to.
And I do that with Goondi too, I do that with anything I touch. It’s you know the agent can do their thin, but I’ll still put my own ads out there in other places and refer the tenants on to the agency or the applications onto the agent. But look once it’s running, it’s not a large amount of time but we’re in a process where we’re sitting quite a few up so there’s always one we’re looking at setting up at any moment in time and you know there’s always something to be doing but again working with agents to take a lot of that workload off as well.
Having rented from both an agent and landlord, Sell explains why she often decides to find and rent properties through an agent…
I always go through an agent and the thought practice behind that, look I’ve got one that’s not that way, but the thought practice behind approaching agents rather than owners is if you approach an agent they’ve got access to their entire book. If you approach an investor they get a good one, they might have 10 properties of those two might be valid for doing this in and they probably got tenants in them right now.
So I like to go through an agent and the agent will you know if you can get the agent on your side if they understand what you do, they actually start referring you properties. Usually it takes about six months for that, they you know they wait and watch and see whether you’re a problem tenant and what happens and how it works and as long as there’s been no issue six months later they’re finding other large houses and saying “Oh does this one interest you? Does this one suit you?” And slowly over time their recommendations get closer to what you’re after as well and it’s definitely a great source for new deals.
And then you mentioned as well you have a manager that manages the tenants is that right that you’ve put in there?
Yes I do know there is a specialist agency that works exclusively on a room by room rentals.
After having a successful rental term, Sell shares that if the owner decides to discontinue the set up put in place, that she’s often ready to pack up and find a new rental somewhere else…
Well there are two points here. So the first one is I don’t look at houses that aren’t going to at a bare minimum make back all my spending in the first year and of that spending, some of that’s the bond, that’s recoverable, some of the fire safety most of that’s recoverable. So my leases are three years long. By the end of three years, I’ve made plenty of money. I’ve made my money back threefold on that deal. Therefore if someone else wants a turn to make money then good for them. I’m not attached to that I can pack my stuff up and put it into another house. There are plenty of deals out there. But the second thought is and one thing we do when we put new applications in is we let them know that it is a complicated process, that there is fire safety issues that need to be met, that it does cost a lot to set up this, it’s not that simple. I’ll tell them that I’m putting 20 grand to the set up to make it happen. Sometimes you get that down to 15, you know I’m talking you know the big city rents but they know that there is a big investment that goes into it but they don’t understand what exactly is involved in that. They know that the leases have to be done a certain way. Otherwise, you are breaking the law. They don’t understand what that way is. They understand that insurance can so easily be invalid because we’re explaining what we do but we’re not giving them our IP. So most people won’t want to jump in and take that off you, but you know if they do I’ve made my money. I’ve gone into every deal excepting that at the three-year mark, you know if it ends then I’m completely happy and I’ve got a good return from that. So if it happens, it happens and no hard feelings on that either.
With such a creative and rare strategy, Sell delves into where she learnt about this type of property strategy and how she ended up implementing it herself…
I actually now work for and with a company called Small Is The New Big, which is run by Ian Ugarte. I started by being a student first, so I actually paid to do his program and that provided all the education on rooming houses, boarding houses, basically a high-income strategy.
And then after a little while and I got myself to quite a comfortable position – Ian offered me a place on the team. So I worked there in quite a part-time capacity because I still do all of my investing as well. But that’s yeah that’s exactly where I learnt it from and it’s been very effective.
She also shares how much she usually expects on return…
On a standard property, seven to eight per cent right up to fourteen per cent return on your investment.
So something within that category. When you apply multiple strategies to a property as well so say if you’re building a boarding house and doing a subdivision and a couple of strategies altogether, you may even be able to get that up higher as well. And when you add no money down and you’re not putting money down the returns on your cash are pretty phenomenal.
So it really depends on the style of deal you’re doing. Obviously, the rental ones we call them, this strategy that I’ve been doing with the sublease is crazy crazy returns because you’re going yeah you’re saying okay well I’ll spend $20 000 and generally speaking I want something that I believe will return $30 000 grand a year. So I spend my $20 000 and get $30 000 a year back.
So those kinds of returns are pretty insane.
At the same time she also adds that for her, many of these rental projects can be done without leaving her out of pocket…
I again work with money partners, so most of these I’m splitting 50/50 of the profit and some I’ve even got a three-way share.
We’re basically speaking, two of us come together, do the deal and I haven’t had to put my own cash into it as well. So again I guess that’s what I do. I look at things that aren’t going to eat up all of my cash and yeah find a way to move forward regardless of where I’m physically sitting. If I had no money in the bank account I could do these deals. If I had $100 000 in my bank account I could do these deals, if I had $1 000 000, I could. So um yeah basically the potential to think outside the box, do joint ventures and all kinds of strategies their too.
In terms of developing her own property strategy and getting to where she is now, Sell talks about the people she’s listened to and the approaches and tips she’s taken from other successful property mentors…
Ian is my perfect mentor for where I am right now and everything that I’m doing now and everything I think I will continue down that path of. Tony Robbins I listened to heaps of. I really admire him. Dymphna boholt my very first property course was through her and it didn’t specialize in one particular area, it’s very holistic. Timothy Ferris, I think I might have just mentioned I love seeing what he does. He’s fascinating in all kinds of different aspects but also about leverage and using other people to make things happen. He wrote for our work week. I’m sure there are heaps of people I’m forgetting right now. I love you know following anything Richard Branson does just his playfulness that he brings to everyday life and I try and you know one of the ways I try to be every day is to make sure that I part of who I am is quite playful. I think there’s a long journey that you can go on and you know we all go and strive for our goals and if we aren’t enjoying the journey along the way then what’s the point there. So it’s endless though. I read a lot of books I attend a lot of seminars. I really love personal growth and development and I also love the spiritual side, so really connecting with my heart and really connecting with love and other people and that is a big part for me too.
On another note, she also gives insight into the best advice she’s ever received and how she’s incorporated this into her lifestyle…
How you do anything, is how you do everything is probably a quote I’ve heard different ways, but basically how you do any aspect of your life is how you carry it across to the rest of your life. So if you are.
Playing a game and you cheat, that’ll be showing up in your real life as well everywhere else. And really just trying to be the person that I want to be not just in the property stuff that excites me, but in everyday stuff, the stuff I don’t enjoy, the stuff that I have to do through routines and I really think that saying keeps you in check because when all areas of your life are working that’s when you’re really inflow.
With this routine, also comes a personal habit that Sell believes plays a big role in helping her achieve her goals…
My biggest one is visualisations so one thing I’d say I’m pretty good at it is I visualize my goals and I do it a lot to the point that I’ll nearly cry over it like I’ll start to tear up. I don’t really follow you know there’s so many different processes and I will start taking on processes that other people have taught and I play around with them a lot but at a very bare level. Often when I go to bed I think you know where I’m going to be when this goal comes off. Particularly things that hard when you know what I thought I was going to lose a first property it was just visualising what’s it going to look like when a sold, what’s it going to look like when my bank accounts got money in it again. And yeah I think that that’s probably the ultimate thing to keep you on track. I feel like it almost manifested into reality when you do that.
While she adds that she definitely developed this habit over the course of her educational journey into property, it has been a habit that’s been ingrained into her ever since she was a young child…
I’m not sure where I first learnt about it. Maybe I know it’s mentioned in Think and Grow Rich and in a couple of other books that I started but I do recall you know doing it when I was a kid as well. And I guess we all you know we all have dreams we all daydream a little bit but for some reason, I’ve always I’m quite kinesthetic.
I’ve always connected it with a lot of feeling and emotion and now in my you know my later time studying peak performance and you know the absolute what the absolute top in their field too. I’m seeing that that’s something that they all do too. So I kind of was doing it before I learnt about it or maybe in the early days of learning about it, but it’s something that I see more and more how it is and now I can sometimes I put it into meditation or sometimes I follow a strategy that someone else has taught and add that to it. But just the raw guts of it was something that I’ve done since I was little.
Thinking back to the past, Sell also states the important piece of advice she would have given herself a decade ago…
So I’m 32 I would have been 22, um probably just don’t hold back.
Buy a bitcoin and sell it a bit later.
But if I could go back and meet me back then, probably just to have the courage and go harder than I imagined. Look I just look at the first year I did and the $300 000 deal I lifted there and I go, “there’s no reason I couldn’t have pulled together the knowledge I have now and done 10 of those or 100 of those.” And look I didn’t have a crystal ball I didn’t know the market was going to move that soon and that quickly did not was going to move at some point. So basically just to be bold, to be unstoppable and to really live a large life I think it’s really important to use up all your potential. We’re not here on the planet for long and just to play even bigger. Yet at the same time I’m completely happy with where I am now and I love the life that I’ve lived to this point. So there’s nothing wrong there’s nothing that needs to change but it would just behave the courage. You’ve got this, everything you need is there and the other thing is to just feel the fear and jump anyway. We all get held up by only knowing 70 per cent of you know what to do, and the thing is, that you know you’re never going to know 100 per cent, you’ll never get to the point where you understand it completely full and you’re ready to jump. If you’ve got to 70 per cent, use your resources, use your mentors, use what you can, get the best amount of knowledge but jump because that’s where the learning happens. It’s only when you doing that you really take it on and learn.
And what she’s most excited for in the next five years of her property journey…
It’s probably the relationships that form through this.
You know I belong to several different investment communities and we all grow together. It’s the, you know it’s the deep friendships, it’s the stuff that really matters. I’m ridiculously excited by the amount of wealth that I plan to build.
I’m really excited about where the market is sitting right now because I think that you know you’re low money down, no money down you know. Fees, understands all that stuff is going to be you know credit you know easier to do so that yeah that really excites me. But over the next five years as the joint ventures that I’ll end up working with, the people I meet on the journey it’s the experiences I have with my friends that probably excites me more than anything else.
With so much success, Sell shares her thoughts on whether luck or intelligence, skill and hard work have attributed to her success…
You can’t deny that there is an element of luck in – I got a property in Victoria and I swear you know the next month the values it had all gone through the roof just like it was the next day. So there was luck in the timing, but would it have mattered if I did it six or 12 months earlier? Not really. Would it have mattered if I got in a little bit later? Not really, I still got a lot of that growth. There will always be elements of luck but I think lucky people are also out there creating circumstances for them to receive that luck. So I think that skill, yes there was some there but most of that came from following mentors and being around other property investors, seeing what worked, seeing what didn’t and all of that and everything else there, I really think that’s where the game is. It’s more than anything, it’s taking action but with some knowledge behind you.
With such an inspiring story behind her and so much more to share, Sell shares how you can get into contact with her…
You can add me on Facebook. Corina Sell, C O R I N A S E double L and shoot me a message let me know where you’ve seen me so that I do accept your friend request. I’m very active on Facebook and I use that a lot. I also have my email [email protected], that you’re welcome to contact me on. However Facebook is the one that I see the fastest, so if you’re on Facebook message me there request me but don’t just request me to send me a message so I know where you’re from and I’m more than happy to connect.
This episode was produced by Ashlyne Ocampo with narrations and interviews conducted by Tyrone Shum.