Belinda Smith is the director of Renovate and Real Estate, a company that has the goal to help people reach financial independence through property investing and renovations. Growing up, Smith saw a disparity between herself and her peers, so financial security was a big goal for her. Combine this goal with her love for creativity, and renovating properties was a natural career for her.
In this episode, Smith will share the risky details of being a police officer in the 80s’. As well as this, she will delve into her passion for renovations
and the story of how she made $40,000 in only one day!Timestamps:
1:52 | Lifelong Passions
4:28 | From School to Work
13:22 | Picking Up the Paint Brush
16:10 | Addicted to Renovations
18:52 | Overcoming Challenges
22:32 | Finishing in a Position of Profit
1:11 | Ensuring a Profit
5:24 | Too Much DIY
6:54 | Pushing Through
10:17 | Putting Theory into Practice
17:12 | Help to Find Success
18:51 | Controversial Advice
20:30 | Looking to the Future
Resources and Links:
[14:18] You're either devoted to what you do and you're all in or you're not. You know, it's like people in property. We're all in. We're all in or we're not. We're just playing around the edges. And I do everything all in.
This is Property Investory where we talk to successful property investors to find out more about their stories, mindset and strategies.
I’m Tyrone Shum and in this episode, we’re chatting to the director of Renovate and Real Estate, Belinda Smith. She will share the risky details of being a police officer in the 80s’. As well as this, she will delve into her passion for renovations and the story of how she made $40,000 in only one day!
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‘Renovate and Real Estate are on a mission to help 10,000 people reach financial independence through renovation and property investing’. Smith has an unmatched passion for renovations and now, she spends her day passing on her knowledge to others.
[0:34] I teach people how to renovate right from scratch and also if they're passionate about renovating and they're good at it, we can take people right through to become a renovation consultant if that's what they want to do for a living.
[0:57] At the moment, I don't have a paintbrush in my hand very often. At the moment I spend most of my time coaching my guys. That being said, I am about to do a renovation but the older I get, the less I do hands-on DIY work and the more I call people in to do it. But yeah, my typical day is I get up, I look after myself, I go to the gym quite often and just hit the computer, hit the computer.
Smith’s passion for renovation was influenced by her parents and was encouraged from a young age.
[1:55] I grew up in Caringbah south, which is very middle class of the Sutherland Shire. [It is] a nice area. I had a really nice childhood. Mum and dad who loved me dearly [and] a twin brother. Never wanted for very much but I also knew that there were kids at our school who lived down the road in a suburb called Lilli Pilli and it was really they were the wealthier kids on the waterfront.
[2:17] And even back then I understood the difference between working for myself, working or living an easier life and I understand the difference between me and the other kids at the school. And like I said, not that I wanted for much but I kind of recognised that there was that disparity.
[2:33] My parents back in the day were always doing stuff around their home. So, I was also doing stuff around the home with them. I went to Caringbah primary and high school and just yeah, just worked around the place with mum and dad a lot of weekends. Always did up my room.
[2:51] Mum would let me pick crazy colours or a crazy poster and convert my whole room to match a picture on the wall. It's the kind of stuff that I did growing up. Dad's saying is it's handy being handy. So, I think I just always grew up thinking other people did that, until I got a bit older and realised that a lot of people didn't.
Smith immersed herself in the school experience and although she enjoyed herself, she still noticed a difference between her and some classmates.
[3:46] I did quite well at school. I was a bit of a nerd, you know. [I was] prefect, sports captain [and] all that kind of stuff. And I'm no different now. I really, I got along with everyone pretty well at school and I got along with all of the kids in our school. But you know, there were differences but that never seems to matter. When you're a kid, you're just doing your thing and particularly if you're playing a lot of sport and you're mixing with everybody, it was never really an issue.
[4:13] But I just was really aware that, for example, I went out with a girl when we were about five or six and her parents took me to a really expensive restaurant for dinner at five and six. At five and six, I've never really been to an expensive restaurant for dinner and I was so excited about getting dressed up and going.
[4:32] It's just the differences between my families and others. And I always had dinner on the table. It's not like I was hungry but it's just something, you know, I just always swore to myself that as an adult I was never ever going to live on a tight budget. It was just not how my life was going to be.
From School to Work
After finishing high school, Smith decided to take a working gap year.
[5:23] I always wanted to be a teacher; I don't really know why. But due to the my situation, I knew that it was going to be a struggle for me to put myself through university because mum and dad didn't have the funds. So, I thought what can I do for a year that I'm going to enjoy and is going to bring in some money or even a couple of years. And instead of travelling during the gap year, I decided to join the police force and I stayed for 21 years.
[5:51] So, I really enjoyed those early years working shift work and spending a lot of time down Cronulla beach. Back in those days, it was the early 80s, I remember being around for all the Neddy Smith and all the drug squad stuff that was going on in the early 80s. I was pretty much in the thick of that in my early years in the police force and did some time in the undercover drug squad and sometime in the mountain police weirdly enough as well. Probably because I had a love of horses growing up. So, I've had, I don't know I think it's boring because it's me but I guess it probably sounds a bit colourful if you haven't done that.
[6:26] So, my first year in the police force just to earn a little bit of money so I could go and do some teaching ended up being 21 years. I ended up staying much to my mum; my mum used to have a heart attack every time I'd come home, she'd say 'are you alright dear?' And I'd say 'yes, I survived the shift mum'. So, mum and dad always worried about me and my husband worried about me too.
[6:48] I guess I've always been a bit of a risk taker in a lot of things and probably in property as well. So, I was never really frightened for myself in the police in those early years. But I know that there are a lot of people relieved when I finally said, that's it. You know, I'm out.
As well as the risk factor of working for the police, Smith also enjoyed the flexibility that came along with the job.
[7:37] I have really fond memories of my time in the police force and I had a great; because I've got a good work ethic and so I always did my best wherever I went, I found that I was unrestricted. I could swap from department to department, or I'd get asked to go and work for the detectors for a little while or I'd go and I'd do a surveillance squad for a little while.
[8:01] So, I really liked it. I liked having flexibility. I liked having freedom. I liked being on shift work which did enable me to spend plenty of time on the beach and also did enable me to spend plenty of time with a paintbrush in my hand as well. So, it was so good for me in those early years of my life.
The 20 years that Smith worked in the force also placed her in a lot of new and interesting situations.
[8:35] I think that in all honesty, I don't think anybody does time in the police force without having some exciting and fun things happen, some surprises. But you also come out the other end a little bit battered and bruised about humanity sometimes too.
[8:54] I came straight from this beautiful middle class family, nothing special, into the police in 1982 right in the thick of things where they were desperately trying to pull apart corruption and all that kind of stuff. And so, I saw things that I'll never unsee and I saw a different part of life that I didn't even knew, didn't even know existed. I was so innocent straight from school into the police and there were also hardly any women there.
[9:23] I remember in our district [or] in our sector there were 137 guys and there were 11 policewomen and it was unusual for two of us to be on a shift at the same time. They used to split us up a little bit and it was only the class before mine where policewomen were actually allowed to be on the truck out there on the street. Before then it was just school lecturing and sexual assault cases.
[9:51] So, there were good times in the 80s and I think it's a bit like me and property sometimes and sometimes in the things that I do even in the education space. It was a real, we had to prove ourselves. It was a make it or, make it or, I was gonna say make it or die. That's a bit harsh.
[10:12] But yeah, I've been in armed hold up situations, I've been in sieges and I've done all that sort of stuff. As, I mean if you spoke to any policeman or police woman out there who did 21 years. Yes, some stuff goes down that's unpleasant or stuff goes down that at the end of the shift, you think, oh, wow, that was exciting because I made it but also, that was big. And that's when we all go and have a drink together or something like that, too.
Although Smith enjoyed being a policewoman, she made the choice to retire for her family.
[11:05] I was married when I was, too Mr. Renovator, I call him. My husband's a mechanic by trade. I was going out with him — I was 18 and he was 19. So, we started going out together really young and married at 22 and 23. [We] had kids, I had my first child when I was 27.
[11:21] So, by the time I left the police force, it felt like or I felt like I was making, I felt like I was making a selfish decision by going to work every day. That my drive to help the community was, I was putting that ahead of my looking after my own family because I was putting myself at risk all the time doing the kind of work that I was doing. And I thought now things have changed a lot. I do have some young kids to consider. I think my parents have had enough time worrying about me and my husband, if I was late from work and they'd always be thinking what's happened.
[11:55] So, it was great for me. I loved it. I've got a lot of respect for everybody who is in the police and other emergency services. I've got a lot of respect for the nurses over the last couple of years. It's just, if you're [a] giving person and so you just keep on giving but at some point I thought, this is not cool anymore.
[12:16] I actually went to a siege and I was stuck behind some bushes for hours and the guy was in the house with a shotgun. We just gone there to do a drug raid. We were just stuck for hours and hours and hours. And it was at the end of that day. I couldn't call anybody. I couldn't get to a phone. I didn't have a little mobile phone back then in my own pocket. There was one amongst a few of us.
[12:37] And I got home, it was late when I got home. I mean, really I mean midnight late. My kids, I hadn't called anyone to pick my kids up from school, the headmaster was waiting with them and some of my friends took the kids home. It was moments like those where I thought timeout Belinda, this is enough, this is no longer just you. You have got a young family and this, you can't continue. So, it was kind of like that.
Picking Up the Paint Brush
While working as a police officer, Smith was picking up a paint brush and renovating in her spare time. Let’s explore how this happened.
[14:46] My husband's a mechanic by trade [and is] really handy and very willing to learn. And he was working at Qantas at the time with a whole bunch of other tradies and so, they would share stories at night-time, or they'd ask each other questions about how to do things. And I'd go to work and I'd ask the tradies — a lot of police were ex tradies — how to do things. And so, we worked out how to do things.
[15:05] But the reason we did is because between us, we weren't on great incomes and we were trying to live and settle ourselves in the Sutherland Shire. And it's never been easy. I know it's hard now for everybody and hard for the kids but in all truthfulness, it's never really been easy.
[15:24] So, we started off in an old unit. I was 19 at the time. We were married, no it was before we were married. We bought the unit, rented it out for a little while. Then when we moved into it, we renovated it and then we were in it for about 18 months, we were trying to pay down the loan as much as we could at the same time. With the renovation that we'd done to the place, we sold it and we were able to go on to our next property which was a waterfront property at Kurnell on Botany Bay in Kurnell.
This property in Kurnell cost Smith and her husband about $98,000, which was amazing for a waterfront property.
[16:05] Because I was in the mountains and because I loved horses, the first thing we did was get horses and a stables and fences up the backyard. We built that before we fix the house. We'd bought an old house that was occupied by a bunch of bikers and druggies.
[16:20] So, it was a mess. I said to my mother in law, we're going to fix this up too and then she cried and said, this one's beyond it. And I tended to believe her too. So, we knocked it down and we built a new house. We built downstairs first and then we finished upstairs at just every week, you know, every week we'd get a paycheck and we'd run down the shop and we'd buy a few more sheets of gyprock and nail them up.
[16:45] Or, like between children, I remember doing cornices. Rushing to do cornices to get them finished in one of the rooms and I was probably 10 days overdue with one of my kids thinking what's the worst thing that can happen, I can only go into labour. That's what everybody was waiting for so I was like yeah, I'll do the cornices.
[17:05] So, we just did a lot of DIY because it meant that we could start small, add value to whatever we had, live in a nice environment when it was all freshly painted, there was new carpet and it was spotlessly clean, sell it and then go and do it again. And we actually stayed in that house on the waterfront at Kurnell for a while and used the equity that we created in that to go on an investment journey. And off we went, really.
Addicted to Renovations
We can see that Smith has always had a passion for creativity and renovations, and this passion was constant throughout her investment journey.
[18:31] I guess I was doing it as a kid when I was doing my bedroom with mom and then straight into marriage. So, I just I loved magazines. I love being creative. I love painting. I still love painting. I've got a business coach who tells me he's gonna ring me and go mad on me every time he sees me with a paintbrush in my hand now because it's not where my time is best spent but it just brings me joy. It's my happy place. I get excited.
[18:29] You know when you stir it in and you're watching all the colour. Ohhhhh, like I get really excited. How dumb is that? I just love colour. I love paint. I love shades of white. I love seeing things all finished and new. I love the way they smell and they look and yeah, I love styling things up. So, it's, I'm doing what I really enjoy and always have.
After purchasing her first investment properties, Smith’s property journey exploded.
[19:47] We just went from one thing to the next. We went, we did that unit at Cronulla and then we bought a new house. So, we did a new build. I've done new builds as well. And we built that. We built it ourselves alongside a builder. So, we learned so much about the trade by having this builder live, he lived in his caravan at the back of our place. So, we built alongside him. He was just, that was a phenomenal experience.
[20:11] And then after that, we stayed in that house for a little while and I remember watching Oprah and Robert Kiyosaki was on talking about Rich Dad, Poor Dad and I went and I bought that book. I think it was about 2000 or 2001. I got so excited and then after that, I started to do some property courses and then after those property courses, we learned this strategy where we could buy property back then with virtually no money down or almost no money down.
[20:39] And so, we went nuts. We bought three in a town called Gloucester over the next 18 months or two years. And in that same period, we went to New Zealand and bought four properties over there. So, some of those required work and others did not. Others we just rented out. And then from there, I've built another house up the street here and then we flipped that when it was new. And now I'm in this house and this house, we're converting into two townhouses. Two four bedroom townhouses. So, we just kind of are always looking for opportunity. And I think I've been lazy over the years. I've had plenty of years where I have, I could have and should have done more.
Throughout her time investing into properties, Smith has been fortunate enough to never have a massive tragedy but she has come across some smaller challenges.
[21:31] Brett and I have never really had any disasters. You know, when you hear people have those renovation disasters, there are always I think in any project renovation or new build, there are always those moments where you hold your breath and you think okay, this didn't go so well [and] what do we do?
[23:49] You know, I've ordered benchtops and they've come in a different shade and like we've all had that kind of stuff happen to us but I just think that it's just having the ability to take a breath and look to solutions and not to blame and not butt heads with a builder and not get into arguments and desperately avoid court because that's just a waste of everyone's time and money and just keep moving through.
[24:15] But yeah, I've definitely had benchtops turn up and they've been the wrong shade and I've had the quiet little tantrum all on my own in the corner. But okay, that just throws a few things out. Now what do I do? Okay, I'll have to go and get new splashback tiles or you can make things work, you really can.
[24:31] But I think we've been blessed not to have any huge disasters but we also, like one of my biggest regrets I think is not moving a little faster. I'm also fairly cautious sometimes. I will do more and I'm more out there than my husband when it comes to investing. So, we're always talking about what we should do next. What's our next right move? So, I am a little bit of a risk taker but I won't risk it all. There's always a plan B.
When looking for new opportunities, Smith always makes sure that they are within her risk profile.
[25:14] Everything comes down to the numbers. It's so easy because I like to fix things up. So, I get very attracted to properties that are rundown. I could buy all of them. I get really excited. So, I have to really be careful about not letting my emotions run away with me and in the end, it always comes back to the numbers.
How does Smith make sure that she is sticking to her assigned budget for a build or renovation?
[25:58] I just check in all the time. I think where people go wrong is that they fall in love with the property, they over capitalise just like you said, they make emotional decisions about what product they're going to put into that house — fixtures and fittings. And they don't check in enough. They think, oh, that just went over by a few $100 and that just went over by a few $100 but I really love those taps and it's really important for me to get my favourite sink.
[25:58] And when they don't check in, all of a sudden, they get too far down the rabbit hole and they've just blown an extra $6,000 or $7,000 or $10,000 and or beyond that. And so, I think just it's really important that I do it and so does hubby, keep our bills paid up to date, we keep right on top of our invoices and we make sure that we check in. Particularly after every big space like a kitchen or a bathroom or when you've laid the floors.
[26:46] Just keep checking your budget and set a certain budget for each room and if you're starting to push it or some rooms gone under, then you have to look at the remainder of your project and say, okay, where am I going to pull it in? Where is that money going to come from? Otherwise, you just it can just blow out of proportion.
[27:05] And I also know that not every ugly house when it's fixed up ends in profit, ends up in a position of profit. So, I think that's a fallacy where people think I'm just going to paint this place and make it look prettier and I'm going to make money on this property. And it's not the case in every deal.
Finishing in a Position of Profit
Let’s unpack what Smith means by ‘not every fixed up house ends up in a position of profit’.
[27:40] It sounds funny but last week, there was a property in Sydney I was talking to a lady about renovating or whether she should renovate her own investment property in Sydney before she sells it. And it comes down to who is going to be buying that property. Is it going to be a developer? Is it going to be a young family? Is somebody else going to want to take on the renovation? And what is it worth right now in its unrenovated state? And how does that compare to properties that are have been highly renovated and have sold looking the ants pants in that particular area and even better in that street?
[28:19] And we came to the conclusion that in her circumstances, it just wasn't worth doing up the pace beyond a paint job. Just paint it up and put it to market. It was a bit of a train wreck. So, it was like don't take the market being an absolute train wreck and we truly believe that the owners might be a young family. That when we did the figures on doing a development on that site, she was in a position to do a development — we started to do the figures in relation to doing two homes on that one block and the figures just wasn't worth it. There just wasn't enough profit margin in that particular area. So, in the end numbers don't lie.
Looking away from the problems that can happen when working in property, let’s hear about one of Smith’s ‘aha’ moments.
[0:20] I remember going to a town called Gloucester, not that I'm suggesting everyone invest there. It's gone well in the last couple of years but it was slow for a long time. But I just got to know that town really well and had an opportunity to buy a house, which I did. We were all set up ready to go. Loans were ready. I knew a country real estate agent in that town at the time was looking after his own a little bit.
[0:47] So, I had to push him really hard to put my offer in front of the vendors. The vendors accepted my offer. But I knew there were other people who just weren't quite ready financially. So, I said to the real estate agent, if you wanted to on sell this property to those other people, I'd be up for that. So, I actually flipped that property at settlement on settlement day and made $40,000 profit in that one day minus costs and tax and all that kind of stuff.
[1:15] But back at that time, I was in the police force [and] I was paying childcare and I dropped back to part time to do renovations and I thought, holy cow, I think I just earned what I'm earning working all year without the difficulty of putting kids in childcare. Why aren't I doing this at a higher level full time? So, that was a big aha moment. Like, I just got $40,000 in a day. Like, why aren't I doing this more often?
Ensuring a Profit
In our last conversation with Smith, we learned about the depth of her passion for renovations. Now, let’s break down her steps to ensuring a profit.
[2:44] I think that people aren't serious enough about renovating and I always just, I treat it like a business. Like I make sure [that] I do take notice of the numbers and when I'm looking for a property for whether it's for myself to live in or an investment property for me or I'm helping somebody else look for a property, I always just think of the numbers, I pull the emotion out of it and I get really serious. It sounds, even when I'm styling a property to sell, I'll just think okay every ounce of effort I put into this property is going to be worth it for me because I'm going to get substantially more for the property if I present it at its best. So, I treat it as a business. I'm not just like fluffing cushions because I like the colour.
[3:26] So, that's number one. Number two, I'm always looking for opportunity beyond just a straight renovation flip or I just think, okay, is there a possibility to subdivide? Can we possibly put a granny flat on something? It's just looking for opportunity beyond just buying a property. I like to keep moving. I think that even looking back I said to you, I had a couple of quiet years where I had some very lazy equity and should have been doing more. But I guess I had kids playing sport, state sport, you know, family, family, family. So, I had a bit of that going on. But yeah, keeping up the momentum.
[4:04] I think that everyone needs to understand that styling is so important and presenting a property at its best and that renovating is different now the bars been lifted. And that a boring bland cookie cutter, no heart style renovation just because you [are] replacing old with new doesn't necessarily result in a property where buyers are going to fight for it. So, I think we can do a little bit better than that nowadays and I think the market expects it — both buyers and people are renting.
[4:33] So, I think that really taking it up a notch matters and I think that being able to do it again and having a really good team around you of somewhere where you can learn exactly what to do but even beyond that, having a really good trade team makes it easier to go and repeat it. Once you've done one, the first ones the hardest like anything we do in life and then they get easier after that. So, being able to repeat the process, it becomes easy. It becomes easier.
Some major costs of renovations include the price of materials and hiring tradespeople. Smith shares her tips to keep costs to a minimum.
[5:41] Definitely allow more time now to get a renovation done because you just won't have trades at your fingertips depending on your location in Australia, for sure. But definitely allow a little bit more time. Therefore, a few more repayments to the bank, if you're taking out finance to do that renovation. And yeah, definitely allow time for a product to arrive or be prepared to go to your plan B product.
[6:08] Not be so fussy about having that one particular vanity or oh my god, if I don't get those taps, I'm going to die. You know, all of that kind of attitude, you just gotta move straight to your plan B because your buyers don't notice. They don't know. They never really know what you had in your head. They just see what they're presented with and they won't know that your vanity, which looks nice, was your plan B [and] was your second choice.
[6:31] So, being a little bit more flexible and this will pass. These times will pass. I mean, I've done property investing and renovation back in the day where the interest rates were 17.7%. So, that passed. Everything passes. It was easy to buy, we could put in low offers, we'd have low offers on multiple properties and then just pick the one that we wanted to in the end. We could get all of our conditions met.
[6:56] That passed and now buyers are still fighting for property and it's just starting to come off a little bit now but who knows where that will go. So, all of these things are temporary and we just have to ebb and flow and understand that it's part of the game without getting too tangled up and stressed about it all.
Too Much DIY
Although it can be expensive, sometimes hiring tradespeople is necessary when renovating. This is something that Smith saw when her father was renovating but it hasn’t held her back.
[14:49] Dad actually bought a house, it was in the 70s because I was little. God, it makes me sound old. And dad DIY renovated this old house about two suburbs away from where we lived. And mom and dad, we were just over there weekend after weekend I can remember. Now that was a case of doing too much DIY.
[16:12] Dad did everything himself. The tiling, replaced kitchens, carpet, the whole lot. But I remember he flipped that house and made some significant income and that was a really good thing for them. Like I saw it and I was over there and just became very real that it was something that I could do and that my handy willing, new man in my life, put down his surfboard for a little while and came and joined me on the tools and we were just really suited for it.
[16:42] But yeah, dad and mum, mum still at 84 has just came, she came home the other day with a whole bunch of new tiles for her bathroom. So, she's doing a renovation on a bathroom herself, no drama. She's organised the tilers and the plumbers and she's already chosen the tiles and gorgeous stuff by the way. Stuff that a 25 year old would choose or any family would be happy to have in their home. So, it's just in my blood. It's in my blood.
The process of DIY can pose both mental and physical challenges but for Smith, the rewards are worth the efforts.
[17:55] The reason why I like flipping a home is because you do go through periods where you just think I'm tired — I'm physically tired, I'm mentally tired. The beauty of styling a property and walking through it and just breathing it in — like breathing in what you were able to create, really enjoying the space, being really proud of what you've put together, looking at the styling and the hunt for shopping. I enjoy all that kind of stuff to you know, hunting for a bargain to put it all together. I think that means that the challenges seem to be more worthwhile, it makes it worthwhile.
[18:32] They're the rewards and those rewards come before the financial rewards. So, yeah, the challenges are just being tired and I find it really interesting when I speak to people and they say, oh, I've got kids so I couldn't possibly do a renovation. And I think well hang on a minute, I did night shift [and] so did my husband. We had three kids, we were back and forth to New Zealand, we were back and forth up the coast of these country towns to do our renos or just even search for property and look and get on the ground. Like we were busy and it was tiring but it's also very, very rewarding and I don't know what else can produce equity and income.
[19:11] Like if we had have just gone to work and every day and come home, we would have had nothing more than our own home right now, my husband and I. On my wage and his. It's only property that enables me to live in little richie rich street that I live in at the moment. It's only property and it's only by getting something old and adding value to it or building something new and holding it or selling something and doing something better with that money.
[19:37] It's always like, what's the best and highest use of what I've got sitting around? If a property is not performing, I really look at it and go okay, should I hold on to it? Or is it time for this one to go and can I inject those funds into something that will perform? So, all of that. I don't, I'm not one of these buy and never never sell. I think that if something's not working for you and your money can make you more money if it's tipped into something else, then have a crack.
When facing the challenges of renovation, Smith thinks that you just have to push through.
[20:34] When people talk to me about, you know, will I be able to do it? It's exhausting. I go, no we don't call it exhausting, we don't call it hard work, we call it periods of discomfort. You'll suffer periods of discomfort.
[20:53] Push through and that's the truth. You know, people can push through, they're capable of far more than they think they are. And they think of things so that they add up like a big mountain to climb. They really worry about things and they feel like there's this big mountain to climb. And I just like to break things into chunk.
[21:13] You look at the mountain, you assess the mountain and then you forget about the mountain and you chunk things down and just bite off chunks at a time. And until you're through it and by the time you've climbed the mountain, you're at the top. You are tired, then you get to do whatever you like or nothing for a little while.
Putting Theory into Practice
Smith has generously shared some great tips about renovation with us now, so let’s hear how she puts them into practice.
[7:33] We bought this old house and we bought it a few years ago and we've just been sitting in it unrenovated. Another good point — I never renovate until I'm ready to sell. So, it's really current when it hits the market. But looking for opportunities, this is a great big old 70s match and it's worth about $3,700,000 right now.
[7:55] I'm going to cut it down the middle and I say I'm — me [and] my husband we are cutting it down the middle with a firewall. It already has two sets of stairs, what a blessing. One half is going to be townhouse one, one half is going to be townhouse two. So, it's going to cost us just over $1,000,000 to do the renovation it and I will DIY the second part because we can take our time in that. We will shuffle down one end and stay there.
[8:23] So, we'll do the other part. We want that done quite quickly. So, that's when we'll get all the tradies in just to do that to get it back on the market to rent. It should rent it around about $2,300 per week, which will be a nice income for us and then we can just take our time and do the second part depending on how it all goes.
[8:42] So, the value increase we will make probably $1,000,000 in profit from that renovation. But you know it's all relative. If you're down in $300,000 market, that's fine but you're not going to make $1,000,000 off a $300,000 property. So, it's all relative. Yeah, this I'm busting to get started with this one.
It sounds like Smith has taken on a huge and exciting project. But, how did she come up with the idea to split the house in half?
[9:26] It was, look honestly it was a property brought to me off market. I saw that no matter what, I just, I came home to my husband, he was at work and I said we're buying this house no matter what we do with it, we're going to make some money and we're going to enjoy living in the location. It's a beautiful street.
[9:41] So, I just thought I'm just gonna grab this one and figure out what to do second, knowing that it was so well built and had so much potential. It wasn't until I was in it living in it that I really had a concept of how huge it was. It's a huge house. And then my dad said to me, if you put that house, I talked about on the waterfront at Kornell that we built back in the 80s, late 80s. He said your house, the one you’re in, is two of those. And that was a four bedroom, two living, substantial house. And he said this shell is two of those, why don't you split it in half? I said you're a genius dad.
[10:25] So, yeah, it was after I was cleaning all day one day thinking, oh, I don't want to clean this house all the time, It's huge — I had a concept of how big it was and then we started to think about what we could do with the internal space. Which will save us a lot of money on the renovation because the roofs there, the slabs there, the floors there. We're just reconfiguring rooms and bringing it all back.
Smith couldn’t resist investing into this house because the build of it was exceptional.
[10:56] The block of land is 1000 square metres. The area of the house — I knew you were going to ask me that — 50 I don't know 54 squares or something like that. It's big. Picture a 70s house with the ceilings are 3.4 metres downstairs in one section, the lounge room upstairs is seven metres by 10. Like it's just empty, big empty space. Triple brick on the outside, double brick, some walls internally are double brick, others are single. But everything's if there's ever an explosion come to my place Tyrone. We're just not going to get blown up here. We'll be down in the basement. I'll take the coffee machine down there and we will last for ages.
[12:01] Okay, so when I was walking through it with a real estate agent, there's arches everywhere. So, we're thinking real Mediterranean 70s. That's what we're dealing with here. I just thought, my husband came through and he just, I could see his excitement. He's a wall tapper. So, he's tapping the walls to see how solid everything is. He was so excited. This was so well built, not a crack.
[12:25] So, we were buying that house. That's what, it's one of the first ones that I've ever proceeded with without doing a really detailed feasibility study because we just knew the condition of the house, if this hit the market, I'm pretty sure it would have gone for a couple of $100,000 more. So, we just jumped on it off market. Well, when it was brought to us.
Smith purchased this house in 2013 when it was worth $1,535,000…
[12:51] There's been a lot of natural growth to take it to $3,700,000 and all we did was we just painted it and put some new carpet in here and freshen it up a bit [and] didn't worry too much about it. I'm okay with living in an unrenovated house and so are the kids and yeah, so when we do it, we'll do it to rent out and yeah, we'll be in this one for a while.
Help to Find Success
We’ve heard about the success of Smith’s journey. Now, let’s take a look at what resources she used to help achieve this success.
[25:04] It was a changing point really when I heard Robert Kiyosaki because I'm like, I saw mum do what they did. I knew what I wanted in life. We'd already done a couple of renovations at that point and then I thought put your foot on the accelerator, sweetheart. That was a moment.
[25:20] So, I read so many books. I went to free seminars and then we started to pay for seminars back in the day.
[25:29] Probably the first couple, recursion was one of the first ones we went to. We learnt all about vendor financing. We also learnt loads about how to negotiate on property and how to buy and how to negotiate on real estate commissions. We just started to learn the tricks of the trade. Then we started to do things better. So, our results were better and our profit margins were more.
[25:50] Steve McKnight, Margaret Lomas and Jan Somers. Like they're the oldies but it's continued. And even now, I've just joined in another property development group. So, I just I love to learn. I feel like I'm just an average girl but I think I'm bright but not smart if that makes sense.
[26:15] So, I don't know. How do I explain that. I just feel so average and ordinary but I try hard and I'm interested and I love it and I'm passionate. And I just want to keep growing and learning because staying still bores me. It actually frightens me. [It] frightens me to stay still and do nothing. My poor husband, God bless.
Smith loves to soak up as much information as possible, which leads us into some controversial advice that she’s been told…
[26:57] It's advice that some people say, you know, it's a bit controversial. I actually think don't stick to one strategy. I actually think that that's really been great for us. Renovation is one of our strategies but we also like buy and hold [and] I love commercial property because of the returns. I just think don't stick to one strategy. Don't limit yourself to one thing. Get good at stuff and then expand your repertoire.
Here’s some advice Smith would give herself 10 years ago.
[27:51] It's going to be okay. Don't worry so much. Don't hesitate. Just go flat out. I would have done probably more, a few more deals.
[28:10] I've seen how we've done with the deals that we have done and I've seen other people do really, really well, too. And you know what it's like. You wish you had that crystal ball. Well, I'm kind of looking back going, wow, I should have bought that property. Or, you know, we should have just moved ahead.
[28:27] There was one that came up the other day, a townhouse in Alexandria. My husband and I had the opportunity to buy it for $225,000 amongst others. But $225,000. It was a big renovation and he went, ah, God, have we got the energy for it? I went, oh, we'll be really stretched doing this. But it's one of those properties that would be worth $2,400,000 or something now. So, we've had plenty of those moments along the way and had I've had the crystal ball, yes sure, I would have moved faster at some of those moments and not done kind of one at a time. So, yeah.
Looking to the Future
Looking towards the opposite side of things, let’s hear what Smith is planning for the future.
[29:57] Well, not retiring because that's boring. Um, I'm more, I'm probably already at the point [or] I am at the point where we feel very secure financially, which is really nice. I will, I'm a having grandbaby in July. So, I'm going to be nan. Granny Smith, just like the Apple all the kids say all the time, you're gonna be Granny Smith. So, I'm excited about that and I think that I probably should wind it back just a little bit to spend a bit more time with family and mom and yeah. So, yeah, I'm just looking forward to life. Life is good.
[30:46] So, Belinda, you said [an] amazing story. You've achieved so much great success. How much of it is due to intelligence, hard work and skill? And how much of it do you think has been due to luck?
[30:57] I just, I think some of its luck about 10%. I think skill, I don't know whether I'm many more skill. I only use the tools that are available to me which are available to everyone. I've just got a big engine. I'll just go. Like, I'll just keep going and going and going and going. Whether I'm renovating, whether I'm doing my business now where I'm coaching students. Like whatever I'm doing, I just go. I just get stuff done bit by bit. Not in any great style or fashion. I don't think I'm very organised in particular, but I just keep going and going.
Thank you to Belinda Smith, our guest on this episode of Property Investory.