Door knocking to buy homes: the amazing property journey of unstoppable couple

With incurable passion and determination, a husband and wife team have, over more than a decade, created a major medical precinct.

Geelong Healthcare Precinct and Day Hospital
Geelong Healthcare Precinct comprises of a dental clinic, day surgery centre, general practitioner, pharmacy, childcare and kindergarten, and cafe, but its coming to fruition is a story that must be read to be believed.

Like a 10 year game of monopoly, husband and wife team Aseem and Dr Rashi Gupta said “we’ll buy it” 12 times in a decade.

By the time they passed Go, they’d bought a cluster of houses the half the board, or my specifically, half of a Geelong city block.

The Victorian couple entered the property market in 2013, to fulfil their personal dream of creating a $20 million-plus healthcare precinct on 12 blocks they now own.

Initially, it was just to be one house and block located on the Princes Highway, Norlane, Geelong, where Rashi could relocate her dentistry business to a more prominent location.

As circumstances evolved so too did her dream of owning a single business grow into a precinct of multiple specialists across a range of fields, including dental surgery, child care centre, medical centre, day hospital and café.

Today the build is complete, but their story is one of persistence and patience like any property investor buying with the intent of rebuilding or accumulating a portfolio of properties.

Cold-calling to buy family homes

In the 400 metre hurdles, runners only have to clear 10 evenly spaced hurdles. The Guptas were the equivalent of Olympians in a marathon with hurdles.

Knocking on prospective sellers’ doors out of the blue to offer to buy their home because it was needed for his wife’s goals is probably well outside the comfort zone of the average auction attendee or property buyer.

“Convincing property owners one-by-one to sell their houses was a big barrier and one of the hardest jobs to do,” Mr Gupta said.

“But then, so was convincing council to allow us to pursue this development on what were residential blocks.”

Jumping through regulatory hoops meant the pair had to often get creative if they were to accumulate a dozen houses for their purpose, but it would not be the only test along the way.

For example, buying the properties meant issuing applications three times to the supreme court to change covenants as old as 1938, which took roughly eight months each.

At any of these junctures, most mere mortals would have abandoned ship, but the Gupta’s are now the proud owners of a facility five businesses wide and likely to be serving their community for decades to come.

“Looking back, I think it was helpful we started slow and went big along the way, and we had very clear, long-term goals from the beginning, plus, we were patient,” Mr Gupta, who is now the Geelong Healthcare Precinct and Day Hospital Chief Executive Officer, said.

“In the beginning we hadn’t intended on buying 12 properties, but each step steered us further toward an expanding dream of something much bigger.

“It was not planned to buy so many properties, but we were pushed to a corner to have these 12 houses if we were going to open Geelong Healthcare Precinct, plus I think the need and inner calling was so strong that it let us keep going and eventually it all happened.”

Overcoming obstacle after obstacle

Located seven minutes by car from the Geelong CBD, their precinct is bound by Arunga Street (the former site of three houses) Denver Street (two houses) and the Princes Highway (five houses).

The first house on the highway was settled in 2013 but approval for a dentistry was rejected by the local council.

“The first property came onto the market automatically and we tried to convince council to allow a dental practice, but it was rejected as it was surrounded by the other houses,” Mr Gupta said.

“Council suggested we consider buying the corner house if we would like to open a dental practice.”

The couple engaged a real estate agent to buy the two properties either side of the first, one being on a corner, which together could be turned into a childcare centre as part of the health hub, but two years later, the owners still didn’t want to sell.

Aseem decided to go door-to-door himself and by 2017 they owned the three neighbouring properties.

An architect was engaged to draft the childcare centre concept, which council approved but Dr Rashi’s initial plan of relocating her own dental business was yet to be realised.

Again, real estate agents were hired to try and buy neighbouring properties but with no success, prompting Mr Gupta to again lace up his walking shoes to door knock for the cause, and by 2021, 10 years after Dr Rashi drafted the simple plan to rehome her dentistry, an additional six properties and two parcels of land owned by the Department of Housing were theirs.

Builder woes

The masterplan approval process took six years, and fifteen staged building permits were submitted. Demolishing of the properties began in March 2021, and before Christmas the same year a builder contract was signed.

At this point, no formal finance was in place but unfazed, the couple walked their way through six bank rejections, including from the Big Four.

Mr Gupta turned to a broking firm and by September 2021 the ANZ Bank approved development, and the following year, the Commonwealth Bank signed on to fund a day surgery hospital.

In a cruel twist of fate, after 12 years inching toward their goal, the ambitious couple were suddenly shut out of the worksite with no access following the bankruptcy announcement of their builder Lloyd Group in March 2023.

In early April, the Mr Gupta got involved to help more than 60 trades working on the site. Within a few weeks, a new builder was engaged and significant renegotiations with tradespeople who’d lost trust in the project meant 99 per cent were back on the job two months later.

At this point, Mr Gupta became full-time project manager and in early 2024, the healthcare precinct opened to the public.

Property investors’ beacon of persistence  

Throughout the 13 years since the conception of her nascent idea, Dr Rashi worked six days a week for eight years to financially support the development. For two years Mr Gupta worked full-time as project manager.

“She believed in me during tough times and was always there during the challenges but most importantly, we trusted and supported each other’s dreams, and it’s very important to have that to be able to keep going when times get tough,” Mr Gupta said.

He recognises mistakes were made along the way.

“There are a few points, including overcapitalisation to make this state of the art building and the time it took as we kept increasing the scope, plus we started with limited funds and put everything at stake with no backup,” he said.

“We also lacked industry knowledge around the day hospital in particular but with much support along the way, we did it.”

That support included brainstorming problems with the right people who understood the bigger vision.

“I’d say every square metre counts and it should contribute to your return on investment, so whatever your goal, optimise the development area and evaluate potential for value additions,” Mr Gupta said.

“Have a backup plan too, in case you hit a financial crisis but invest in quality for the best returns.”

Mr Gupta said the initial purchase negotiations were tortuous.

Convincing our neighbours was a nightmare, given there were 12 houses involved

During negotiations, I had to accept premiums ranging from 20 to 300 per cent.

“Negotiations with four of the house owners alone took almost six years, yet despite these financial setbacks, our end goal remained clear, and we factored these losses into our calculations.

We anticipated short-term struggles with returns on investment but are confident that with our long-term outlook spanning 10 to 15 years will prove profitable.

For all the hurdles the Guptas have had to clear, their positivity and persistence to complete their project possibly stems from their cultural background and a Hindu system of architecture, sometimes referred to as Vastu Shastra, the principles of which are embedded in the Geelong Healthcare Precinct.

Vastu Shastra is believed to boost positive energy and, in the health hub’s case, determines room and door orientation and reflects the elements of water, fire, air and earth in external finishes.

As we look back upon our journey today, the tears in our eyes are testament to the memories and countless doubts that weve bravely navigated.

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