From recruiter to rentvestor: five properties by age of 31

Young property investor Lorna Wang has used her day job and a simple strategy of saving and buying well-located affordable properties to build an impressive real estate portfolio spanning four states.

Young property investor Lorna Wang with her mother at her investment unit.
Young property investor Lorna Wang attributes her mother's hard work and selflessness to her own financial self-discipline. (Image source: Lorna Wang)

At the age of just 31, Lorna Wang has built a real estate portfolio comprising five properties across four states - all while living in a share house with friends.

From humble beginnings, Ms Wang has gone from listening to planes roar above her home beneath a flight path to soaring with a property portfolio that will ensure a lifetime of financial security.

“I’m a first-generation Australian and our parents didn’t come to this country with much and took on whatever jobs were available to them.

“My mum initially held two jobs when she first arrived, one as a machinist during the day and another washing dishes at a restaurant at night where she was paid $3 per hour back in the mid-80s.

“After years of saving, my mum and aunty scraped together a deposit and purchased an old house in Sydenham in the late 80s, which was a major flight path for Sydney Airport but that’s what they could afford at the time.”

Realising at a young age that saving every cent was only part of the journey towards prosperity, Ms Wang has accumulated her four houses and a unit in an industrious seven-year period.

Lorna Wang’s national property portfolio

Suburb State Type Purchase date Purchase price Current value
Yagoona NSW Unit Apr 2014 $367,000 $485,000
Clovelly Park SA Freestanding house Oct 2019 $395,000 $615,000
Eastern Heights QLD Freestanding house Mar 2020 $349,000 $520,000
North Bendigo VIC Freestanding house Sep 2020 $360,000 $560,000
Parafield Gardens SA Freestanding house Jan 2021 $380,000 $550,000

A work ethic instilled in childhood and a subsequent career in recruitment provided the base to make that all-important first property purchase but the investment journey didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts.

“Growing up in a single-parent household on welfare, we had the basic necessities but as the eldest, I wanted to help take care of my family and so I started working at the age of 15.

“Not having much meant that I valued financial security and started saving what I was earning.”

With practically no knowledge about the property market and being, by her own admission, “totally naïve”, she bought her first property at the age of 22 after hearing that Sydney was going through a boom.

“I remember my hand was shaking as I was signing the contract of sale while the real estate agent was watching me bemused.

“Reflecting back on that purchase, it was actually a mistake and it was only after holding it for several years that I realised the huge opportunity cost that slipped by.

“In the coming years after that first purchase, I picked up bits and pieces of knowledge on property but I knew there was so much more to it that was beyond my ability to confidently buy again.

“I was stuck between the fear of buying another mistake and wanting to buy another property to grow my wealth.

“My frustration led me to seeking out a buyers agent, InvestorKit, and with the added confidence of professional advice I embarked on an aggressive acquisition phase.”

Rentvesting to the rescue

Despite now owning properties around the country, Ms Wang has continued to rent in Sydney’s inner south, sharing a house with friends and enjoying a short work commute and vibrant social scene.

She pointed out that by rentvesting, she could live in an area shed otherwise be unable to afford while putting her financial resources towards more affordable property investments.

“Most people my age are renting because of Sydney’s housing unaffordability.

“Living in a share house gives me flexibility and lifestyle and I now feel pretty settled where I’m at with life but I’m not ready to permanently settle down, so in the meantime I have my investments working in the background for when I am ready.”

There were some sacrifices made along the way, with some missed experiences far outweighing any material sacrifices but a focus on financial self-discipline has paid rewarding dividends.

“Lifestyle creep is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome.

“We all get tempted to upgrade or buy nicer things and especially when you start to have some good disposable income it’s easy to get carried away. 

“Upon reflection, thankfully there aren’t many things that I regret giving up; none that are material possessions but maybe one or two experiences that were set aside.” 

“Building a successful career over the course of seven years was an amazing time in my life and I was able to achieve financial success but I knew that at some point I was going to leave that behind so I started to make plans on how I could comfortably walk away from it all, whether that was to change organisations, change careers or a desire to go into motherhood for a few years.

“Whatever it was, I knew I needed to make the most of the opportunity I’d created.”

Keeping it simple is key portfolio strategy

While her assets are in South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and her home state, spread across suburban and regional areas, the overarching strategy is relatively simple.

The homes were all priced below $400,000 and deliver capital gains and decent rental yields.

“There is a lot on the line when purchasing property and it’s about minimising the risk of getting it wrong, because it can go really wrong.

“Before each purchase, I sit down with the buyers agent and review my holdings and work on what the next purchase might be.

“From my experience, you can have a solid rental yield and good capital growth but it’s just about finding the right market to be able to achieve that, and that’s what takes a certain level of skill, from finding accurate and relevant research data from a macro and micro level, to interpreting, analysing and understanding it.”

All of Ms Wang’s properties are managed by property managers, and for now acquisitions are on hold while she reassesses her own financial risk profile and the wider market’s reactions to interest rate increases and other variables.

“I liken my property portfolio to a side hustle, where there is a little bit of work that goes into it from time to time but it doesn’t dominate your schedule.

“I review my portfolio yearly to see how I’m tracking but right now I’m in that optimisation phase so there’s not a lot I need to do,” she said.

As for the future, Ms Wang said it’s less about compiling a huge portfolio and more about ensuring life is comfortable and choices are hers to make.

“I feel like my goals are ever-changing but the main thing is having a large safety net and my property portfolio will hopefully allow me to have options and that in itself is a privilege many don’t have.”

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