How Billie Christofi built a $10m portfolio
How Billie Christofi built a $10m portfolio
Billie Christofi has amassed a 20 property portfolio in just 14 years, but rather than coast to an early retirement, she’s set her mind on teaching the next generation how to build wealth through property.
Melbourne’s latest lockdown and its associated economic uncertainty has put the brakes on buying and selling property for many, but not for serial investor Billie Christofi.
Ms Christofi, whose portfolio is constantly in flux with new properties being added and others being placed on the market each month, says she’s been undaunted by the challenges of the pandemic, and has instead continued to focus on finding new investment opportunities.
“I’m still actively buying now, there is opportunity everywhere,” Ms Christofi told Australian Property Investor Magazine.
“Buyer sentiment has really been affected and people are scared to transact, and that’s so understandable because people are losing their jobs, people are fearful and bank lending is becoming a lot harder now
“But I think fear of getting into the market is just going to delay you being able to find those opportunities.
“Right now there are people that have to sell, there are still great hotspots to invest in, so if you are in a position to be able to do it and you can get something that you can hold onto and not require a quick sell, I think it’s a great opportunity to really not be fearful and get into the market.”
Seizing every available opportunity has always been a big part of Ms Christofi’s investment strategy.
She acquired her first property at the age of 22, after utilising an unusually disciplined savings regime throughout her childhood.
“My uncle was heavily invested in property and the sharemarket, so we were taught from a young age to really focus on saving,” Ms Christofi said.
“Everything we saved we would give it to my uncle, and he would double it and put it into shares.
“By the age of 16 I had about $16,000 saved up, and I put that into a syndicate for a commercial property and that syndicate did quite well, and by the time I was 21 I was able to pull those funds out, which were then around $45,000.”
Ms Christofi used that $45,000 as a deposit to buy her first property, a Melbourne apartment which she then sold 18 months later for a tidy profit of $150,000.
While she acknowledged that rapid capital growth experience would likely be difficult to repeat, Ms Christofi said it opened her eyes to the potential of building wealth quickly through property investment.
Her portfolio now comprises 20 properties, worth a ballpark figure of more than $10 million, providing not only a passive income but also the confidence to continue investing.
In 2011, Ms Christofi joined Melbourne finance and investment group Reventon, and has set about passing her wealth-building knowledge onto others.
Part of the strategy is to target sectors of the market that will be in demand from two sides - whether that is a location popular with renters, or a property that is attractive to other buyers when it comes time to divest.
“I usually find the $500,000 to $700,000 range is usually the best in terms of affordability, because the money that you get back on depreciation, tax benefits and the rental income usually outweighs any of the expenses that you have with the repayments,” Ms Christofi said.
“You’re not really out of pocket that much, you’ve got a pretty neutral portfolio that way.
“That’s the sort of price bracket where there is a lot more demand, and it’s also the price bracket that’s hit the least when there is an economic crisis.
“I think that curbs against people being fearful of getting into the market, because you can sell or rent them out a lot easier, so they take a hit a lot less.”
In the current market, Ms Christofi said she was finding opportunity in Victoria's and South East Queensland's regional areas, with cities such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and the Sunshine Coast providing solid growth potential for her, as well as Reventon’s clients.
“We look at the regional areas for investment because we want to give clients house and land packages, because land gives them security with their investment as well,” she said.
“Regional is a bit more affordable as well, that $400,000 to $700,000 bracket is usually the most affordable for clients.”
Also central to Ms Christofi’s strategy is comprehensive research and a lengthy list of criteria that needs to be met to provide for a potential return.
But while data is important, Ms Christofi said it is equally as important not to get caught up in short-term fluctuations in median house prices, or even what stage the property cycle is at in each particular market.
“If you’re just trying to see a quick spike, that’s where you can get into risky ground where you’re needing to sell early, before you have actually seen any capital growth” she said.
“But I don’t really focus too heavily on property cycles, I think it’s more of a strategy of ‘can I hold this for long enough to let the property cycle see an upturn’.
“I always think that the best time to invest is right now, it’s finding the right area and the right affordability based on what your resources are.
“I would never say hold off, because there are opportunities everywhere, you just have to find the right opportunity for you, and focus on where there is construction, employment and money being spent on areas where there might be an upwards turn.
“It’s about really doing your research or getting a team behind you who is doing the research and getting into the market sooner rather than later.”
Ms Christofi’s disciplined approach to investment is also reflected in her home life, with the mum of four committing to an extraordinary health and wellness regimen that includes waking up at 4AM each day to ensure she has ‘Billie Time’.
“For me personally, if I don’t get up at that time I’m not a calm, happy person, that’s my ‘me time’ and that's my quiet time,” she said.
“If I don’t have that, then I don’t recharge my batteries and it’s just crazy all day.
“Four kids in a house can be quite hectic, especially now we’re in lockdown, so for me that’s my way of getting exercise, my thoughts down on paper and just have some quiet time to read about what’s going on in the market.
“Then it’s go go go from there, it’s home schooling and work and Zoom calls and cooking and everything mixed in one, until it’s time for the kids to go to bed and it’s me time again.
“It’s very hectic, and without that I don’t function. I need to be orderly and prepared and make sure that everything is in line so it functions as smoothly as possible.”