Impressive real estate portfolio built on arduous saving and a team ethic
Over 11 years, Jennifer Sinclair and her husband have utilised renovation, custom home builds and duplex development to build a valuable real estate portfolio.
In the past 11 years, Jennifer Sinclair has, together with her husband, accumulated five properties in a multimillion dollar property portfolio.
The homes are located in Queensland’s Coombabah, Robina, Palm Beach and in Hamlyn Terrace, on the New South Wales Central Coast region.
A qualification in architecture and professional experience in the custom design and build of high-end homes have proven solid foundations for Ms Sinclair, a property investor and Palm Beach, Gold Coast, mother of two.
But despite her familiarity with the real estate industry, she stressed that counted for nothing in the absence of a positive mindset and having the right people around her.
“We have completed a mixture of renovations, custom home build and currently a duplex development, where the property we purchased in our SMSF (self-managed superannuation fund) is more of a long term capital growth strategy.
“So, we purchased a house in a newer growing suburb that already has established infrastructure like large hospitals, schools and decent transport network, to take advantage of low maintenance and depreciation, however, my interest definitely lies in properties into which I can inject more capital,” Ms Sinclair told API Magazine.
The Sinclair family portfolio
|Suburb||State||Type||Purchase date||Purchase price||Current/projected value once complete|
|Coombabah||QLD||Freestanding house||Jan 2013||$275,000||$650,000|
|Robina||QLD||Freestanding house||Jul 2021||$570,000||$1,230,000|
|Palm Beach||QLD||Freestanding house||Mar 2019||$680,000||$3,400,000|
|Palm Beach||QLD||Duplex development||Sep 2021||$1,260,000||$4,500,000|
|Hamlyn Terrace||NSW||Freestanding house||Feb 2022||$885,000||$930,000|
“It’s really important to me to have my developments nearby so I can quickly duck down to a site whenever I need and I’ve had multiple times when I’ve been called to site to an issue, and within 20 minutes of brainstorming with the team it’s been resolved and we were able to move on with the build and not lose time, simply because I live close and am able to tend to the issue in person straight away.”
“The Gold Coast is also experiencing huge population growth, so I’m keen to keep developing there, however, for any future investments where I can be less hands on, I’d definitely be looking interstate for diversification.”
One the biggest lessons the 36-year-old says she’s taken away from growing her property portfolio is learning about the different tax rules for different states.
“A main one is to understand your end goal for a particular purchase, which guides you to setting up the correct ownership structure before you sign the contract – that’s super important – and we learnt the expensive way in having to pay extra stamp duty when we realised the structure we purchased wasn’t the best for us in terms of asset protection.”
Currently, Ms Sinclair biggest learning curve is unfolding on her current duplex development.
“I expected lots of problems to arise but I have found that ultimately one of the biggest obstacles to overcome actually centres around personal growth and mindset, so navigating the emotional aspects of this project, learning not to take setbacks personally, and developing my ability to communicate effectively with others have been a massive step in my personal growth in the property journey because believing in yourself and surrounding yourself with the right people, with the right mindset, does wonders.
“My husband and I have a team that includes a financial advisor, mortgage broker, conveyancer, accountant and buyers’ agent who we check in with regularly to make sure we’re getting the best rates possible and that the properties are working for us the best they can.”
In a mortgage broker, Ms Sinclair recommends one who is happy to take the time to step you through what you need to learn and be educated about your budget and salaries.
“They can help calculate and approximate how much you would be able to borrow, and they can do all the different calculations with you, because it can be very daunting trying to decide which product and repayment type best suits your particular purchase, like fixed versus variable, and how many years, etcetera.”
Hong Kong born, Ms Sinclair started dreaming about investing as a child, and though already her portfolio has grown significantly, she’s a long way from finishing.
“I’ve always had a thing for real estate, probably because I had family members who were into property investing, and as a kid I remember checking out units and going to open houses in Hong Kong, so from then, buying a house was a dream I held close.
“I definitely have a very strong interest in diversifying asset classes, so I’d love to eventually add in commercial and unit blocks to the portfolio.
“For now, I’m focusing on doing one thing well, which is low density residential developments and even though I plan to be physically close to my development projects, the Gold Coast is largely a flood zone so it does add complexities to developments with council regulations and insurance costs.
“They pretty much double for properties in flood zones with very fine print conditions, so looking elsewhere will also diversify risk.”
Bad tenants a big expense
Eleven years ago, however, it was baby steps into the first home buyers’ market.
“We were actually all set for a year-long backpacking trip around the world, so had to be very intentional with our savings plan.
“Instead of sacrificing social times with our mates, we would pack our own lunches and dinners so that we wouldn’t miss out but just weeks before our adventure, we managed to purchase our first home.
“We decided to rent this three-bedroom, one-bathroom house out while we were off exploring, and I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good property manager.
“We got burnt by purchasing our first investment in a not so ideal location, which was all we could afford at the time, and the anxiety of dealing with bad tenant after bad tenant while we were overseas was stressful to say the least.
“On Christmas Eve we got an email from our property manager informing us the tenant had broken the WC and black water had flooded half the house and the tenant was seeking full financial reimbursement for all their belongings.
“Without our responsive property manager whose office was five minutes away from the house, we would never have gotten through that saga.”
Renvesting to explore the world
Returning home from their travels, the couple decided to try a rentvesting strategy.
“The property we purchased wasn’t in a location in which we’d like to live, plus our priority had also been to keep travelling as much as possible before kids came into the picture, so rentvesting was a way to explore the world while also getting a foothold in the property game.”
Marred by consistent interest rate rises and ballooning inflation, it has not been an easy game to play.
“When the interest rates started to rise, just a couple of rate rises meant our borrowing power reduced by $1.2 million, which was wild, because it meant we had to restructure our personal funds, budget, and strategise with our financial advisor,” Ms Sinclair explained.
“Just being really microscopically detailed and pulling back on those takeaway coffees here and there and buying lunches and going back to packing lunchboxes from home again, but it’s been a great exercise to check in with as we are now a family of four and expenses can quickly get out of hand if we’re not focused.”
Like her budget, Ms Sinclair has learned property portfolios require constant maintenance.
“It’s actually something I’ve only heard a few people talk about - the amount of time required for the administration side of things once your portfolio starts to grow.
“Straightforward tasks such as managing rates and water payments, organising and filing expense receipts, can become quite chaotic if systems aren’t put in place or organisation isn’t your strong suit.”
The chaos of a worksite, however, is something Ms Sinclair appears right at home with.
“I love being hands-on with renovations if I can, and I’ve taken part in three volunteer house builds in Vietnam and the Philippines where I learnt how to get the right concrete mixture with a hand shovel, learnt the local techniques in tying reinforcement steel bars together and also the art of brick laying.”
For now, passionate about growing her portfolio, Ms Sinclair’s ultimate goal is to build a portfolio generating enough passive income to support her family, to achieve their ‘giving’ goals and also create the opportunity for her, and her husband, to show their children the world through travel.
“That would be the dream,” she said.