Success Takes Persistence And Perseverance
Disillusioned by the restaurant industry’s lotong hours, Coral Brian-Wheatley sought financial freedom through rental income, by partnering with her husband in what’s become a substantial business. Having finished her apprenticeship, Coral was only in her 20s when she realised the 15 plus hour days she was putting in were unsustainable. As she read up on books by prominent international investors, Coral saw that property would make money while she slept, reduce tax obligations and offer an alternative path towards wealth creation.
“We worked out the weekly rent we wanted to have to exchange what we were then earning,” Coral says. “I left the restaurant business at 29 to have my son and did some part-time teaching, but never really went back to work.”
Coral and her husband Ron purchased property local to their Coffs Harbour home to start off with and made a 13% return on their first investments. As they started buying more property however, challenges arose regarding refinancing and funding their portfolio. “We found it hard to get the banks to understand what we were doing at first,” Coral says.
At that time during the mid-1990s, there weren’t as many people investing in property and this different path from traditional business models was hard for financiers to fathom. When the couple finally found a forward-thinking building society, things took off - and Coral says they still work with them for some transactions to this day.
Buying a run-down Coffs Harbour motel was a game changer and hinted at the strong returns possible through commercial real estate. Coral says that after an upgrade, they enjoyed 95% occupancy levels as the property became a real cash cow. “We then started buying blocks of units and strips of shopping centres through our self-managed superannuation funds from 1997.”
While they were unable to borrow through their SMSFs until 2008, they could, however buy property outright - and this is where young investors continue to get it wrong, according to Coral. They see retirement as a long way down the track and prefer to pay tax, or simply spend their money rather than making extra super contributions.
“Building wealth through super is a gift from the government, it’s compulsory savings that you can leverage,” she says. “Self-managed superannuation is where I get really excited. It can grow exponentially, very, very fast.”
Over time, the couple’s strategy evolved from simply seeking to replace their working income, to becoming a full-time passion. They’ve moved from residential to commercial and now development. “When your knowledge grows, you’re able to look at opportunities in a more accessible and bigger way,” Coral says.
Having initially gained confidence in their local market, the couple ventured further afield and sought out areas destined for growth, researching infrastructure advances to help guide their purchases. Once the internet hit, Coral was able to access a much larger array of property, however prior to that she’d always start with a local council.
With Townsville, for instance, she could see that the army was nearby and there was a new hospital on the way - providing confidence that it was a worthy place to invest. This strategy hasn’t always worked - with a Gladstone shopping strip continuing to perform poorly - but Coral remains pragmatic. “One area may go up, but another may go down,” she says.
Admitting that her best investment decision was to marry Ron, Coral says that if you don’t have family support and a good partner, you can’t be in property. “If Ron wasn’t interested, we wouldn’t have stayed on this track.”
Real estate has not just become Ron and Coral’s life, but that of the entire family who’ve all pitched in along the way on various projects. “All our children know you don’t just have to have a job now, but that there are other ways to earn an income,” Coral says.
The freedom and financial stability offered by their investments meant they were able to pick their own working hours in order to be fully present in their children’s schooling and follow sporting and other pursuits.
While the couple ensure to retain a business approach and they’re careful not to overspend, they are always very good to their tenants. “If we don’t look after them, we won’t have them anymore,” Coral says.
Coral’s tips for new investors are to calculate what sort of income you’d like to receive, then work backwards from there. Start young - and make sure you work from the first moment possible, then save, save, save. “When you’re free with no commitments, it’s the best time to start investing your money,” she says.
Spend time researching property rather than watching television at night and take action or it isn’t going to work. Success takes persistence and perseverance, Coral says. “You need to be doing things every day. Commit to a set amount each week, then lock it in. Once we got that, we were on a roll.”