Young Investor - Lauren Robinson
Most people wouldn’t commission an independent building inspection on a new dwelling, but Lauren Robinson’s insider real estate experience told her otherwise as she looked for her first property. When the pre-purchase analysis failed - revealing a major flaw in the concrete where it wasn’t reinforced correctly on the slab - Lauren was warned it would be too risky to go ahead. Only in her early 20s at the time and confident to wait until something more suitable came along, she now has three properties throughout Brisbane, recently branching into commercial. Commencing her property journey with an owner-occupied townhouse in Paddington, property manager Lauren admits she had the whole office come through her inspections.
“I wanted confidence,” she says, “I think that’s why it took me so long.”
With key criteria to live in a good area, close to transport and shops, Lauren knew she wanted to have the option one day to turn the property over into an investment. As such, she was keen to find something that had a wider appeal and would suit the rental market.
Using the same degree of intensive research as she did with that first lucky escape, Lauren’s industry knowledge told her that speaking to the body corporate was essential. The Paddington townhouse was in a block of eight, where she door- knocked each owner to discover the ins and outs of living there. Discovering the body corporate president lived onsite, Lauren was able to talk to all concerned, rule out any major concerns and feel comfortable going ahead with the purchase.
“It can be really daunting when you’re first looking,” she says.
Acknowledging that it can be easy to get carried away by the shine of an off-the-plan or new build, Lauren says she was able to rein herself in with a written checklist and the boundaries provided by a mortgage pre-approval. “I knew how much I could afford.”
Calculating ahead to what her own mortgage calculation would be, Lauren then put that amount away for over a year - not only helping to adjust her budget but aiding with savings too.
The high degree of support Lauren had in those early days of property - not just with her own home, but her first investment too - made her realise how essential it was to have a great team in place.
“I think you do need mentors at the beginning,” she says.
“There’s a lot of stock out there, but it may not necessarily be good stock.”
This philosophy is what helped Lauren uncover a unit near the University of Queensland in St Lucia where she was able to increase rental returns by renovating and altering the floor plan. The now three-bedroom property doubled in rent from $260 to $520 per week - a value-add that helped Lauren into her next investment. Initially focussing on Brisbane’s residential market, when as a business owner Lauren needed her own premises, she realised the advantage of buying into commercial. Finding something with the proper zoning was critical, as was its need to be flood-proof and fire-safe - and when that ‘something’ even came with office furniture, Lauren knew she was on the right path.
With plans on the horizon to rent out her Paddington property, Lauren aims to rent for a while before buying a house on land in which to live long-term.
Investment-wise, now confident with the performance of her properties, she would also like to start looking further afield, with an eye on the real-estate market nationwide to leverage capital gains in growth areas. Having started young - and with years ahead to build equity - Lauren will focus on interstate capitals over regionals, where she says the returns are more sustainable with stronger growth drivers.
“I mostly focussed on buying in the Brisbane market because I knew it,” she says.
Sharing her biggest property aha moment, Lauren says it’s common to have buyers remorse soon after purchasing. However if you’ve done all the right checks and know your returns - along with what you can do to increase returns - it’s easier to regain certainty in your decision making.
“Expect the worst and hope for the best,” Lauren says.
“And always have a budget or buffer for your properties.”