Still somewhat new to Australia, Anna and Melvyn Correia were intrigued by the possibilities of property investing, but did not know how to get started. But then in 2007, a friend convinced them to take the leap. It was a leap they would soon realise they took far too blindly.
The couple, who had emigrated just several years before from Kenya, found out very soon that their friend likely stood to make much more than they ever would on the deal. Anna is now convinced he was working for the seller as he has since gone into real estate and worked very hard to push them into the sale.
“We had a friend that was working with me and obviously being a good friend, I trusted him and he knew that we had just emigrated so we didn’t know anything about property,” she says.
“So he showed us this off the plan property [in the Sydney suburb Hurstville], and he told us, ‘look there are just a select few of these properties, and I would buy one myself,’” she says. “That’s one of the tricks they use, and they tell you if you don’t sign up today, it’s like the last one and you’ll lose out on that opportunity.
“And then he told us if you don’t sign the contract it is going to go up by $10,000 within five days.”
So they signed up for the off the plan 1-bedroom unit, and Anna says they have been regretting that decision ever since.
“He is now working for a real estate firm and so he would have definitely gotten a whack of a commission from this sale. That’s for sure. Because it was one of the properties they were trying to sell.”
She says he never told them outright that he was working for the seller, but only found that out later on. She never considered pursuing any legal action against him, she says. “I think I just wanted to steer clear of him afterwards and with us being new to Australia, I just didn’t want to stir anything up.”
The property has been a very low performer, and to make matters worse, Anna says they were misled about the high $1500 per quarter strata fees that have made the property almost unsustainable.
But the Correias have worked to make the best of this very bad situation by educating themselves and now taking a hands-on, and eyes-wide-open, approach to building and managing their portfolio.
In the five years since, Anna and Melvyn have gone from victim to victor, amassing a $1.6m portfolio and positioning themselves to take advantage of a market Anna sees as an investor’s dream.
An immigrant tale
The Correias, both of Portuguese and Indian ancestry, grew up relatively poor in Kenya. They met and married and knew they would have to look abroad in order to seek better opportunities for themselves and their children. Anna says moving to Australia was a dream she had since a young age.
“When I was 11 I had it in my head that I wanted to go there – though I’m not sure why,” she remembers. “Everyone always spoke so well about Australia, and always said it was so lovely. I just didn’t want to bring up my kids in Kenya with what I could see happening in the country.”
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