Diary of a property investor: Lisa Curtin
Hi all... I own four units in a complex of ten. Four units in the complex run along the road down to the beach and the other six are entered via a long driveway from a street around the corner. The front four back onto the driveway of the six. I’m going to discuss the six unit area and the issues faced with common ground.
I purchased the first unit in this area in December 2012 and the second one in January 2013 just over 2 months ago now. There was an unloved vibe about the entry into the units, from the bin compound with broken wooden palings to the lack of plants in the garden beds. Overgrown trees and shrubs along fencelines gave the appearance of uncaring owners and tenants. I am emotionally involved in the units as my daughter is now living in one and I want her and my other tenants to feel pride in where they live. This in turn encourages them to assist in keeping common area’s neat and tidy. The added value of good curb appeal can’t be dismissed either, you want to ensure the property entices people to live there.
As the units are strata titled I needed buy-in from other owners at our AGM where we discuss issues facing the units and how to spend funds for the following 12 months. All agreed that the units needed work however some owners were purely in it as a leave alone venture and weren’t willing to spend too much, either in time or funds. The owner of the very front unit facing the road got stuck in that weekend and it made such a difference having one area looking so good that it spurred me on.
I have a good working relationship with the strata manager and agreed to take on the project of increasing the curb appeal, along with my avid gardener retiree mother, who I couldn’t have done without (see pic). Being passionate ‘swap meeter’s’ we sourced hardy succulent plants at more than half the price of the garden nurseries and set about clearing and creating a nice bed at the front of the units. Frangipani’s, yukkas agaves and flaxes were all used with a total cost of around $200, The strata agreed this would be an acceptable payment and as such I was reimbursed. As the area is already reticulated ongoing maintenance should be slim. We’re just waiting on mulching then the area should be complete. Unfortunately one of my ‘frangi’s’ was stolen two weeks after being planted in the very front yard and I learned a lesson in keeping the more desirable plants closer to a unit rather than where passersby could help themselves unseen.
One of my units is at the very end of the common driveway and has two carbays at the side for resident use (for those with two cars). There are four of these bays in total in the complex which is a real bonus. Unfortunately visitors park there which causes residents to have to park their cars on the verge. Parking is one of those things that stirs the blood and having my daughter in my ear all the time kept this issue in mind.
I organised ‘residents parking only’ signs to be put up on each of the bay area’s in the hope that this would fix the problem but unfortunately it didn’t. The strata manager sent letters to all owners, tenants and agents advising that visitors were not to drive past the letterboxes and that parking was for residents only. One unit ignored this and visitors were there on the weekends using the bays. Hedges at the front of the units were also an issue as it created a blind spot for those reversing out. If I didn’t have such a good relationship with my Strata Manager the outcomes could have been very different. As it was he contacted the Property Manager who is working on the issues of both parking and the hedge (same unit with the issues).
As none of the residents were using the bin compound with its rotting posts and large conifer trees we agreed to have it removed and I volunteered to pull up pavers and make it into a garden bed. As it is close to the verge it created another opportunity for improving the sight line into the compound. With such a long driveway ways needed to be found to break up the eyeline without blocking the driveway with cars coming in and out of carports.
The double storey house in the background is on the beach front so I’m really pleased with the location and have furnished two of the units but more about that in my next blog. Bye for now!
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Single mum Lisa Curtin has conquered most investors’ biggest fears, going from struggling to pay her mortgages to seeing success in renovations and now claiming the ultimate prize: a portfolio that will enable her to retire at 50.
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