For 25-year-old Corey Batt, doing renovations is something that runs in his family, so it’s no wonder he and his wife Jess have spent the last seven years doing up houses in Adelaide
’s northern suburbs.
He doesn’t call himself an expert, but after renovating 10 houses since he turned 18, 25-year-old Corey Batt probably knows more about the strategy than most.
Corey and his wife Jess have a portfolio of 10 properties in the Salisbury and Playford local government areas in Adelaide’s north, worth around $1.9m thanks to the efforts they have made to add value to each purchase.
“The investment strategy
that we’ve always gone for was to buy in your working-class, blue-collar areas,” Corey says.
“We’ll look at affordable areas and then buy well below the median.”
After purchasing, the Batts then renovate in order to turn the property into one that is cash ﬂow positive, as well as increase equity, which they use to fund their next purchase.
What the Batts do to each property depends on the condition it’s in at the time of purchase, and they don’t shy away from projects that need some serious work.
“Depending on how bad-quality they are, it might just be cosmetic: replacing kitchens and bathrooms, painting and flooring, those kinds of things,” Corey says.
“But in some cases there are issues which are semi-structural problems that need to be repaired, or we might open up some spaces. Some properties have had kitchens where we’ve removed a wall and opened them up into the dining area.”
Many of the Batts’ purchases have been older government-housing properties which have presented some problems that may have scared other renovators off.
“A lot of these are old government housing as well, and they were very creative with the building laws back in the sixties and seventies so some of the stuff is not exactly compliant now, so we have to get a lot of things replaced.
“We’ve pulled out kitchens and the gas pipe was meant to be in one location but you could see that it was job that had been bodgied up and was completely different than how it should be.
“In pulling out walls we’ve found structural issues where it has to be repaired so the side of the house doesn’t fall out eventually. Those things cause some little hurdles, but overall it hasn’t been too bad.”
The fact that the Batts are willing to take on some projects that others may avoid has allowed them to generate some solid returns for minimal outlay.
“The cheapest we’ve ever paid was $100,000 for a three-bedroom house,” Corey says.
“The last one we bought cost $185,000; the median in the area was $220,000 and once we spent $6,000 on the place it was valued at $235,000.”
The Batts leave the technical side of things – electrics, plumbing and tiling – to the experts, but as a renovator since a young age Corey is able to do much of the work himself.
“My family has done renos for quite some time. So I grew up in a family where it was quite normal. They’ve flipped about seven houses; we’d go from one PPOR to the next and they’d renovate.
“There’s a picture of me at about six years old with a paint stripper taking the paint off a door of a house from the 1800s.
“To be honest, it’s not that difficult. The technical trades stuff, we still get professionals in to do that, but everyone knows a tradie, so it’s always easy to get that stuff done.
“Putting in the kitchens, I’ve done probably half of them myself; the other half I’ve had tradies put in.”
While he might seem to be on to a good thing with his current strategy, Corey is ready to look into other types of properties that he can invest in and renovate.
“We’ve got quite a good base of residentials, so we definitely want to get into commercial space from here,” he says. “There are a lot of small groups of shops and shopping centres that have been held by the same owner since
the sixties, and they could do with an update and that would push up the price astronomically.
“I’ve some very good projects where that’s been done, and they’ve made over 100%.”
A point of difference
While some investors may think buying so many similar properties in a relatively small geographical area is asking for trouble, Corey has a different outlook on things.
“I think diversification is for mugs. If you want to pick a whole bunch of things you don’t really know about, you’re going to get mediocre returns,” he says.
“I’d rather make a strong decision about something in an area I really understand. If I was to buy in areas I’m unfamiliar with, I’m more likely to make mistakes.”
The similarity of the couple’s purchases has led to other benefits too.
“We’ve got a bit of a pattern. Everything is painted the same colour; we use the same tradies; it’s very cookie-cutter now. We can generally, with a pretty good degree of accuracy, get the budget down without quotes.
“We know polished floorboards are generally going to be $2,200; the kitchen, depending on the size, is going to be $3,000 to $4,000. At the end, we’re usually within $2,000 of what we estimated.”
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