Photographer, surfer and budding property investor



See more of Duane's blog posts here.

A brief rundown of who I am – Duane Robinson, a 35 year-old living in Maroubra, freelance photographer, part time surfer. I live a simple life. Always try to look on the bright side of life. Up until recently I owned a Ford Festiva worth a few hundred dollars and photography gear. My property investing journey really only started early 2011. A flatmate (thanks Mr Ian) who is a successful property investor in his own right opened up the world of property investing to me, but at the lower end of the scale – cheap properties, none of this Double Bay YuppieVille stuff, I’m talking Regional NSW… HicksVille… Utes, trucks and lots of curse words:)

As I write this blog coincidentally I’m back sitting in the first of 5 Investment Properties. This property was purchased in August of 2011. Wow a lot’s happened in a year! Rewind to March 2011 when I took a trip to Dubbo in search of my first IP.  I was really keen to get the ball rolling. However, after spending a few days looking at houses in Dubbo I decided it didn’t meet my investing criteria. Prices were a little high and it had boomed a few years earlier. I stumbled upon Wellington on my way home. I had a quick look in the real estate windows and liked what I saw. It fit my $$ criteria, so when I got back home I researched the area and its potential for investing. A few months later I talked my dad into taking a trip out to Wellington for a due diligence mission. The trip was certainly an eye opener! Regional NSW is a world away from Maroubra, and Wellington is even further.

However on the trip we came upon a doozie of an opportunity that I couldn’t walk away from. It ticked all the boxes:

  • A house under 100k
  • The chance to learn the property investing ropes on a small scale
  • An opportunity to release the reno bug in me
  • A run down piece of crap that needed some serious renos & value adding potential. It hadn’t been lived in for about 7 or 8 years
  • Wellington had a few projects in the pipeline
  • Good potential cashflow returns of 10% +  

One Catch was it was going to auction in a week. I had no finance, less than 2 years financial records for my photography business, and no freakin idea what I was doing! I registered for the auction anyways.

When I got back to Sydney I got on to my trusty mortgage broker Kevin Lee from Smartline (plug plug). He assured me I’d get finance one way or another. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear and that’s exactly what happened.

The following weekend saw the auction take place with Dad and I sitting on one end of the phone in Sydney and the other end was a bidding rep for me at the auction in Wellington. I didn’t want to go above 60k, and thankfully I picked it up for $52k. I couldn’t believe my luck! I was jumping for joy. Up until then my biggest purchase was a 2nd hand car for $6500, plus I’d just purchased my first investment property over the phone!! Crazy!

I had 8 weeks to prepare for the DIY reno. Bearing in mind I had a reno bug that needed some serious itching, effectively what I did was create a s#@t storm and then sail directly through it in a rubber dingy. I was about to break the golden rule in property investing, the one thing that a couple of good friends who had reno experience said “DON’T DO IT YOUR CRAZY!” Yes that’s right I went overboard with renos, overcapitalised! Check out how crazy my plan was (looking back now I would have had more chance climbing Mt Everest with one arm tied behind my back) - New kitchen and flooring, new flooring for the laundry, toilet and bathroom, new carpets in lounge room, MOVE bathroom, create extra bedroom where old bathroom was, remove wall to open up lounge/kitchen, oh and did I mention this was to be done in 2 weeks, and I had absolutely zero renovating experience!!!  Well 2 x months later with my sanity barely in tact and many many YouTube DIY videos later (“how to waterproof a bathroom”, “how to tile & grout”, “how to gyprock”, you get the idea), I finished it all thanks to a few extra hands. Massive thanks again to Mr Arman, Dad, Brett, Mel, Roy & The Kelly gang!

Fair to say that was one hell of a learning curve. I learnt a lot from that. Restraint when it comes to renos, understanding that a 17k reno would increase rent maybe $10 or $20 more per week than a 7k reno, but most importantly I learnt that reno shows on TV are a load of bollocks!

After regaining my sanity from the reno mission, Dad and I partnered up and started D&D Property trust. Dad put in 30k and I managed to draw 30k of equity out of the recently reno’d property to put in. Early on we adopted a strategy of Buy/Reno/Rent/Revalue then use the equity increase to purchase the next property. We’ve since purchased another 3 x properties and about to settle on the 5th. Each property is returning between 7.5% and 13%. One of the properties went from $52,500 to $100,000 in 5 months simply by adding a picket fence and a lick of paint. And all this has happened in a year! I think we’re doing well.

Back to reality though… as I said I’m sitting in the first IP (where it all started) - why you ask? Well investing isn’t as easy as you might read in magazines, it’s not all fast cars and luxury holidays. I’m back here cleaning up as we had a tenant move out who left the place in a less than satisfactory state. Anyways I’ll save this adventure for my next instalment…  Thanks for readingJ

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A professional photographer and now avid renovator, Duane has made fast work of starting small. His first purchases were nicknamed ‘El Cheapo’ and ‘El Dumpo’, but he’s moved on to bigger projects as he and his father/investment partner explore joint venture and development projects. From his home base in Sydney’s Maroubra, he splits his time between eyeing photos and property deals.

You can also read our profile of Duane here.

Top Suburbs : menai , nightcliff , artarmon , st marys , wallsend

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  • El Piddy says on 31/08/2012 08:24:08 PM

    Safe as houses.

  • Kevin Lee says on 04/09/2012 07:44:10 AM

    Duane - a great overview of your journey thus far. Congratulations to you and Dave on the settlement of your fifth investment property yesterday - don't Roget to send me the before & after shots! Cheers from your trusted adviser. Kevin Lee.

  • Ben says on 30/07/2013 02:37:31 PM

    Hi Duane,
    Great to follow your story. I was wondering what % deposit you put down for your first IP that you bought for $52k? Basically your startup costs. Thanks mate

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