Mortgage Broker of the Year: Jane Slack-Smith
Investors Choice Mortgages
What do you love about being a mortgage broker?
My journey as a mortgage broker actually started in my previous career as a mining engineer. I found that, by applying skills from the mining industry to my private property investments, I had unearthed a successful formula for low-risk property investing.
At the time I was an engineer specialising in explosives, and, as you can imagine, developing risk strategies is central to this role. After five years of turning my own small deposit of $45,000 into a multimillion-dollar property portfolio by using similar risk strategies, I realised that by sharing my strategy I could help others do the same. By becoming a mortgage broker I could devote my days to helping others succeed in their investments and achieve the lifestyle they’ve always dreamt of.
When I see my clients succeed, and be able to repeat their success, that’s when I’m most proud of my work.
What are the biggest challenges for investors accessing finance in the current market?
There’s no doubt that lenders have tightened up their credit scoring, so keeping your credit file clean is critical. Another problem we often see in this fast-moving market is properties being undervalued. This is caused by valuers failing to record recent sales fast enough. When possible we like to go the extra mile and provide details on recent sales to valuers so that we can get the right valuation the first time.
Finally, people using the wrong lender may run the risk of reducing their ability to access equity. Building equity to be able to access it is the key to growing a property portfolio, and getting this wrong can stop any investor in their tracks. Being with the right lender and knowing their polices allows you to avoid any unnecessary difficulties.
What are your top tips for managing cash flow in the current market?
Start with the end game in mind and choose a lender (and often lenders) who can assist in building your portfolio. But to choose the right lender you need to know your numbers and select an investment strategy
that is right for you, before you develop your specific buying criteria first. Once you know your goal and how you want to go about getting there, then we find a lender to suit.
Second, I always suggest creating a buffer by borrowing more than you need, just as a bit of extra security in case something goes wrong, like you lose your job or tenant.
I also recommend using an offset account against non-deductible debt, ie your home loan, and, finally, to have all your loans set up as interest only, even your home, whilst you are building your portfolio.
Find a lender who will give you a 10-year interest-only term, or roll over for another five-year interest only term without the need to reassess your application or hit your credit file a second time.
What are the biggest mistakes investors make when applying for a loan?
One thing that could set investors back when trying to grow a portfolio is cross-collateralisation, ie the combining of one mortgage registered against two or more security properties. Focusing on rates can also limit portfolio growth, as can being with a lender whose policies don’t match your future needs.
You’re also passionate about renovation. What are three common mistakes you see investors make when they attempt one?
This is easy: location, location, location. The best renovated property in a place where no one wants to live will not create wealth. It’s as simple as that.
Another common error is not understanding pricing disparity, ie the difference between renovated and unrenovated properties. This clearly tells you if there is a profit to be made.
Finally, not sticking to your renovation plan and budget.
How does it feel to win this award?
I actually won this award five years ago and I can still remember receiving the call. I was covered in paint as I was in the final stages of a renovation. I was so thrilled, I even did a happy dance, paintbrush and all! I feel the same excitement winning today.
When I won the first time I took the opportunity to look back at the most successful clients during those five years. It became obvious to me that it was those with a clear goal and strategy and who had done their research; they were the ones growing their equity. That’s when I really began investing in learning how to pass on my knowledge and this ‘success structure’ to my clients. This integration of education and resources to assist clients in finding where to buy is why we have so many repeat and successful investor clients.
Winning again has shown me that my ongoing investment in providing extra resources for my clients, and my decision to concentrate on giving even more value, has been worth it. I know we do things differently, but I also know that our clients get different results. I let those results speak for themselves.
What readers said
“I found the Investors Choice website one Sunday afternoon, being confused with all the options and non-options available to me from lenders. I phoned ICM expecting to get a recording and leave a message to be contacted during working hours – not the case. To my surprise, not only was my call answered on a Sunday afternoon, it was answered by the director of ICM, Jane Slack-Smith.
I explained my situation in the hope of getting some good, honest, straight-talking advice. After 10 minutes of listening intently to my plight, Jane broke her silence and advised me of the best options available, some of which I had never heard of. We both made notes; Jane emailed hers to me so I wouldn't forget the critical points for me to take to my lender the next day. She also arranged to phone me the next day to further discuss and ensure we had the right property in the right place at the right price. During this phone call I realised she had, at her own expense researched the area, property and price being asked, and advised I was on track, that my choice had ticked all the right boxes, and produced the data to support her view.
“This information gave me the confidence to move forward with the deal. She also added I should complete my business dealings with the bank representative I was currently dealing with because ethically that would be the right thing to do. And I will this time. But needless to say, next time I will be contacting the most knowledgeable, ethical and hardworking brokerage firm I have found to date.”
– Stephen Taylor
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