Anna and Melvyn Correia: Getting back on track


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.”

They eventually settled for some time in Abu Dhabi, each taking advantage of work opportunities there. Melvyn worked in finance and Anna found a job with a major events company.

But they always knew Abu Dhabi would just be a short stopover for them, and first looked to the United Kingdom and Canada as likely destinations. But Anna’s childhood dreams and the climate in Australia, which she says is similar to her native Kenya, pushed the couple to give Australia one last try.

“At the last minute, I decided why not try Australia,” she says. “I didn’t tell anyone until the papers came through saying that we could migrate permanently. My dad was a bit upset.”

But the Correias say they have never regretted their decision to move down under, especially now that they have a two-year-old little girl and are planning on adding another to their family soon.

“In Australia people are a lot more open and there is just so much more opportunity here,” she says. “I never would have learned what I have now in Australia if I was still in Kenya.”

Bouncing back

Their first foray into property was definitely a knock back for the couple, but Anna says they learned a valuable lesson: they had a lot to learn.

“Before we bought our second property,” she says, “we invested close to $16,000 on property courses, attended close to 20 seminars and organised networking meetings for property investors.”

Their investment certainly seems to have paid off, as each successive deal has brought them some serious success.

Their newfound ability to spot real growth opportunities and conduct thorough due diligence first led them to the Queensland mining town of Blackwater, well-known for its rich coal deposits.  In 2008, they were able to secure a 3-bedroom house for just $200,000, and growth in demand for coal has led to a huge growth in demand for their property – they are now pulling in $615 per week in rent, a healthy 16% rental yield.

For their next purchase, they stayed much closer to their Sydney home, picking up a two-bedroom 1960’s era unit in Rockdale. Anna says they again wanted to make sure that they bought something with strong capital growth potential, in order to avoid the mistake they made buying when buying their first unit brand new.

They immediately carried out a major renovation on the property, investing $35,000, and seeing immediate returns. In just a few short months after the project was completed, the property was re-valued at nearly $100,000 over the purchase price.

As the project was progressing, the couple stayed very busy, snapping up a small 3-bedroom house a little further south in Ruse, near Campbelltown about 40km from Sydney. Again, Anna says, they had their eyes on ways to manufacture growth with this purchase, since the property has a large yard ripe for a granny flat that she says will make the property cash flow positive as soon as it is completed.

Maternity leave

But as busy as property investing kept the couple throughout 2010, another acquisition was vying for an increasing amount of their attention: their new baby girl.

“I have to take her around with me everywhere I go,” she laughs. And, being her first time around, Anna says she has wanted to give it her all. So the couple took a break from new investments for the better part of the last two years. But now that her daughter is a little older, she says they are ready to jump back into property again.

But Anna says they are ready to go even bigger, and because of that they recognise it is time to find partners. So she has set up what she calls a “mastermind” group using a major online social networking site that has already pulled in dozens of active members and shown signs of creating some valuable relationships and investment opportunities.

“So I thought why not set up a group of people so that everyone can help one another,” she says.

“So you might be in my group and you’re looking at a number of deals and you might come across a deal that might benefit the whole group and maybe you can’t buy it yourself so why not go into it as a joint venture?”

Anna says people often share property reports with each other, or discuss tips they might have learned from recent seminars that others in the group were unable to attend. The key is that busy members are able to learn from one another, and to trust each other, without having to meet regularly face-to-face. Plus, she says, it is strictly a ‘no-spruik’ zone.

“I told people from the beginning ‘please do not promote your business,’” she says. “Because, really the benefit of this group is to help one another so that we get to know one another so that tomorrow if I have a joint venture to enter into you know who Anna is and I know who you are and I’ll be a lot more comfortable knowing that this is the person I’m dealing with.”

Anna and Melvyn are indeed planning on jumping back into property in a big way, with their sights set on purchasing another two houses, and getting a granny flat put into their Ruse property they bought back in 2010.

But Anna is certainly going to need to multi-task, because while they are going strong in property and looking to start a couple of granny flat developments, they are also looking at another type of development project.

“We are looking to have one more child. I’m just waiting until I get to enjoy a little time without the baby weight,” she laughs.

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