After finalising her divorce in March 2013, Eliza Haycroft wondered if she was ever going to get back up on her feet again.

Left with just $16,000 in cash after paying her divorce bills, it wasn’t the best position to be in. “I walked away from a 23-year marriage. At the time I was working in the fitness industry and was made redundant.

I was single, middle-aged and had no job. I was lucky enough to find a job in the property industry which helped me get back on my feet and start another career. I had little to no super, so I knew I needed to do something and fast. I had to provide for my children and start again. My kids were in uni and needed financial assistance,” she recalls.

Fortunately, as part of the divorce settlement, she also got the investment property in Darwin that she and her husband had bought in 2004.

The Darwin property was valued at $450,000 and at that time had a $250,000 mortgage on it. Eliza refinanced and had about $160,000 in available equity.

With her $16,000 in cash and equity, she thought she should be able to start investing in property.

Investing solo

Having some cash and equity on tap, Eliza thought 

buying another investment property would be pretty straightforward. However, the first mortgage broker she worked with was unable to get her a loan.

“I wanted to buy a little three-bedroom, two-bathroom house and land package in Gladstone [Queensland] for $399,000, and I’d already put the $1,000 holding deposit down on it, but my first broker couldn’t get me a loan so I looked for another broker. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer,” she says.

“My second broker was a little more positive, and he was able to get me the finance I needed to continue with my Gladstone purchase.”

In the meantime, Eliza came across another investment opportunity – an off-the-plan development in Brisbane’s Bowen Hills.

“Bowen Hills has a major train station, RNS showgrounds and entertainment hub,” she says. “It’s the location of major head offices for Australasian companies such as Virgin Australia and John Holland. Other large companies are also in the area, providing ongoing employment and a demand for rental housing. Current infrastructure is good and there are further developments under construction at state and local level, such as health services and schools. 

“I’m very happy with my Brisbane apartment. It’s cash flow positive and hasn’t been without tenants since the day of settlement, and it’s in a growing market.” 

Managing risks 

Being a solo investor means Eliza can’t afford any unnecessary risk.

“I’ve always ensured my properties are well maintained,” she says. “ I attend to requests for maintenance and repairs promptly. This is to ensure that my tenants are safe, happy, and my properties are in good condition. 

“As an investor, I recognise the importance of quality homes and quality tenants. Quality homes attract good rental returns, and quality tenants pay their rent and maintain my investment for me. I also maintain a professional and honest relationship with those involved in my property investment business, such as my property manager, financial broker and investment mentor.”

Having the right insurance protection also helped Eliza deal with a dodgy tenant.

“I had tenants that were 65 days behind in their rent, and they also did damage to my property. At that time, 

I had very little funds in my buffer account. Fortunately, I had landlord insurance and was able to claim most of this back, including the damages to the carpet, walls, garage door and so on,” she says. 

Lesson learned 

Eliza’s investment journey so far has been relatively smooth, although she admits that at times she worries whether she’s doing the right thing.

“Of course there have been times when I have wondered how I was going to pay for the properties. I sometimes ask myself if I’ve done the right thing. Only time will tell.  But I do know that if I ‘sat on my hands’ and did nothing, I would have nothing in 10 years’ time,” she says.

Investing on her own has also paved the way to Eliza’s self-discovery and transformation.

“I’ve learnt a lot about myself and my abilities,” she says. “I’ve always struggled with self-confidence and taking action. I’ve learned that to become a successful property investor, you actually need to buy properties.

“Property investing is all about that leap of faith. My property portfolio may not be large in property numbers or dollar value, but it’s mine and I have one.”

Her advice to other investors? 

“Find the strategy that suits your lifestyle and investment goals. Listen to the people in the industry – everyone has great ideas and is happy to share them with you. Be prepared to think outside the box and look at different areas – even if you don’t know much about them in the beginning. 

“Be brave, take that leap of faith and take action. What do you have to lose? If you do nothing, you have nothing. If you do something, you will at least have the experience.”