Harry Singh did not start out wanting to make his fortune in property.
“I tried the share market in my early to mid-20s, but I got burned badly and lost most of my savings in the GFC,” he admits.
Following that financial blow, Harry had only one possession: his car, worth around $13,000. One night, he looked around his rented home in Coogee – a place he could never have afforded to buy – and considered his options. He decided that his best path forward towards financial success was in the property market.
To pull together enough money to make his first purchase, he sold his car. The profits, combined with the sale of a few other items and a few months’ worth of tight budgeting, gave him around $25,000 in cash.
The quest to find the right property from there was not smooth, he reveals, especially with his limited budget.
“I was looking for a two-bedroom apartment with parking for around $350,000 in the inner-west area,” he explains.
“However, the ones I found needed lot of work. Because I didn’t have extra funds, I had to purchase one that required very minimal renovating, or no reno at all.”
As the year 2011 came to an end, the window for applying for the First Home Owner Grant was closing. Concerned about missing out on a purchase, Harry took the plunge financially.
“I didn’t give up, and decided to up my possible budget to an absolute maximum of $500,000. With two weeks remaining [to get in my application] for the grant, I looked for whatever was available in my price range.”
The gamble paid off, and two weeks before Christmas he put a deposit down on an apartment in Rockdale that fit his requirements: two bedrooms, no renovating required, and parking.
Scrimping to succeed
Harry lived in his Rockdale unit for two more years. He was frugal with his money and worked hard in order to boost his financial footing.
“In this time, my property appreciated [at a rate of] 10% per annum, giving me an equity gain of $100,000,” he says.
He continued to monitor the housing market in Sydney and noticed that prices there were rising rapidly.
“However, I kept missing out on offers made and getting outbid at auctions. I was let down and thought that buying a house close to the CBD was something that wouldn’t happen for me,” he says.
But Harry maintained his can-do attitude, and Christmas 2014 brought him another blessing when he came across a house in Camperdown, completely by accident.
“When I walked into this house, I knew that it was the one I had to purchase. After missing out on so many properties, and with many buyers in the market, I wasn’t too confident, but I had to give it a shot,” he says.
The property was listed in the low-$1m range. It wasn’t a small sum, but based on his experience and knowledge of the market, Harry could see that he had a good deal on his hands. He made an offer on the house the next business day, and after some negotiation throughout the week, he successfully signed a contract at a price of $1.26m.
He leveraged the growth in his first purchase as a deposit on the Camperdown home, and continued to live a simple life to save money. The Camperdown house appreciated by almost 35% within 12 months, enabling him to consider a third property for his portfolio.
However, this plan was delayed by nearly a year when Harry experienced issues in his personal life – something he says ended up working out for him.
“By this time, a three-bedroom house with parking was selling for close to $2m. I couldn’t believe the prices,” he explains.
“I stuck to my philosophy, and I saw the rise in demand and the short supply of housing in Sydney. I managed to purchase a four-bedroom house in Enmore just 4km from the CBD – it needed very minor works to bring it up to rentable standards, but I then had tenants lined up before settlement.”
HARRY’S TOP 4 BUYING TIPS
1. Opportunities will not fall in your lap – one has to be proactive in this market. Call real estate agents, developers and property owners and constantly monitor the market; you will eventually find a deal that will turn out to be a sound investment.
2. Don’t let the media tell you otherwise. Regardless of what the media says, it is a seller’s market or a buyer’s market. There are always great deals out there – the ones who can act fast and make decisions quickly are the ones who win.
3. Believe in your instincts and due diligence. If you have done your due diligence and it tells you that a property is a good investment, don’t be worried that it’s too good to be true. Go for it!
4. Work out your total costs and potential rent. Come up with a few different scenarios – the best case, the worst case, and in between – and find ways to have all of them work in your favour.
Current value: $760,000
Year purchased: 2012
Harry’s first property, purchased for $498,000.
He had to act quickly as 2012 was the last year in which the FHB grant was available for existing properties
The property is now positively geared, with stable tenants
Current value: $2,125,000
Year purchased: 2014
Purchases second property for $1,260,000. Harry kept an eye on the housing market as he saved for his second property, and he saw prices move by 10–25% within one year
Current value: $2,175,000
Year purchased: 2017
Purchases third property in Sydney’s inner west for $1,960,000
CURRENT PORTFOLIO: $5,000,000
Harry’s portfolio was built solely in Sydney, with strategic purchases in key areas enabling him to generate equity of almost $3m
Aside from his never-say-die outlook, thinking long-term is key to Harry’s investment strategy
“I like to find out what the future looks like for the street and the suburb I wish to purchase in, as my goal is to buy and hold,” he advises.
Believing that blue-chip suburbs, or areas that are within 10km from the CBD and have plenty of infrastructure and public transport, are ideal for investment, Harry says he has deliberately kept his portfolio small.
“Why buy multiple properties when you get the same gain from a few solid investments that are easy to manage?” he says.
“I also feel that it’s okay to pay a little extra to secure the right property, when you know it has all the elements to do well in the future.”
While he acknowledges the importance of ample research, he also says he aims not to be swayed by what ‘property gurus’ might be saying.
“Be careful of their advice and always check what financial benefit they are getting if they’re recommending you a property to buy. Knowledge is the best mitigator of risk,” he warns.
“Make up your own mind. Develop your own strategy that suits you. Every investment involves taking risk, so don’t let the risk factor or what-ifs stop you from making a move.”
“Why buy multiple properties when you get the same gain from a few solid investments that are easy to manage?”
Retiring before 40
Now in his early 30s, Harry has come a long way from where he was only a few years ago. He has a net worth of $1m-plus that looks like it will continue increasing as he begins the search for a fourth property to renovate and create instant equity.
“I believe I could retire by 40,” he says.
“It’s one of our responsibilities to be financially secure so one day we can give back to the community. Property investing in Australia provides you with that opportunity. However, you have to spend time to educate yourself and learn the game.”
Harry does have one regret, he admits: that he didn’t start his investment journey earlier.
“I’d be a bit more aggressive as sometimes the cost of doing nothing is much bigger,” he says.
“Look for your next deal when you can. Don’t wait. When you find something good, act fast! Don’t let fear of failure paralyse you from making decisions and taking action.”