When Jason and Hayley Chittenden bought their first home in Western Australia, they didn’t have the intention of getting into property renovation.
“Jason had a background in mining, and we’d spent five years living in the Goldfields region, where we bought our first home. This gave us the money to put towards building our next home down in Australind,” Hayley says.
Jason and Hayley relocated to Australind near the Bunbury CBD at the end of 2007. Three years later, the couple discovered they were having their second child.
“This unexpected addition to our family prompted us to move up to Perth and sell our home in Australind so Jason was able to find a job locally,” Hayley says.
After the profit made on their property transactions, real estate investing began to pique Jason’s interest. Flush with the proceeds from the Australind sale, he signed up for the Renovating for Profit course run by Cherie Barber. In 2012, he and Hayley purchased their first investment property and renovation project at an auction in the suburb of Hilton, and this became their focus while Hayley was pregnant with their third child.
“Our first two renovations were done by borrowing money from the bank. Our first property took a whole year to complete. During this time, Jason was still working full-time while doing most of the renovation himself and only using tradies when absolutely necessary.”
When all was said and done, they made a profit of around $11,000 on the property, and they were beginning to have an appetite for renovating.
AT A GLANCE
Years investing: 6.5
No. of properties renovated: 10
Best reno profit to date: $57,000
Growing as renovators
In 2014, the couple purchased their second property in Cooloongup for $245,000, which they quickly renovated and sold for a profit of $45,000. They also began collaborating with “money partners”, who contributed cash towards each project in exchange for half of the profits. At this point, they beefed up their portfolio with another two houses in Leda and Success.
Wanting to be independent of the usual nine-to-five slog, Jason and Hayley initially planned to simply stay the course and keep renovating until they could turn it into a full-time profession. However, fate intervened.
Jason completed another renovation course, which taught the couple the value of presenting their properties for sale.
“The first time we showed our coach one of our finished renovations, she suggested using staging to give the house more appeal. This was something we hadn’t thought of before,” Hayley explains.
“Having your property staged helps attract the emotional buyer and adds a warmth you won’t get in an empty house. We are constantly asked if the houses we sell come with the furniture used to stage them, and one house we did actually sell with the staging included!”
Emboldened by the additional success that home staging brought them, Hayley began to explore this aspect of home renovation further, eventually gaining the skill and confidence to do it herself. Her work on their sixth house in South Lake helped make it the most profitable property in their portfolio, earning the pair nearly $60,000.
Jason and Hayley’s Huntingdale property is currently on the market, so they’ve styled it for maximum impact
“I had begun staging the properties myself as it was a cheaper option, seeing as we were planning to keep going,” she says.
The Chittendens have now renovated 10 properties – all located in WA – since 2012. All of their projects have been listed for sale immediately after renovation, and despite the tricky market have netted the couple a six-figure personal profit thus far, with the 10th property currently under offer.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, however. In looking for their eighth project, Jason and Hayley neglected crucial advice from Cherie Barber and purchased a property on a main road in Kewdale for renovation. As a result, the finished product sold at a loss.
“The deal we have with our joint venture partners is that they take the risk financially and fund our renovations, and we do all the work, and then we split the profit 50/50,” Hayley says.
“However, if there is a loss, such as in this case, we didn’t lose anything financially – our cost was all of the time and effort we put into the renovation. From that project, we learned that location is essential; main roads and busy streets are a big buyer objection when reselling.
“Quiet streets, proximity to schools, parks and shops, as well as how desirable the suburb is overall is what you want to be looking for.”
Jason and Hayley also learned the importance of saving time as compared to money.
“Sometimes doing things yourself, such as painting and tiling, may help keep the budget down, but getting the professionals in will have the job done quicker and most likely to a better standard.”
However, the couple does seek out deals to help them budget for renovation projects.
“You don’t always have to buy brand new. Some great bargains can be found on Gumtree or your local Facebook marketplace. We have picked up some bargains this way,” Hayley says.
From student to coach
As the couple matured on their renovation journey, Jason’s career took a new turn, and he is now coaching and mentoring renovators while maintaining his full-time position. Meanwhile, Hayley developed her interest in staging into a business of her own.
“We have accumulated two houses’ worth of staging furniture from our projects, and I have just started up my own little staging business,” Hayley says.
“Jason also has a desire to get into developments, so we’ll see where the future takes us,” Hayley says.
The couple admit that making renovation a full-time job has been harder than it looks, and it hasn’t always been easy to save up for their projects along the way.
“Using money partners offered us the freedom to renovate when we were able to and even have multiple renovations on the go at the same time. However, that means we only get 50% of the profit from each sale, so building up a nest egg was not as quick as we would have liked,” Hayley says. “But it has provided us with funds for the courses and the four years Jason was a mentor student.”
Ultimately, Jason and Hayley’s support of each other and single-mindedness in pursuing a common goal has been instrumental to their success. “Surround yourself with likeminded people and you can inspire each other!” Hayley says.
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