Although Deb says she and Aldo have just been “stumbling along” on their real estate journey, there’s no denying that the married couple have a knack for property. In 10 years they’ve bought, renovated, sold, lived in or rented out six houses, using funds from each sale to move them closer to their goals.
Their efforts have produced a stunning portfolio valued at $2.5m.
-based couple, who have two children, hope to achieve two outcomes by investing in real estate. Firstly, they plan to ensure their future is secure and their retirement – hopefully an early one – will be comfortable. Secondly, they plan to use their profits to buy their own growing property support company.
“We want to be self-funded so we don’t have to work our day-to-day jobs,” explains Deb, who works as an engineer. “Eventually, our business will be at a point where we can be working for ourselves, as well as looking after our future.”
Taking a leap of faith
Inspired to invest in property by Deb’s mum, dad and brothers, who are all property entrepreneurs, Deb says she and Aldo didn’t have much in the way of knowledge or experience when they purchased their first investment in Tarragindi, Queensland.
"We were looking at investment of some kind, but we didn’t want to do shares or anything like that – we were both of the opinion that our investments need to be seen rather than just growing in the background,” Deb says. “We got a little bit of advice from family and friends, but really, it was trial and error for us. We’re still learning along the way."
The Campodonicos had two stages planned for their strategy. First they aimed to build their portfolio through a buy-and-sell approach, by renovating properties to reap maximum profit. Then they planned to hold properties for longer-term capital growth once they had hit their financial targets.
Building capital through renovation
In line with their strategy, initially the couple purchased properties with the aim of renovating to manufacture capital and then use the funds to acquire other properties.
“We got a little bit of advice from family and friends, but really, it was trial and error for us. We’re still learning along the way”
Their first such ‘renovator’s delight’ was a post-war fibro and timber house in Brisbane’s southern suburb of Tarragindi, which the couple purchased with financial backing from Deb’s parents.
“With Aldo being a tradesman, we did a bit of work on the house to give us that extra growth in the property,” Deb says.
“We changed the bathroom and kitchen, and did up the entertaining areas. We work on the principal of smarter renovations, rather than spending a lot of money and then not getting the growth in the end.”
After renting the house out for two years, the couple were able to put the property on the market for a figure well above their purchase price, courtesy of their improvements.
By this point they had also purchased a property in the neighbouring suburb of Annerley, 4km south of the Brisbane CBD. The three-bedroom, one-bathroom detached home on a double block was intended to be their dream home, but family life put their renovation plans on hold.
“That house was going to be renovated and turned into our dream family home, but then we had our firstborn – and kids change your outlook on everything!” Deb laughs. “We decided to buy another property in Salisbury so we could move into that one while we renovated the Annerley house.”
The Salisbury purchase became the most profitable addition to their portfolio. Shortly after purchasing it, they revamped the three-bedroom home to increase its yield potential.
“We changed the bathroom and kitchen, put on a coat of fresh paint, added new curtains and spruced up the inside,” Deb explains.
With the improvements, they increased their return from $355 per week to $405.
"Our Salisbury property had a good rental return, and it had good growth as well. All of our family stayed in the property at some point in time,” Deb says. “So I guess it was both an emotional and financial success.”
Location: Yeronga, Qld
Property type: House
Purchase price: $1,360,000
Purchase year: 2014
Current value: $1,500,000
Current rental return: 3.9%
Dealing with the unexpected
While on paper their strategy would be considered a success, Deb explains that things didn’t always go to plan. The couple found themselves responding to some unexpected events and property decisions that didn’t quite go to plan – like selling their dream home.
“I had this crazy idea that I was going to be able to renovate the family home, with two small children, while my husband was away and with me working full-time,” Deb laughs.
“So we actually sold that property, which was partly done up on the inside. We redid the bathroom and kitchen, but I didn’t get to complete the full renovation I had planned.”
Then they quickly found a new place to live, but although Deb describes it as their “dream home”, she says they realised after moving in that it wasn’t suitable for a family with small children.
“It was a beautiful house in Yeronga, with an executive style,” Deb says. “But as the kids got a bit older it dawned on us that it wasn’t very practical, so we decided to sell the property in Salisbury to fund more investments and a new place for us to live.”
After adding a few finishing touches to the property, the couple sold the Salisbury home for a profit.
“We had already renovated inside, so we spent another $20,000 on the exterior of the house, freshened it up with new paint, replaced the fence and the front and back stairs, just to give it that extra appeal,” Deb explains.
With cash in hand, the seasoned renovators returned to the marketplace, putting the Yeronga house up for rent and buying two new properties in Ipswich, Queensland.
Well positioned to reach their targets
The family’s portfolio currently consists of two tenanted houses and one principal place of residence. They’ve also begun moving into the second phase of their strategy: increasing their cash flow through positively geared properties, and holding for capital growth.
With their brick-and-mortar assets now generating an income, Deb and Aldo are more able to focus on their business, Detail Property Services.
“We look after minor details, like cleaning, all the way through to project managing a renovation,” Deb says.
The couple have certainly earned their stripes in the renovation industry, having made a considerable impact on the value of every house they’ve put their hands to.
When choosing potential properties, Aldo and Deb search for properties they themselves would feel comfortable living in. Generally, these are homes that appeal to the family market.
“It should have at least three bedrooms, one or two bathrooms(preferably two), a good living space and car accommodation,” Deb explains.
Keeping the ball rolling
Reflecting on their journey so far, Deb says one of her regrets is selling their first property after only four years. “I think if we’d kept it for another two years, we would have got a lot more growth from it,” she says.
Although the pair have learnt the ins and outs of the property market ‘on the job’, they’ve kept up their momentum despite setbacks and are now brilliantly positioned to keep the buying ball rolling.
“Now that all of our properties are actually making money, and we’ve reduced our living expenses by buying a new home that’s suitable for us but also frees up a lot of capital, we’re able to fund our next ventures,” Deb says.
They plan to purchase several properties a year, although they’re not setting a number just yet.
“We’re just going to have to weigh up how much time we’re spending managing our properties,” Deb says. “If your properties are self-sufficient and they’re not taking up your time, then I think you’re on to a winner. You want your investments to be able to manage themselves and have as little impact on you as possible.”
DEB’S TOP 5 RENOVATION TIPS
1. What you renovate depends on your budget. If you’ve got the cash, do your bathrooms and kitchen, as they sell houses.
2. If your budget is tight, stick to a coat of fresh paint, repairs and a general tidy and clean.
3. Styling a home for sale is an easy way to make maximum impact. I style my houses myself; I hire some key furniture and use some of my own furniture. It doesn’t have to be expensive.
4. The outside is important too. Tidy the gardens, replace fences, and style your entertaining areas. If you’ve got a pool, present it nicely too.
5. Don’t spend more than you planned. Do what needs to be done to capitalise on the property, and do it well, but remember every dollar you spend cuts into your end profit.