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Stephanie Brennan was only 22 years old when she bought her first property in the Northern Beaches of Sydney. In under four years, she successfully acquired eight more properties and went on to become Australia’s youngest property tycoon. Can today’s millennials follow in her footsteps?
Before she dabbled in real estate, Ms Brennan went through an ‘elimination mission’ to find her purpose. She drove a taxi, explored engineering, marketing and sales, offered professional help in business operations and even served the government of New South Wales as a policy advisor. In 2012, she started working for a property management company and, since then, she has not turned her back on real estate. For her 22nd birthday on the same year, she signed the contract for the purchase of her first property in Manly Vale. Was it hard to enter Australia’s property market and keep her head above water amidst unpredictable movements? Not at all, she said. According to Ms Brennan: “It is hard if you don’t know what you’re doing. There is a lack of knowledge and guidance in the market, I think that’s true, but it’s not hard to do well in property.”
“If you find the right professionals to engage with, then it’s not hard. The expert in anything was once a beginner and that’s important to remember as well,” the avid investor told Smart Property Investment.
At the moment, the self-made property mogul owns nine properties spread across Australia, the United States and Scotland, all amounting to over $3.1 million. Ms Brennan has since continued growing her multi-property portfolio through different strategies while also working to share her knowledge to her fellow young investors as a property advisor. “As an avid entrepreneur and investor, I’ve seen all kinds of ups, downs and experienced many moments of self-doubt, but throughout this my vision to build wealth and help others do the same has always remained clear,” she said. After building a substantial portfolio at a young age, her goal is to own a total of 22 properties and retire by the time she turns 30.
Ms Brennan graduated from the University of Sydney with a certificate in Corporations Law, Criminal Psychology and Forensic Psychology in 2009. She went on to complete business law, management, human resources, accounting and marketing courses in the International College of Management in Sydney before seeking formal education on real estate, finance and mortgage broking. At the age of 20, she became a policy advisor to Bronwyn Bishop and went on to start her own business consultancy.
Early on, she knew that she wanted to create her own path for wealth-creation, inspired by her family of entrepreneurs, particularly her father who started his own business at 21 and worked as an insurance broker. However, she struggled to find her true passion.
She initially wanted to enter the stock market but after being given the opportunity to work with accomplished property investors, she realised the great potential for good returns in property.
Before buying her first property, Ms Brennan sought to gain a deeper understanding of property investment, so she spent years working in a property management company and a real estate agency. She sold a property for her sister, written business plans and oversaw a 1,400-portfolio. When it’s time to make the purchase, she has saved up around $100,000 for the deposit through years of working and saving—from cleaning, working at Pizza Hut and the supermarket and painting houses to keeping her $125-a-month pocket money and birthday money over the years. She also got her parents to act as guarantor for $60,000 using their family home in Belrose.
The then-budding investor was initially turned down for a mortgage, but on her 22nd birthday in October 2012, she was able to finalise the purchase of her first property, a $386,000-property in Manly Vale. After merely four years, the property’s value has grown to $700,000. The first investment lessons she learned: Learn to sacrifice and don’t be afraid to start small.
According to Ms Brennan: “You can’t have it all at the start and you really need to work your way up and build up. There were plenty of things that I went without. I’ve learnt to cut my hair ever since I was 15. Even though I have the money now, I don’t spend money on that because I want to look at paying down and investing more.” “It’s still easy enough to get into the market if you’re willing to put in the effort. There are still properties that you can find that aren’t ridiculously priced in Sydney, on the northern beaches or on the north shore, or even in Bondi. “It’s only a matter of being willing enough to put the work in and actually go for it,” she highlighted.
Throughout her investment journey, Ms Brennan continued to marry modesty with ambition, investing in sensibly priced properties located in blue-chip geographies. To date, most of her properties were bought for under $400,000. Her assets are located in Manly Vale, Manly and Collaroy in Sydney, Bowen Hills and Kelvin Grove in Brisbane, and Philip in Canberra.
Over the past six years that she’s spent investing in property, Ms Brennan has implemented different strategies to get her the best long-term results. According to her, the goal was always to establish a substantial nestegg for her retirement, which is why she is adamant to take on a long-term perspective when making investment decisions.
Aside from opting for blue-chip locations, Ms Brennan also actively tries to avoid rural areas and so-called ‘property hotspots’ due to higher level of risks. Rural areas often lack the population growth that builds demand, she said, and an area without demand is an area that will most likely lack price increases. Instead of going where most investors are flocking, the investor studies where markets are headed in line with where they are no and where they have been in the past. She also takes into account her personal financial situation as well as her long-term investment play when selecting properties to buy. In general, she chases high returns that will increase her serviceability. By achieving good returns, she can capitalise off her existing properties, be able to buy more assets and ultimately diversify her portfolio to improve its growth potential.
While there is no one secret to finding the right location, she recommended going for properties within 20 to 30 km radius of a major CBD that displays strong population growth.
Start by writing down your goals. From there, work backwards—determine the returns you need and the strategies you could implement to get there.
Set a realistic budget and stick to it as much as you could. Take into account all expenses that you will shoulder prior to beginning your investment journey and set up a buffer to accommodate any unexpected costs. Losing money due to overcapitalising can cause a significant delay on your wealth-creation or, worse, completely derail it.
Understand how property financing works—from mortgages to loans and interest rates—and do your best to plan an investment budget ahead of time.
Seek to understand property investment through self-education and mentorship. There will be a lot of moving parts that will influence the growth of your property and it could be overwhelming at times. Being backed by your own knowledge and the expertise of professionals will help you have an easier time navigating the landscape.
The more you know, the more confident you will be to grab the opportunities present in different markets, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.
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