Vicky and Matt were already experienced property investors when they heard about the investment strategy of micro-apartment conversions. Now, having doubled the rental income on one house in South East Queensland, they’re looking at how they can expand their strategy into multiple properties.
Vicky was on maternity leave after their third child when husband Matt suggested she look into the idea of HMO (house for multiple occupation).
Not your average investing newbies
At the time Matt, an engineer and Vicky, a physiotherapist, already owned 6 properties. 5 of them were investment properties (some of them co-owned through a joint venture). A sixth was their principal place of residence, a “big, fancy house” in a leafy western suburb in South East Queensland, which they’d built in 2010 and lived in for a few years before renting it out.
With the couple now based on the Gold Coast, they really wanted to buy a home there, but they’d hit a wall in their property journey: the bank wouldn’t lend them any more money.
It seemed like the easiest way to finance a Gold Coast home was to sell their South East Queensland property. They’d already been talking to an agent, who’d started shopping it around off market. But Matt, who was looking into all-things-investment in the post-COVID economic climate, wanted to explore the concept of micro-apartments. After doing his research, Matt was sold, so he signed Vicky up for my High Income Real Estate (HI-RES) Course to allow her to form her own opinion.
SCROLL DOWN FOR THE FULL PROJECT FINANCIALS
The master bedroom, ensuite and closet, become one of the 5 micro-apartments.
As part of the HI-RES course, students are provided with calculators to help them figure out whether the strategy works for them. Vicky did the sums and they looked good. The positive cashflow from the converted South East Queensland house would finance them into buying a home on the Gold Coast. Vicky was now fully supporting the idea of a positive cash flow property investment.
“We had some savings and we knew we’d be able to refinance during the process as well, so it made sense,” Vicky says. The pair realised they’d have to pull in their belts financially in the short term but in the longer term, it would work out for the best.
The original lounge room was converted into a spacious micro-apartment with sitting area, kitchenette, sleeping area, and ensuite bathroom.
The renovation process
Vicky and Matt hired the INVIDA team to convert their property into micro-apartments.
The first step in the INVIDA process is an important one: Vicky and Matt were asked to get their thoughts together about what the new plan might look like for the South East Queensland house.
“Then INVIDA presented their plans, we added a few thoughts, they made a few minor adjustments, and we were ready to go,” Vicky says. It was mostly a hands-off process from that point – the Stewarts weren’t interested in making decisions about benchtops or paint colours. Vicky describes the process as “very straightforward and transparent”.
To be able to outsource to specialists made the whole renovation process much faster and cheaper than if they’d done it themselves. Matt and Vicky are time-poor with three kids and full-time jobs; but even if they’d had the time, Vicky says they couldn’t have achieved the same quality and value for money.
And they’re really pleased with how the spaces look and feel. Vicky says from the first time they walked through their newly renovated home, they were impressed with how liveable the rooms were.
“You have to be open minded about what a small space can offer,” Vicky says. “If I was single and of a certain age, the space would be more than enough.”
The house is in a lovely area, close to public transport and the apartments are available at a cheap rent, so it’s a win-win, Vicky says.
FIND OUT how they uplifted the rental return on their property by over $35K per year in our break down below.
What was once the garage is now a spacious micro-apartment. The garage door was kept in place so that the home could be converted back to single family living in future.
Part of the early INVIDA planning discussions for Vicky and Matt involved deciding whether to turn their garage into a fifth apartment, which would add to the building cost. They decided to take the leap and create that extra apartment. And they’re glad they said yes, as the extra financial return will make the investment even more worthwhile. As with all investing, it’s about doing your sums.
PURCHASE PRICE: $670,000
RENOVATION COST: $80,000
RENTAL RETURN WEEKLY
$670 per week
$1350 per week
$680 per week uplift
$34,840 per year gross
$70,200 per year gross
$35,360 per year uplift
Vicky and Matt’s tenants in South East Queensland tenants had been paying $670 per week.
Now they have a mix of tenants, mainly younger, male and female, some studying and/or working. The Stewarts now receive $1,350 in rent per week, and they believe they will easily be able to raise the rent in future. In the above table you can see the $35,360 uplift in annual cashflow.
In four to five years they expect to have a cashflow of $20,000 per year after expenses and after paying off what they’ve put in. That cashflow will enable them to get a bigger loan to buy on the Gold Coast.
“It’s basically a 20% return on our money,” Matt says.
They do have one word of caution for others thinking of embarking on this kind of positive cashflow property investment. And it’s about renting out the properties. “It’s the one thing we couldn’t outsource,” Vicky says.
It wasn’t that they couldn’t find tenants. But their renovation was finished just before Christmas, and their real estate agent pulled out at the last minute, so they scrambled to find a new agent at an inconvenient time of year. Then it took a lot of back and forth with their new agent to get the apartments rented.
Now that they have tenants settled in, it’s all going well. But it’s worthwhile getting your real estate agent locked in as early as possible Vicky says, and ensuring they have the right kind of specialist marketing experience.
One of the smaller guest bedrooms became a petite micro-apartment, utilising the closet as a space for the kitchenette.
Where to next?
When they build on the Gold Coast, it probably won’t be the same kind of “big, fancy house” they built 10 years ago, Vicky says. They’ve learned to live in smaller, simpler spaces. Though with three kids now, maybe bigger is better – they’re still figuring that out.
They’re also talking to INVIDA about buying a house in Western Australia through their self-managed super fund (SMSF) and creating more micro-apartments. One day they might also start looking into opportunities with some of their other investment properties, including a house in Newcastle.
“If people own a property that lends itself to HMO, that they’re already renting out, they should definitely consider it – it’s a no brainer,” Vicky says.
Yet, going down this alternative path can be unnerving for some people, Matt says.
“It’s not your typical thing, but you can’t just do what everyone else is doing because you’ll just get same result as everyone else.”
The family kitchen remains as a communal space for residents of this co-living property to gather and cook.
Doing some social good while you’re at it
In the future, when they get enough positive cashflow going, the couple would like to be able to take the ‘social good’ aspect a step further and perhaps use one of their properties to provide a refuge for women in domestic violence situations (Like HI-RES students, Darin and Fiona did. See their project HERE).
Both like the idea of being able to provide alternative options for people who are in difficult circumstances, or can’t afford to rent an apartment on their own.
“Rents are getting crazy,” Matt says. “And some people don’t necessarily have the social support network to enable them to join up with other people and get a place together.”
No-one knows exactly what the future holds, but for the Stewarts, it’s the best investment choice for them right now, of all the options they’ve tried in the past: from building their own home to managing other developments.
Their attitude is, you have to go hard.
“You can’t buy one investment property and expect that to change your life,” Matt says. “If you’re serious about property investment, the only way to do it is to accumulate property. The only way to get multiple properties is with cashflow, and this strategy achieves that.”