Stephanie Brennan is one of Australia’s youngest real estate entrepreneurs, at just 27 she already owns properties across three continents rumoured to be worth $3.2 million.
The real estate savvy millennial caused a storm of controversy in 2015, with critics claiming her good fortune was due to an inheritance and being given a hand up from her parents.
Today she sets the record straight on how she built her property empire and how she deals with her critics.
How old were you when you bought your first investment property?
I purchased my first investment property on Sydney’s Northern Beaches in Manly Vale on my 22nd birthday back in 2012.
Tell us how did you get started in property investment?
Originally, I was more interested in entering the stock market than property, however, this changed after I started working with an experienced property investor. Seeing the returns and how quickly you could build wealth piqued my interest. After moving into property management to better understand property investments, I started investing and it’s become my addiction.
How did you save for your deposit?
Although the focus in the media has very much been on my mum guaranteeing my first property, she only agreed after I had saved the deposit. In hindsight, this was a means of protecting her own wealth, and a valuable first lesson on asset protection.
Fortunately, I had always been interested in money and working hard for it. My mum had plenty of undesirable chores to earn pocket money – let’s face it, no one wants to change the kitty litter!
Once I had my P Plates, I would skip school to work at my local retirement village. I also worked at the supermarket on the weekends and delivered pizzas in the evenings.
What sacrifices did you make along the way?
At one point, I had a monthly budget of $50 to see friends. Most of the time I worked and stayed home, counting my money and working towards to goal of seeing my savings increase.
Being able to buy my first home and all future investments to date has made the lack of smashed avo worth it. It’s also given me good budgeting habits I still stick to, but luckily I can afford the occasional smashed avo now.
What advice do you have for other twentysomethings looking to buy a home?
Don’t focus too much on the background noise like interest rates and negative talk. Everything is possible if you want it badly enough.
If you focus too much on the short term, and not enough on the long term, you will never reach your goals, whether that’s buying a property or otherwise. Taking 12 or 24 months to save may seem like a long time, but when you compare that to the 60, 70 plus years of life you still have left, the time passes more quickly than you realise.
You’ve copped some flack online for having a privileged start in life – what do you say to your detractors?
Bill Gates has a great quote –no one chooses where they start in life but they can choose where they finish.
I didn’t choose the family I was born into and I know I’m incredibly lucky. The reality is that everyone gets help in one way or another, it may not be financial and you may not even realise it at the time, but sometimes a disadvantage makes for a great advantage and can even be a driver behind your ambition and future success.
I may have had different opportunities then someone else my age and I’ve taken each opportunity and at times created more. It doesn’t matter what opportunities you’re given as long as you create something of value because of them, which has been a huge driver behind my current business, giving others the opportunity to create their own wealth and their own ideal future without any cost.
How do you ensure you always buy the right investment property?
My strategy looks partly at cycles in terms of where I buy and sell to maximise my wealth, but mostly, I look at where the future markets are headed and where they’ve been in the past. Coupled with this, I’ll pivot my strategy, such as looking at high returns to increase my serviceability and then holding, capitalising off those returns and then selling and rebuying by porting the security so I can capitalise off the higher growth potential in other states or countries. I prefer to be proactive, but at times you have to react. Those are the times that you learn the most and become a better investor.
How important is it to secure the right finance for your property loans?
Incredibly important! If you secure the wrong finance, it’s not the end of the world, all problems can be solved, but it’s far better to get your financing structure right from the start. Understanding what you want to achieve in the next 1 to 5 years ideally, will help give you an initial idea of how to structure your finance.
What are your three key pieces of advice every first home buyer should know?
- Set a goal, write it down, then work backwards – it’s the first step to making your goal a reality.
- Check out a comparison site, a broker, your bank, whomever you want to go to find out how much you can borrow. Also, it’s so important at this stage to understand your budget by writing down every single expense you can think of. Make sure you save/invest before you spend any money on entertainment or items that aren’t a dire need, like your smashed avo.
- Find a property that matches your goal and don’t fear going outside your comfort zone or the areas you’re familiar with. A property within a 20-30km radius of a major CBD with strong population growth is a more conservative bet to gain capital growth.
What are you top three tips for property investors?
- Strategy is so important. Get to know your bank’s or several banks’ policies on lending and this could help you grow your portfolio quicker.
- It’s also far cheaper to pay for your own renovation than for someone else, so finding an un-renovated property gives you the ability to create your own capital growth even when the market isn’t booming.
- Reducing debt is just as important as building wealth. You need to protect what you build and reducing debt will give you more comfort and flexibility when personal circumstances change or when things like interest rates increase.