Successful author, investor and lecturer Jan Somers keeps it simple with her strategy: Borrow, buy and keep median price properties for the long-term.
“I don’t have to be an expert in renovating, speculating, developing or bargaining,” she explains of her method. It’s also meant that Somers could concentrate on a normal day job – teaching maths and bringing up three children – while the properties looked after themselves.
Not sticking into the familiar path has also had its consequences for Somers and her partner in crime, husband Ian.
“We’ve ventured into several major renovations, which was a big mistake,” she says. “Lots of work for no end gain. We did that several times before we knew it wasn’t for us.”
Minor renovations, she says, such as repairing pergolas, replacing kitchen curtains, can be very satisfying and a great learning experience: “Last year I made curtains for ≠65 windows! I’ve learned to know the easy way to fix things without doing anything major – it only took 42 years to learn!”
The couple also dabbled in small developments, only for Somers to come to realisation: “I dislike intensely dealing with council red tape.”
Having moulded her strategy, Somers is happy to stick with it. “As they say, when you’re on a good thing, stick to it. It’s always best to stick with your own successful formula right to the end.”
Not that all elements are rigid. With more time on their hands now, this investing duo has become increasingly active in property maintenance – but only when it suits.
“If we feel like stripping off a kitchen bench-top and replacing it, or making more curtains and putting up curtain poles, we do. But ifwe’re busy hiking in the French Alps or it’s too hot to be bothered, we let the managing agent organise a tradesman to do what’s necessary.”
A pet niggle for Somers is the idea that you can get rich quick. “Anyone who thinks they can make fast money in property must be using the riskier tactics of speculating, renovating, developing or bargaining,” she says. “There are no guarantees trying to make fast money, and a good chance you’ll lose the lot in the process. You need to have the right sort of personality… and prepare for the worst.”
Given the time-travelling option, Somers would probably decline, content with the paths she and Ian have taken, the gains they’ve made along the way, and some mistakes.
“Sure we could’ve made a lot more money along the way doing things differently or buying at different times, but for what purpose? We have more than enough to retire on and I’m not interested in buying Picassos,” she says.
“We’re all experts in hindsight but the danger is to do nothing at all for fear of failure – and doing nothing is in itself a failure.”
Angela Young, Australian Property Investor, April 2015