From $70k to $2m: Millennial 'rentvestor' builds property portfolio of six in two years

Taku Ekanayake used equity from his first property to move on to the next. Photo / news.com.au
Taku Ekanayake used equity from his first property to move on to the next. Photo / news.com.au

IT'S official - the Sydney housing market is depressing.

But Taku Ekanayake, a 28-year-old Sydneysider, is not one of them and he knows what he is talking about. He is sitting on $2 million worth of property investments.

"There is so much opportunity out there and there is money to be made," Mr Ekanayake, a sales consultant in the information technology industry, told news.com.au.

"You don't need a huge amount of money to get into the property market. Obviously Sydney's million-dollar market is going to cost you $100,000 or $200,000 to get into the market but look at alternative solutions - look at other states and look at other types of properties."

He did it himself. In just two years, he has built up a property portfolio worth $2.05 million - with an equity position of almost $500,000 - and without the help of his parents.

A little more than two years ago, Mr Ekanayake was renting in Marrickville, in Sydney's inner-west, and just discovering his hard-earned deposit of $70,000 - which he had been saving since he left high school and started working - wasn't going to get him anywhere in the city he called home.

"We were well into this current boom, the Sydney boom started in 2012, and I was already priced out of the Sydney market," he said.

"In Marrickville, where I was living, the median price was about $850,000 at the time but I had a maximum budget of $390,000. I just had a graduate position, I didn't have a high income at the time."

So he took that $70,000 deposit and looked up north, to Brisbane. In October 2014, he bought his first home, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom investment property in Bracken Ridge, about 30km north of the CBD, for $378,500.

Securing tenants quickly for $430 per week, Mr Ekanayake knew he was onto something. But he now faced the challenge of being able to grow his portfolio after depleting all his savings he spent years putting away.

That's when he knew that looking interstate wasn't enough. He needed another strategy.
"All my goal was at the time was to get onto the property ladder, so I bought that first property but I had pretty much exhausted all my savings. I knew I wanted to buy another one but I didn't know how I was going to get that next one," Mr Ekanayake told news.com.au.

Mr Ekanayake started to save again, picking up a second job as an Uber driver to speed up the process, while he reassessed his strategy.

"After 12 months, I saved up about $35,000 and then I revalued that first property and was able to pull out another $50,000. The property was revalued at $430,000 so I used that equity to move on to the next property.

"By that time, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to continue to be able to keep working two jobs and saving, saving, saving. That's when I started looking at a renovation strategy - purchasing a dated property that I could manufacture my own equity on to subsequently fund the next purchase, then the next purchase, and so on."

In October 2015, Mr Ekanayake bought another three-bedroom house in Eagleby, Queensland, for $258,500. And another shortly after in December, a four-bedroom house in Deception Bay, Queensland, for $232,500. And then three more - two in Queensland and one in South Australia - in 2016.

"It is definitely easier to find these properties, do them up, and make $60,000 or $70,000 or $80,000, rather than saving up for years.

"This way I was able to [purchase a property] every three months. It is how I was able to build my portfolio pretty rapidly. I made five purchases in 13 months and I continue to keep holding onto these properties as well."

Mr Ekanayake currently has an equity position $461,600 - the current value of his property portfolio minus the existing debt owed on the properties - and is netting about $3,500 in rental income a month, after mortgage repayments.

Beware of over capitalising
Buying property interstate might seem scary enough, let alone having to renovate a property from another state. But Mr Ekanayake said it wasn't as much effort, or as time-consuming, as you might think.

He outsources the work and said he usually allows two to three weeks and budgets about $10,000 to $20,000 on each renovation. To date, he has spent $60,000 on modernising his investments.

The trick, he told news.com.au, is to buy the right sort of property so you don't over capitalise on your renovation.

"If you have to do any sort of structural renovations, you'd probably over capitalise on it and you wouldn't get enough return on investment because structural renovations cost quite a bit of money," he said.

"Especially if it is your first few investments, I'd definitely stay away from properties requiring structural renovations and stick to cosmetic uplifts - just a freshen up to liven it up. It is more simple and more cost effective. If you're looking around that $300,000-$350,000 mark, you're probably going to get a better return on investment doing it that way."

Cosmetic renovations include aesthetic work such as painting, flooring, and kitchen and bathroom renovations.

He also said you should always be looking for ways to value-add with your renovations.
"A part of my strategy is to also try and find value-add strategies which is going to increase the rent. For my Deception Bay property, for example, I renovated that from a three-bedder to a four-bedder. What that meant was, when I purchased it, the price it was renting at was $275 but now that I've added a fourth bedroom it is renting for $340.

"That increased the rent by $65, made it cashflow positive, and put money back into my pocket."

Mr Ekanayake's other important tip is to try and avoid purchasing a property in an area with a vacancy rate below 3 per cent. He said he has been able to rent out each of his investments within two weeks of putting them on the market.

Mr Ekanayake is currently looking for his seventh investment property, with plans to build his portfolio to a minimum of 20-30 investment properties. After that, he said he may look into commercial investment.

He is still renting in Marrickville.

- news.com.au

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