Elaine Davies was a struggling, unemployed single mum with a staggering credit card debt. Here's how she turned it all around.
Welsh-born Elaine Davies arrived in Australia as a backpacker in 1992 after working as a real estate agent in Hong Kong and Thailand for many years.
She met and married an Australian man and had a daughter, and enjoyed a successful career, regularly appearing on radio and television and publishing three books.
But when her marriage ended, she found herself living a "nightmare" as an unemployed single mother with a toddler and no family to support her.
After separating the couple sold their house, located in Balmain in Sydney's inner west, for $1.27 million after originally paying $816,000.
She poured "every cent" of her share of the profits into buying a small flat — so there was barely any cash left over for bills and unexpected expenses.
She eventually got a corporate job, but found herself struggling to balance childcare and working life.
In her newly published book Mind Body Sold!, the mother-of-one describes her fight to get back on her feet.
"Being the last to arrive in the morning, the first to leave in the afternoon and the last to pick up my little girl from daycare didn't go down well with anyone," she wrote.
"I was living the nightmare of many parents and felt I was letting everyone down.
"All the while I was dealing with the fallout from my marriage breakdown, the stress from raising a child with no family support and financial pressures."
Ms Davies also found herself with a massive amount of debt, but eventually realised she needed to take control of her finances.
"Setting myself up after my divorce had somehow put me in $26,000 worth of credit card debt," she wrote.
"While I was hanging onto my corporate job by a thread, at least I had a regular wage coming in, so I went to the bank, borrowed against my mortgage and paid off my credit cards."
In 2012, the property market was recovering after the global financial crisis and Ms Davies decided to sell her apartment, ending up with $848,000.
She then asked a close friend for a huge favour — to invest in property together.
The pair ended up buying an apartment in Surry Hills which they sold 12 months later, earning a tidy profit of $106,000 each.
In 2014, off the back of the Surry Hills sale, Ms Davies bought a small house in Rozelle in Sydney and two years later, she snapped up an art deco apartment in Elizabeth Bay as an investment property.
The Rozelle house, purchased in October 2014, has since appreciated by around 35 per cent while the Elizabeth Bay apartment, which she bought in March 2016, has grown in value by around 15 per cent.
The 53-year-old is adamant she was only able to turn her financial situation around through property investment.
She told news.com.au she was passionate about encouraging others to take the plunge but said she understood how "scary" property investment was — at first.
"I was on my own with a dependent so I had many, many sleepless nights — just because I'm a buyer's agent, it doesn't mean I'm different to anyone else," she said.
"I get how scary it is when you put yourself on the line."
Ms Davies said women were often especially intimidated by buying property, but said it was one of the best ways to become financially independent.
"The gender pay gap is a real thing. Taking time out of work — not just to have kids, but it is also usually the daughter who is left to care for elderly parents — those are solid things that put us well behind men," she said.
"At retirement we come out with about a third less superannuation because women very rarely work right through.
"Property is expensive, but it's become part of the vernacular that we can't afford it. People have really been scared."
She urged people to "think outside the box" when it came to entering the market, by asking parents for a loan, buying in outer suburbs and researching up-and-coming areas that are likely to grow in value in future.
"The fear of going into debt is completely and utterly normal, but money is really cheap at the moment and it won't be forever. It's a matter of being smart," she said.
"In 20 or 30 years nothing will be the same price, even 'rubbish' properties."
She said investors should buy established properties in established suburbs and avoid investing in brand new complexes.
Properties with a lot of light and sun that are quiet, private and close to public transport are also winning options.
Ms Davies urged Australians to do their research before buying.
"Be patient — the two biggest mistakes people make are getting frustrated and angry and either buying something impulsively because they're fed up, or buying nothing at all," she said.
"Always call the council. People think they are scary, unhelpful bureaucracies but they are usually really nice, so check what's happening next door, walk around empty plots of land and find out what's going to be built there — get to know the area you are buying in.
"Know what properties sell for in the area and do your research."
Ms Davies said buyers should attend auctions to familiarise themselves with the process and see a mortgage broker to discover exactly how much they can borrow.