Former helicopter pilot Adam Nesbitt and lawyer Bianca Bathurst used to work hard and play harder.

During a six-month European trip in 2017, the young couple burned through $5000 a week.

"It was hotels, Airbnbs, cocktails, dinners, fine dining, jetskis and partying – every little bit of fun that we walked past we did," Nesbitt said.

one roof

The trip was funded by their successful online business selling supplements and weight loss programmes that continued to bring in "really good" money even while they were abroad.


Yet, by the time they arrived home, their bank account had almost run dry.

"It really opened my eyes up – coming from someone who had such humble beginnings, how the heck do you spend $5k a week," Nesbitt said.

A trip to their accountant hammered the lesson home. He advised them to invest, asking how long they thought their money would last if their business went through a tough time.

Just two years later, the couple have now renovated three Invercargill rental properties and this week settle on another Taupō home.

"That whole lesson was beautiful - it was an eye-opener because we had felt way more successful than we realistically were," Nesbitt said.

Yet - more than just a tale about what hard work could bring - the couple also believed their story was a sign the country's housing market has life in it yet.

Data by analysts OneRoof-Valocity showed Auckland's median house price hit $850,000 last month - exactly the same price as July last year.

"If your only strategy is to buy and hold without any renovating, then you might be waiting a little while for the capital gains to come your way," Nesbitt said.


"But the money to be made if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do work on property is definitely still there."

Yet Nesbitt, aged 28, and Bathurst, 29, also acknowledged their situation was unique.

After turning their backs on careers as a pilot and lawyer, they spent four years growing their online business to a point where they could draw a steady income without being tied to a desk.

That freed them to spend five months hunting through the Whanganui, Tokoroa, Mt Maunganui and Dunedin housing markets before finding the right Invercargill renovation project last September.

Despite having no renovating experience, the couple laid a mattress on the dusty floor for sleeping and launched into it, often working from dawn until past midnight, Nesbitt said.

Then in January - while still renovating the first home - they purchased another "absolute shitter" with rotten weatherboards on the walls, rust through the roof and rubbish everywhere.

Nesbitt's mum chipped in to pay for the cost of the renovations - but it wasn't an easy decision.

Her money came from an inheritance left by her own parents, and the house her son had chosen looked so terrible, she would toss and turn in a fit at night.

If that wasn't enough, the couple soon bought a third Invercargill renovation project.

Now, just months later, Nesbitt and Bathurst were weeks away from finishing all three.

The first house was already rented. Nesbitt's mum's heart palpitations have turned to joy at the sight of the finished second home, which was also just about to be rented, while the third project was weeks from wrapping up.

On August 22, the couple officially bought their fourth home in Taupō. It will partly be a home for them and partly an Airbnb rental.

Nesbitt didn't want to reveal the exact costings, but said returns from the projects had been "phenomenal". It meant the couple now had a definite answer to give their accountant.

"I know for a fact that if our income disappeared, we would be able to survive off our properties - that's a pretty crazy feeling," he said.

Nesbitt and Bathurst's five renovating tips

Be perfectly clear what you are looking for:
That meant understanding how much money you had to spend and finding homes priced right. "We saw it as the bigger the problems, the bigger the profits - provided the house was priced right," Nesbitt said.

Look for houses with clear potential
Make sure you can see the potential in a house before you buy it. Don't just buy it and then think what are we gonna do with it, Nesbitt said.

Get all your quotes in writing
"We were very lucky we had everything in writing because if we didn't we would have got absolutely d***," Nesbitt said. That included tradies trying to pull out of jobs, overcharge and take months longer than they said they would.

Get a trade account at Bunnings or Mitre 10
You are going to live at your hardware store so get a trade account, which lets you get access to discounts and pay off goods interest free.

Understand your partner's strengths and weaknesses
Don't push your partner too hard - understand each other's strengths and weaknesses. Renovating is hard work and it's important for a couple to allow each other to work at their own pace, Nesbitt said.