Leonie was only 18 when she bought her first property with some friends and admits she didn’t really understand what she was doing.

She says she knew very little about the process, which could’ve turned out disastrously in hindsight, but luck was on her side.

The year was 1993 and she was about to have her first experience of rentvesting.

She says that she couldn’t afford to buy her own home even back then, so when the opportunity to join forces with some friends cropped up, she quickly took it.

“I didn’t grow up in a family with people that knew people that knew these things,” she says.

“I didn’t even sign a contract. I literally just gave that guy my $50,000. That’s how naive we were.

“Thankfully he was a good country bloke and did do the right thing. So, every couple of years, I’d come home from London, where I was living, and he’d hand me a wad of cash, which was my share of the rent.” 

The friends bought a block of land near Gatton in regional Queensland, transported an old house to it, where they raised it onto stilts and rented it out to uni students for an impressive 12 years.

Whilst living in London, she decided to try her hand at home ownership over there but unfortunately she didn’t achieve quite the same results.

A learning curve

Leonie’s first London property was a one-bedroom flat in Greenwich, but when she bought a dog, clearly she had to upgrade to a house to make way for the pooch.

“I bought this 150-year-old, two-bedroom house, which I converted into a three-bedroom house, and it had a back yard and a side yard so the goal was to renovate and also to build a second house on the side garden to make a lot of money and come back to Australia.”

Unfortunately, at the same time as the renovation was in full swing, the GFC hit and prices fell through the floor.

Leonie financed most of the renovation by selling the Queensland property but still came back to Australia with about $85,000 on her credit card because of the project.

A year prior to her return, her long-term relationship floundered so upon returning home she found herself single at 33 and struggling to find a job.

“I had to start at the bottom and get some strategies in place to pay off my debt and save up, which I did do and I bought an investment property in Mango Hill,” she says.

“The reason I bought an investment property and not my own home was because I was living in the Valley, I was young, single and enjoying my lifestyle, and I could walk home from work.

“I also was very fearful about having the responsibility of the entire mortgage myself if I did buy my own home. I was a single woman and I didn’t know if I could afford $2,000 or $3,000 a month on my income.”

A second chance

A few years after the onset of the GFC, Leonie sold the London house and used the funds to buy a second investment property in Logan Reserve.

She says she continued to adopt a rentvesting strategy with both properties because it worked for her personal circumstances as well as her risk profile at the time.

“When I got to the point of having enough to buy, I didn’t feel like I was in a secure enough position that I could take care of the mortgage myself,” she says.

“I didn’t want to take on that stress because of my experience with the whole London thing – that kind of burned me a little bit.

“So, I thought, get a cash flow positive property, it looks after itself, it’s going to grow in value and it’s going to give me some tax deductions.”

A career move

By then, Leonie had not only met the man that would become her husband, but her own property journey meant she’d become interested in helping other people invest in property and create wealth.

She says part of the reason why she has set up own company called Wealthology Australia is to be the mentor that she wishes she had all those years ago when she bought a house based on a handshake deal. 

“I do regret not finding a mentor sooner who could’ve taught me the steps I needed, kept me on track and accountable, and given me some guidance. That’s my biggest regret,” she says.

“(Rentvesting) is a strategy that I now teach a lot of my clients.

“It’s a great strategy if you’re a single person and you don’t want to take on the entire mortgage repayments yourself because the tenants cover the majority of that payment.

“It’s a really great way to get on the ladder and benefit from capital growth without being too risky.”

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Nicola McDougall

Nicola McDougall

Nicola McDougall is an award-winning journalist, property investor, and former editor of Australian Property Investor magazine. She is also a successful lifestyle blogger, likes writing movies "in her spare time", and is a novice surfer tragic.
Nicola McDougall

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