We’ve all heard stories of people who have built massive property empires and achieved financial freedom starting on average working class salaries.
At the same time many property investors struggle to own more than one or two properties and go through immense financial hardship to hold them.
What do successful property investors do that ordinary investors don’t?
How do they grow their portfolios into dozens of properties with enough positive cash flow to enable financial freedom from a job when most investors can’t get past one or two negatively geared properties?
And how can you replicate their results in today’s property market?
I was fortunate enough to talk to TV’s Chris Gray about how he built his property empire from a £10,000 deposit into a $10 million plus property portfolio and he’s agreed to let me share his story with our Mesiti community.
Chris hosts ‘Your Property Empire' on Sky News Business Channel, is one of the property experts on Channel 9′s MyHome TV and is a Financial Judge on Channel 10s The Renovators.
He is also one of Sydney’s most respected buyer’s agents for property investors, facilitating the purchase and renovation of roughly 50 to 100 properties a year for his clients.
The story of how he built his property empire and became one of Australia’s most trusted property experts holds many amazing lessons for property investors at all levels.
Chris Gray’s First Property – What He Learned
Chris first got into property back in the early 1990s when he was just 22 years old and living in the United Kingdom.
He was working as a junior accountant at the time and decided it was time to cut the apron strings and move out of home.
At the time he was only making around £10,000 as an accountant and worked out he could only afford to service a mortgage for a small one bedroom flat.
But like most first home owners Chris didn't want a small one-bedroom flat. He wanted something much bigger and more lavish.
At around that time Chris stumbled upon a lovely three bedroom apartment in St Albans, roughly twenty minutes north of central London.
St Albans is a beautiful historic city established during Roman times and the property had everything Chris wanted – space, multiple bedrooms, modern fittings and close to his work.
The problem was it was out of his price range.
Chris had two problems.
Problem # 1 – Chris had saved a £10,000 deposit while living at home and the banks had pre-approved Chris for a loan of up to £70,000. This means Chris had up to £80,000 to spend but the asking price for the property was £100,000.
Problem # 2 Even though Chris was pre-approved for a £70,000 loan, he couldn't afford the mortgage repayments on this amount given his annual income was just £10,000 back then. Realistically he could only afford to service a loan much smaller.
But Chris really loved the property and began sketching out ideas on how he could afford it.
Lesson # 1 – How To Buy Property Under Market Value
Chris’s first breakthrough came when the agent for the apartment told Chris that the seller had already put a conditional offer on another property and needed to sell their apartment fast for the deal to go through.
This put Chris in a strong position as he had pre-approved finance meaning a quick settlement was possible.
Conversely most other buyers at the time were making conditional offers pending the sales of their existing homes which the seller was reluctant to accept.
Knowing that Chris had pre-approved finance, the agent suggested Chris make his best offer for the property anyway.
Chris told the agent that he loved the place but that the maximum he could offer was £80,000.
To Chris's surprise, the seller accepted.
This was the first lesson Chris learned about investing in property – that low offers are more likely to be accepted if they come with no or low conditions and fast settlement.
Lesson # 2 – The Importance of Cash Flow
Chris's first problem was solved.
But he now had to work out a way to address his second problem – how to afford the mortgage repayments?
Chris sat down and calculated the mortgage repayments on a £70,000 loan and worked out they were more than his wages at the time.
This led Chris to his second ‘Aha’ moment in property – creating cash flow.
Even though Chris couldn’t afford to service the mortgage repayments on a £70,000 loan, he worked out he could easily afford the property if he rented out the bedrooms to some friends.
So that's exactly what he did.
This proved to be a masterstroke for Chris because it meant two things.
Firstly his tenants could contribute to the amenity bills such as power and water thereby slashing his living expenses.
Secondly, the rent covered almost all of his mortgage repayments meaning he could effectively live in his apartment almost free of charge.
This became Chris’s second lesson in property – that mastering cash flow is hugely important if you want to succeed in property.
What Chris Discovered
After Chris moved into his property he sat down and looked at his sums again.
1. To start with Chris had purchased a £100,000 property for £80,000. This meant he had walked into £20,000 worth of free equity and effectively made DOUBLE his annual income overnight in his first property transaction (he was making just £10,000 a year as an accountant at the time).
2. By renting two bedrooms to friends Chris also worked out he was effectively living in his property almost free of charge because the rent he was receiving covered nearly all of his mortgage repayments.
Chris had no intention of becoming a property investor when he set out to buy his first home as a 22 year old.
But that’s exactly what he had become when he bought his first property in an area with high growth prospects, walked in with immediate equity by purchasing under market value and created enough cash flow to cover his mortgage repayments!
The lessons he learnt from this first property transaction proved invaluable later as a full-time investor.
It also made him wonder if he could carve a living from property.
But buying more property would be extremely difficult given Chris had already borrowed 7-times his income. It meant that banks would be too scared to lend him more.
How did he overcome this new problem? We’ll explain how in part two of our special series with Chris Gray. You’ll also discover an awesome lesson Chris learned on how to find great property opportunities in an area before anyone else.