investor-q-a

Leap of faith

By Staff Reporter

Dale Wrigley’s first investment experience was enough to put most off for life but with a property portfolio now in excess of $3 million, she’s glad she stuck to her guns

On 6 May 2003 Dale Wrigley took what she thought was a big gamble and dived into the property investment market for a second time.

Scarred by her experience with a dodgy investment four years before, Dale was certain she’d had more than enough of the property market.

But her husband was resolute that despite their first failed foray into the market, property investment was the smartest way to build wealth and secure their financial future.

“So I hung on to my husband’s coat tails and went in for the ride. And I’m so glad we did,” she tells Smart Property Buyer.

Eight years later Dale and Steven Wrigley hold a property portfolio worth more than $3 million, and Dale has been lucky enough to retire from full time work. The days of losing sleep over money are all but a distant memory.

“We’re not just working week by week and wondering how we’ll get by,” says Dale.

“We see a future.”

Wobbly beginnings

Dale and Stephen Wrigley’s property investment journey started in 1982 when the pair purchased their first home, before tying the knot in 1983.

Steve had purchased a holiday rental at Sussex Inlet on the New South Wales south coast in his early 20s but this was the couple’s first purchase together.

Their Kings Langley home in the Western suburbs of Sydney cost them $88,000 and Dale recalls feeling ill about taking on such a large mortgage.

The couple were intent on getting ahead so they made the decision to dedicate Dale’s wage to their two mortgages and live Steve’s income.

“We lived very frugally,” says Dale.

Once they had paid most of their loans off, Dale decided to become a stay at home mum – just as interest rates climbed to 17 per cent and Steve was dropped to a four day week at work.

“It was tough,” Dale says.

Dale’s wariness towards property was only heightened when the couple embarked on their first investment purchase in 1999 in a bid to build their wealth.

Reluctant to make the purchase, Dale was persuaded by her husband as she knew they simply weren’t getting anywhere financially.

This purchase was a unit in another Western suburb of Sydney, Auburn, which unfortunately, proved to be the “bane” of their portfolio.

The unit cost them $285,000 and in just over 10 years it has increased in value by a meagre $15,000 or 5 per cent.

Moreover, the developer that sold them the property proved to be much less helpful than they’d promised with a supposed support structure never bearing fruit.

By now Dale had had more than her fill of property and had concluded the couple were destined to live pay cheque by pay cheque for the rest of their lives.

But Steve wasn’t deterred. He was still looking for some way to become financially independent, and he was certain the secret lay in property.

In 2003 he came across a property investment group that he was convinced knew what they were talking about so he begged Dale to come along to a presentation.

“I was saying no, no, no, no, no,” says Dale.

But she went along, and still recalls vividly the very moment she decided to take a leap of faith. The presentation had finished and the couple were stood in the empty car park.

Dale liked what she saw at the presentation but she still felt confused, and more than anything, scared.

“We had gone through 17 per cent interest rates with one income paying off two properties, living on sausages and fish fingers and I was scared to go back there again,” she says.

But despite the fear Dale knew they needed to take steps in the investment market if they were to get ahead in the long run.

“I knew we needed a passive income if we wanted to have a lifestyle after Steve retired.”

“So I said to Steve, look, you can lose the holiday house and the unit but don’t you touch my house, don’t you lose it.

“It was a leap of faith, it really was.”

Onwards and upwards

Not long after that fateful evening, Dale and her husband purchased their first of several investment properties to come.

Armed with research details supplied to them by their new-found mentors, the couple headed to Jimboomba, near Beaudesert in Queensland.

Dale and Steve were so impressed with the opportunities on offer in Jimboomba they purchased two house and land packages for $205,000 and $215,000 each.

During this time Dale learned step-by-step about the process of researching, buying and financing property, building her confidence significantly.

By the next year the couple were ready for their next purchase and this time they turned their focus towards Merriwa in Western Australia where they secured their next property for $265,000.

In 2005 they purchased a second property in WA and most recently, in 2008, another property in the Northern Territory.

Their portfolio is now worth around $3.4 million with equity of around $1.3 million.

Not only have the investments not placed pressure on the couple’s financial situation, they’ve given them a lifestyle they only could have dreamed of.

Dale retired in 2007, the couple have paid off their children’s high school and university fees, and they have been overseas, purchased a new car and been able to renovate their family home.

More recently they’ve even helped their daughter make her first property purchase and are looking to offer the same help to their son.

“I can now spend time on the more important things in life,” says Dale.

Valuable lessons

If there’s one thing Dale has really learned since taking on that very first mortgage in 1982 it’s just how little she understood about property investment and just how important education is to making any property investment work.

Looking back at their property purchase in Auburn, Dale realises the couple’s lack of knowledge really set them back.

“Because we didn’t understand property investing as such, we didn’t know how we should set ourselves up financially.

“They sort of talked us into things that we shouldn’t have gone along with.”

Dale says the biggest lesson they took from that 1999 purchase was not to believe everything she is told.

“Always do your own due diligence and get a solid team behind you.”

Dale was amazed at how much focus the investment group placed on research.

“The details they provided us were so in-depth and informative,” she tells – something she and her husband have maintained ever since.

“I’m constantly watching the market – and not just the market, there’s so many things you need to watch.”

Dale rattles off a long list of factors including economic and finances news, council and government developments, and infrastructure and store openings.

“If Bunnings is building somewhere, you know it’s going to be good,” she tells.

Finance for success

Like many investors, another key lesson Dale learned following her involvement with The Investors Club was the importance of the appropriate finance structures.

The company from whom Dale and Steve had purchased the notorious Auburn property had cross-securitised the couple’s loans, leaving them unable to make any further purchases.

Fortunately, they worked with a broker to untangle their loans, set them up as interest only and expand their portfolio.

“We’ve worked with a very good broker who understands property investing as he is an investor himself. He understands what we want to achieve.

“We see him regularly, at least once a year to look at our financial situation and ask if we need to change any loans and what are our strategies for moving ahead.”

Diversification

A quick glance at Dale and Steve’s property portfolio reveals a thorough mix of cities and locations.

“We’ve really diversified our locations because we don’t like having all of our eggs in the one basket,” says Dale.

The pair has properties everywhere from Queensland to Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

“We’ve purchased in different locations around Australia so we can catch the varied property cycles.

“This way the capital growth keeps happening.”

The next step

“We will expand, we’d like to buy two more properties,” tells Dale, but for now the couple are focused on building up a bit of equity.

“We were quite aggressive so now we’re in consolidation mode, letting the properties grow a little more. It’s silly to buy anything if it’s going to make your whole portfolio fall down.

“A portfolio of $5 million in today’s climate looks achievable.”

“Hopefully with another couple of properties that will set us up fairly well for retirement.”

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