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Sana and Mona Ali moved to Australia from Pakistan at the age of 15. Years later, the once-struggling migrants successfully turned their $40,000 savings into a $5 million-portfolio, earning the moniker “The Property Twins” — all before the age of 30. How did these millennials make their way to the top?
The Ali sisters lived in low socioeconomic conditions for years since arriving in Australia in 2000, but instead of accepting their fate, they used their circumstance as motivation to work hard and achieve financial security.
According to Sana: “Moving countries was a huge personal challenge. We were living in a low socioeconomic area of Sydney and we just saw people around us living really good lives. It really pushed us and made us wonder, ‘What if we could buy more than one house?’”
They initially wanted just a strong financial foundation for themselves and their family and the sense of security brought about by owning a home. In less than a decade, they got all of it and more.
Aside from being able to build a 10-property portfolio, the Ali sisters were also successful in establishing a mortgage business that aims to help investors make the best decisions for their own wealth-creation journeys.
“We just want to feel that Australia is really home and to have our roots here,” Mona highlighted.
What they lacked in funds, the Ali sisters made up for continuous education, training and mentorship.
In 2009, they have both spent years in the Information Technology and Project Management fields before progressing through finance roles. The high-net worth individuals that they constantly work made them realise that there’s more they can aspire for than corporate jobs.
They started doing research and eventually bought their first property in Parramatta through their combined savings of $40,000 and the aid of the First Home Owners Grant. Seven months later, they bought their second property in Blacktown.
Mona shared: “I personally wasn’t a good saver, because I loved shopping and shoes. Nothing wrong with that, but looking back, it's like a ‘need it versus want it’ question. Obviously, I did buy a lot of shoes but we didn’t go travelling and all of that. So, we did have some savings.”
The Ali sisters opted for cheap properties in the lower end of the market to jumpstart their investment journey for low-entry prices.
“The cash flow meant when we did rent the properties out, they could look after themselves,” Mona highlighted.
Sana and Mona advise investors to avoid being afraid of starting small. Being realistic instead of aiming for a dream home on their first shot at investing helped them enter the market sooner than later.
After all, property investment is a long-term commitment and, essentially, a kind of “delayed gratification”.
The twin’s property portfolio grew to consist of eight more properties spread across Western Sydney and Brisbane, including units, villas and townhouses.
Not long after they started investing in properties, the Ali sisters sold their first two properties in Sydney to take advantage of the property boom that happened in the city. Prior to selling, they did cosmetic renovations on these properties to add value and eventually extracted equity from them.
The first property returned around $330,000 while the second property returned around $190,000.
Mona and Sana used the extracted equity to make their third and fourth property purchase, which are strata properties located in Blacktown. Less than 10 years later, the same properties have increased in value by 90 to 100 per cent.
As the market went more stagnant, Mona and Sana continued increasing their savings to improve the buffer for their portfolio. They saved 20 to 30 per cent of their salary, sacrificed travels, minimised eating out and drove a Kia Rio for years to save as much as they could.
For years, they carefully weighed their needs and wants to determine the things they could live without as they are building their portfolio.
According to them, having properties in such good locations, as in close to transport and other valuable infrastructure and establishments, helped them maintain good cash flow and minimise the impact of property investment on their finances and lifestyle.
While they have implemented different strategies throughout their investment journey, good location is one of their non-negotiables.
Sana explained: “We wanted to make sure the properties were well-located. That’s formed the foundation of our property strategy, where we make sure that properties are close to the train station, or a big shopping centre, because that’s what’s going to drive the demand down the track.”
Unlike many investors, the Ali sisters didn’t recognise the value added by property professionals to their portfolio in the beginning. In fact, it took them four purchases to seek the guidance of experts. Needless to say, it turned out to be among their more costly decisions.
According to Sana: “You don’t know what you don’t know, and we didn’t know any better. In hindsight, it would have been good to work with a broker for our initial couple of purchases.”
Through online forums, they found out about the benefits of working with a mortgage broker and has since worked with a few throughout their investment journey. They taught them not only what they needed to know about mortgage broking, but also what they want to be done differently.
Eventually, Mona and Sana grew to love the “numbers side of property” and went on to establish their own mortgage business, The Property Twins. The business aims to empower investors by offering different services, including building portfolio roadmaps and finding better loans.
According to them, their personal experiences as investors consistently help them provide the best customer service and most effective advice even amidst changing broking spaces.
Mona said: “We really look at building road maps for our clients upfront. On paper, we really put the options down — lender A, B, C, D, in that order — so you continue maximising what's really possible for you."
“Whilst you have no control over the lending policies or where your interest rates go, if you’re making that strategic choice, you’re keeping a lot of doors open for later investment," she added.
As investors-turned-mortgage brokers, Mona and Sana seek to improve the knowledge of Australian investors and ultimately help them achieve their financial goals. Their experiences as investors who, quite literally, started from the bottom allow them to provide realistic and well-rounded advice to different types of investors.
Instead of acting as mere intermediaries who bring borrowers and lenders together, they take on a holistic approach and help budding investors establish a good foundation for their investment journey.
The most important advice they give to their clients is to always implement long-term strategies, but also be flexible enough to alter plans accordingly along the way.
Sana explained: “You need to look at the big picture rather than just one product or one rate focus, because it's a long-term strategy for you.”
“We are taking our clients on a journey. It’s not about one transaction at a time, it’s about the big picture and really educating them through the process, through the decisions that they are going to be making — just talking through the pros and cons, the rates and how it's impacting them and what their plans are in the next six to 12 months," Mona highlighted.
Finding the right mentors is critical to success in property investment, according to them. Finding the ones who will be willing to understand your goals, capabilities and limitations as an investor and give you tailored advice will certainly help you fast track your wealth-creation journey.
In fact, Mona and Sana themselves have made it a point to stay in contact with their mentors even after they have successfully crossed the $5 million-line.
As mortgage brokers, the Ali sisters go above and beyond their responsibilities to serve as lessons and inspirations to budding investors.
Mona said: “It’s been really rewarding to see the changes that people have had or the smart decisions our clients have made over the last couple of months. Whilst we’re not property coaches or mentors, that naturally comes to us.
“We pretty much hold their hand and say, ‘Look, this is what we would buy, this is what would make a good property and this is what you should be looking for, and where you should be looking.’ When you’re working with someone who’s been there, where you want to go, you cut down 10 years’ worth of effort,” she concluded.
The information has been sourced from propertytwins.com.au, realestate.com.au, Daily Mail and the Smart Property Investment website.