Cameron Pass decided to physically build out his investment portfolio with his wife, utilising his knowledge as a construction estimator to charge forward his property investment journey.
Cameron's unique strategy made it possible for the couple to benefit from the "higher purpose" of property – earning two incomes from a single title.
Shortly after they bought land in 2013, they built a property, which then cost around $600,000 and is currently valued at around $750,000.
In 2014, Cameron and his partner bought another block and built a house with an attached granny flat, which cost them around $640,000 and is now valued at $800,000.
"That's in Spring Farm down in Camden Council. What we've done there, it's just a single storey house with a single bedroom granny flat. The strategy behind that was, for not much of an extra build cost, you can get basically a second income from that one property," he explained in The Smart Property Investment Show.
The proud investor added: "It's a four-bedroom house, double garage. That rent's typically in that Spring Farm locality, it's about $550. For ours, we've accepted $500. You lose a little bit of that rent having a secondary dwelling attached – it’s sort of seen as something less desirable. So that's renting for $500 a week, and then the granny flat's $350 a week, just for a single bedroom... We designed it so that the second dwelling's got a street-facing front door, its own walkway is completely private. It's got a car space for itself as well."
Find out more about Pass' incredible property investment journey, which was, quite literally, built from the ground up:
Whose idea was it to build your property that way?
Cameron Pass: I had seen that there had been granny flats around and heard in the media, so I was very interested in it. Then, I'd realised that it could be done as a complete construction at the same time. That's when we thought, yeah, that's going to be what we’re going to do.
[The builder] had an even more compact budget planned but we did a lot of tweaks. Being in construction myself, I was keen to work that around a bit... We changed the design and went from there.
Can you explain the floor plan of the house?
Cameron Pass: Well, the actual building company was marketing it as a house and attached granny flat, already as a package. We really just amended how the granny flat was relating to where the house was, so that the front door and the granny flat could have a window directly seeing the street. There was less common wall so that there may not be noise transferred and the like, positioning cabinetry and the rest up against that common wall to make a sound buffer — that sort of thing.
Do you have different metres on water and other services?
Cameron Pass: Yes, we've set that up. They've all got their individual supplies of services. The only one that changes a bit differently is the water supply. We just have a flow metre which separates the dwellings and then we can work out the difference that way.
The rates, you do pay a small premium for having two lots of bins collected by the council. Other than that, setting it up right at the start with the builder, it's fairly straightforward... The extra money you can get for the granny flat makes it quite attractive.
Do you have a property manager that looks after it for you?
Cameron Pass: Yeah, definitely. That same property manager manages both and keeps them separate.
Are there any complications with council in terms of zoning?
Cameron Pass: The legislation that the NSW government has introduced has made it quite a straightforward process to get these sorts of buildings built. It's complying development, which means councils almost don't have to have a look in. It can go through private certification, provided you meet all the criteria... The criteria that you meet, that's the criteria that we're using when we're looking for a potential site, so it's things the like the block size. The surrounding houses impact what you can do.
It didn't complicate your lending at all? Were any of the banks saying 'I don't really understand what you're trying to do here'?
Cameron Pass: Interesting point. No, it wasn't a specific issue about having the granny flat... Initially, we had some interesting times with the financing on the purchase of that first block. The value didn't meet the purchase price, initially, so the funds that we had allocated for building were chewed up in that. Straight away, I knew that we could look at another lender and I went to another... It was just a bit of a hiccup. It was interesting that the first bank wasn't keen.
Why have you gone down this path of building property rather than buying established property?
Cameron Pass: For us, it's partly my enjoyment and passion to build and get involved that way. At the same time, initially, we saw it as a way that would be different to allow us to potentially accelerate because of the extra serviceability that you get from having the granny flat as opposed to just having a stand-alone dwelling.
The other part of the theory behind the new build is that there's value to be had in building a house with an attached granny flat because it's serving a higher purpose than with the block of land if you just build a new house on it. It's hard to measure that difference in value compared to just the pure construction costs, what you'd be paying over and above the house, just because we've seen growth over the period from the time we started the projects to finishing.
Do you think you'll always stick with buying new property or will you dip your toe into some established stuff at some point?
Cameron Pass: Interesting question. For now, I think we've probably finished our purchasing for the foreseeable future. I can't rule it out for sure, because when you do a comparable or a weighting, when you compare buying existing and renting compared to this strategy, you can see that buying an existing would make building a portfolio much of a quicker process. You've got immediate rent and you can probably almost instantly harvest equity.... For us, it's partly because, while I enjoy the building process and going through that... we think there's a bit of value to be had on getting higher purpose for that block of land had it not been a house.
The long-term plan is to try and get an income, aside from our 9-to-5 job, so it can support our lifestyle whatever that may be. It may not necessarily mean that we have to work, but for me, in the foreseeable future, that could mean our own business.
Tune in to Cameron Pass' episode in The Smart Property Investment Show to know more about his "Buy, Build, and Hold" strategy, and his tips for fellow builder-investors.