Finance advice

What this ex-banker learnt from dealing with owners of massive property portfolios

By Bianca Dabu
lessons in investment, investing, property portfolio, property investment

Jacqui Zielinski started investing in property at the age of 19, and years after she dropped out of college, she got a job at an accounting firm and became a lending officer at a bank.

It was surely a ‘rollercoaster ride’ for the property investor, but it did not come without reward. She currently holds an impressive 10-property portfolio with assets all spread across Australia, amounting to more than $3 million.

Find out the most important lessons she learnt from her journey, as well as her personal secret to property investment success:

Why did you start investing so young?

Jacqui Zielinski: I got into business at uni[versity] but within a few weeks of being there, I just realised it wasn't for me … so I dropped out at ... five weeks in. My parents said to me, "If you're going to drop out, you need to get a job" because they were just worried that I was just going to sit around the house and not do much.

I had no real skills at the time. I did an office administration course at school … [and then] I'm in office admin [earning] $17,000 per year, and it was okay … While I was there, I actually was lucky enough to be employed by quite a well-known business owner in Wagga. He had an accounting firm, an investment company, and he'd just set up this other tax firm and he had me in there … I worked with him for a few years [and] he opened my eyes a lot to what I could do, property-wise, because he was quite a savvy investor—he had residential, commercial properties.

I'd never seen any of that before … It was just ... eye-opening, thinking, "Wow, look what he's built. Maybe I can do the same … " I stayed with him for a few years and learned a lot, and then I ended up getting into banking … I saw clients coming in with these huge portfolios and I was just blown away ... I thought, "Oh, I want to do that myself."

What's the biggest portfolio you've seen?

Jacqui Zielinski: I've seen some huge ones, like 20, 30 plus properties, and that was in Wagga, too … So, a lot of their properties were all Wagga-based … That's kind of why I first started in that market as well because it's what I knew … It probably wasn't the best decision now, but it got me in, at least.

Was there a ‘pattern’ you noticed about good property investors?

Jacqui Zielinski: I saw how they were structuring their [portfolios] because, obviously, I was managing the finance side of things ... In the interview, I would probably ask more questions out of my own curiosity than what was really relevant for the application, but a lot of them were looking for yields at the time—very positive cash flow properties and also value-add potential. A lot of my clients were doing renovations and things like that.

I didn't actually come across a lot that were doing developments ... Mainly, a lot of value add, a lot of good cash flow. They would follow a very similar process to how I started investing.

When did you start building your portfolio?

Jacqui Zielinski: First property was when I was 19 … It’s probably one of the cheapest properties I could afford at the time because I was only on about $40,000 and I had about $6,000 deposit, plus the $7,000 first time owner's grant. Interest rates were pretty high at the time—they were about 8 per cent—so I pretty much put everything I could into it.

[The] first property was in Wagga Wagga, around the CBD area—a two-bedroom apartment [worth] $185,000.

Was it a good investment?

Jacqui Zielinski: It was an okay property. We made some money straight away … there was instant equity, which was good. But long-term wise, it wasn't really the best-performing property that we've had in our portfolio. Rents started off strong and then there became quite an oversupply in that area for [that] type of properties ... That was the one property we ended up selling, my first property.

How did your interactions with successful investors influence you?

Jacqui Zielinski: That was where I picked up a lot of it and it gave me the confidence because I saw other people doing it. Then, I started educating myself. I started reading, I started going to seminars, events, things like that … It was very inspiring.

What was the main reason behind your decision to start your own property investment journey?

Jacqui Zielinski: For me, the big thing was that I couldn't ever imagine myself working for 40 years in a job. You know, [with] all [due] credit to people that do it ... I just [personally] thought it would be … soul-destroying. So, I thought, this is one way ... I don't have a uni degree, I don't know exactly what I want to do yet, [but] this is one way that I can change my future, really.

Even though it's in some ways complicated ... once you understand the fundamentals and how to do it … once you get it right, you can then just repeat that process a lot.

Was it somehow limiting being a college dropout?

Jacqui Zielinski: No. For me, I look at it now and go, "Thank God I left" because if I didn't leave, I don't know what I would've done ... I might have ended in a role that was just not fulfilling. I'm really glad I left because the people I met when I left ... even though I had to work my way up, [they] made me hungrier ... I think [the experience] gave me that passion to do something bigger.

What’s your personal secret to property investment success?

Jacqui Zielinski: I did work hard at it ... Some people might say [I’m] obsessed with it. I went all-in. I would be in forums, I'd be learning, I'd be doing anything I could, [talking to people] ... [In] different events … that I go to, you would not know in the room who's a property investor, and then you start talking to them [and you realise] anyone can do it. It's just … they have to want it, too … You need to be pulled to do it, as opposed to [being pushed] to do it.

Phil Tarrant: It's really the mindset … Understand it, get educated, get confident and comfortable with it and start slowly … [You have to] actually want to take control of [your] financial future and have a good retirement or a good life after work.

Any final advice for budding property investors?

Phil Tarrant: I think the challenge is that, a lot of people's experience with property is not a good one. They buy the wrong sort of property ... so it really frames their opinion ... A lot of people get sucked into other people's misery and it shapes the way they think about properties … but there are good stories about property there.

Jacqui Zielinski: Like me, right? I had that one property that, it wasn't anything bad but it wasn't anything great [as well]. It didn't give me the kind of returns I wanted. But at the same time, if I had just stopped there, I would not have got the other ones that have been amazing deals.

Tune in to Jacqui Zielenski’s episode on The Smart Property Investment Show to know more about the impact of educating yourself, how to find a balance between business work and investment, and the simple but effective ways to improve your current portfolio.

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With the softening market impacting property values in many parts of Australia, Sally Wood, Opteon state director for NSW, ACT and Qld joins us to discuss the importance of valuations in the current property market

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Joining host Phil Tarrant, Sally will draw on her 25 years of experience in valuation and discuss the processes involved in arriving at a value for a particular property. She will also share how that process differs between commercial and residential properties and the difficulties which regional property valuations can present.

Sally will unpack the importance and cost of regular valuations on your properties, discuss whether presentation and owner input can sway a valuation and share what you should look for when seeking a reputable property valuer.

If you like this episode, show your support by rating us or leaving a review on iTunes (The Smart Property Investment Show) and by following Smart Property Investment on social media: FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

If you have any questions about what you heard today, any topics of interest you have in mind, or if you’d like to lend your voice to the show, email [email protected] for more insights!

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A softening market can be a difficult time for a property investor with finance approval tightening and property capital growth slowing, and while many real estate agents are also feeling the squeeze McGrath Brighton Le Sands' Bill Tsounias claims it is simply the market returning to normal.

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In this episode of the Smart Property Investment Show, Bill joins host Phil Tarrant to share his thoughts on the current Sydney property market, and to share the shifts that he has seen in house and unit sale prices following their worst quarter in the past decade.

Bill will unpack why properties are spending longer on market, share what he believes property investors are doing wrong when trying to sell their properties and share the secrets to getting the best out of a real estate agent and an auction in the current softening market.

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Gavin Kemp and his now-fiancé bought their first property together after only six months of dating. They weren’t even living together at the time. Now, two years on, the pair have bought five properties, sold two and have a solid plan in place for their ongoing property journey. 

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In this episode of the Smart Property Investment Show, Gavin joins host Phil Tarrant to discuss how he chose the locations where he decided to invest and how, due to the initial lack of education (something that he now values highly), he lost money on his first two investments.

Gavin will share his thoughts on the current property market, reveal the people who he has leaned on throughout his property journey and discuss why his strategy employs a zero procrastination rule.

If you like this episode, show your support by rating us or leaving a review on iTunes (The Smart Property Investment Show) and by following Smart Property Investment on social media: FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

If you have any questions about what you heard today, any topics of interest you have in mind, or if you’d like to lend your voice to the show, email [email protected] for more insights!

RELATED AREAS OF INTEREST:

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AREAS MENTIONED:

Redcliffe
Port Macquarie
Loganlea
Launceston
Raceview

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A joint property portfolio before they were even living together

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