How this ex-banker supercharged her portfolio with knowledge from the inside track

By Demii Kalavritinos 16 October 2017 | 1 minute read

After listening to other investors come to her for their banking needs, investor Jacqui Zielinski learnt from their experiences and started her own investment journey. Here’s what she picked up along the way.

Jacqui discusses the lessons she learnt from associating with other property investors, the risks and challenges she has had while building her portfolio and how she balances self-employment and her investment portfolio.

You will also find out the impact of educating yourself, finding a balance between business work and investment, and ways to improve your current portfolio.


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Suburbs mentioned in this episode:

Wagga Wagga
Lake Albert
Mount Druitt
Macquarie Fields
St Marys
Logan Central
Slacks Creek

Related articles of interest:

Is it a good idea to join property investment clubs? 
Here’s Why The Next 3 Years Will Be BETTER Than The Last 3 Years
Are you doing a good job as a property investor? 

About the author

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Smart Property Investment Show, with your host, Phil Tarrant.

Phil Tarrant: Good day, everyone. It's Phil Tarrant here, host of the Smart Property Investment show. Thanks for joining us today. In the studio I have Jacqui Zielinski and Jacqui's going to give us a bit of an inside view on some of the challenges of investing as a niche market small business owner, having come off the back of a corporate job, which has given plenty of cash to build quite a substantial portfolio. So, Jacqui, how're you going?

Jacqui Z.: Good, thanks for having me, Phil.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, thanks for coming in. Your story's quite interesting in that I think it's really reflective of people who ... It's an evolving drive for a lot of people, these days, to become self-employed and be master of their own destiny and set up their own shops and set up their own business and-

Jacqui Z.: Yeah.

Phil Tarrant: And you've created a digital agency, just before we come on air, you ran me through the basis of that after quite a significant career with the Commonwealth Bank, which has pretty much influenced the growth of your portfolio. So, let's have a bit of chat about that today, I think that would be a good topic. So, let's have a rundown on where your portfolio sits right now. So, you're a property investor, that's good. What's the size of your portfolio at the moment?

Jacqui Z.: So, property-wise, we've got 10 properties, between my husband and I. And, in total, value's around that three million dollar mark.

Phil Tarrant: Three million dollars, and what sort of debt do you have on those property?

Jacqui Z.: Our overall position, we're sitting just under 65% OVR.

Phil Tarrant: Okay, alright. So you've got like, a million bucks in there, pretty much, in equity.

Jacqui Z.: Just slightly over, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: Quick sort of math. And when did you start building that portfolio?

Jacqui Z.: First property was when I was 19.

Phil Tarrant: Okay.

Jacqui Z.: Or, 19, actually it would've been 20. It 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%, so I pretty much put everything I could into it and that's how I pretty much started.

Phil Tarrant: Start from there.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah.

Phil Tarrant:       And where did you buy your first property?

Jacqui Z.: First property was in Wagga Wagga, around the CBD area. Two bedroom apartment, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: What'd you pay for it? Like, 60 grand or something like that?

Jacqui Z.: No, I wish. At the time it was $185,000.

Phil Tarrant: Okay.

Jacqui Z.: But it was an okay property. We made some money straight away because the value of it was around that 195, 200k mark, so 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 the types of properties. And so, over time, we did actually ... That was the one property we ended up selling, my first property.

Phil Tarrant: So, you have sold one property and you still retain 10 properties in your portfolio.

Jacqui Z.: Yes, yep.

Phil Tarrant: Why did you start investing so young? Shouldn't you have been spending that money backpacking on a Contiki Tour or something?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, I probably should've. Well, I actually started, the reason for it is I was probably average student at school, nothing ... I think I got around 70-odd percent in my UAI, pretty average. But my main interest was business and so, I got into business at uni, but within a few weeks of being there, I just realised it wasn't for me and so I dropped out at like, five weeks in. And 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.

                So, I had no real skills at the time. I did a office administration course at school and so I thought, okay, that's what I've got to do, I'm in office admin. And the first job I picked up, it was like $17,000 per year and it was okay. At the time, I didn't realise how low it was because I was living at home with my parents, but at the same time I had this pressure on me to ... I was concerned that, because I'd dropped out, I'm going to see all my friends graduate, they're all going to be kicking goals and I'm going to be in office administration, earning $17,000 for potential years to come.

                And 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, and so I worked with him for a few years. But I would say, he was very ... 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.

                And I'd never seen any of that before. And so for me, it was just like an eye-opening, thinking, "Wow, look what he's built. Maybe I can do the same." And so, I think that's where my first bit of interest really piqued and then it was more so when I ... I stayed with him for a few years and learned a lot and then I ended up getting into banking. And I saw clients coming in with these huge portfolios and I was just blown away, and I thought, "Oh, I want to do that myself."

                And so, that's why I got stuck into it at quite an early age.

Phil Tarrant: So, you're a Wagga girl, are you?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, I am, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: Okay. Born and bred?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, born and bred.

Phil Tarrant: It's a nice part of the world, I like Wagga Wagga, it's pretty cool.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, no, yeah. I've been in Sydney for about seven years now, but grew up in Wagga. My parents are still there.

Phil Tarrant: So, did you work with a bank in Wagga Wagga?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, so, I started off at CBA there, in the branch for a few years and when I actually moved into a lending role, and so I would always see these clients' portfolios and just ...

Phil Tarrant: What's the biggest portfolio you've seen?

Jacqui Z.: I've seen some huge ones, like 20, 30 plus properties, and that was in Wagga, too, right? So, a lot of their properties that were all Wagga-based, too. And so, that's kind of why I first started in that market as well, because it's what I knew.

Phil Tarrant What you knew.

Jacqui Z.: It probably wasn't the best decision now, but it got me in, at least.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, it's interesting the way these podcasts shape up and I want to stay on this, I find this really interesting. Just your observation on other property investors. So, you were working in a lending role. So, with the bank, some people walk in and go, "Hey, I need some money for an investment property." You would do what lenders do and go through all the assessment processes. Is there any commonality, you think, between investors? What did you see of these people coming going, "Oh, he's a massive portfolio. He's a portfolio of 5 properties or 10 properties or 50 properties."

                Was there any commonality between the people that come in who were good investors?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, and I think that's where I picked up a few ... Before that kind of ... When I saw that and when I saw how they were structuring their ... Because obviously, I was managing the finance side of things and I would ... 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 at, for yields at the time. So, 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 and stuff. That probably would've been ... Because I was in a branch level. But mainly a lot of value add, a lot of good cash flow. They would follow a very similar process to how I started investing.

Phil Tarrant: You learned very much through osmosis of dealing with other people.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, I did. 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.

Phil Tarrant: All that stuff. I reckon I've probably got one of the best jobs in Australia, in terms of how to be a really good property investor, because all I do is, people come and talk to me about how they invest in property and most of the time they're success stories and even the most successful people have their mistakes, right? Where they've gone wrong. And that's what I really like learning about because it's helped shaped the way that I invest. And I'd say I'm a pretty good property investor. The reason why I'm a good property investor is because I'm all about education. About getting as much information as I can and understanding where I can add value to investing in property and where I can get other people to do it for me, who are even better than I am. So, that's what I do. So, I don't claim to be an expert at all on this, I'm just quite fortunate that that's what I do.

                But you were sitting in a role at Wagga Wagga in a bank branch, getting people coming in, investing in property. It must have been quite inspiring. Did you just go home every day, just going, "Oh, that's so cool."

Jacqui Z.: It was, it was very inspiring. I used to ask my mom and dad about it, I'd be like, "Oh, why don't you guys properties?" And Dad told me this one story about having ... He bought one unit in Wagga Wagga and he held it for a few years and did nothing and it was a stress, and kind of like, was, didn't have a great experience with it. But at the same time, I thought, "Well, all these other people I'm seeing are doing it."

                And for me, the big thing was that I couldn't ever imagine myself working for 40 years in a job. You know, all credit to people that do it, but for me, I just thought it would be like, 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, this is one way that I can change my future, really.

Phil Tarrant: So, it's empowerment, right? To be able to grab the bull by the horns, do it yourself.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, and that's it. And it's something that, even though it's in some ways complicated, in other ways it's, once you understand the fundamentals and how to do it, it's a lot of once you get it right, you can then just repeat that process a lot, so.

Phil Tarrant: And do you think it's been limiting for you, not getting a uni career? Like, you said you thought that it-

Jacqui Z.: Oh, I'm so glad-

Phil Tarrant: You said you thought that it was going to be really inhibitive and you're going to earn $17,000 a year for the rest of your life in office admin, does it really matter?

Jacqui Z.: 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 felt like I, I don't know, I might have ended in a role that it was just not fulfilling. So, I'm really glad I left, because the people I met when I left and put myself ... Even though I had to work my way up, it made me hungrier. Like, it made me want to ... I think it gave me that passion to do something bigger.

Phil Tarrant: And you think, having worked in a lending capacity with the Commonwealth Bank and dealing with property investors, did you need to work really hard at it? And what I'm getting at there is that, does success in property investment happen by accident, or you've actually got to be driven and passionate about making money?

Jacqui Z.: For me, I did work hard at it. I was very ... Some people might say obsessed with it. I went all-in. I would be in forums, I'd be learning, I'd be doing anything I could. Because that was my main thing. Even though I was still semi-happy in the jobs that I had at the time, for me that's what kept me motivated, because I had this on the side that was really inspiring. I could measure it, I could see how it was going and it was just ... Yeah, that excited me, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: That's interesting. And property investors come from all walks of life, from your experience? So, there's no ... Just doesn't matter who they are, what they do, it's just a passion really, is it? That they want to take control of their financial future and get ahead.

Jacqui Z.: That's it. Like, different events and stuff that I go to, you would not know in the room who's a property investor, and then you start talking to them. All ages. Anyone can do it. It's just they have to want it, too, like ...

Phil Tarrant: Oh, I completely agree. It's really the mindset. I was with my sister this week and chatting about it and I've been telling her for years, "Look, you know ..." She lives up in Central Coast, she's got heaps of equity in her house, she earns good income, she just won't invest in property. I'm going, "What are you doing? What are you doing?" Understand it, get educated, get confident and comfortable with it and start slowly and I finally connected her in to my account and she's finally sort of seen the light and gone, "Oh, hang on a second. I don't actually want to be on a pension when I get older, I actually want to take control of my financial future and have a good retirement or a good life after work.

                But you need to want it. You need to want it.

Jacqui Z.: You do. I've had that same conversation with family members and friends and I don't know what it is that stops them. I don't know if it's the risk, they just start thinking about having to deal with the tenants or the debt and things like that, but you can't ... I find ... I've tried to push people, but ...

Phil Tarrant: You can't do it.

Jacqui Z.: I feel like you really need to want to do it and you need to ... You need to be pulled to do it, as opposed to pushing people to do it.

Phil Tarrant: I think the challenge is is that, a lot of people's experience with property is not a good one. They buy the wrong sort of property, like you were saying about your dad, right? He was in the market for a couple of years and it was a headache, he was worried about the debt and the tenants and dividend going up in value, and that's a lot of people's story, so it really frames their opinion to ... A lot of people get sucked into other people's misery and it shapes the way they think about properties, so.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, and you might-

Phil Tarrant: But there's good stories about property there.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, and you may have some properties in your portfolio. Like me, right? I had that one property that, it wasn't anything bad, but it wasn't anything great. 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, so.

Phil Tarrant: So, when did you work out it was a not-so-good property? I was going to say crap, but ...

Jacqui Z.: Oh, for a while. I'd say for a while.

Phil Tarrant: You knew?

Jacqui Z.: We knew for a while, we kind of just held on to it because we, at the time, we just thought, "What else are we going to do?" It's not ... At some points, it just should have been returning a lot more at the time. We weren't getting the cash flow and, considering how long we'd had it for, and at the same time we weren't getting the growth. And I just thought, "Let's pull out the money now. We can use that cash for either our own home down the track or for another investment property." I just prefer to get rid of one potential property.

Phil Tarrant: So, you've got 10 properties now. When did you sell that first property? Was that a recent thing or was it pretty early one?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, we sold that one last year. Just a few months before I left the bank, actually.

Phil Tarrant: Okay. So, one of the biggest questions I get on the Smart Property Investment Show is, "How do I go from one property to two properties to five properties to many properties?" And you've gone down that journey, despite the fact that to your admittance, the first property wasn't the best property. So, how did you get in to number two? What was the story?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah. So, the story is a bit of a funny one, actually. So, what I did was when I was at the bank, I actually was chatting with this potential ... This client, about, I think it was a personal loan or something at the time. Anyway, he was telling me about he had this property in Lake Albert, which is where ... The suburb my parents live in. And he was saying to me like, "Oh, I just need to get rid of it. I've started renovating and I just don't have the money to do it, I just want to get rid of it. I need it off my case."

                And I was like, "Oh, really?" I said, I said, "Oh, well, maybe I'll come have a look at it." I thought at the time, "Oh, you know, I can buy properties, it'll be fine." And so I had a look through and this property had been half renovated. He'd had an attempt on the bathroom and the kitchen had somewhat been half ripped out and it looked like he'd just given up and he just wanted out. And I negotiated with him, like a private purchase, but at the time I didn't have a lot of equity in my other property, because it had only been ... I think it was six months or something like that. So, there hadn't been enough for me to go again, to cover stamp duty, everything.

                And so, somehow I convinced my parents to, for a short term, to guarantee me on a v-lock. A line of credit, I should say. For, I think it was $50,000 at the time, and I said to them, "This is the deal, it's an amazing deal, I'm buying it well below market. Let me just do the purchase and then I'll top the loan up and get you out of there." And that's what I did. I'm surprised they ... I look back now and go, "They probably thought I was crazy at the time."

Phil Tarrant: But they backed you, that's pretty good.

Jacqui Z.: They backed me and so, yeah, that's what I did. I quickly used their line of credit, did a renovation, finish it up, got it rented out and then got it re-valued and got [inaudible 00:14:56].

Phil Tarrant: So, what did you pay for it?

Jacqui Z.: So, that one I paid $200,000.

Phil Tarrant: And you did a reno, how much did the reno cost you?

Jacqui Z.: Oh, I can't really remember, now.

Phil Tarrant: It was probably a few years ago, yeah.

Jacqui Z.: I would say, it would've been about 20k, I would say. Or maybe 15 to 20, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: Okay, and what did you get it re-valled at?

Jacqui Z.: Oh, such a long time ago. I would say, it would've been, I'm pretty sure we got it revalued at about 290 or 280.

Phil Tarrant: Okay, so not bad.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah.

Phil Tarrant: Did you pay your parents back some interest?

Jacqui Z.: No, no, I don't think I did.

Phil Tarrant: Did you buy them a cake or something?

Jacqui Z.: No, I didn't, bad daughter.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, bad daughter. But that's ... Some of the best gifts come badly wrapped, right? And you're talking about a property which is probably an eyesore, but you're able to have the vision to be able to see what the upside is. So, we talk about instant equity or manufacturing equity, that was very much understanding, "What's this probably worth? How can I get it to that…?

Jacqui Z.: And very much did a win. When I look back at it now, it was very much a win-win. So, that guy wanted out, I even paid for his legals and things to help him along. And so, it's just really trying to make it a good scenario for everyone. So, he got what he wanted.

Phil Tarrant: So, you manufactured 50, 60 grand in equity out of that deal, and is that what propelled you into the next property, is it?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, that's kind of what happened to the next one.

                The next one, again, it was bought in a similar area, Lake Albert, very close to, again, my parents' place. That one we did a reno, too, I probably wasn't as successful. I purchased slightly higher price point than that one. But overall, it just probably wasn't as good a property. But they're okay, those two are still on the portfolio, but I have had ... My longer term plans will be to eventually probably sell both.

Phil Tarrant: Okay.

Jacqui Z.: If I'm going to sell anything, it will probably be those two.

Phil Tarrant: What would they be worth today, do you think?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, they'd be worth about 300k or 310, something like that.

Phil Tarrant: Okay, alright.

Jacqui Z.: So, and at the time, they served a purpose. They did serve a purpose at the time. So, we were able to pull out equity to buy again and things like that, so, it was beneficial for us at the time. But when I look at it now, from a long-term perspective ...

Phil Tarrant: Just not right.

Jacqui Z.: Just probably not right.

Phil Tarrant: Now, how's the yields on them? Are they pretty low?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, so, the rents were actually quite strong when we first bought them. So, I rented at about 350, 340 things like that. I would say they've come back, actually, over the years they've been slightly coming back in that market.

Phil Tarrant: Is that because heaps of investors have been buying in Wagga?

Jacqui Z.: The thing is, with Wagga, is there's so much land-

Phil Tarrant: Am I allowed to call it Wagga, even though I'm not a local?

Jacqui Z.: You can. You can, I'm actually impressed that you do that.

Phil Tarrant: Okay, that's alright. I know a lot of people go, "You can't call it Wagga."

Jacqui Z.: Most people go, "Wagga Wagga, yeah."

Phil Tarrant: Yeah.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, so, the thing with Wagga is that there's so much land, and so, with the properties that I held there, they were older, 1970's properties. And even though they were all renovated inside, it's very hard to compete with the new stock that's coming on there and there was constantly new houses being built. And so, it did create quite an over-supply in that area for houses, anyway, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, and I think that's a really good point you made, Jacqui. For our listeners, you need to understand why property goes up in value. Property goes up in value if there's a scarcity of property, and there's a lot of land out in Wagga Wagga.

Jacqui Z.: There is, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: And they can just keep building for hundreds of kilometres around it, so, you're not really going to have that positive upwards pressure on it, because there's always more properties that can be created. But you also look at Wagga Wagga, why is Wagga Wagga Wagga Wagga? Well, you know, what are the key industries for Wagga? Obviously, there's some agricultural stuff down there, but what are the other key drivers for economic growth in Wagga? So, wage growth, population growth. Is there a lot more people travelling to Wagga and want to live in Wagga today than what there was 10 years ago? Probably not.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah.

Phil Tarrant: You know, it's-

Jacqui Z.: And I get excited whenever I see a news article say, "Oh, Wagga Wagga's going to get growth." And stuff like that. Even though I see those headlines, I'm yet to see it actually in my portfolio.

Phil Tarrant: So, who's the biggest employer in Wagga Wagga? Some of the, is it techs? The hospitals down there ...

Jacqui Z.: Well, the hospitals and stuff like that are really good and you get the uni and the RAAF and stuff like that, but ...

Phil Tarrant: It's not going to set the world on fire.

Jacqui Z.: It's a great place to live and that's why I bought there first, because I'm like, "Oh, I understand it." But soon after educating myself further, I thought I've probably made the ...

Phil Tarrant: So, when did you leave Wagga Wagga in person and also in property investing?

Jacqui Z.: I've been in Sydney about seven years now.

Phil Tarrant: So, you came out with the bank, did you?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, so, my husband was doing uni, so he stayed.

Phil Tarrant: Was he a Wagga guy?

Jacqui Z.: He's a Wagga guy too, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: Okay, yeah.

Jacqui Z.: So, he stayed and finished uni and then he got into banking, but a different bank to me, and then we moved to Sydney together.

Phil Tarrant: What was the purpose of the move? Just ...

Jacqui Z.: Career.

Phil Tarrant: Okay.

Jacqui Z.: We both, at that time, were very career focused. So, very passionate about our roles in the bank. He's still in banking but we just thought, there's more opportunity if we go to Sydney, yeah. And my sister was here and he ... It just made sense, so.

Phil Tarrant: And did you start investing up here as well, or you kept ...

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, I did.

Phil Tarrant: So, you bought two places in Wagga, and then what happened after that?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, so I bought three in Wagga and then when we moved to Sydney, then we started looking around western Sydney and ...

Phil Tarrant: Okay. And when was this, what sort of time?

Jacqui Z.: We've had the ones in Sydney probably for seven years, maybe.

Phil Tarrant: Okay, so you were buying sort of, 2011 ...

Jacqui Z.: Just around the GFC time we picked up a few, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: So, I imagine you've done pretty well out of that, then.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, very well.

Phil Tarrant: Where did you buy, in western Sydney?

Jacqui Z.: So, we bought around ... We've got a couple in Mount Druitt, we've got Macquarie Fields.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, down near Campbelltown.
Jacqui Z.: We've got ... Pretty much all around that area.
Phil Tarrant: So, what did you buy in Mount Druitt? Units or houses?
Jacqui Z.: So, we've got a three-bedroom house, we've got a three-bedroom townhouse slash villa, and then we've got a townhouse but that was Torrens title.
Phil Tarrant: And in Mount Druitt, you had been buying houses for a couple hundred grand, back then? Probably cheaper?
Jacqui Z.: Yeah. The best purchase would've been the house that we got. It was 160,000 but it was completely ... Had really terrible termite damage. No live, active termites, but we ended up spending about 40,000 on it. That's a bit, but 200,000 for a house there? And that's worth nearly 500,000.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah, I'd say so. So, you've more than doubled it, over that period of time.
Jacqui Z.: Crazy, the prices.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah. A lot of people ask ... Because I talk my portfolio a lot, they say, "What would you do better?" I'm like, "Oh, I wish I bought all of Mount Druitt back then."

Jacqui Z.: I know.

Phil Tarrant: Not that I could've.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, that's one thing that I go, "Damn, I ..." Because we did buy a few quite quickly, but at the same time, we were, in some ways we were gearing up quite high, but I still look at my portfolio now and go, "Oh, if only we'd bought a couple more."

Phil Tarrant: I think everyone says that. But interestingly, for our listeners anecdotally and we speak about ... We've got a couple of places in Mount Druitt and St Mary’s which is pretty close and all out that way. And when we bought out there, which would've been 2010, 2011, I can't remember exactly. It was cheap, right? Well, comparatively to today, back then it was market value, but we saw the upside benefits and obviously a lot of it was prompted with the help that we got from our buyers agent.

                But when we bought out there, there was a huge influx of buying, so we got in there before, I think, the masses got in there in terms of investors, and we saw our yields come off because there were so many investors buying out stuff.

Jacqui Z.: Yes, we had the same issue, yes.

Phil Tarrant: So, our rents went right down. Just this morning, I got a call from my buyers agent that helps me keep an eye on my portfolio, but they've also connected into a property management business and he said, "These places have become available. Good news is, though, is that we're putting all your rents up by 40 bucks a week." And I just went, "Cool, no worries." So, things are starting to change out in the western suburbs, so, obviously, investment investors in that area, western suburbs of Sydney, has come off and has come off over the last few years, probably because of the challenges in getting financing and obviously the uplift in prices there.

                But that dynamic, now, is shifting towards allowing us to put greater price pressure on yields out there.

Jacqui Z.: That's good to know, because that was one thing. I was looking at my portfolio and I just thought, I'm looking at where the prices are now and what I'm getting rent-wise, and like mine have not caught-

Phil Tarrant: There's a bit of a disconnect, yeah.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah. Have not caught up yet, and so ...

Phil Tarrant: So, we're going to share that part of the cycle, now, where rent's going to catch up. And I'm going to look more into this and I'll do a podcast on these shifting dynamics in the western suburbs of Sydney, but we've had a lot of growth out there. A lot of our places out there have doubled and some. It's been ridiculous and that's slowing, or has slowed. Yes, they will continue to grow, I believe, but not at the same rapid pace as what they have done. But that's okay, the market will catch up, but we're going to see yields in there. So, we're going to get into a yield play, which is cool.

                So, after Mount Druitt and what did you say, Macquarie Fields?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, so, a few different suburbs around Mount Druitt.

Phil Tarrant: Okay.

Jacqui Z.: And then we went Macquarie Fields and that one was like, a one-bedroom villa, and that one was a mortgagee in possession.

Phil Tarrant: In possession?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah. And so, that one was a cheapy, as well.

Phil Tarrant: How did you find that?

Jacqui Z.: Online.

Phil Tarrant: Did you know it was mortgagee in possession when you bought it?

Jacqui Z.: A lot of mine are bought sight-unseen and I've just done offers over the phone and then get building and pest people to go through and ... But I have actually seen that property since.

Phil Tarrant: Does that bother you? Doing it sight unseen. Does that concern you?

Jacqui Z.: Not at all, no.

Phil Tarrant: No?

Jacqui Z.: It doesn't. I know some people have their view on it. For me, I like it because it makes me not get emotional about it and I can just concentrate on the numbers. I get enough photos to give me comfort on the condition and I get people in there that I trust to give me honest feedback on what work needs to be done and things like that. But I feel like it's not essential for me to go through every property.

Phil Tarrant: Would you have done that, you think, early on in your investing career?

Jacqui Z.: Definitely not, no.

Phil Tarrant: No, you need to eyeball it. Always recommend eyeballing it, even if it's early on and ... If I can't see a property, then when we purchase it, I just have my buyers agent give me a thorough thing. I've actually got a video sitting in my email right now that I'll go and check out to say yes or no on a place, but I know that people I trust have gone through it.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, that's important.

Phil Tarrant: And done all that stuff, and so I pay for that advice, you know, I haven't got time to fly to Brisbane to look at a property at the moment, but. So, what's been the last couple of purchases, then?

Jacqui Z.: The last four have been around Brisbane.

Phil Tarrant: Okay. You seem to be following the same sort of profile we have here, so, hey.

Jacqui Z.: Similar to you, is it?

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, you must listen to the Smart Property Investment Show.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, I do, I do.

Phil Tarrant: I think everyone's doing the same thing.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah.

Phil Tarrant: Where in Brissy are you?

Jacqui Z.: We've got Logan Central, Slack's Creek, Woodridge.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, okay, yeah, some of the same places.

Jacqui Z.: I haven't seen any of them though, either.

Phil Tarrant: To be fair, I haven't seen any of our properties up in Brisbane, but my buyers' agent has.

Jacqui Z.: I've been meaning on doing it, I've been meaning to go.

Phil Tarrant: You should do a tour, you know?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, I should.

Phil Tarrant: Go and check it out. So, I started this podcast and I probably didn't too fair an introduction into it, considering where the chat's gone. But I mentioned that you've shifted from being employed by the bank to being self-employed now, and you're running a digital agency and I imagine the banks probably aren't too forthcoming in lending you money. Or, they're probably finding excuses not to want to lend you money, because they don't want to lend much to anyone. But how are you finding the world, post not being a PAYG employee?

Jacqui Z.: I kind of expected it, because I know where the banks stand when it comes to self-employed and how you need to be there for at least a couple of years. And I've kind of, at the same time, when I look back at my goals, they've really quite changed a bit. So, from when I first started the goals, it was all about hitting certain numbers and property numbers and dollar figures and things like that and now, for me, my overall goal has probably changed a little more around building my business and then being able to contribute more that way. As well as, once I get that to a point where it's just going quite good, then I'll probably look to pick up property again.

Phil Tarrant: Okay.

Jacqui Z.: So, property will always be an interest of mine, but at the same time, it's not something I can ... Without finance, you can't do much.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah.

Jacqui Z.: With property. Unless you've got ... That's one thing I probably should've done before I left, is got a big line of credit.

Phil Tarrant: Line of credit.

Jacqui Z.: On a few properties and just bought that way, but I think for me, I did actually reach ... Because the higher I got in my banking career, the more pressure I was under and the same time, it got harder to balance. It got harder to balance all the admin and the issues, I think, that go on with property. In some ways, it's great. In other ways, it's not as glamorous as what it seems, sometimes.

                And so, for me, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with having to do so much, and so that's probably another reason I took the pedal off and said, "I'm just going to let it sit for a bit."

Phil Tarrant: There's nothing wrong with that, because one of the best things for a property portfolio is time, if you have the right assets in it.

Jacqui Z.: That's right.

Phil Tarrant: If you have the wrong assets in it, it can be a worse thing against you, but if you've bought well, there's nothing wrong with just sitting on your portfolio and doing nothing.

Jacqui Z.: There's been a year or so that we didn't do anything and that was our highest growth year, because we'd bought at the right time, the right properties, and then we just were able to sit back and have them grow, so.

Phil Tarrant: That's good. And you're making some money as a self-employed person?

Jacqui Z.: Yes, I am, yeah.

Phil Tarrant: That's good.

Jacqui Z.: It's going really well.

Phil Tarrant: Do you enjoy making money now, knowing that-

Jacqui Z.: I love it.

Phil Tarrant: You just don't rock up at work and you get paid no matter, you've got to work a lot harder for it.

Jacqui Z.: It's so much about value, it's not about how many hours and things like that. It becomes all about value and so I love it, because I feel like what I'm doing now is I can make a real difference with these small to medium businesses. I'm dealing with people I want to deal with and I can feel like I'm making a good contribution, so.

Phil Tarrant: And what do you reckon, seeing that you were once a lending manager for a bank? You need a couple of tax returns, a couple of years tax returns before the banks will start looking at you again?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah.

Phil Tarrant: Is that typically how it works?

Jacqui Z.: Yes.

Phil Tarrant: So, how do you balance ... I know a lot of people get in this situation or they get stuck by the fact that they are self employed and it is a little bit ... It can be a little bit or a lot harder to get finance as a self-employed person, but what a lot of people do if they're self-employed is they look to maximise their tax benefits by mixing, potentially, their business and personal life together. And people do that for a reason, I'm not going to get into those reasons, but what it can do, though, is if you look to show losses in your business by trying to gain tax effectiveness, you can struggle to secure financing as a result of it. So, you need to show profit ...

Jacqui Z.: You do.

Phil Tarrant: In order for a bank to be comfortable to lend you money.

Jacqui Z.: So important to have a good accountant on board that you communicate what your plans are with. Because I used to see that all the time. It's been years since I've been in a lending role, but the accountant's trying to do the right thing in the sense of saving tax, but at the end of the day you need to be showing your income if you want to get finance approved. And so, for me, there's so many things I could potentially claim on it tax-wise, but I'm going to have that conversation with my accountant and say, "This is what the overall plan is, and so, I'm happy to pay tax." Or, you know ...

Phil Tarrant: I think we should all pay tax, because the government needs it, to be fair, but ...

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, that's right.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, but at least you're building your business on that basis, because people get really stuck in that regard. When they're actually say to the bank and they go, "No, no no, that's not really true, because I really earned this money ..." And they go, "It's too complicated, I'm not going to touch you because you need to show profits or healthy income on tax return." How are you finding income flows in terms of what you do in digital agency/ Is it quite lumpy or is it pretty standard?

Jacqui Z.: Pretty good, actually. And I think a lot of that, I've probably taken a bit of what I know from the property side and brought it into business. Primarily, I was thinking about it, primarily around the cash flow. I know how important cash flow is and I've learned that through my property investing and so, when it comes to my clients and things like that, everything's monthly retainer, everything's paid up front before the work's completed, so I never have an issue with cash flow. So, that's one thing that has been an easier way to grow, because it's quite ... I can self-sustain through the business income that way.

Phil Tarrant: I guess you're also happy and comfortable talking about money as well, because a lot of people aren't a lot of people get scared talking about money.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah.

Phil Tarrant: And it really holds them back, so. But, Jacqui, good story. Really enjoyed it.

Jacqui Z.: Thanks for having me.

Phil Tarrant: That's ... Moving on from Wagga Wagga up into investing right across Australia, which is really cool. So, when do you think you'll be able to buy next?

Jacqui Z.: I would say we probably wouldn't look to buy for another two to three years, unless there's changes in lending criteria and the banks are willing to go there. But, at the same time, I'm pretty focused on what I'm doing at the moment and I'm just trying to focus on ... There's plans that I have for the portfolio, even though we're not necessarily buying more, there's things that I can do with the current portfolio to improve things.

Phil Tarrant: You don't need to rush it, you know. You've been investing since 20 and you're still really young, so you've got at least a good two, three market cycles left to really manufacture some world.

Jacqui Z.: And there's other ways that I could creatively create more equity out of that portfolio. There's properties that haven't been renovated, things like that, so it's all around timing and choosing when I'm going to do certain things. But at the moment, I'm just going to sit tight.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, for someone who has a background in banking and working with investors, and I think that's been a really good part of your education.

Jacqui Z.: Definitely.

Phil Tarrant: And in terms of building your portfolio, at 10 properties, you've probably got a large portfolio compared to most people. Most people hardly get beyond one or two. Even though you've got all this experience, how do you keep yourself educated to keep driving forward and motivating yourself? Or just, maybe, challenging yourself to make sure you're still doing it the right way?

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, I would say in the early days I did a lot myself. I was all around just trying to read as much, go to events, everything like that. But I think for me, where it really changes, is when I started seeking advice from trusted people, and so started getting actual mentors in that space that had achieved what I want to achieve and surrounding myself with them. That really pushed me to go further. I think even though I was hungry to do it, that guidance that I got from them was definitely what took me to the next level, I would say.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah. And your biggest regret, biggest mistake so far?

Jacqui Z.: I would say there's a few. I would say a few. Nothing terrible, but I'm pretty critical on portfolio. But I would say, some things I would do differently would be, probably maybe overdoing it in certain areas. So probably maybe spreading the risk out a little bit more out of some areas. Not buying where I used to live would be one. You know, spreading the risk out more. Potentially around loan structuring as well, I'd probably, if I was to start again, I'd probably, even though I'm married, I'd probably structure things separately so if for, now that I'm out of the game business-wise, my husband potentially could still do things on his own. So, I'd probably do that differently.

                They're probably the main ones. Actually, the last one would probably be trying to buy more properties that have development potential. I'd probably reduce the amount of apartments and units and get more ... I'd still keep some, they're very good cash flow, but I would balance it out with some more houses and things that I could do some, sub-divisions, granny flats, things like that.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, it's quite reflective, you know. Obviously it's good to know where you can do better because it's going to shape the way you invest in the future, but what are you most proud of, of what you've achieved?

Jacqui Z.: I'm proud that we've been able to build to this level. In the early days, we weren't earning a lot of money. We kind of put everything in to it. It got easier over time as our incomes increased, but at the time, I got started with $6,000 and the 7,000 first home owner grant. So, it wasn't a tonne of money, but we've been able to leverage financing, a lot of it's come down to financing, right? We've been able to leverage that and create a nice nest egg, you know? My original goal was, I wanted to be a millionaire asset-wise by my 30th birthday. And I'm 29 now and so I've done that and so that's something I'm proud of, because I've achieved what I've originally set out to do.

Phil Tarrant: That's good. It's nice to reach your goals. It's nice to set new ones as well, though.

Jacqui Z.: I know, I know. I feel like I need to set some new ones around the property stuff.

Phil Tarrant: You've got some ambitious goals in terms of building your business and it's fun building businesses.

Jacqui Z.: Yeah, it is lots of fun.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, it's fun. But, I wish you all the best, Jacqui.

Jacqui Z.: Thank you.

Phil Tarrant: I really enjoyed the chat. Yeah, it's good. And you said, also, you listen to the Smart Property Investment Show, which I like.

Jacqui Z.: I do. Love it.

Phil Tarrant: Source of education. So, I hope you like what we're doing, guys. I enjoy these conversations and as I said beforehand, I've got one of the best jobs in Australia in terms of property and that. Get to chat to property investors and just really pick their brains on what they do and how they do it and I use that information as part of my education.

                So, for everyone that comes on the show, including Jacqui, thanks for making the time to do it. And if you would like to come on to the Smart Property Investment Show, get in touch with the team. We like investors big and small, all walks of life, everyone's got a different story, so we'd like to share that with our rapidly growing community. Property investors, contact the team editor at

                If you'd like to follow us on all social channels, just search for Smart Property, you'll track us down. Remember to check out the website, And if you're not subscribing to our newsletter, please do,, you'll be the first to hear about what's going in property. There's been heaps of reviews coming in lately, so thank you so much for doing that, please keep them coming. I think we've had like, 30 over the last week or so and that's really cool. And they're all five stars, which is what I like, so we're doing something good.

                Anyway, we'll be back again next time, until then, bye.

Speaker 1: The information featured in this podcast is general in nature and does not take into consideration your financial situation or individual needs and should not be relied upon. Before making any investment, insurance, tax, property or financial planning decision, you should consult a licenced professional who can advise whether your decision is appropriate for you. Guests appearing on this podcast may have a commercial relationship with the companies mentioned.



How this ex-banker supercharged her portfolio with knowledge from the inside track
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