‘I bought six properties even though I’m self-employed’

Jo Vadillo

Jo’s passion for property led to a significant career change – but her self-employment has seen her come up against some roadblocks in terms of her serviceability and borrowing eligibility. How did she grow her portfolio despite these issues?

“Property investment has given me a lot of freedom in life. I kick-started my portfolio in my late 20s and it has grown from there.

When it comes to investing, it’s all numbers. Everything in my life is for sale except for my husband and my kids. If anyone door-knocked and said, ‘I'll give you 20 per cent above market’, there is no emotion at all. It is all about numbers.

Earlier this year I decided I want to live somewhere bigger and nicer than my principal place of residence (PPR). So I rented a house in the same suburb and rented out my PPR.

In fact, we went on holidays over Christmas and put our own family home on Airbnb. So it is all about numbers. It’s purely that.

I hold six properties at the moment. I’ve got two properties in Sydney and four in the Brisbane market. In Sydney, my properties are in Hurlstone Park in the inner west, and one on the lower north shore. In Brisbane I have two in Logan and two in Moreton Bay – north of Brisbane city.

Wealth creation is my motivating force. And it’s given me the freedom to make a lot of changes in my life. It’s enabled me to travel; it’s enabled me to invest in other businesses. It really has been a huge catalyst for my decisions in life.

I had a complete career change as a result of my property investing. I used to speak to a lot of friends about property investing, and a lot of them were a bit bored by it – possibly because I didn’t stop talking about it. Even for fun, I would jump on my laptop and look at property.

As a result, people said, ‘You really should get into actually working in real estate’. At the time I was working in advertising and the media industry and I had no intention of ever going into real estate as a career.

I couldn’t see myself selling real estate, but I did go and get my full licence and became a buyer’s agent, because I was already doing pro bono work for family and friends anyway.

When I started my own business as a buyer’s agent, it really became something that wasn’t just waking up and making money every day – it’s also very rewarding. It’s rewarding to see other people reach their goals too.

However, there have been a number of different challenges with being self-employed and trying to build a property portfolio. One of those is that the two properties that we hold in Sydney have got an enormous amount of equity sitting in them now.

Lenders don’t shine a light on self-employed people in terms of lending them money. Both my husband and I are self-employed, so you’ve got to have a good traction of high income for a good period of time to be able to get your hands on the money.

You have to show them that, ‘Hey, I’ve got six properties and three dependents and I run two companies and we’re both self-employed; can you please lend us some more money?’. That has delayed things a little bit for us.

I think if I was to replay my life in the last five years, I might have just set myself up with some pre-approvals while my husband was still in a PAYG scenario.
Now, fast-forward five years, we’ve got a track record and our taxes have been done, so now I’m hoping that I’m on the other side of that and that I can show the bank that yes, I can actually pay off what it is that I want to borrow.

When it comes to goals, I don’t sit down and say, ‘I want to have 50 properties by the time I’m of a certain age’. It is about cash flow as well, and I’d like to be cash-flow rich as well as asset rich. But it is mostly about freedom, and it is about giving my children choices in life.

We just got back from three weeks in the Philippines. My seven-year-old spent his birthday swimming with whale sharks. Property investment allows me to do those sorts of things, and those are my aspirations. It’s about life choices.

It really is a passion and a hobby for me. I love how tangible it is. Even when things go wrong, if you’ve got a bit of an exit strategy, or you can buy and hold, I just feel it’s very malleable and it’s really helped our futures and set us up quite nicely financially.”

‘I bought six properties even though I’m self-employed’
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