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‘My uncle inspired me to start property investment’

Alan Henderson's love of property has taken him from buying his first 'ugly' Auckland house to syndicating massive commercial properties.

7 March 2023

Sitting on a bench at Long Bay 40 years ago with his uncle, being regaled with stories about deals he did while building a small property investment empire, inspired Alan Henderson to eventually follow in his footsteps.

While his uncle left school without School Certificate, Henderson got an education, moved into corporate life and did the obligatory OE in London. He returned with about $60,000 in his pocket, and decided residential real estate was the easiest way to get into the property investment world as it needed the smallest deposit, while he still worked in the corporate environment.

Henderson found a Lockwood home in Auckland’s Mission Bay as his first buy.

“It was ugly – salmon-coloured carpet, wooden walls, tiled ceilings, but it got me going. I lived in the house for about a year then rented it out and bought something else.”

After building a small portfolio he got the bug, left corporate life in 2000 and started property trading in South Auckland with a friend.

“Those were the days before property investment seminars and coaches. We did plenty of deals, but I got frustrated because my goal was to build a portfolio and I was selling everything I bought.”

So Henderson stopped trading and started an accounting practice so he had cashflow. That allowed him to buy and hold. He married during that time, so “for about four years that’s what my wife and I did”. The accounting practice provided a solid income, but Henderson had always dreamed of building a property business.

“With a second child on the way and undertaking a renovation, I sold my share of the accounting practice and my wife and I started a buyer agency called Erskine + Owen. I’d had a lot of accounting clients ask me for advice on property investment. After I showed them how easy it was and gave some of my examples, they asked me to do it for them. That was the catalyst. I assured my wife we’d have the business cranking within a few short months and that there was nothing to worry about.”

That was in April 2007. Two months later the GFC hit in earnest and Henderson says things suddenly looked tricky, to say the least. Just over 15 years on and Henderson’s business has helped many people to achieve their financial goals by building their investment portfolios.

“We started just doing residential then incorporated commercial, after that property management, mortgage broking and, finally, property syndication.”

Erskine + Owen manages 600 residential properties, and on the commercial side the company now has two syndicate funds underway for daycare and healthcare centres, with a minimum investment of $50,000 for wholesale investors.

“We have always invested in the areas and types of property we recommend to our clients.”

When Henderson decided accounting wasn’t for him, he and his wife sat around the table discussing what type of business they should do.

“Lisa challenged me and asked me what I really wanted to do. I loved property and I could see a need to help buyers – I really thought we could use our experience to help them.”

They married the two up – helping others by doing what they loved – buying property.

It has been rewarding financially for the couple, but the greatest reward, says Henderson, has been helping people take their first step into property investment and, 15 years on, seeing them achieving their wealth goals and being able to live without having to work. “That is more rewarding than the money,” he says.

The business has grown from Henderson in a back office with no windows to 20-plus team members.

For the business it is about opening doors for others to have the freedom to use their talents to help move the company towards its goals – and see investors prosper.

“And personally, we still love looking for that next great addition to the portfolio. These days it’s less about building for ourselves and more about building for our children and others.”

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