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‘We bought houses in Australia, NZ and the US’

‘We bought houses in Australia, NZ and the US’

Their first property investment was an accident, but now Vicki and Mark Lambert live the good life.

12 September 2022

Dunedin couple Vicki and Mark Lambert fell into property investing by accident. Says Mark: “Out of the blue someone offered to buy our house in Noosa, where we were living, and we had to look for somewhere to live.”

They had A$30,000 after the sale and soon found a block of nine units being split up. They saw the potential, says Mark.

“I thought this could be our retirement fund, if we played it correctly, and suggested buying three.”

Vicki was horrified and tried to talk him into buying just two, but their accountant said they could afford three – if they lived in one.

So they bought all three for A$105,000 to A$120,000.

They planned to sit back while the units went up in value over the next 20 years. But soon Australian property prices started to climb and their units went up about A$200,000 each.

Mark realised no-one else had noticed the market turn. “We quickly asked the bank if we could borrow against our assets and they agreed.”

They bought another unit for a steal, and sold it less than a year later for a A$100,000 profit.

“That $100k cash in the bank was a light-bulb moment. Investing became a passion. We realised we could invest instead of working.”

He gave up work immediately and talked Vicki into handing in her notice months later.

The pair also bought a home for a good price and lived in it for a year before selling it for a reasonable return.

They were feeling pretty happy with their investments, but the market had peaked. Mark told Vicki “this is the end of the line for Aussie investing”, and she suggested New Zealand. “My sister had a house in Dunedin that was cashflow-positive, something we’d never had in Australia,” she says.

Mark went online and started seeing hundreds of homes in Dunedin that did generate cashflow, but were old and tired.

He says: “We booked flights instantly and Vicki and I arrived in Dunedin a week later. We were very naïve, but timing and a bit of luck was on our side again.”

Over six months, they bought 13 houses, all with borrowed money, and renovated them.

Prices in Dunedin were climbing. “To our absolute joy, the properties all doubled in value in just over a year.”

As big as Texas

So, Mark researched other areas round the world where prices hadn’t gone up and found Texas in the US stood out, so they flew to Houston and built houses for sale.

They built and sold five houses before realising the Texan lifestyle wasn’t for them, and came back to Dunedin.

They built two houses on a site they’d bought with Vicki’s brother-in-law, finishing them just as the market crashed. “We sold one and Vicki and I moved into the other and lived there five years.”

For the next two or three years, the pair took time out and travelled, before buying a 25-room block at a local hotel. They saw the potential to rent it out by the room.

They turned it into two dwellings, one 11-bedroom and one 12-bedroom, converting 2 rooms into kitchen/laundries.

The pair ran the business for about five years with amazing cashflow, but got tired of ‘mothering’ tenants, and sold it for a “very handsome gain”.

“We realised we still needed income or else we were just eating up capital,” says Mark. So they bought a mix of commercial and residential properties in the city centre, renovated them and sold them after about three years for a good gain.

Next came the “worst project of our lives”, says Mark, building new houses to rent out in Dunedin. Resource consent became a nightmare, with years of planning delays.

“We decided enough was enough, and started to look towards retirement.”

They have four houses and are building a house and flat in Queenstown. They’ll have the income from those, and their investments in managed property syndicates. When the build is finished, they’ll relax, travelling in their campervan.

Mark says: “Investing has given us a life we could only dream of. Looking back, would we still do it again? Absolutely!”

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