If you had to describe your life in just a few sentences… how would you start?
Gary Vaynerchuk (founder of VaynerMedia and the man behind some of General Electric, Unilever, Johnson’s, Toyota and PepsiCo’s most successful marketing campaigns) did an interesting experiment a while back:
He spent a whole day volunteering at a senior citizen’s home. And as he was working, he asked the folks about their lives.
Do you want to know what most of them said?
Their opening line was the scariest sentiment a human being can ever utter…
It was… “I wish”
Those two words are the anthem of regret.
Regret for life not lived to full potential. Of adventures untaken, decisions not made, words left unspoken.
Our parents grew up in a completely different world. They didn’t have the knowledge we now have at our fingertips. They didn’t have the same freedom we enjoy today.
So all they could do was wish.
Wish they worked harder and made more money.
Wish they worked less and spent more time with the family.
Wish they went to London, or Egypt, or Prague.
Wish they went to school.
Wish they dropped out of school and took up that crazy business idea their pal Daniel had… but dad convinced them not to (of course, Daniel’s now a multi-millionaire…)
It really doesn’t matter WHAT they wished for… the heart-crushing reality is that they all wish they did SOMETHING.
And as Vaynerchuk says, “Being 90 and regretting you didn’t swing the bat is the worst regret of them all”.
We only get one chance.
For years I daydreamed about how I wanted life to be. Places I wanted to go. Comfort I wanted to have. Leisure and lifestyle I wanted to enjoy.
I wanted to live life on my own terms. To have control over my time. To never need to swap hours for money again, and to have financial security not just for now, but also for when Marisa and I grow older.
I wanted to be the owner of my life…
… and IF YOU ARE CATCHING YOURSELF starting more and more sentences with the dangerous phrase “I WISH”…
… then you need to treat this with the same seriousness and urgency as you would if your home’s fire alarm started ringing at 2am.
What’s your dream vacation?
Where would you go tomorrow morning if you had unlimited resources and no obligations?
Who would you take with you?
I bet there’s somewhere.
And I bet it’s pretty nice.
For me it was France.
A few years ago, API (Australian Property Investor) magazine contacted me to do a story on how we managed to pull up stumps and shift the family overseas for two years while still managing to run our property business.
In this interview, which they generously agreed for me to share in its entirety, I share the actual steps I took not just to have the finances to go there – but how I run my business and obligations from afar which allowed me to go there NOW… rather than in 15 years… or 25… or… never.
Life’s too short to wait for the perfect timing. Don’t wish, mon ami. Do!
Here’s how you make perfect with what you already have:
Ever fancied venturing abroad with the kids after “making it” in property?
This Aussie family have turned their French fantasy into reality, all while keeping a finger firmly on Australia’s property pulse.
If we’re lucky, we’ve got 4000 weeks on this earth, so how are we going to spend them?“
That’s what property investor Matt Jones and his wife Marisa asked themselves before packing up their young family and adventuring overseas for a stint to immerse themselves in all things française!
Ten years ago, Matt had your typical nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday job. But that’s in the past. It’s summertime in France when we catch up with him.
The family’s cobble stoned fireplace has only recently been retired and the weekend pastime has been barbecues spent with neighbours speaking the native tongue against a picturesque provincial backdrop.
We’ve just tried to immerse ourselves into a community that is as French as possible, and live as normal as possible with the kids,” Matt says.
“We’ve got a five-year-old, Elijah, and a three-year-old, Emily. The kids go to school, we’ve made some incredible friends here and we help out in the community. It’s everything we’d do at home but in the French culture, and that’s the whole point of the experience – to be these crazy Aussies in France.”
The last time we caught up with Matt was in our June 2011 issue. He was flipping deals and his family had just moved into their QLD, Sunshine Coast home.
Today, Matt’s still flipping property deals, he’s just doing it while based in their villa in regional France. So, what do we need to know (and do) to live this life?
The Freedom Of Joint Ventures
It’s a key component of the family’s lifestyle abroad and one Matt describes as a defining moment in his property journey. Property lesson 101, How to live life on your terms, Matt clarifies as: Learning the art of the joint venture (JV).
Doing JVs has allowed me to stay in the market plus keep that long-term wealth-creation going,” he says.
“When I come back, I’m not out of touch and can step back into it without having to start from scratch. I’m still there, but I’m just operating in a different capacity.”
Matt says he only began actively doing joint ventures four or five years into his property career.
Up until that point I had been doing property deals with my cousin. In hindsight I guess she was a JV partner – I just didn’t know it at the time. She had been servicing the deals while I brought the skills and managed the projects,” Matt says.
Once the partners amicably finished up their projects together, Matt was left pondering how he’d keep moving his property dream forward.
“I’d already left work a couple of years earlier and there was just no way I could revisit going back to a job. I wondered how I would get money from a bank. How would I make this work? Being in that position really forced me into doing joint ventures.”
After a few property deals with different colleagues, Matt learned a few lessons on the craft. The biggest thing I learned was getting clear on what roles and responsibilities were allocated.
“When people don’t know what they have to do, resentment and animosity follow, then all of a sudden the deal’s gone really bad, and that’s the worst place to be because everyone just wants to get out.”
How To Pick Your Joint Venture Partner
Forget “cashed-up” as the leading deciding factor, Matt recommends picking a JV partner with a complementary personality.
“Now, I’ll always focus on that more than the resources they have to contribute.”
The questions Matt asks himself before committing to a partner are:
- Can I work with this person?
- Do they have the same risk profile?
- Is this deal going to make or break them?
- How much pressure are they under to make this deal work?
I like to get an idea of how they’re going to respond when things get tough,” he says.
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“Once you know these answers, the second aspect is working out what they can bring to the table to make this deal successful. You’ve got to assign roles and responsibilities clearly. Who’s doing the market research? Who’s organising finance?”
“When things go off course, and they always do in a property deal, you bring it back online by having a good understanding of who is supposed to do what.”
Property Investing From 15,000 Kilometers Away
Currently, Matt has colleagues completing property projects within a 10-kilometre radius of Brisbane’s CBD.
“They have a number of projects on the go, six to eight townhouse-type of deals. I still keep in close contact and try to be part of whatever projects are in progress.” These are the types of deals Matt’s able to be involved with from his international base.
“The projects are all pretty straightforward, with a focus on small to medium developments. The deals vary but it’s really been about filling a niche in the market and bringing a product that is in high demand. Most projects involve bowling over an old house and building on that block, or sometimes creating some commercial underneath and residential on top.”
Matt will vary from being a money partner for the project or acting as a “connections” man.
Sometimes I’ll contribute to the deal by bringing together suitable joint venture partners. Sometimes I’ll be the one contributing funds and other times I’ll arrange for an investor to be involved,” he explains.
It’s certainly a different role from the one in which he originally started on his property journey. “Normally if it was my own deal, I’d be the one overseeing and managing the project and I’d have an investing partner to finance it,” he says. To live abroad and enjoy the lifestyle they share, Matt’s learnt to adapt.
Before leaving Australia, his personal property niche was completing smaller subdivisions with multiple components (and exit strategies) to the deal. “Whether that’s renovating the existing house, cutting off part of the land and selling it or maybe building a duplex, you can create a mix of strategies.
Those are the deals I like because you tend to unlock more profit by getting better use of the land, sprucing up the existing dwelling and extracting some sort of equity or profit out of the rest of the site.”
“I like making those deals work and I find them less risky because of the many exit strategies that can be applied.” With experience comes knowledge, and over time Matt’s strategy has had to change.
In the beginning, flipping was the name of the game. “I wasn’t thinking long-term. In the beginning, it was just about surviving; doing a deal, getting money to put in the bank and using a portion of it to go again.”
Today, Matt says he has more of a balanced approach that sees him hold property, alongside those constant chunks of profit from flipping. Maintaining both strategies seems to be working a treat.
“We’re not holding a lot currently but we’ve built a strong cash base, and now it’s about building up that portfolio a bit more.”
Focusing On What Matters Most
With this newfound freedom from adeptly executing JVs over the years, the Jones family demonstrate they still know what matters most.
“Even if I didn’t have that JV experience, we still would have done this trip,” Matt says. We believe you can always earn more money, but you don’t get your time back. Watching our kids growing up made us very aware of that, which is why we’re doing this.
“We’re still young, we can go and make more money, but those kids will grow up and one day they’ll be gone, and we want to make decisions now that we won’t regret later.”
The trip of a lifetime has seen them reap the rewards they really wanted; making memories and enjoying experiences together.”
“The kids speak French. It’s so inspiring for us to see our kids immersed in the culture like that.”
Secrets To Securing A Deal
How does Matt locate properties under market value? His tip is to have good real estate agent contacts. “When I’m home I spend a lot of time getting to know agents. Especially if I’m working in a new area, I’ll go visit them all,” he says.
From doing this, Matt says it’s worth working with roughly one out of every 10 agents he meets.
Look for the agent who sees the benefit in working with you.” It’s a two-way business relationship.
“They’re going to make money if they help you. If you’ve got a splitter block, they’re going to make double or triple the commission if you put it back through them.”
Matt’s second secret to finding a property deal is to have multiple irons in the fire rather than just using free online real estate sites. One of those irons is to utilise paid resources such as PriceFinder to access deals that aren’t yet on the market.
“Employing this strategy you can focus on the deal first as opposed to what’s for sale. I actually target properties, where I’ll look at a site, and see that a particular house is positioned perfectly. So I’ll get an agent to go and talk to the owners.
“The agent might ring up or visit and let them know they’ve got a buyer for their property. It’s less of a shotgun approach than doing a letterbox drop. They may not be ready to sell now, but down the track, they might be.” By taking action, you create momentum.
“It’s just persistence. You get a lot of knockbacks, but you’re building rapport with the agent and you’re increasing your skills with finding a deal, so it all counts towards becoming a better investor – you’ve just got to keep that persistence in doing it to eventually find that cracker deal.”
Have A Why
As investors, we can learn all the strategies in the world, Matt explains, but if you can’t take action and follow through on a deal, or if something is emotionally holding you back, then it’s just not going to happen.
“[Starting out] I could only make $60,000 a year, which is what I was earning when I left my job in 2005. No matter how many property deals I did, I couldn’t make any more money than that.” Once Matt realised this and identified what exactly had been holding him back he experienced his own “a-ha” moment.
“It wasn’t anything really difficult. I had to break through the mindset that the annual income figure I had received at a job was all I was worth. Once I did that, the property deals really took off. It was like, ‘Wow, this is fun now!’
“Sometimes we have this belief that we can’t do things,” he adds. “It’s about getting clear on how much time we have to do things in life and then doing it. You start thinking bigger once you do that.”
So far, Matt has helped raise almost $80,000 for one charity, and he’s now looking to start his own foundation with his mum that will fund new research to assist cancer sufferers.
“I tell a lot of people interested in property now; get clear on why you’re doing it, and be prepared to do some personal development along the way.”
Matt attributes his success mindset to his life coach of 10 years, Jill McIntyre who played a large part, particularly in the early days of helping him bust through his limiting beliefs. He’s also refined his time efficiency to get the most out of each day from a recent read, “The 4-hour work week.”
This book helped me clarify the difference between being productive as opposed to being busy.”
Adapting his working day to the book’s principle means Matt’s day strikes a fine balance between financial return and family time. Every morning he takes the children to school via push bike (past a 500-year old chateau), followed by a meditation session before beginning his work day.
In keeping with the French way of life, at midday, he’ll stop work for a couple of hours to enjoy a cooked meal accompanied by a bottle of good wine with Marisa.
He’ll then return to an hour or so more of work following up on property deals and answering emails before it’s time to pick up the kids. If he needs to put in an extra few hours of work, he’ll do so once the kids have gone to bed.
Viva la France! For Matt and his family property has always been a passion, but it’s the vehicle they’ve used to get them where they want to be in life.
Essentially, keeping the end goal in sight and working backwards, Matt asks, “what would you like your property investing to do for you?”
Four Parts To A Quality Deal
If you can cover all four parts of a deal between yourself and your partner/s, Matt says you’ve got the foundations of a profitable project.
The four parts to a deal include:
- Locating a profitable project: The first part is about being able to find a deal that stacks up, which I think is very much an underrated skill. It requires a consistent presence in the market and continually networking with agents and vendors to buy a site under market value where the numbers stack up.
- Finance: The second requirement is bringing cash or equity to the deal. Who is contributing? One or all parties?
- Loan servicing: The third aspect is servicing. The ability to borrow money from a bank or other financial institution.
- Skill: The fourth aspect is the ability to project-manage the deal to a profitable outcome.
“Once you understand these four aspects, it’s being realistic about which parts you don’t possess and bringing on a partner or partners to complement those shortfalls,” Matt says.
Everyone has got to bring something to the table.”
From Postie to Property Millionaire
Before venturing into property full time, Matt worked as a theatre lighting technician. Like many of us, he spent years working long days with little to show for it. The light bulb moment?
One day he looked at his pay packet and realised he had to work so many hours just to get one hour’s annual leave.
“I said to myself, ‘no more’. I began to understand that earning money as an employee wasn’t going to give me the lifestyle I wanted.”
He soon started reading everything he could about property investing. After quitting his job, Matt worked as a postie while simultaneously learning in detail about the suburbs of interest he delivered mail to before taking on property full time.
The Property Meetup Groups
His passion for learning more about property led to Matt starting his own property networking group. It’s grown to include three meetup communities based in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, each seeing 100 to 150 monthly attendees.
Pretty impressive stuff if you consider it was born in a lounge room with a few of his mates all wanting to learn more about property. “I was just trying to help myself really, I was trying to get around people who were doing property and it just evolved from there.
The benefits for us are the same for everyone else. We go along and meet new people and learn new strategies.” Matt says the meetings are a networking group where people of all different skill levels mix and mingle.
If you’re in Brisbane check out one of Matt’s property meetup group.