Helping Owner-Occupiers Invest in Tasmania

When David Zerna was young he knew that property was going to be the way in which he could set himself up for the future.

At the age of 21, he purchased his first property, before going on to expand his portfolio with his wife as they ran their own business.

After successfully investing for many years, friends, family and business associates started asking David about property investing and it made him realise that this was something that he could ultimately move into in a full-time capacity.

“I was interested in property from a young age from my father and I always saw property as a good wealth driver and bought my first property when I was 21,” David says.

“Understanding the investment vehicle that is it made it very enticing.”

“We really grew our portfolio in line with our goals to help us achieve things late in life and let time do its thing.”

David says once other people knew that they were actively buying properties he started getting a lot of attention from those around him.

He says said he had to put a big focus on communicating to his friends and family that it was OK to own more than one or two properties and that it was a great way to build long-term wealth.

“That how the buyer’s agency really started,” he explains.

“I really wanted to help other people buy property, not only for investment but also for owner occupier reasons, but buy the right property for the right reason in the right location.”

David’s business, Timar Buyers Agency, now focuses on helping owner-occupiers purchase property in Tasmania, but he does it with an investment mindset.

He helps people buy quality properties that will see good long-term capital growth and even finds ways to get people to purchase their dream home as an investment to give them a better opportunity to see the benefits of the growth it can achieve.

“We help people who relocate to Tasmania, people who move within Tasmania, but also people who want to buy their future principal place of residence and initially purchase it as an investment,” he says.

“That’s becoming more prevalent as time goes on.

“That’s a bit of a niche of ours where we use an investment mindset and methodology, around purchasing it for 10 years and then they’re going to live in it or move to a new location to live in it.”

David says Tasmanians traditionally will move to other parts of the country but will come home eventually, which is why it’s valuable to think about where you want to live today.

According to David, he was able to get Timar off the ground relatively easily, given his long-term experience as a property investor and with an already established network of people around him who were excited to receive his help.

Much of his business still comes through his large referral network and as a result, he’s always been able to generate steady business since starting.

He said that he was also fortunate enough to learn a lot of lessons from the first business he established with his wife which she continues to run on her own.

David also worked with the Buyers Agent Institute (BAI) and says that it was incredibly valuable when he was getting started.

“The BIA network and the support it provides is really beneficial in understanding what a buyer’s agency is and what a client’s expectation is and having those support mechanisms with the wider group and probably more Ben himself, being able to answer things weekly was unbelievably important,” he explains.

“You have a lot of obstacles as you start your own business and having that support there
so you didn’t sit on them and your clients didn’t feel like there were any issues because we could deal with it through the weekly clinics and through the network.”

“There were also a lot of other buyers agents who were established and really willing to lend a hand and open up.

“It was extremely valuable.”

Going forward, David wants to continue to grow his business, but also help people understand more about property so they can make better decisions for themselves.

“Through my career, we’ve done things organically, slow and steady and built things organically,” he says.

“But in the next little bit, we’re really going to look at what buyer’s agents are and what Tasmania needs out of them and really hone in on the value that we can add as a buyer’s agent in Tasmania.

“We’re going to shoot for the stars in that space.

“We really want to move forward in the education space in Hobart around property and first home buyers and what the relocation means.

“It’s not just about buying people homes it’s about educating them so that they make the right decisions themselves and have the resources to make those decisions.”

From Building to Buyers Agent

Adam and Katie Marsden have always been drawn to property and were looking to find a way that they could use their knowledge to help others.

Adam is a builder and has had a long career in and around the property industry while Katie always loved real estate but didn’t want to be a sales agent. When they discovered there was the possibility of being on the other side of the sales equation they both jumped at the chance to help buyers find their dream homes.

The pair established Earth Property over 12 months ago and began focusing on helping buyers looking for a home in the Southern Highlands, where the couple moved during the early COVID period.

“Our strategy was to target people who were professionals, executives with grown-up children, people who wanted to have that lifestyle change or that tree change,” she says.

The couple now focuses on helping owner-occupiers looking to buy in the area in the $4 million plus range and were able to capitalise on the incredibly strong interest in the area when they launched their business.

“For us, it was really important to get very crystal clear on who our client avatar was,” Katie says.

“I think if you cast your net too wide, you’re not going to please anyone, and you certainly won’t have a successful business if you try to do everything for everyone.”

The husband and wife team also have three young children and trying to launch a business at the same time was difficult Katie says.

During the transition out of the building industry and into a more full-time role as a buyers agent was also challenging and Adam was forced to spend a lot of time away from the family along with a lot of late nights from Katie.

Katie says that trying to transition out of one career to start up as a buyers agent was clunky at times, but they’ve still done really well.

“We’ve been very successful in a short period of time, but I think that we can grow and can be a little bit more efficient than it has been,” she believes.

Katie and Adam joined the Buyers Agent Institute (BAI) before getting started and it has played a huge role in getting their business off the ground.

“It’s been the key, it’s been the thing that started us on our trajectory,” she explains.

“The BAI content has been absolutely fantastic, the support has been incredible.

“In those early days, Ben called me on his personal mobile number, so it was very personalised for us.

Katie says Ben even helped them secure their first deal when they were just getting established.

“It was extremely enticing and encouraging to have him so close to us, especially when we were just about to do some really big deals like our very first deal.

“He gave me a bit of a talk beforehand and we closed it at the highest commission that we were able to charge.

“And it was life-changing, it was absolutely life-changing.

“So I can’t thank him enough and the team enough for everything.”

She says that being part of the Everest program was also something that really was a game changer for their business and gave them another layer of accountability.

Katie believes the hardest thing for them getting started was trying to find that consistency.

“Even if you can just give it a tiny bit of effort each day, that momentum builds and that’s a compounding effect,” she says.

“There have been some days when I’ve just been so tired, but I’ve still tried to give a little bit of effort.

“There’s a combination of factors that make it successful and you want to see the results quickly and sometimes there’s a little bit of lag and that’s okay.

“It’s just understanding that if you just keep trying it does happen.”

Katie and Adam are now looking to capitalise on their momentum and keep growing their business, with the goal of doubling every year for the next five years while continuing to expand their team.

Helping Buyer’s Agents Grow

Grant Johnsen has been around property his entire working life, having started out in the building industry and ultimately started his own business as a building certifier.

Throughout his journey, he saw a wide variety of building work including residential renovations and larger residential developments which inspired him to start doing his own development projects which helped develop his passion for property.

“A big chunk of my life has been around property and I’ve always had a real interest in property,” Grant says.

Grant says that while he has always loved property, the real pivot for him came when he started to work with other people and help them on their own property journey.

After realising that he could reach more people, Grant launched Buyers Butler along with some of his other business partners and wanted to bring a new and fresh approach to the buyer’s agent space.

“We operate as a fully-fledged buyers agency and help a range of different people, whether it’s their first ever property, an investment property, or their dream home, whether it’s a weekender or their principal place of residence.”

Grant says that there are always going to be challenges in business and especially in property because of the ups and downs in the cycle.

“We launched the buyer’s agency at a really good time because the market kind of went crazy with COVID,” he explains.

“There were a lot of buyers and not enough stock.

“That was a great time for us, but obviously, especially last year, the market totally changed.

“I’ve found that you’ve got to be nimble, agile and you’ve got to move quickly, you’ve got to be able to pivot.

“You’ve got to be looking for opportunities but you also have to be able to pull the lever and fire something up quickly.”

Grant and the team also wanted to help other buyers’ agents and find ways to support them and allow them to grow their own buyer’s agency businesses.

“We’re now rolling out our partnership offering with Buyers Butler, to help buyers agents start and scale their businesses.

“They have the backing and support of our brand and then the support offerings that go with that.”

“But the heart behind them is to encourage and equip them and support them to do what they love to do which is helping their clients buy amazing properties.”

Grant says he joined the Buyers Agent Institute (BAI) around 18 months after launching his business and said the experience has been great.

“We had to learn the hard way,” he says.

“We didn’t have all that knowledge and IP that’s in the BAI course, we had trial and error which is never fun.

“When you start doing the course, you’ve got 10 years plus of learnings from Ben and everything he’s been through in the industry, all packaged up and put into a seven-week program.

He says there was so much good content that it can feel like you’re “drinking out of a fire hydrant” at times, but that’s a good thing because there is so much to absorb and implement regardless of where your business is at.

Going forward, Grant says he is focused on building a premium buyers agency brand both nationally and internationally.

He also wants to continue to focus on supporting other buyers’ agents as more and more people become a part of the group.

“It can be lonely out there running a business and doing it on your own, and having support and encouragement and being a part of a like-minded group of people can really help you through the tough times and propels you forward in the great times,” Grant says.

Living and Breathing Property

For the best part of a decade, Fraol Reffu has lived and breathed property.

Fraol prides himself on taking an analytical and research-driven approach to purchasing property, and it’s something that he’s focused on since the beginning.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in property economics, Fraol started his career in property management before working as a senior research analyst at a large property company.

He then began pursuing a career as a buyer’s agent, as he was interested in using his extensive knowledge and expertise to help buyers and investors who wanted to make those types of smart investment decisions.

Fraol started his own property investing journey over five years ago when he had a mindset shift.

“I used to have a sports car and then, after I had a massive mindset change from my mentors, they advised me to buy a property instead,” he says.

“I just sold my sports car and I put that down as a deposit to buy an investment property in Brisbane.

“It was the best decision I’ve made.”

Since that point, he has continued to expand his property portfolio and he started as a buyer’s agent to help others invest intelligently as well.

Through his company, A1 Property Buyer’s Agency, Fraol uses a data-driven approach to locate the best growth opportunities around Brisbane.

Fraol says that given his long career in the property industry, the transition to buyer’s agent has so far been a smooth one.

In his first quarter of business, Fraol purchased 10 properties for clients, with many buyers coming from interstate.

“A lot of my clients have come through social media and also referrals,” he explains.

“I’m very well connected in the real estate industry as a senior research analyst in a previous role.

“And once I announced I was a buyer’s agent, I had a lot of leads from that.

“I’m also heavy on social media and digital marketing, posting educational content and educating buyers on what to do and not to do in property.”

Fraol worked with the Buyers Agent Institute and says the program was incredibly valuable.

“It was amazing and the best decision I’ve ever made,” he says.

“It helped me grow as a business person.”

“Ben Handler’s course definitely helped me to have a bigger picture on being a business person, how to run a business and how to prospect.

“It’s been very valuable.”

Going forward, Fraol hopes to continue to grow his business and expand into Sydney and Melbourne as well as start to develop property and expand into property management.

Fraol suggests that new buyer’s agents coming into the industry focus on getting educated first.

“Educate yourself on the industry,” he believes.

“You need people to be educated on what they’re buying because they’re buying a massive asset for the client.

“They’re spending a lot of money, so they need to be well informed and well educated on what to do and what to buy.

“They have to be numbers-driven as well because basically, it’s just a numbers game with houses out there.”


From Scientist to Financial Planner

When Andrew Courtney was getting ready to leave home, he was inspired to buy something for himself and not just rent like everyone else

He successfully bought his first property, a one-bedroom apartment on Surfers Paradise, and quickly saw the potential for what property investment could turn into.

From there, Andrew started to dive into all aspects of property investment and began to try and build his own portfolio. After a few years, he had managed to purchase two more properties and he could really see where property investing could take him.

“That’s when I, was absolutely hooked,” Andrew says.

“I started projecting out and thinking to myself, wow, this is going to be amazing. Just keep doing it again and again and start building a portfolio.”

At the time Andrew was studying science and pursuing a PhD but saw his calling lay elsewhere. He began transitioning over to finance and eventually went on to start a financial planning business, Plenitude Wealth. However, when he began working with clients he realised that the industry wasn’t catering to the needs of the customer well enough.

“I was telling people about the power of property while working as a financial planner because I just knew my experience and the power of property,” he explains.

At the time he was forced to refer his clients to other property experts, but he found they weren’t providing his clients with the right type of information which became a stumbling block.

Andrew decided that he wanted to provide those services to his current planning clients so initially set up a mortgage broking business and then moved into becoming a buyers agent as well.

“The goal for most financial planning clients is to replace their income asap, and that’s where property comes into play because it’s one of the major asset classes that you can leverage up to one hundred per cent with no margin calls,” he says.

Andrew’s current strategy is heavily data-driven and is focused on buying properties in high-growth, high-yield locations so the costs associated with holding the properties are as low as possible or even positive.

“We’re looking at purchasing investment properties and building a property portfolio that’s diversified across multiple states, multiple LGAs across the country so that they can build a diversified portfolio that allows them to ride the wave as the property clock goes around and around,” he says.

Twelve months after adding property into his planning services, he says the business has successfully purchased 27 properties which have generated his clients a 70 per cent cash on cash return, with the average property also boasting a yield of 5.5 per cent.

Andrew says while the transition to offering property to his planning clients has been a smooth one it has still taken him many years to build up his business and get all the processes in place.

“If we go back to the start back in 2013 when I first started in business, that’s when there was massive pain there,” he explains.

“It wasn’t all smooth. It’s smooth now because of all the pain and suffering and the lessons that I’ve learned over the past 10 years.”

Andrew worked with the Buyers Agent Institute to help get started and says it was a key part of his success.

“The BAI sped up the whole process basically,” he says.

“When you’re building a business there’s obviously a massive gap in knowledge and BAI was there at the perfect time.

“I had earmarked it for quite some time, and when I was ready I pulled the trigger and straight away went through the content and implemented accordingly and off we went.”

Going forward, Andrew hopes to continue to grow his business and reach more people.

“Where I’m hoping to take Plenitude is I’d like it to be a mainstream household name for financial planning, and basically taking property into consideration,” he explains.

“The goal is to double every year for the next five years,” he hopes.

“Increasing financial literacy across the board is one of the missions of the business as well.”

For others looking to get into the property business, Andrew says you need to work through the process.

“There are stepping stones in the process and it’s very difficult to skip a step,” he explains.

“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

“Far too many people think, they know it all when they don’t realise that each and every step is being designed for a particular purpose.

“If you want to speed it up, get with people like Ben, talk to these people, so that they can speed up the process for you and trust the system as much as you can and implement accordingly.”


From Banking to Award-Winning Buyer’s Agent

Coming from a background in banking and finance, Tiffany Browne knew how to build relationships and get great results for clients and it’s these same skills that ultimately helped propel her to being named 2022 REISA Buyers Agent of the Year.

Having bought her first property as a 23-year-old while working in banking, Tiffany’s eyes were quickly opened to the role that agents play in the sales process. As she continued to expand her property portfolio, she realised that buyers needed more help in the process and her own journey would have been far less stressful with someone to advocate on her behalf.

After her friends started seeking out her assistance to help them purchase their own properties, Tiffany realised that finding properties and helping buyers was something that she loved to do.

Early on Tiffany had a chance introduction to a potential buyer that got her career started.

“It was someone in my friend’s network, and she said, ‘if anyone can help this investor, it’ll be Tiffany’,” she says.

“That was my first client.”

After people continued to ask for her help, Tiffany decided to start exploring ways she could continue to help, while also making it economically viable as a career. In 2016, Tiffany decided to make the leap and became a full-time buyers agent and joined the boutique agency Xsell Property where she still is today.

While these days she has a large team around her to help, early on she put in huge hours and also put a big focus on networking with other property professionals.

“When I started I was putting in ridiculous hours,” she says.

“I was very hungry to grow and learn and that’s what I think led to my early success.”

“I also worked really hard to build relationships with referral partners and now that’s become more of an attraction business.”

Tiffany was also able to get established quickly by focusing purely on the South Australian market. At the time, being a buyers agent was a new concept for the South Australian market and she says having that local knowledge was very powerful.

“I think it’s really important to work with someone who has that local knowledge,” she believes.

“Wherever it is that you’re thinking of buying, try to find a buyer’s agent that is operating from that city or that area because they’re going to have the most valuable experience and advice.”

Tiffany also puts a lot of time and effort into trying to educate buyers.

“I’ve always been really mindful of educating people on what a buyers agent is and how they can serve the community and help people save time and money and take the stress out of doing it on their own,” she explains.

These days Tiffany focuses on helping both investors and owner-occupiers and said being focused on one market makes a big difference. She acknowledges that her journey has not been without its challenges.

“There have been times when deals didn’t go as planned, or when clients had unrealistic expectations,” she says.

“But the key is to stay resilient, learn from those experiences, and keep moving forward.”

“As a buyer’s agent, you should never stop learning.

“Attend seminars and workshops and engage in networking events to broaden your knowledge and connections.”

In her pursuit of continual improvement, Tiffany recently enrolled with the Buyers Agent Institute, after hearing stories of how it was helping a lot of people in the industry.

“I was actually introduced to Ben’s program officially through one of my mentees,” she says.

“So I thought, well, in order to truly provide relevant leadership and coaching within the industry, it was important that I get involved in that training and participate and learn from that as well.

“I’ve really admired the way that the people coming out of that program are incredibly supportive and just the nature of the community within the BAI group is great.”

Now that Tiffany has been able to establish herself as a driving force in the South Australian market, she also wants to help improve the industry.

“My vision is to elevate the property buying process and I would love to see more buyers agents collaborating,” she says.

“I believe that there is enough opportunity for everybody and that the best leaders serve.

“As a leader in this industry, I would love to continue to mentor and be an example for new people coming into the industry.”

She also says she envisions a world where every home buyer and investor works with a buyer’s agent, making the property buying process easier and more enjoyable for all parties involved.

For new people who want to join the industry, Tiffany says you must have a passion for people.

“If you love dealing with people and you value diverse groups of people and you see that you can communicate well and build relationships, then there’s a great opportunity for you here in this space,” she explains.

“You have to be willing to grow and to be open to all sorts of experiences.

“But there’s so much reward through the process.

“And find a great mentor – don’t expect to do this on your own.”