How to Make $2.2 Million in 2.5 Years through Building Apartments

Tyrone Shum
41 min readAug 26, 2020

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

Orane Swan is the managing director of Bos Developments and Orane Property and Lifestyles Pty Ltd. She also owns her own commercial property, and has a venue called [email protected] . Swan is highly experienced in sales and marketing, as well as finance broking. Despite having difficulties in school, especially as English was her second language, the successful investor always had a strong work ethic where her skills in sales and marketing ultimately led her to start her property investing, building apartments, and houses journey.

In this episode of Property Investory you will hear how the single mother of four ultimately increased her wealth through investing in property and developments, how her upbringing in Mauritius motivated her to work hard for herself and her children and much much more!

Orane Swan We find out what Orane Swan does in her day to day activities as a property investor, where she proves she can really do it all.

I’m a single mother of four children who’s dealt with personal and financial adversities and risen above it. I’m the managing director of Bos Developments in Moorooka which is 16 retail shops and Orane Property and Lifestyles Pty Ltd. I also own my own commercial property, and I’ve just started a venue called [email protected]

She delves into what a typical day in her life looks like.

The last two weeks I’ve been under the doona, like everybody else. But normally, I look after my property myself. I’m a bit of a control freak. I don’t like handing over my finances to someone else. So, before the pandemic, what I was doing is getting…I’ve got an approval to build 46 units at Caboolture on the river. And where I’m going to be building 46 units-and it’s basically going to be for people 55 and over.

Now, that area is really burning at the moment. There’s a new hospital; there’s a new university. So, I’ve owned that site since 2007. The problem is we went through the GFC, so I’m really ready to do that now. So, as soon as this is over, I’m going to go to Sydney. And I’ve started a couple of joint venture partners who would like to do that with me.

Swan goes on to explain how exactly she was able to get a development approval for 46 units.

I’ve got a bit of a gift. I can actually walk on a block of land and I just work it out in my head, whereas my accountant’s got to use a piece of paper, not my accountant, my architect. I basically-I actually did two development sites.

The other one was on the waterfront at Scarborough, so I had a development approval there for about 11 units. But I’ve just recently sold that because I owned it with my ex. And he didn’t want to build it, so we sold it. But the one at Caboolture: It’s on probably 6,000 square metres. It’s on the riverfront; it’s in a cul-de-sac. It’s really beautiful. I mean, I wouldn’t live in that area because I live in Paddington, but it’s good for people who like moving out of suburbs.

So, I’m really good at getting DA’s. So I get the block of land and then I go and get a DA. And I had an architect, but unfortunately he died last year, which is a bit of a bummer. We’d been together for 15 years. He was really good. We’d usually sit together, and I usually sort of look outside the square, so did he. So, we had [a] great, you know, great-minds-together type of thing.

Overcoming The Challenges Of Being An Immigrant

Before delving into how Swan started her property journey, we hear a bit about her upbringing.

I was born on a little island called Mauritius, South East coast of Africa-and, actually, it’s a really good story. My grandparents were shipwrecked on the Island. And so they were Irish. And so, I’m sort of half Irish and half Mauritian. My parents had eight children. We were really poor. And I think from a very early age, I used to see these people begging on the streets and just people homeless everywhere. And it really used to affect me.

And from a very early age, I had the subconscious thing in my head that one day I was going to be rich. And it didn’t start when I was 30 or 40 or 20; it started when I was probably about 8 years old. And my father, who had eight children-he was a bit of an entrepreneur-, so he had to feed all of us. What he used to do is buy blocks of land- and mind you, this is Mauritius, right? You didn’t make much money with a few pennies. He used to buy a block of land. He’d subdivide it, and he would sell the back or the front. And then we used to move a lot.

But I didn’t realise that property was going to be something I was going to do until much later in life. It took me a long time to realise what I really wanted to do with my life. So, I’d say that my father had a huge influence on me, and he was a workaholic. He worked, you know, 20 hours a day. And he really loved what he did.

Swan talks about where she grew up during her childhood before she moved to Australia.

I stayed in Mauritius for the first 10 years of my life. At the age of 10, my mother thought that we should move to Australia, in Sydney, to give us a better life. And as a migrant, I went to a Catholic girls school. And I was really bullied at school because, in those days, people didn’t really like migrants. So, they used to call me a ‘wog’ and all sorts of things.

So, I had a lot of issues growing up. And so I, sort of, was always feeling less than I was. I had huge self-esteem issues. And then after that, when I turned 15, that was when you can actually start working. I used to work a lot. I never had a social life. I used to work at the Devondale factory. I used to work at KFC. I would work, you know, whenever I could work.

She looks back on her younger years and how she never felt good enough at school.

When I was at school, I always felt stupid because when I came to Australia I spoke French. That was my first language. And it took me a little while to get used to English. And then I wasn’t listening; I wasn’t interested. And I come from a family where education is so important. Like my two sisters have PhDs and masters-and all that sort of thing.

So, education is really important. So, all my life, I sort of felt inadequate with my family. And for a long time, they used to say, ‘Oh, you’re just a salesperson. You’re just a salesperson’. Well, this salesperson has worked more than all of them put together, so I don’t mind.

She goes on to share what path she took after she finished school.

After 16, then, I left school, Grade 12, and I was a model during the day. I worked in Foveaux Street in Sydney. And at night, I would work in a restaurant. And on the weekends, I would work in a wine bar. So, I was always working, and there was no social thing at all. And what it was is whenever I went somewhere, I didn’t really enjoy myself. The only time I really enjoyed myself was when I was working and making money.

So, after that, I started getting jobs, you know, sales reps here and there. And I was stealing a lot of Australian post accounts because I was really good at sales. So, the Australia Post came to me and said, ‘We’d like you to join us’. And that was an AO6 position in the public service.

What is AO6? Could you just explain it?

It’s pretty high. Or what it was: Normally when you work for Australia post, you’ve got to start AO1, A02. But because I was really good at what I did and I had a great database of clients, I started as an AO6, which is a corporate accounts manager. So, I used to look after all the corporate clients in Brisbane.

Now, all the people at Australia Post hated my guts; they thought that, you know, I’d slept with the boss to get where I am. And I didn’t because in Australia Post you had to go through one, two, three, four, five, six. So, yeah. And that job was really good for me because it gave me a really good salary, a company car-and it actually helped me buy my first home.

Swan delves more into her superior position at Australia Post, sharing how long she worked there.

I was there for three years. And basically what happened: I hated that job. I hated it. I hated it so much. It was really hard to drag myself out of bed every day. And so, one day, I woke up-this is after I built my first home-I woke up one day and I said, ‘Right, I’m not going to work anymore’. I gave up my work, and I stopped working. And that was the best decision I made because ever since then I’ve been self-employed.

And it was really hard because I had four kids. And I was a single mum with four kids. And so, what I basically did is I went on the single mother pension for about six months because I was really exhausted from looking after these kids and working full-time. And, you know, when you’ve got kids, you’ve got to drive them around to sports, et cetera. So, basically, I gave up my job, and that’s where my life began.

Balancing Making A Living And Raising Four Kids

Having four kids is not easy. How old are they? Or how old were they when you left your job?

They were young. Because my husband left me with four kids-and I tell you, at the time that he left me-, oh God, I was so depressed. I couldn’t get out of bed. It was a really, really daunting experience because what happens, you’re used to having a husband that works and blah, blah, blah. And the kids were really affected. And then I’ve got four kids I’ve got to provide for, and they were always like, ‘mummy, mummy, mummy, mummy’. And I really wanted to get ahead in life because I’ve got an A-type personality. So, it was really hard.

And that’s what makes my story a little bit better because it’s really hard to find a single mum with four kids who really suffered from depression. Like, I have suffered from depression all my life. It’s something that I think it’s probably in my family. So, I’ve got a little bit of a soft spot for people who suffer from depression because I can really help them, because I’ve been through it. And I’ve learnt to manage it, and I’ve learnt to overcome it.

It’s a very inspirational story, because I have to say even having two kids is not the easiest thing. They’ve got both parents looking after them when you have to look after four kids by yourself. I don’t know how you managed it.

You know how I managed it, my daughter had one little baby two years ago and she was thinking, ‘I can’t handle this. I can’t do it’. I think what I do…I do things in my subconscious, right? So, when I do something, even when I buy a property,I don’t sort of look at the property and go home and think, ‘Should I buy this? Should I buy that?’. I look at it, and I go by my gut feeling. And my gut feeling says ‘Yes, buy it’. And there’s only been a couple of properties that haven’t gone up in value. But most of my properties have done really well. Some of them have gone up four times where I paid for it.

So, I think I used to just get up and do it, you know. I had to do it.

I had to, you know, look after them. And also, I was really driven. My husband came to me and said, ‘Give me six months. I’ll take the kids away from you’. And I thought, right, stick my fingers up at him and said, ‘Okay, we’ll see’. So, basically, I was driven by the fact that I had four kids. I had to look after them and also, you know, to prove to people that I could keep these kids, because it was really hard, you know, I got to tell you.

But a good thing about it-one of my sons is an entrepreneur. He’s actually in Singapore, and he’s doing really, really well. He’s a CEO, and he’s being interviewed by CNBC and all that sort of thing. So, I’m really proud of him because he’s followed in my footsteps. He’s probably a little bit better than me at that age anyway.

That’s inspirational to hear that your son has progressed so well since then. And I think there must’ve been some kind of adversity that inspired him to push further.

He saw me work all the time. So, again, it’s subconscious. You see your parents do certain things, you do it.

The successful mother of four shares the process of becoming self-employed after leaving Australia Post and how she managed to support her family.

Let’s just go back. Let’s start from when I got divorced and I was left with a block of land in Tanamera, which is a long way away from the city. And everybody said to me, ‘Don’t build there. Don’t build there’. And I did because if you tell me ‘don’t do’ something, I’ll do it. Because it was next to a big power line, and my mother was scared that I was going to get cancer, et cetera.

So, when I was left with this block of land, I remember standing on the block of land saying to myself, ‘Who is going to look after me when I’m old?’, because I remembered when I was in Mauritius looking at these old people begging on the street. So, that was why I wanted to do that. So, what I did: Whilst I was working for Australia Post, I gave up Australia Post just after I got my home loan.

I wanted to build a house. So, what I did-I didn’t know how to build a house-I became an owner-builder. As a matter of fact, I still own this house, and I don’t even have a final on it, so I’m trying to get that at the moment. So, basically what I did is, I owned and built that house, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I hired a builder, and I just watched him. And that was my first deal. And then after that, the property was worth about $150,000 more.

I went and bought another property, which I subdivided into two and then I stopped. I stopped investing in property for a little while because we were going through a recession, and I could see people sometimes losing their homes. People were going bankrupt.

I really understand what’s happening in the world today because I’ve already been through this. I’ve been through the GFC. I’ve been through the recession of the ’90s. So, it does really help you make decisions because you’ve experienced it.

Swan explains what she actually built on the property to increase its value by $150,000.

Well, I built-believe it or not-a 400 square metre home. But the problem is, if we had built it in Paddington, it would be worth a lot of money. I built it in the wrong area. And that’s why I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. And one of them was that. But in saying that, that house is the grandparent of all my properties. Because without that house, I could have taken that $50,000 and gone and bought a BMW. But I decided to invest it in my first home.

So, once I had the first home I bought it, and [I] subdivided the block of land-and nobody was doing that in my day. No one. I mean, I’m a woman, you know. In those days, you couldn’t even get a loan without a man. And when I went to get the loan for this, it was so difficult. Everybody was saying, ‘So, what does your husband do?’. I had no husband. I’m sorry. No thanks. And then I actually went to three, four banks. They all said, ‘no, no, no’.

And then, I met a broker. Never underestimate a broker; they are really good. And so, he got me a loan with St. George and the rest is history. So, basically, from that house I created: Even though that house hasn’t gone up-I mean it hasn’t gone up that much, it’s only worth like $758,000-, but I’m getting $710 rental from it.

That’s still really good. And, I guess, as you said, when you had four kids, that’s where you first lived just to be able to put a shelter over their heads. Is that right?

Yes, and I also wanted a big home because when I was young, I didn’t have a home. I used to live…well there’s eight kids. When we moved to Australia, we were living in somewhere like Parramatta because, you know, when you’re a migrant, you don’t know where to live and you don’t have any money. So, we were renting a three-bedroom home. It was disgusting. And some of my friends would come over, and they would look at it and raise their eyes.

So, I had this thing about giving my children a better life. So, this house was actually the best house in the street on top of the hill with views. I felt really proud when I built that because there’s nothing better than an accomplishment. And I felt it really boosted my self-esteem, because even though I was really good at property and I was really good at business, when it came to my personal life, I was absolutely a basket case. So, basically, you know, you’re good at some things and you’re not good.

But over the years, I’ve learnt to become my mind’s master and not its slave. And that’s because I’ve worked a lot on my brain, just a lot of personal development.

From Buying Her First House To Investing In Multiple Properties

How many properties do you think you’ve purchased in your lifetime?

Six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 15, 16 properties.

What kind of properties where they?

One thing I hate…I used to buy a house for so much and then I would sell it to someone else and then sort of set along the same day and make $60,000 to $70,000. That was one. I bought a development. I bought a townhouse in Baulkham Hills in Sydney. One of the development developers came to me and said, ‘Look, do you want to buy this? You don’t have to put any deposits down’. By the time I bought it and it settled, it had gone up in value, and I didn’t put any money down.

I was really making a lot of money at the time. And so, then what else did I do? I bought…when we moved to Brisbane, I’ll tell you this story, I could have bought a place in Paddington, right, in Brisbane. And the house was really old and dilapidated. And I was really, in those days, I was a different person. I was scared that there were ghosts in the house.

I didn’t want to buy the house. And so, I went and bought a four-bedroom brick home. So, these are all the things, you know, the mistakes I made. But, you know, we wanted kids in the street and all that sort of thing. So, I bought a house at Springwood, [a] four-bedroom with a pool, blah, blah, blah. But then, the house at Paddington would have gone up so much compared to the house and Springwood.

So, I need to tell you something, the breakthrough for me started-so, after I built my home and subdivided my block of land, I wanted to learn everything I could about finance and property. So, I got my real estate license. I never really sold real estate. I just wanted to have my license. So, it gave me more choices, and I became a finance broker.

My breakthrough in life happened when I left Brisbane and I moved to Sydney. I went to a ball in Sydney. And I was sitting next to this guy. He was trying to give me eye contact; I didn’t want to talk to him. Then, finally, he got eye contact and he said, ‘So, what do you do?’. And I said, ‘I’m a finance broker’. He said, ‘Oh, funny, my company is looking for a finance broker’. So, the next day, I went to Myer’s. I bought a nice suit, and I took it back after the appointment.

And basically, I went to this appointment. And I’m very good at selling myself. The best thing you can do in life is learn to sell yourself. Because, at the end of the day, someone buys you. So, basically, they said, ‘What is it going to take for you to leave Brisbane and come and work for us as a general manager?’. I thought it was a joke, right. I didn’t think it would happen. I said, ‘I want a brand new BMW convertible’. The next day I get a fax saying, ‘Yes, you’ve got it’. It was a really nice green colour. And they said, ‘when can you start?’.

So, I did something bad. I went home back to Brisbane and I said, ‘Come on, kids, we’re leaving; we’re going to Sydney’. And, as I’ve said, I always make decisions in my subconscious mind. I don’t sit there and think about it. Because if I thought about the fact that, you know, my kids won’t go to school and lose their friends, I wouldn’t have done it. But going to Sydney, I worked with, you know, Mike McGaw Gore, Q and O’Connor. Look at the five people in your life, that’s your future.

I lived in Rose Bay. I drove a BMW. I had CEOs of companies. I was associating with a lot of people and what that did to me-I saw Kieran turn a bread factory into units, which I bought one of them, and then he went broke. And so, basically, by going there and meeting him, he inspired me without even knowing; he inspired me to think, ‘Right, I’m going to go back to Brisbane because my kids wanted to go home, and I’m going to start investing. I’m going to go for broke. If you can say to your psyche and your soul “go for broke”, I want to die of exhaustion. I don’t want to die from wear and tear. How much can I do? How much can I become?’ And that’s what I said to myself.

I was really-I used to be really into motivational, and I’d play, you know, that song, ‘Simply the Best’. I would listen to that every morning-just a little bit-and it would really give me a buzz. So, when I came back, that’s when I actually was in the Property Investor magazine. I actually made $2.2 million in about two and a half years. So, I made a lot of money when I came back from Sydney. And that was because if you associate with negative people who go, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to do that. Don’t do that. You’ll go broke’. It’s really important who you associate with.

She delves into her worst property investing moment where she learnt valuable life lessons.

I think the lowest of the low was the first one I did because I didn’t know what I was doing. I just thought, ‘Oh I’ll buy a block of land. I’m going to subdivide this’. So, I hired a builder and I didn’t know he’d lost his license. He was just terrible. And then it rained, because I actually moved a house to the back, and the house wouldn’t fit on the side. I actually had a bit of a breakdown after that. That was my worst investment because it took a while to happen.

And then, you know, I had to pay someone else to kind of fix all these problems. I took him to court. It just sort of went on forever. But in saying that, when I subdivided that block, I sold the front. And I kept the back, and I owned it outright. And then that house I sold, and then I bought my commercial property with that.

As she goes on to explain more about this particular property that happened to be her worst deal, something else happened in her life.

I bought the block. It was a thousand square metres in Moorooka, which is about 7 kilometres from the city. And when I see, I used to go home and just do some due diligence, then I’d ring up the council and say, ‘Can I do this? Can I do that?’. But the problem is, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just sort of thought, ‘Okay, I want to do it’. And I’m a bit impulsive like that. I just say, ‘I want to do it. I’m just going to do it’.

And I didn’t have any mentors. And look, in my time, there were no mentors. There were no people doing this, or if they were, you know, there was really no books or anything. So, I think my problem was I didn’t know what I was doing. You know what I mean? And that’s why when something happened, I got really stressed, and I got really depressed, because, you know, emotionally, I was losing money and I was losing time. And it really stressed me out.

So, after that, I didn’t do anything, as I said, for the next five to six years. I sort of just took a rest. And I wasn’t resting-I was still working, and I was really working on myself. I started reading Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins. And that really motivated me, because I just read that and I would just do what he said. And, you know, I think when you invest in property, it’s really important that you are confident in what you’re doing. And I wasn’t confident with that. So, I changed everything. And then that’s why when I came back, I was confident. I knew what I was doing.

So, when I came back to Sydney, my first investment property was a block of four units in Paddington, which nobody wanted to buy. Then I went to the owner and I said, ‘Look, I’ll buy it. You have to give me access to this property for three months. I’ll renovate it and then we’ll settle, make it unconditional’. So, he said ‘Yes’. So, I renovated inside, just the basic renovation, and my rent sort of doubled in value. And then, I made $200,000 on that particular property in six months, because the market was starting to go up.

And Paddington is a very good area in Brisbane, and that property is smart. It’s my little gem, because that was what gave me the confidence to go and do more. When I bought this, then I went and bought how many? One, two, three. I went and bought three houses in a matter of months. I just kept buying, because I remember going to my kids and saying, ‘Look, I’ve been looking after you for a long time. I need to look after me now. It’s about me’. But it wasn’t really about me.

My goal is to leave wealth to my children. When you become wealthy, it’s all about leaving it to your children-because what else do you do? So, now I’ve got grandchildren. So, I know when I go, I’ll be leaving all my assets to my kids, which will, you know, make them happy.

How to Pay $980,000 for a Property and Make it Worth $5 Million

Despite confronting obstacles along her property investing journey, Swan reflects on the moments where everything just clicked for her.

There was a mall in Moorooka that I used to go to and walk around, and I used to say in my mind ‘One day, I’m going to own this’. And it came up for sale. And I remember when someone told me it was for sale, I just got in my car and I just drove there. I looked at it, and I rang up the agency and said ‘I want to contract’. So, this mall has 13 retail shops. I paid $980,000 for this property. It’s now worth about $5 million.

But the good thing about this, it’s returning me $360,000 per annum. It is my best asset. But listen to this, you can really add value to this place in the back where the furniture shop is. I can build 15 units. That’s one option. The second option, you sell it to a developer and eventually you’d be able to…because it’s only 6, 7 kilometres from town. So, apart from, I’d say, the block of units, you know, I go out to this mall and they all go ‘Hello boss, hello boss’.

I’m really good to my tenants. Recently, I went to them and I said, ‘Look, we’re going through bad times. I’ll give you 50% off for the next three months’. And they were really grateful. And no one had to ask me to do that. I just did that.

Swan explains how exactly she came across this particular property.

I had a business partner who just worked down the road. He rang me and said ‘The mall is for sale’. So, I knew which one he was talking about-because he kept ringing me and saying, ‘What do you think of this? What do you think of this?’. And I’d say, ‘nah, nah, nah’. And as soon as he mentioned this one, I knew what he was talking about.

And it was really bad. It was dilapidated. It was returning at the time, probably $70,000 a year. And we did some renovations to it upstairs, and now it’s returning a lot of money. And what I did with that, I used that as leverage to buy the development side in, you know, the one we’re talking about the Bos Development. Because the way I do things, I use properties to leverage on other properties.

I’m not really attached to money. I don’t go out and buy luxury things and cars. My properties are like my children. I’m different from other people where they just buy property. Because I’ve done so much renovation, and I get close to my tenants, I don’t want to sell anyone any of them. I used to buy and flip before, but now I buy and hold. I am not going to sell anything.

And it’s been a little bit tough at times, you know. I went through the flood in 2011, and my commercial property in Milton-which is only like 2 kilometres from the city-it was totally underwater. I wasn’t insured and I had to pay $140,000 to get it back. And now, I’ve turned that property. I like having my everything.

So, that was my commercial property where I worked from. So, I’ve turned it into [email protected], which is my own events venue. I’ve got my own property, my own office, my own events. I can have my own training without having to go around looking for somewhere to rent. And it’s available for rent.

As a successful investor, Swan tells us how she got into larger scale unique property developments.

With the Bos Development, which is the 46 units, I’m the brains behind everything. I have a business partner. And what’s happened is that when we did that in 2007, I bought it for $700,000 and, about 18 months later, I was offered $2.5 million. Now, I should have sold it then, but I was a little bit vain in those days. I wanted this arranged sanctuary on Edwards. I was going to build this building apartments, but then we had the GFC.

On this one, I have a business partner and he pays all the outgoings and things like that. Now, I own 80% of Bos Development, but I’ve just decided recently that I’ll probably give in 50% because, you know, we’ve been paying a lot of it. And we held it for so long. So, my goal as soon as this pandemic is over is to build these units, because the site is too nice not to build-because it’s on the river.

Also, I’ve already spoken to the council, and they are really behind me at the moment to build this, because mine’s pretty up the market. And so, they want upmarket buildings going up in that area. And there’s a lot of people looking for rentals. It’s not like in a city where we’ve got bad luck at the moment. People who live out there, they’re really looking for rentals, because of the university and the hospitals and all that sort of thing. And I did buy, as I said, I bought another one, which was a really funny day.

I bought a block of land on the waterfront. It was $1.7 million, but it was worth $2 million in those days. And I remember going to the auction, and I was bidding against everyone. And I didn’t care. I just wanted to bid and just win this, you know, because it was such a nice block. And that’s probably the gambling, I suppose. I gamble with bricks and mortar. I don’t gamble on horses or anything else.

Swan’s Property Strategy To Going The Next Level

Swan goes on to discuss the whole process of finding these kinds of properties and how she has managed to strike particular deals.

With this particular property at Caboolture, I had another business partner that I used to sell all these properties. And he came to me and said, ‘Well, I want to buy this place at Caboolture. It’s a good block, blah, blah, blah. Do you want to buy it with me?’. And I said ‘yes’. So, I bought it with him. And then six months later, he came to me and he said, ‘Look, I don’t want to own that anymore. I want you to buy me out’. Because he was really into too many things. He even has gone broke. So, I bought his share-and hence, the reason why I own 80% of that site. And I have a business partner who owns 20% of that site. So, the thing is I don’t really use my own money because I’m good at what I do.

People trust me, and I’ve got a lot of knowledge because, you know, I haven’t just started. I mean, there’s a lot of people who read books and then you see these 20-something people on YouTube going, ‘Oh, you know, invest in property’. And I’m thinking, what do you know? I’m experienced. I walk my talk. Do you know what I mean? And I’m earning $540,000 in rental income a year.

So, my goal in life has not really been to buy and flip. It’s been to create residual income, which gives me power, because some days I don’t want to get out of bed. Some days I don’t work because I don’t have to. All I do once a month, at the end of the month, is I’ll just go and check whether they’ve paid their rent or not. And I love doing that. But most of them pay their rent. I don’t have any problems.

But with regards to the development side, getting a DA is not that hard. You just got to deal with the right people-the architect, the town planner, this, that, and it’s just the way. Anything you do, it’s just the way of doing it. And I did have a few friends-William, who actually built a few units-who helped me with that.

But recently, we’re talking about two months ago, I was actually talking to a finance broker about getting a joint venture partner to build the units with me. And so that’s probably where my next step will be, because whilst other people go looking for new deals all the time-which is what I used to do-, I don’t really need to do that now because I’ve got this development site.

I’ve got the mall that I can do something with, that’s probably the two, but doing those two is worth a few million dollars. Do you know what I mean? If you build 15 units in the back, that’d be a lot of profit in there and rental income. So, that’s my goal for the next, you know, next five years or so-to do that. And I wanted to increase my rental income to a million dollars, right.

But the problem with that is, because I have been a little bit lazy and complacent, I actually went and had a bit of an accident in Mauritius a couple of years ago. So, I hurt my back and my knee. So, I’ve been a little bit less motivated to do things, until three months ago where I sort of got a few people together and said, ‘Right, I’m building the units, what do we do?’. And we were going to buy a lot of the material from China, but that doesn’t look possible now because of what’s happening.

So, I’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to happen with the economy-because I don’t believe in taking big risks, not right now, because I could potentially lose everything.

That’s true. And I think this is a strategy and a sort of defensive play, just to see what’s going to happen next before making any big bold moves-which is important because this is unprecedented. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future as well.

No one’s ever been through this. I mean, I don’t even know what’s going to happen. All I know is some of my rental income, like I’ve got one unit in Paddington, never had any problems renting it. It’s been empty for six weeks. So, I went to a few of my tenants yesterday and I said,’ Look, if you sign another six-month lease, I’ll give you a discount’. So, they’ve all signed up, because proper preparation prevents poor performance. So, I’m just sort of going ahead just to make sure they still stay. And if they do these, well, I’m covered by insurance.

So, for the next six months, I’m fine. But no one knows what’s going to happen. But, at the end of the day, I have been through this before the GFC in the ’90s where we went through the recession, the floods. You know what? In life there’s always winter and summer and dark and light. So look, I’m quite happy. I’m not happy that this is happening, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not affecting me.

I just go through the flow. And every day, I wake up and I go through the flow and I listen to the news. But I don’t really think it’s going to affect property-I don’t think-in Brisbane, because our prices are quite low. And with everything, they’re spending $2 billion here, there and everywhere. So, I think we’ll be okay. But it’s just gonna take a little while.

I don’t think anybody should really worry. I don’t really have anything to worry about, because I get rental income. So, I’m not going to lose my job. You know, I just make sure I manage it well.

She goes on to discuss more about her portfolio and the different kinds of properties she has purchased.

I used to do residential and then I wanted to go to the next level. Buying four units was really a bit daunting for me, right. So, after I bought the four units, I decided to buy my own commercial property because I want to be in control of my life. So, I bought the commercial property, and then I refinanced the commercial property. And I bought the mall, right. And then the mall has 14 retail shops, commercial property. I used to rent it up and down and have two tenants. The block of units has four tenants. Now, in the back of the block of units, there’s a block of land that was 900 square metres.

So, the lady who lived in the back rang me and said, ‘Well, Swan, do you want to buy it-the block of land?’. And I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t even do any research. I said, ‘Yes, I’ll take it’. And so I bought it and paid quite a hefty price for it. But what that did, I’ve just done another development, which I haven’t told you about in the back of Paddington. I moved the house forward, and I built a duplex in the back.

Now, this block was a really bad block. And really, both of my subdivisions were really taxing on my mental health because when I built this, my architect helped me. But when I built this, he didn’t do his research because I basically said to him, ‘Okay, we’ll do this together, but I’m paying you to do all of the above, the town planning’. But he didn’t; I think he was a bit ill. He didn’t do the research. So, when I built this, I had to build out the sewer, build over stormwater, blah, blah, blah. Then the tenants next door were complaining. It took me from 2013, 2014 to 2015-finally, 2016, in August, I actually settled on it.

You know, with every bad thing that happens, there is a good thing. I used to get 500. I sold one of the duplexes, so I own the other one outright. So, I basically turned my backyard into $900,000. And so the back one is really quite nice, out the back there, I’ve just rented it to Rio Tinto, for $865. I’d rent it all; it’s furnished. So, I get $865 for the back, and I get $710 for the front. So, what that’s done is created rental income for me and the back one because I don’t have any debt on it. I own it out right now, and it’s really close to the city. It’s like 2 kilometres, and it’s a really good area. And it’s just gonna keep going up because that area is really going ahead.

So, I feel so proud when people come to the block of units. I say, ‘Oh yeah, I own the one in the back and the one in the front as well’. And it makes me feel…some women love people saying, ‘Oh, you’re beautiful. I love your dress, I love your shoes’. I’m not really into that. I love the fact that I get my self-esteem from my properties. And they’re not just properties. As I said, it’s part of my life. It is part of me. And if you took these properties away from it, I wouldn’t know what to do with my life because, you know, they’re a part of me now. I’ve been doing it for so long, and I love them.

It’s very different to the way other people would say, ‘Oh, who’s this crazy woman talking like that?’. But when you actually take an ugly duckling, like I’ve got a house, I only paid $400,000 for it. It was not that nice. I’ve spent money on it. I’m just about to put a $20,000 bathroom in it, but it’s valued now. The one across the road sold for $1.6 million, so I bought it for $400,000, right? So, it’s now $1.6, and I hadn’t spent that much money on it- perhaps $100,000-and it returns $1,600 a week. So, that’s a really good return. And I was renting it.

Overcoming Past Mistakes And Holding Onto Determination

As a mother of four, Swan was driven to succeed. And we discovered her motivation behind property investing.

When my husband left me-I thought that he was going to stay with me forever, and his parents had properties and that sort of thing. I thought I’m going to be fine, they would go on and leave us properties, blah, blah, blah. And when he left me there was this…who is going to look after me when I’m old? It was like a mantra. A lot of people don’t realise they need to save and invest for their retirement. Because, you know, 60% of women who retire now-they’re going to be living in poverty. I’m not, because I planned my life. I saved. I invested, and I didn’t buy all the designer clothes. And I walked in last year, and I bought a brand new BMW because I could-I wanted to.

Orane Swan

You’ve got to delay instant gratification. I keep saying: Delay instant gratification and so that you have a better life down the track. Now, some people these days, they all about, you know, ‘I want it now. I want it now’. So, if that’s what you want, fine. But, you know, wait ’til you’re older, because I had a lot of friends who were very wealthy that I knew years ago. And they used to drive the nice car, the Reeboks, the whatever. And I didn’t.

I had a Datsun 120Y right. And when I drove it, my kids used to say, ‘Don’t drive in front of the school please. Just drive up the road’, because they were embarrassed. And I didn’t care because I knew what I was doing. I had a goal, and I’m sticking to my goal. And yeah, basically, that’s what happened.

Swan shares with us if she ever came across mentors or resources that inspired her along her journey.

I’ve never, ever had a mentor to do with property. With regards to my personal development, I’ve read a lot of books-because in my day, they didn’t have that. And I am telling you what I had. You know how some people can draw and some people can play music? I really do think I inherited my dad’s mind because he has that same mind. I can work things out in my head.

No, I didn’t have any mentors at all when it came to that. The people came to me. I was the mentor. I was a big risk-taker, and I understood property. And I knew that every property I bought-but one, which was a townhouse across the road from the beach, which I still own, I wanted that so I could go there on the weekends, down the track. But with every property I’ve bought, it’s always been ‘I can add value, I can add value’.

My ex used to say, ‘Oh, don’t buy something to add value. Just buy a low-set brick, and you’ll get a really good tax deduction. And I said, ‘No, I want to buy things that I can add value to’. And all the ones that I can’t add value to-I had another townhouse and I sold that. So, everything I’ve got left at the moment are really prime properties because they are in Paddington, Milton, Bardon, which are up market professional areas. I still own the one in the suburbs, and I gave it to my daughter. She said, ‘No, I don’t want it’. She doesn’t want to live out there.

So, I’m quite happy with where I am. I mean, along the way, there’ve been a lot of mistakes where I’ve trusted people and they’ve taken money from me. And that happens a lot, but I got to tell you, it’s really easy to make money. What’s hard is to keep the money. And sometimes, people make the mistake of when things get bad, they sell. So many people just sell-’Oh, I can’t handle this’. But what I used to do if things got bad: I used to move out of my house that I could rent for a very high price and move into one of my lesser houses and just live there for six months. While I was getting the cash flow, I was willing to do whatever it took to get me to where I wanted to go. And this is the mindset that I have.

My mindset-I believe that, sometimes, people go and learn about property, but mindset is everything. It’s the mindset that got me to where I am. It’s a mindset. Nothing else. It’s just disappointment in life that can lead you to ruin and destruction, because you go, ‘Oh, I’m bankrupt’. But you’ve got to learn the art of transmuting your emotions, your mindset, into dreams and success. And that’s what I did. And so I’ve used [to], whenever I was depressed or whatever, I’d go in a room and I’d tape my walls. Because I knew once I painted the room or built a deck, I’d feel good and then the prices would go up in value.

Educating Oneself And Spending Time With Like-Minded People

She goes on to share with us her book and audio recommendations that have ultimately inspired her.

I’ve read a lot of books. But you see, for me, I know a lot of people. They say, ‘Oh, I want to get into a property. I want to get into property’. And that’s all they think about. You can’t think about that, because we’re a body, a mind and a soul and a physical and everything else. You’ve got to get the other areas of your life together. I read.

I listened to this woman called Caroline Myss. She’s like more of a spiritual guru. And what she actually did for me-and I didn’t mean to listen to her, somebody dropped off some tapes on my doorstep. I don’t even know who this person is. She saw that I had issues because, you know, I’ve been divorced. I had four kids. I had low self esteem because you know, blah blah blah. And she left that on my doorstep, and I started listening to it. I listened to it all the time because she talks about self-esteem and all that sort of thing.

And I read Unlimited Power -the power of your subconscious mind. I used to listen to a lot of Wayne Dyer, and now, I just listen to whoever. But I never really read anything about how to subdivide, how to develop, how to create rental income. I’ve never ever, ever in my life done anything of that, because when it came to property and it came to selling or business, I was so good at it that I didn’t really need nor want anyone to tell me what to do because right now I can’t say my ex-husband helped me, my ex-boyfriend helped me, my brother, my sister.

I did this alone, and that’s what I wanted. I just wanted to do this, and this is all about my skills. So, when I leave this world, it’s like I’ve done something in my life instead of just sitting around and, you know, like most women do and wait for death.

The diligent investor reflects on the best advice she has ever received throughout her property journey.

I used to listen to a lot of Jim Rohn. He actually guided me a lot. There’s something he said to me that I used to have on my wall: ‘If you work on your job, you make a living. If you work on yourself, you make a fortune.’ It’s true. If you’re working for a job, like all these people in a job, now they’re going to lose their jobs. But if you work on yourself, like with me, I learnt about financing. And I tell you what saved me-I forgot to tell you in 2009 I went through the financial crisis, right. I cross-collateralised all my properties. And that’s why I could buy so many properties because, you know, NAB used to say, ‘Yeah $1 million there’. Because they had all my assets, it was good.

But what happened in 2009: They came to me, and they didn’t want my business because they thought I was going under. So, I had to get that portfolio, and it was so stressful. I had to refinance every single one of them-two different banks. Now, I’ve got NAB, BOQ, RAMS and St. George, so nobody can, you know, if anybody out there is cross-collateralising so they can buy more properties, do not do it because I tell you that cost me a lot of money. If that didn’t happen to me, things would be a lot better for me. And that really, really stressed me out. Never cross-collateralise a business like the mall or commercial property with your residential. Keep them separate. I didn’t know that.

The only thing that saved me was the fact that I used to be a finance broker. And so, when I went to buy a deal or do a deal, I used to tell the brokers what I wanted. I used to say, ‘This is the way you put this deal together’, because I understood finance. If you want to do really well in property, you need to understand finance, what the bank requires, blah, blah, blah. So, you can give them what they need. You know, if you don’t know about finance, forget it. Apart from my mindset, I think understanding finance was what helped me so many times.

If the renovation expert had some time to reflect on her past self 10 years ago, we find out what she would have said to herself.

Hold, never flip. There are a few properties that I flipped only because, like when I went through the GFC, I had to flip this one. It was on two blocks, but it was something that I could sell really quickly to get out of trouble. Don’t flip. I know a lot of people go, ‘Oh, you need to flip’. But then, by the time you pay the agent, by the time you pay land tax, you pay this; it’s stupid.

And what else? Associate with like-minded minds. That’s so important. At the beginning, I didn’t do that. I was just hanging around not really good people.

Habits that contributed to my success: You’ve got to eliminate negative people from your life because sometimes you want to do something-and I’ve got them around me right now. I wanted to do a bathroom. So, I woke up yesterday and said, ‘I’m doing my bathroom’. So, I got someone to come and demolish it. And I’ve got two friends walking in saying, ‘Why do you want to build a bathroom? We’re going through a pandemic. Why do you want to spend money?’. I said, ‘Well, just because we’re going through a pandemic doesn’t mean I’m going to stop living’. Do you know what I mean? So, basically you have got to stay away from negative people.

And because I had a lot of that-my mother, this, that and the other, and even my ex-boyfriend. He used to be like ‘Don’t do this’ [or] ‘Don’t buy that’. And he used to say, ‘Don’t buy commercial; it’s really risky’. And I said, ‘Well, I’m buying it. It’s my money’. So, that’s what I would say.

And also, okay, there’s a lot of time that I bought out of impulse, and I didn’t do my research properly. I just bought out of emotion. Like for example, the commercial property that I own, I didn’t know it was a flood area. I come from Sydney. I don’t know what a flood is. We’ve never experienced a flood. So, when my sister rang me that morning saying today there’s going to be a flood. And I said, ‘She’ll be ‘right’. But by the time I came here, the water would just come up.

So, I’m a bit impulsive. I was, when I was younger, really impulsive. I just go in and I say, ‘Yeah, I’ll take it’. And sometimes, I didn’t do my due diligence. It still made me money, and they’re still great properties. So, I think that’s one of the things that, if I look back on my life, I would be less emotional. I was really emotional. And when something would go bad, I would just go to bed and be ‘Oh, my God, I can’t cope. What’s going to happen?’.

And that’s what I talk about with you about your mood and mindset. Because if you learn to be your mind’s master and not a slave, when something happens, like at the moment we’re going through stuff, I’m not upset; I’m fine. And even if I lost property, who cares? Do you know what I mean? So, I’ve learnt to train my mind to be positive. But I’m telling you, I’ve only been like this maybe 10 years or less.

I’ve just learnt. And people need to understand that when they go through bankruptcy, and they go through a divorc. When they go through whatever, they need to get their mood and [their] mindset go hand-in-hand. If people don’t understand that, because your thoughts, which is your mind, create your emotion. So, you say to yourself, I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it. So, you’ve got to always be at the door of your mind and keep telling yourself ‘I can do it’. You know, ‘I can do it. I will do it. It will be okay’. And I think that’s what I do all the time.

I don’t really allow negativity in my head anymore, whereas before, I was controlled by it because I had a mother that was just the most negative person in the world. And she was fearful. My life at school was fear. So, what I’ve done is I’ve turned my life of fear to financial freedom, whereas before, I could only do property. Now, I feel that I have the talent to be able to do whatever I want to do because I’ve got my mind right.

Swan paints a picture for how her property investment journey might look like in the next five years.

That’s my last chapter of my life. That’s what I want to do. And also with the mall, there’s money to be made in that. I mean, we’re talking about both of them having, I don’t know, maybe $6 million profit. I don’t really want to go and look at properties and buy and sell. To be honest right now, I’ve got a personal banker. I was talking to him yesterday, and he basically said to me [that for] people who want to buy investment property at the moment, it’s going to get harder and harder and harder.

So, say, a property is worth $1 million. They are valuing it at $800,000 and the banks used to take 80% of your rental income, right? So, because of what’s happening, they are not taking 80% now; they’re taking like 60%. So, people are going to find it really hard to get into property-unless you’re cashed up. If you’re cashed up, it’s a fantastic time to buy because there’s a lot of good deals out there.

But if you’re just a normal mum and dad looking for investment property, I would say, ‘Wait’. I wouldn’t buy anything right no-only unless you’re getting it for like $200,000 below value. But you never know what’s going to happen. I mean, who knows what’s going to happen. Uncharted waters, never have we experienced this before.

Last question for you Orane is how much of your success is due to your skill, intelligence and hard work? And how much of it is because of luck?

Everything is due to my skill, my personality. I’m a Virgo, so I just do everything. I check everything. Well I didn’t check with the flooding, but that’s the only thing I didn’t check. Put it this way-maybe, moving to Sydney was luck. Moving to Sydney was luck because I got this job. If I hadn’t got that job, I don’t think I’d be where I am now. And I think I got the job because in those days, I was good looking. I had the right personality, and I presented well. And I was a really great salesperson. So, that was probably luck-but not just luck.

There were also skills. I don’t think it’s luck; it’s definitely skills because I actually worked on myself-the finance broking; I got a real estate license. See what happened: I had a job, then I became self-employed, and then I started buying commercial properties. And then I had a business. So, I’ve actually done everything. So, you can’t do that out of luck. I don’t know. I’m good at this thing. I mean, everybody looks at me and they scratch their head and they go, ‘How did you do this?’.

I don’t know. I’ve just got a skill. I know what to do. It’s just one of these things-just like playing guitar or doing whatever. Some people are really great at computers. I’m hopeless at computers, and I don’t want to know. I haven’t got enough in my brain for that.

Originally published at on August 26, 2020.



Tyrone Shum

I'm the host of Australia’s #1 Property Podcast bringing you the latest stories, strategies, and case studies from the most innovative property investors.