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How Metricon customer Yvonne Morrison built a property portfolio


Yvonne Morrison didn’t know much about property when she started building her first investment home in Wonthaggi, in Victoria's south east, in 2016. Since then, the savvy Inverloch-based investor and her husband, Allan, have built and sold five Metricon homes and are already planning their next development.

“Our first home was an express home,” Yvonne says of their Delta 21. “Back then we didn’t know anything about building so we wanted to build something for a fixed price so we knew upfront what we would be spending and what the return would be.”

Building a property investment portfolio

For Yvonne and Allan, originally dairy farmers from Inverloch, the world of property investment was a far cry from their faming background. But, after selling their 300-acre cattle farm about two years ago, they wanted to try something different.

“We had been complaining about not making money,” Yvonne recalls, “We were looking for a way to diversify our income and 2.6% interest rates from the bank weren’t going to cut it.”

With the corridor from Cranbourne to Inverloch one of the fastest-growing in the state, Yvonne and Allan decided to take advantage of the hot property market and build quality homes for Gippsland’s burgeoning community of downsizers and retirees trading Melbourne’s increasingly crowded suburbia for low-maintenance, coastal living.

“The retiree market down here is huge,” Yvonne says. “Wonthaggi has always been a lower socio-economic area but since the housing boom, we’re seeing that slowly change, and become more gentrified.” That the Gippsland region appeals to retirees is no surprise to locals, who have seen the area become an increasingly popular choice for sea-changers and tree-changers alike, with the area offering all the lifestyle aspects of coastal living, without sacrificing the amenities.

“If you’re an older person and you’re retiring – there’s everything you need,” Yvonne says. “There’s a really good hospital in Wonthaggi and the government recently announced it would get a 113m upgrade, six schools, three supermarkets, plenty of cafes and all the big stores are coming. We have sold all our houses to retirees and all the people who look are retirees. That is why all of the homes we have built have been single storey, to appeal to that easy living aspect.”

Designing for retirement

With retirees the key target market for their developments, Yvonne says building the right design on the right block is imperative to maximising returns.

“We always look for blocks that are in good locations, surrounded by open space, with a northerly aspect preferable,” she says. “We want to make sure the homes have plenty of light as this makes such a big difference to how you feel within them.” Yvonne says they also look for blocks that are big enough to accommodate a four-bedroom home, a small courtyard and a shed. “It can take a bit of time to find the right piece of land but it’s definitely worth waiting for.”

While choosing the right lot is important, Yvonne says it’s also important to choose the right design for your demographic. “We always opt for four bedrooms with high ceilings and big windows,” she says. “And in smaller houses, we try to include sliding doors where we can as they take up less space. I also try to make sure every bit of space is functional. We include lots of alcoves so people can put furniture in that doesn’t impact the flow. We also tend to keep the palette relatively neutral so that it feels like a blank canvas- greys are always a good option as they go with everything.”

Capitalising on your investment

Just because it’s an investment property, Yvonne says that doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on inclusions – especially when you’re selling to retirees who want to be able to move in and have nothing more to do.

“We almost always upgrade the bathrooms,” she says. “And we always do the landscaping, driveways and outdoor patios or courtyards so that whoever buys it has nothing more to do.

People can tell the difference so sometimes you have to spend a little more money to get a better return. I don’t want to build cheap, poor quality houses and wouldn’t build a home that I wouldn’t want to live in.”

Investment made easy

Yvonne and Allan have come a long way since embarking on their first investment project nearly three years ago. “I really enjoy the building process,” Yvonne says. “I like the challenge of finding houses to fit the blocks and to fit the demographic.” And building through Metricon, she says, has made the process seamless.

“Metricon is based here [Wonthaggi], the people who manage the sites live here and most of the trades people are local,” she says. “We’ve had the same bricklayer for all of our houses - we know where they live. And because Metricon uses local suppliers like Beaumont Tiles and Carpet Call – they have stores here – which makes it easier when it comes to selections. It’s not only convenient, but it means you also trust the people you’re working with.”

She says Metricon’s strong brand and reputation are also important as, when it comes to building for investment, you want to be reassured that the company you’re building with has solid foundations.

“Metricon is a reputable company,” she says. “They’ve been around for a long time so you can trust that they’ll continue to be around for a long time. Plus, if you’re living in the house you get a lifetime structural guarantee* and seven years if you sell.”

Yvonne's top tips for investors

  • Look for blocks that are 17.5m wide at the front as this will give you lots of options for floorplans
  • Buy at the start of an estate release so that you can capitalise on the price and ensure your land titles sooner
  • Sit down with a sales adviser and plan everything out properly – from which houses will fit on the site and how to take advantage of the land
  • Take advantage of promotions to get the best return on investment
  • Know exactly what you want and make sure everything is included in the contract as it’s very hard to make changes after process has started
  • Opt for fixed-price contracts so that you know your costs upfront. This makes it easier to stick to your budget.
  • When you’re building for investment, you have to work backwards. Work out what price you expect to get for the house and how much margin you want to make, then figure out what your budget is to build it.
  • Don’t scrimp on inclusions or upgrades (within reason and budget permitting). We almost always allow for bathroom upgrades. Kitchens are also good places to splash out if you have extra room. Sometimes spending a little more money can get you a better return.

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