Power Of Positivity
Starting with under $1,000, Aveen Mitra has gone on to build an impressive portfolio, and is using his success to give back to the people of India, as Joanna Mathers discovers. Photography by Binh Trinh.
1 September 2021
When Aveen Mitra arrived in Wellington in 2003 to study, he had $700 to his name. This $700 was hard-won; his dad in India had put a second mortgage on the family home to send his beloved son to New Zealand.
It was a sacrifice that Mitra deeply appreciated. Since 2003 he has worked tirelessly to reach his property goals. Now 18 years on, his hard work is paying off not just for him, but for people back in India.
Growing up in Raipur, India, as the son of a teacher, Mitra says that he had a humble beginning.
“I never really believed I would leave my town. My ambition really was to grow up, get married, have children, and eat lots of food,” he chuckles.
But while he wasn’t “ambitious”, he was curious and self-disciplined by nature.
“I always had a belief that there was a better world out there,” he explains.
Training as a chef, he moved to work in a call centre: eating, drinking and having fun. He also relocated to Delhi but found the rat-race extremely hard.
“It was brutal and cut-throat. I saw people working incredibly long hours, there was so much corruption. Then my motorbike was stolen, and I decided I’d had enough.”
Mitra’s small town beliefs and upbringing were so challenged by his experience in Delhi that he decided to leave. New Zealand looked promising, so he applied for a hospitality management course in Wellington (funded by his father’s second mortgage) and moved there in 2003.
“For the first two months I lived in Wellington I would wander around thinking ‘I am in heaven’,” he says.
“People are kind and respectful, the government takes care of people, and every complaint is heard.”
Sharing a house with five male flatmates, Mitra was living on around $300 a week, most of which went on rent. He was working 15-20 hours a week as a chef, just scraping by. But then he read a book that would change his perspective completely.
“I read Graeme Fowler’s book New Zealand Real Estate Investors’ Secrets, which explored how ten investors succeeded in investing. By this stage I was working full-time at a hotel, earning $34,000 and I felt that I could purchase a property. But my partner at the time just laughed at me – which made me even more determined.”
Mitra, who is a competitive sportsperson, was playing badminton at the time. When his badminton friends started laughing at his idea of buying a property as well, an “angel” came to the rescue.
“One of my friends who played badminton with me said that he felt bad that people were laughing at my dream. He was a doctor and was earning good money. He said that if I needed a small deposit, he could help me out.”
It was all the motivation he needed; he soon found a small unit in Petone, near a factory, which was selling for $150,000.
“I talked to a bank, and they said that I would need a minimum of $12,000 for this. I had a watch, a gold chain and a car, I sold them all and got $8,000, and my friend lent me the rest.”
Still living in a flat situation, Mitra had his first property. “
The Graeme Fowler book said that you are better off having a tenant in a place than living in it yourself. So, I got a tenant, and got about a 5% return on this place.”
Fast forward to 2007, and Mitra had a young daughter. But his relationship was on the rocks.
“My ex-partner made a comment that I only got the first property because of her help. This made me quietly determined to do it alone.”
Mitra had saved some money over the previous few years and was able to secure a five-bedroom flat in Palmerston North, for the princely sum of $178,000.
“At that time Palmerston North had a lot of bad connotations,” says Mitra. “But it made sense to me.”
With a 5% yield, the property worked out dollar wise. But tenants were an issue.
“The woman who lived in the property had gang affiliations,” Mitra explains. “There were a lot of issues.”
But 2007 would be the year that Mitra “became a little bit cocky”. He decided that more money could be made across the ditch, and relocated to Melbourne. It wasn’t a good move.
“Between 2007 and 2015, I was hammered in every way possible,” he shares.
Working in the banking sector by this stage, Mitra started to play with other investments – shares, options trading. He even bought a house in the United States.
“I bought a house in Texas for just $35,000. But the company who found the property for me was dodgy, and the tenant rules are really bad in the United States, and I ended up losing a lot of money.
The shares and options were also unsuccessful.
“I had become a Jack of all trades, and a master of none. I used equity in existing properties for trading and lost $25,000.”
The only constant money maker in his life was the property back in New Zealand. Also, his daughter was growing up, and he wanted to be near her. So, he headed back home, and decided to make property his focus.
He had nothing, not even a car. But his passion for property was burning. He called upon a friend for help, asking him to drop him off in Wellington suburbs that he could explore and gain property insights around.
“Seeing my frenzy for property, he decided to become my investment partner,” he says. Together, they would embark on the next stage of the journey.
But then the earthquakes hit Wellington. While people started shying away from property, due to the insecurity around the event, Mitra realised that this was the ideal time to grab a bargain.
“There was a property on the market in Tītahi Bay for $320,000,” he says. “We were able to negotiate down to $270,000. It’s now worth $650,000.”
Mitra had been committed to “buy and hold” as a strategy, but he knew that trading could be very lucrative. In 2018, he sold the Palmerston North home for $250,000 and started looking for trading opportunities.
His work life at the bank was challenging at the time, but this made him “even more hungry”. A huge networker and a “people person”, Mitra soon found another investment partner who was keen to join him in this next stage of the journey.
And there were more “angels”. Sunvi Ahsan (a prominent Wellington investor) and property investor and coach, Jolene Bagby, have helped him immensely.
“I met Sunvi at a property event and told him that I was interested in trading. He gave me his card and said I could call him any time. I followed through with the call; he has become a friend and a mentor. He is very humble and charitable and there is no arrogance to him. And Jolene has helped with her coaching and mind strengthening techniques.”
Mitra’s first trade was a unit owned by a friend living overseas. They wanted to sell, but the condition of the property was so bad, no one would buy it. Located in Palmerston North, he purchased the small unit for $225,000.
“A couple with five kids were living in it, but it was full of mould, and the roof was crumbling,” he says. “It needed a lot of work done.”
Calling on the help of some of his many friends, Mitra was able to do a super-quick reno job and sell the property on within four weeks.
“I spent about $30,000 and sold it for $360,000,” he says. “It’s been my most successful trade.”
Spurred on by the success, he has since gone on to make five trades, and purchase an extra six buy and holds within the last four years.
Mitra is now in a great place, both financially and personally. He has a new partner, also an investor, and the pair now have a mortgage free house in Palmerston North.
Despite the market upturn, he is still flipping, albeit with smaller margins. “I want to keep my skills up,” he says.
And alongside property, he has a heart for his community. Any passive income he earns over $50,000 is earmarked for charities back in India.
He has a dream of starting a school in India with his partner (a teacher) once he has achieved financial freedom and is able to leave the banking sector, in which he still works.
“I love people and I don’t need material things. I really believe that you can achieve happiness through minimalism,” he says.
Until then he will still be looking for bargains, making deals, and climbing the property ladder.