The Scent Of Success
A couple of young renovators have discovered the worst smelling properties make the most money, writes Joanna Mathers. Photography Steve Caudwell.
31 July 2023
With 25 flips in less than five years, Matt Perks and his fiancee Ebony Williams are living life in the property fast lane. The Aussie expats moved to Whanganui in 2018 (having been dating for just three months) and set about renovating their way to investment success.
There was a significant amount of risk involved in their launch into the market, but they’ve made it work. For two young people with zero previous property experience, their fast-forward property success has been remarkable.
Perks was born and raised in Adelaide, his dad owned a couple of hotels, and he started his career working in hospitality. By his own admission he “knew nothing about property”. But after attending a free two-hour property information session run by well-known property coaches, he decided to invest in a three-day property mentoring course. He was just 20.
“The marketing was really good,” Perks laughs. “They said that if we did the course, we would walk out of it owning property.”
Although based in Australia, the mentoring programme concentrated on the New Zealand market. It went through each attendee’s individual budget and established where in NZ they could afford to buy. For Perks, this was Tokoroa and Whanganui.
So, although Perks and Williams were a brand-new couple, they packed their suitcases and headed over the ditch to pursue their property goals. They had a small amount of savings (and money on credit cards) and the backing of Perks’ parents, who were happy for the couple to use their Australian properties as leverage.
After arriving here, Perks and Williams drove through the country, first through Tokoroa (which they weren’t keen on) and then to Whanganui. They liked what they saw. The city of 50,000 was picturesque ... and cheap. They were sold.
Perks rang a real estate agent to explain what he was looking for – a “do up” with the potential for adding value. Shortly after, they were taken to see a very rundown villa. At just $155,000, it was affordable.
Young renovators Perks and Williams arrived from Aussie less than five years ago and have achieved 25 Whanganui property flips.
The Youtube Way
They had the house, but they didn’t have the experience. Renovating is hard work, and lessons learned usually come from years of experience. But Perks and Williams didn’t have time or money, so they taught themselves the 21st century way – via YouTube.
“It was great,” Perks says. “We learned everything we needed to know from watching videos.”
For four weeks the couple renovated (and lived in) the house. It was four weeks of hard, grinding work and the reno itself cost $50,000. But once the renovation was complete, the house was sold for $355,000. After tax, Perks estimates they made a $70,000 profit. “We were absolutely hooked.”
This was the beginning of a whirlwind of buy, reno, sell, repeat. Finding rundown properties in Whanganui and returning them to a liveable condition, the pair soon realised the money to be made from renovations.
“We average around $70,000 [profit] per reno,” he says.
One of the conditions they put in place for the properties they sought was that they must be able to be renovated simply, without the need for consents.
“We turn around a renovation in about four weeks, so we don’t want to be waiting eight weeks for the council to grant consent,” says Perks. And they found a fair share of simple renovations in which they could get their hands dirty, add value, and then sell on.
Perks is starting to move into development of new properties.
One of the key challenges for the pair was the pace at which property values were rising. It was the start of the property boom that would peak after Covid lockdowns. As Perks explains, by the time they renovated and sold a property, the property value had gone up by tens of thousands.
Covid-19 was also a challenge, which brought a break from flipping. But when the country was opened again, the couple were back out there – finding houses that no-one else wanted.
“Whichever property smelt worse was the one we’d make the most money from,” Perks laughs.
But “running out of money” has been one of the main challenges in their property journey, although they found ways round it.
When the market was on the up, they occasionally bought, held for a month, then sold. “We don’t like doing this, and it isn’t something that we’ve done often,” he says. “But we did this a few times in 2020 and it was successful.”
This is something that can only be undertaken on an upward market (or if you are very experienced and understand the art and science behind it). But it’s not been the chosen strategy for Perks and Williams – they prefer to add value the renovation way.
Williams has taken charge of the couple’s reno work while Perks and a friend have bought into the Trident Homes franchise. This will give the couple access to wholesale building prices through the company.
By mid-2022, the market was so hot the couple decided to take a break from flipping. “We knew it was going to implode,” says Perks. “The last house we bought was $375,000 and we sold it for $550,000. If we were to buy the same [unrenovated] house, we would get it for $250,000.”
While flipping had been the mainstay of the couple’s strategy, they have also undertaken subdivision. “It’s expensive,” admits Perks.
They subdivided a property into 10 lots and sold on to Kainga Ora: “We probably made around $100,000 on that one.”
And they are currently developing four units in Whanganui, which they “won’t make money on”.
Perks has now undertaken another new venture; he has bought into the Trident Homes franchise.
There are two reasons for doing this: he’s very active on social media and people often ask for his advice, and this building company will enable him to help new investors realise their dreams.
The second reason is that it bumps up his purchasing power. “As a private developer, I can’t get access to the wholesale discounts that building firms get. By being part of Trident Homes I can utilise these discounts for build projects.”
He is currently setting up a Trident Homes office in Whanganui (he has gone into partnership with a friend). But the couple’s flipping days aren’t over; Williams is now in charge of the renovation side of things.
“She’s in there, doing all the painting and hands-on renovating,” says Perks.
And the pair plan to continue their property journey – adding value to “smelly” homes, helping others realise their dreams by working alongside them, and building up wealth in the process.