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Turning Around A Difficult Start

Turning Around A Difficult Start

You can’t fail to be motivated by investor Jeremy Field’s life story as Joanna Mathers finds out. Photography Kurt Langer

By: Joanna Mathers

1 September 2023

Readers often comment that our profile section is their favourite. It provides them with ideas and insights for their own property path – other people’s stories spark the flame of inspiration.

Jeremy Field’s story is nothing if not inspiring. Raised by a solo mum who spent time on a sickness benefit, Field’s early life was ridden with troubles. But his determination and grit has seen him become a successful investor and he’s just launched a career in real estate: now in his mid-30s, he’s reaping the rewards of his actions.

Early Challenges

Christchurch born and bred, Field “didn’t have an easy childhood”. His mum was physically unwell and later struggled with alcohol abuse, his dad was absent. At age 12, he was run over by a truck and lost the top of his foot – years of skin and muscle grafts followed.

“While others were playing, I was learning to walk again,” he shares, bravely. “I became extremely angry after that: things were rough.”

Things were to get worse. “When I was 14 or 15, I was having a hard time due to my accident the couple of years before. I had a burst appendix around that time too, so spent three weeks in hospital unable to eat. It was a pretty dark period.

“I’d stopped going to school and eventually the police spoke to me about it. I went back till I turned 16 and not long after left without any qualifications.”

Field’s cousin James was living with him during this period. A few years older than Field, he was a sounding board and often “gave me a hard time about my intelligence”. Field was bright and his cousin knew it – but he wasn’t making the most of his brains.

Then another tragedy struck. James was run over by a truck, aged 18, and killed. It was, understandably, a huge trauma for Field.

But it also provided him with the impetus to do something with his life. “It was at that point I realised that I needed to sort my sh*t out.”

Field has lived through some challenging times but he has used them as motivation.

Property Beginnings

When Field was 17, he began an apprenticeship as a printer. He started earning money and considering how he could move out of the cycle of deprivation he’d been used to.

Field explains that his paternal grandfather (who he rarely saw) was a property investor, and a successful one. He’d not spent enough time with him to draw any inspiration from his experience, but you could imagine there would have been an inkling around the potential of property.

And when Field turned 20, he started soaking up all the information he could about property investment. “This was before YouTube was really big, so I was reading loads of books and magazines, and watching DVDs on the subject.”

Another tricky family situation offered him an opportunity to invest. As he explains, his mum and grandmother “had a bust up”. Field’s mother owned half of the house he grew up in, and wanted to extricate herself from his grandmother, who owned the other half. So he decided to buy it and made his first step onto the property ladder.

Shortly after this purchase Field moved to Australia, where the money was better. He also studied print industry management via correspondence. And he managed to pay off most of the mortgage and save a reasonable amount of money that he could use when he returned to New Zealand. He would go on to buy his mother out of her part of the house too; she moved to Waimate.

Investment Inspiration

While he was making good money in Australia, his heart wasn’t in printing. He had a passion for fitness and helping others, so he decided to become a personal trainer. He saved enough in Australia to fund his study and in 2013 he moved back to New Zealand to embark on a new career.

It was during this period that he met a property investor (a fellow fitness fanatic) who would inspire him to invest in his first investment property.

Field explains: “I started to hit him up about how to invest, and then started hanging out with him. He ended up taking me to a mortgage broker who was able to establish how much I could borrow.”

His research (and the advice of his friend) revealed that Invercargill was a city on the up. After exploring the options, he came across a 1910-era villa that was converted into three one-bedroom units.

“It wasn’t in great condition,” he admits. “But I managed to buy it for $130,000 and after all expenses, managed to get around $100 a week for it.”

Managed by a local property manager, Field says the property hasn’t caused too many issues.

“Someone was using an outdoor patio heater to warm one unit when I puchased though. But I got heat pumps put in and now they are all up to Healthy Homes standards.”

It’s now being renovated and he anticipates the valuation will be between $500,000 and $600,000, with rental returns being in the realm of $1,000 per week.

From age 20 Field began soaking up as much knowledge as he could find on the subject of property investment. A time before YouTube, it was all books, magazines and DVDs.

Portfolio Progress

After Field graduated from his personal training course, he set up a gym in the garage of his home, and started taking on clients. He would end up working as a personal trainer for five years.

He was still living in his original family home, but had met his (now wife) Donna by then, and she was living with him.

Inspired by his investing, she wanted to get herself on the property ladder as well. So, using her KiwiSaver, she purchased half of the family home.

This enabled Field to use the equity in the home for another rental, this one in Christchurch, in 2019.

It was a 1970’s home in Islington, which had been tenanted by people who “trashed the place. Everyone who viewed it was totally put off.”

The sellers wanted $355,000 for it (it was 2019 and the market was yet to peak) but he cheekily offered $306,000. The final price was $311,000.

Although it looked awful, just a cosmetic renovation was needed – new paint, carpet, flooring, and a new deck – and the rent instantly went up by $80 a week. The estimated value of this home is now around $600,000.

In 2018, Field’s mum had been diagnosed with cancer. In between his work commitments, he would spend a lot of time commuting between Christchurch and Waimate, visiting her and renovating her house to add value.

Sadly, she passed away in 2020, and as the only beneficiary, Field inherited her house.

After a “messy legal period”, and paying off money his mother had owed, he was left with around $150,000. This he would put towards another investment property.

He managed to find a three-bedroom property in the Christchurch suburb of Bromley, on the market for $298,000. While under contract (for $292,000) he discovered the “popcorn” ceilings contained asbestos – and managed to shave an extra $15,000 off the price, buying for $277,000. After a $35,000 renovation, he put it back on the rental market, for just under $500 a week. He estimates its value at around $550,000.

While he was doing the renovation on the Bromley property, he was also able to purchase a new townhouse in Waltham for $342,000.

It was being sold by an investor, who needed a quick turnaround. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse would bring in $500 a week, but sadly, as it was two years old when purchased, it did not qualify for interest deductibility.

Field made one final purchase, with his now wife, in 2021 just as the market was heating up – a house and land package in Halswell.

Field’s property investing has inspired a change of career. He now works with Trinity Real Estate in Christchurch.

Career Change

While Field’s investments were going well, he was becoming increasingly frustrated with his work situation. He was working 60-plus hours: forced back to printing during the week, with PT in the weekends, to service his debts.

So, he made the decision to train as a real estate agent. Through his properties, he had cashflow behind him, and Donna worked, so together they could support his studies. He's has now completed the training and works for Trinity Real Estate in Christchurch.

The market is slowly picking up, he says, and investors are moving back into the market. But his own investing is on hold for now, his preferred strategy of buy, renovate, rent, refinance, repeat (BRRRR) is difficult given the comparatively high cost of housing and the removal of interest deductibility. So he’s happy to sit with the four investments he currently owns and see what happens post-election.

He's keeping his hand in the game though; project managing work for some "flippers", and keeping his Instagram page, @the.no.bs.kiwi.property.guy, updated with all his projects.

His advice for people who want to get on the property ladder is "if you can't make a move then keep educating yourself till you can". He also says people need to rethink where they buy their first property. “I started in Invercargill – you need to buy what you can afford. You just have to start somewhere.”