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Corissa Dimitrakopoulos is a renovation strategy expert and CEO of Refurb to Sell. Corissa is blessed with boundless enthusiasm and unleashes herself on renovation projects for her clients. She works with both home owners and investors to increase equity and rental returns.

Mike Mortlock: Hi and welcome to Geared for Growth. This week we’re chatting with Corissa Dimitrakopoulous who’s the CEO of Refurb 2 Sell. We have a chat to Corissa about how she helps her clients undertake small to medium renovations on their properties that they’re thinking of selling or investment properties. How they can increase their equity and rental return by undertaking these strategies. She’s great source of information for how to source the right tradies and how to look after the process yourself and the benefits of working with a trusted expert as well. Here’s Corissa. Corissa Dimitrakopoulous welcome to Geared For Growth.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Thanks Mike. Happy to be here, beautiful Monday morning.

Mike Mortlock: Did I mess up the pronunciation the second time?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: No. Perfect.

Mike Mortlock: Excellent.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Don’t worry. Took me a year to work it out. It’s pretty good. You’re on pretty good.

Mike Mortlock: Alright, so just to give the listeners a bit of an idea; who are you Corissa and what do you do?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Okay, so my name is Corissa Dimitrakopoulous, and I am the very proud CEO of a company called Refurb 2 Sell. We basically help vendors, and investors maximise the return on their properties. Through helping them plan a strategic transformation that’s going to unlock more value and allows them to either build their portfolio by using the equity or sell the property for a … achieve a higher price and unlock more profits from that sale.

Mike Mortlock: That’s awesome. That’s a way better introduction then I would have given you. Now let’s get …

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: I’m getting used to it now. I would say it several times with all these presentations that I’ve been asked to do.

Mike Mortlock: Yeah, I’ll bet. Let’s get to the real Corissa though. What posters were on the bedroom wall as a youngster?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Okay, so I actually grew up with really strict parents, and my dad was really frenetic about putting anything on walls, because that would mark walls. So my actual bedroom walls had nothing but I used to hide posters in my cupboard or on the doors. The wardrobe doors. So I’d probably have to say it was definitely Backstreet Boys. Definitely Leonardo DiCaprio, I think he was doing Titanic back when I was in my primary school days. When, you know, you had all the posters up and definitely Spice Girls.

Mike Mortlock: Spice Girls, huh?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Yeah. Spice Girls, yeah. I was Posh Spice in those days.

Mike Mortlock: Awesome. Well, we got quite an insight there. So how did you get started in property Corissa?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: So, funny enough, a lot of my family owned property. I’ve actually got a cousin that currently does flipping in Queensland, my Uncle is a developer, my Dad in developing, my Brother does similar work. So, it kind of was all around me and then when my husband and I were getting ready to get married, and we decided to buy our first house there were just crappy properties everywhere. So we made a decision of lets buy something that is run-down and let’s put some money into it, do a strategic renovation, and then at some point, we knew we were going to send it along.
But at some point we would sell. And I’m talking six or so years ago so we were a lot younger than and that’s how it started. So that property was bought, renovated, we moved in, and a year and a half later decided to sell it. Made a lot more than we dreamed of making in that time and it was only the start of the boom. So, it was quite interesting to see then how the market in Sydney grew so much more over that time.

Mike Mortlock: Yep.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: After that, which we would have made a lot more money if we would have waited but, you know, you never know how it’s going to go. That is what actually kicked off everything for us.

Mike Mortlock: Yeah, awesome. So you basically sold … Well, you undertook the renovation and you made some money, and you thought “There’s probably a business in this.”

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Yeah, well, not quite at the beginning. Initially, it was let’s go do it again. We went “Wow.” We put in about 150 on the job we spent about 50 but three months full time in between our full time work at the time of actually renovating ourselves hands-on, trying to save where we could. Then I’ll probably say about a year and a half later was when it was let’s go into a business. Initially it was let’s go buy and sell in about three properties we had put offers into had the agents say, ‘Yup cool, you’ve got it’. Then five minutes later, we get the call on the way to the office, ‘Sorry, my colleague just sold it.’ When that happened three times, I went okay, we’re taking signs. We’re not meant to buy again. Let’s just wait. As we waited, something came up one morning, I went you know what, I don’t want to do it for myself. I actually want to do this for other people.
I started to see a gap in the market, where there were families, and that’s what I’ve been working with the last three years, predominately families, but now more investors. But basically, families who bought their first house, got married, then all of a sudden in the next five, ten, twenty years, had 3 to 4 kids. Now they’ve outgrown the house, they work full time, they’re about to sell and buy the next house. And had no idea what value is sitting on their property, because they’ve done nothing to it for twenty years.
So, when I saw that, I wanted to build, fill that gap, and bring on a solution that I knew would add value to those families, and help them unlock more value to their property. I then created a strategy for it, instead of buying and selling myself, I went in as the consultant to help people do their property instead.

Mike Mortlock: That’s sounds pretty rewarding, if you’ve got people who have outgrown their home and they need to get as much as they can to buy the next one and if you can give them a big uptick then you must get some satisfaction out of that.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Completely. After doing the first couple, especially at the time, with the Sydney market absolutely booming, we’re talking 2014, when all started booming. We found that we had clients who were spending 15 grand and then getting an additional 150 after the initial appraisal. Then we were getting clients who would spend $25 at auction and then getting it up to $200.
I remember one client I did in the Sutherland area, who straight after the auction, I did a video of him, and I said, “How do you feel coming and selling for $866, when you initially thought you were going to get $650?” His reaction, was that, ‘I only actually thought, that the $25 grand we spent was going to help us sell the house, no clue, it was going to help us get an extra $200,000.’ And that to their next property was transformational. For me, it was then, how quick, can I pass this on to more and more people, because an extra $100 grand, tax free instantly is huge. It’s life changing. I wanted to pass that on as much as I could.

Mike Mortlock: Awesome, now your business has been on a bit of a journey heading in different branches, working for investors, working for people who are selling. Can you tell us a bit of how it got started and what it’s about now?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: If I first talk about it, we initially we’re going in the rental space. So, it was very beginning when I went, “You know, what I see a value in helping investors.” It was a bit more in the maintenance side, then I went, no there’s not enough here. It was a conversation with a friend, when I went, we should do exactly what we did. Fill that gap for clients that are selling. We niched into selling, hence why we called it, “Refurb 2 Sell.” Our specialty, was clients who were selling.
But what was funny enough, in between that, as we were doing clients, then we’d do their property for sell and then they’d call us back and say, ‘Ok, my apartment tenants is about to move out, can you come help me add value to that. And we started getting different traction in the investment side. Now, three years later, looking back at all the stats, we actually realised, that the equity uplift we’ve been able to help the clients achieve, on their investment properties has been huge. On top of that, they can go and unlock that, to grow a portfolio.
Now, we’re looking at how we can take the business bigger with more clients that we can work with regularly, over the clients who is just about the sell and then move on to the next property. We’ve got a lot of the sale jobs still coming in, we’re still helping those. But now our focus has been in a lot of the investor nights that we’re now putting on. Just really showing, investors a strategy on building a portfolio that, I feel, a lot of landlords have no clue about. A lot of them that I work with tend to think, that they don’t want to spend anything on their property. Or, ‘I just want rental to come in.’.
We’ve been able to map out when we do certain things, how that can unlock more rental return all the way to actually adding value to the property. Where then we are able to an extra $80 thousand, that’s enough, now go use that as a deposit to go buy something else. And just really giving them options. End of the day, you’re buying property for a business, to make money. So it’s just helping them maximise that return. That’s a big direction we’re going in at the moment. Now we’re running investor nights, which we’ve got running with you on March 1st. We got through your clients.

Mike Mortlock: Yes.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: It’s basically just giving them a night where we can all chat. We do a talk. It’s just giving them some things to think about. So food for thought, on how they can work their portfolio, stronger and more profitable than maybe they’re currently doing.

Mike Mortlock: Awesome. Let’s talk about those results. You’ve completed somewhere around 80 to 100 projects. Is that a correct number? What were some of your more memorable results?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: [laugh] Yes, so funny, I’ve been saying that we’ve been doing 80 properties for the past few months, and then the other day, we had one of our investors nights, and I said, “Actually, what number are we up to?” And I think at the moment, we got a couple job, more clients to come through on Friday. I think we’re approaching the 100 now. I’m very excited to know that just a 100 families, have been helped. Whether it’s unlocking more money or helping them now grow their portfolio. It’s definitely very exciting to make that difference.
Where do I start, one client we had that was selling, early, early this year, funny enough, had two agents come and appraise. I knew both agents. Both agents knew of our service. One agent said, “No, don’t do anything, leave it, sell it as-is.” And the other agent, “I’m not letting you put it to market until you speak to Corissa at Refurb 2 Sell.” So, we went in and helped them, and basically, this property had the daughter helping her Dad, he was moving to a nursing home. This property was so run down: the carpet stunk, the walls are yellows, greens, a timber kitchen with an orange bench top, that was literally about to collapse. To think that they were going to sell it like that was crazy.

Mike Mortlock: Yeah, on recommendation from the agent.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: We went in and helped them with a strategy. Put together what the property needed. Made sure that they weren’t overspending, and at one point they were thinking of extra things, that we had to sort of reign them back. Once the strategy was put together, had all the trades going, made sure at the end, that everything looked perfect and on time for photos. And they walked away with an extra $160,000 dollars. Higher in that sale and cleared, $110,000.

Mike Mortlock: Wow.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: That’s huge and for not doing anything, for not having to really invest that much to get that sort of return, is amazing. For that couple, they told us afterwards, that they then going to go oversees for three months, with their extra. To have someone say they can actually take three months off, and go overseas, that’s pretty huge. That’s transformational. That was amazing. We had one clients that said to me that, the extra money they made on their property, him and his wife could retire a whole year earlier.
We do get some amazing stories, one of our clients we’re actually helping at the moment, that the bank was about to take their house. It was literally, they just sold as was, or we helped them at least do minor, quick strategy on how to map out that last bit. Get at least another 10% that’s going to help when they move. The way I see it, even if it’s an extra $50,000 in someone’s pocket, that can mean the holiday they never had, the car they not got to put money into, even the financial freedom, even it’s just that little bit that they never had. Which means less arguments between Mum and Dad, which means, more happier moments at home with the kids. Less stress with the kids, that can save a marriage, that can save a family. I get goosebumps when I talk about this. The extent that that can actually flow on to, is tremendous. That’s why I’m so passionate about what we do.

Mike Mortlock: That’s awesome. We love to talk about these exceptional circumstances where you’ve made some life changing results. What is an average result in terms of what you’ll come in and do and what the net result is for someone that’s selling for example?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Someone that is selling, it is very dependent upon the property and suburb and what type of buyer we’re getting. So with what we do, it’s very strategic. It’s not just, let’s renovate and hope it works. It’s all about what’s the strategy, what can we achieve. What’s the ideal buyer looking for. And there’s always a checklist, for that suburb in that area there’s a type of buyer, or a majority of the type of buyer that you’re going to attract. What are they looking for and if that’s ticked, then you’re increasing the chance of getting a higher price.
We want more odds on the seller’s side than the buyers side. We don’t want them getting reductions and trying to get bargain hunters. We want people buying on emotion. On average, a lot of our jobs that get the good results. The clients is probably spending anywhere where from about $30 to $50 to $60 to transform their whole property. We’ve had some that have been larger amounts, some that have been smaller.
It’s very dependent obviously, on the budget the client’s got and what the property needs and what return we can get. It’s all about the uplift. I’m not going to tell a client, we’re going to need to put in $50 grand if they uplift is only $70. There’s always going to be a ceiling price. But if I know, that the uplift, might be $200 potentially, because we’re making a property turn from looking like absolutely run down and need $100s of $1000s to fix to being updated and looking like an amazing property to get that more emotional buyer that has more money and wants the convenience of moving straight in then that’s where we look at the uplift. A lot of them, if they put in a $40 to $50 spend, they’re at least getting a $100 to $150 return. That’s been quite on an easy basis. I actually had one the other day, I thought he got an extra $100 and it was actually an extra $200. I misheard the figures, I said, “Oh Wow!” He was appraised at 1.2 and no I was appraised at 1.1 and 1.2 was with us doing some work and he sold for 1.33. Definitely a massive difference.
In saying that though, I do believe the return still is very much based on the market. Last couple years, the market has been so strong that funny enough, I’ve had agents say, ‘I don’t need to do things. I can sell either way.’ The ones who have been smart have said, ‘If I’m going to sell anyway, I still want to attract the best possible buyer.’ A lot of them who have spent the $50 have come back with an extra $150 in their pocket, because they’ve just got a buyer who’s got more money and just wants it. There’s still a lot of buyers, no matter what the market is like, that still don’t want to spend time renovating, may not want to go through that, may not know how to do that, may not have the time to do that. They will pay more to get a property that’s already done.

Mike Mortlock: Yeah

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: No matter what market, you still always get that.

Mike Mortlock: And, I was quite interested in that a question. Obviously the growth in the Sydney market has been pretty astronomical the last couple of years. Owing to the fact that it sat still for quite some time. To a lot of people listening in regional areas or maybe even, Brisbane, the idea of spending $50 grand and getting $100 or $200 grand back just kind of seems crazy. How much of what you do, do you think is tied up in the what’s happened with the market and do you think that your results would be similar if we’re talking about a market that’s flat?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: I do, personally I do. The market has changed quite a bit in the last few months, so we haven’t slowed down. We’ve still got jobs running all the time. We’re still helping clients with their strategic plans, all the time. I still believe, and we’re still getting the results, that what I’m finding is that it’s still scalable. We had one property, for example, that initially the agent said, I think we could get the 1.5, and now if we do work we’ll hit 1.7. That was about two months before it actually sold, because we had seen it way ahead of time. They had a specific time that they wanted to be on market, for all the timeframe to work with the settlement of the next property as well. In that two months, the market had taken a dip.
We still have the same strategy and put everything together, she ended up selling at auction for 1.62 and the agent came back to me and said, ‘You know what with the current market and all the feedback, if we didn’t do things it would have gone for 1.4.’ Even though it wasn’t the 1.7, or the 1.5 initially was looked at, the scale was still the same. Because even with the market lowering, you still got buyers who will come in at an older property and still say,’ I’ve got to spend money, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that.’ And you’re still getting the bargain hunter. Where the emotional buyer would still always put more money into a property, knowing that it’s a different type of property.
We’re not talking let’s just do paint and do flooring. We’re talking, changing property from a blue kitchen and ugly carpet and pink walls and a green bathroom to looking like it’s been fully renovated. So, it’s the scale that I still believe. It’s still scalable, you’re still getting the results. Now, I feel you need it to sell. Before, we would have properties after one open home, I’d get a call from the agent, we’re sold. We had sixty people through and everyone is fighting over it. We’re sold. Another one that was meant to go to auction, ten days later, the agent was like, ‘I had to sell because they’re was so much demand, I didn’t know if they were going to wait til auction.’ She still achieved an extra 100 grand, on top of the additional. This client spent $50,000 and they got an extra $230,000. We were only expecting about the 100 to 150. That was huge.
I’m finding at the moment, they’re taking five to six weeks to sell but they’re still getting the results. It’s just now buyers are more savvy. An agent now actually has to work to promote the property. They can’t just stand there at the front door and expect buyers to run at it like it was. Now they need to work on it. But the work, the transformation of that property still makes it stand out to every other property on the market to make sure that they’re attracting that best possible buyer who’s going to pay top dollar. To me, I still think it’s still so valuable. A seller is crazy not to invest in their property before going to market, I believe.

Mike Mortlock: I guess it’s difficult and absolutely objective view of what the net result is, but the best you can do is comparable sales, which real estate agents with RP data and that sort of thing. That will give you an appraisal of what you think it’s going go for, due to their expertise in the market. And if you get a fundamentally higher amount, then what else can they pin it down to, I guess.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: That’s right.

Mike Mortlock: People who aren’t in Sydney or in regional areas, taking the suburb and the specifics away from it. Is there one sort of renovation or improvement that has a sort of a universal biggest bang for buck? For example, is doing a bathroom the best sort or ROI, if you’ve got a limited budget?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Definitely, I would look at kitchen and bathrooms. I probably haven’t really nutted it down to just one or the other. I’ve seen properties that the client, has previously have gone and just done bathroom and then all of a sudden, they’re going to sell, and the kitchen’s not done. I really believe if they want to get top dollar, they at least have to do kitchen and bathrooms. Everyone is doing some lawn mowing this morning.
What I would probably find is there the main areas. I will give you a quick example to give you an idea. We had a client recently did their property for sale. Then the next property they bought they contracted us for consultancy, if you really want to save money, then go and be the bargain hunter when you’re buying. On the sell end, you want the emotional buyer but I don’t want you buying emotionally because you’re going to spend more.
They found property that wasn’t selling, it was on the market for about six weeks, but hadn’t sold yet. They were able to negotiate to get a better price. The day they contacted me and said, ‘Can you come in and it’s a bigger house, and it ticks all of our boxes but now we’ll get you to help us with another strategic transformation, for this to be our dream home.’ Funny enough, the minute I walked in, the first thing they said to me was, ‘We need to do kitchen, bathrooms, painting, blah, blah blah.’ And I looked at my client and said, “Helen, this house has been painted, it’s just been painted.”

Mike Mortlock: Yup.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: She actually couldn’t see past that. And what I found interesting is that people think naturally, if I paint and do flooring it’s going to get me a return. This vendor lost money on that sale because the painting and flooring that they did, didn’t add any value. The buyer didn’t see past the old kitchen and the old bathrooms and the ugly back yard.
So the money they spent on those two items didn’t actually do anything. They didn’t even notice it. I definitely would say if they can at least they can do minimal on kitchen and bathroom, both would be your best option, that will get you a step closer. And just clean as much as possible. If you don’t have the funds to paint then cleaning can make a difference. Cleaning walls, decluttering. You’ve got to depersonalise, that’s the key. You have to feel like you’re not walking into someone else’s home.
Not every buyer can connect to someone else’s property, knowing it’s someone else’s property. When it’s very strategically done and presented in a way, it almost feels like a display home, and that’s the feel. You know when you walk into a display home and you’re like, ‘ I want everything that’s here.’ And then when you go to purchase you see all the extra, extra, extra and you’re like, ‘Oh Jesus.’ But when you don’t look at that, and you just walk in and you’re like,’ I want it like this and I want it with the furniture. I can picture entertaining here and cooking here. I can picture the kids in this bathroom and the kids in this toy room.’ If they can’t picture that because the property left looking crap, you’re going to lose those good buyers. You’re just going to get the ones that are just trying to negotiate because they need to do work to actually get the property to a condition.

Mike Mortlock: In display homes you never see those cliqued, daggy, family portraits where everyone’s wearing jeans and a white t-shirt.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: NO [laughter]. No. I find the funniest, when I see properties, are online, and they’ve got a massive family portrait on the wall. And it’s in the photo that’s on the listing.

Mike Mortlock: Yeah.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: And I think, straight up, I would shoot the agent. At least pull that down and throw something else up. So people aren’t walking in seeing who the vendor is. The thing is people can see who you are, they’ll already start judging who you are by that. And they can sense, ‘Can I bargain here, can I not?’ I would rather not have anything of my personal items anywhere, so no one knows who I am. I want it to be as attractive as possible, so I want my buyers coming into my property at the end of the day. I want their kids running around telling Mum and Dad, you know that property on that road, that had this room that looked like the toy room and the big pool. That’s the one we want. I have had people tell me that they’ve bought properties because their kids won’t stop talking about it.

Mike Mortlock: Yeah, right.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: And that’s what we do when we look at our strategy. I will tell a client, “Don’t leave it looking like it’s your daughters or your son’s room. We need to make it neutral and attract every age group. Because you don’t know what age group your buyers come in, they might have young kids or older kids, but we need them to fall in love with every bedroom. Every room of the house. Every lounge room. Everything that they’re meant to fall in love with is a higher chance of them paying more money to buy because they are emotionally attached to the property.

Mike Mortlock: I think that’s really great advice. Now, I wanted to ask this, there’s no real reason why someone can’t attempt a renovation themselves. What are the advantages to working with someone like yourself, other than just having a bash yourself?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: My phone is going to die shortly, and I don’t want to cut you off. I would definitely say some of the key things I’ve noticed are especially when it comes to selling or even when it’s a rental, it’s very important to make sure the right things are done and the good thing with us is, we actually just want to do the strategy.
I’ve had clients who want to do it themselves. They want to organise the trades or they want to even be the one to go and paint, and organise everything. Fantastic. But then get us in to do the consulting because then you’re increasing their chance of actually making sure the right things are done. The right colours are picked and the money is being spent in the right areas.
What I would say, anyone that has totally tried to do it themselves, I remember I had a couple that I saw, early this year they were so set on making sure that they were on this tight budget.
They listened to the trades, some of the trades I absolutely want to shoot, because, put it this way. If I own a carpet company and I go see a client and their asking my opinion. It’s very easy for me to say, sure this is the best type of carpet you should get this, and put this is, let’s do it in these areas because I’ve got excess of that stock sitting in my warehouse that no one is buying. I’ll give you a discount to use that carpet.

Mike Mortlock: Yes,

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Does not mean that just because we’ve got brand new carpet, that we’re going to be getting that return on investment for the best possible way we can because that carpet might be in the wrong areas, or not the right colour that’s going to attract that top buyer. This is the issue I had with this client, technically needed to have more change. They had carpet from the front door and then they went and saw a carpet buyer who decided, yeah, let’s keep it the same way. So when I walked in and I was like, ‘No, what are you guys doing? You’re spending seven grand on carpet that going in the wrong areas and you’ve picked the wrong colour. So you’re wasting your seven grand.”
Very important to know, what’s the strategy behind the where you’re spending money and like I said, not even working out where your return on investment is, because not painting and flooring can’t make the return. You need to look at, what does the bathroom need, what does the kitchen need. There are so many easy strategies to use, very low cost things, like resurfacing, tile painting, that’s the things we look at. How can we just put a plan together for a client. All we’re giving you is our expertise and then they can actually go do it. It makes it cost effective and the cost of just talking to us really, increases their odds of actually getting the best results. So it’s kind of crazy to do it on your own. Unless you’ve been doing it over and over again, really.

Mike Mortlock: Over and above the relationships with your tradies are worth quite a bit as part of the process anyway.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: We’re actually doing a lot more into, naturally yes. We would go and assist to help getting the tradies and we have worked with some trades for three years. They’re all good relationships. Probably to even go one step further, the fact that they know how we work is crucial. I’ve seen clients and said to them, ‘Give me three weeks and I’ll have your property finished.’ And they look at me like they’re about to collapse. “What three weeks?” Yeah, it’s all it should take. The issue we find, that when you’re working with trades directly as a one off client, yeah, some trades can be amazing but you’ll still have the, ‘I could be there on Monday.’ And actually it’s going to take me five days and all of a sudden it takes seven days and then an extra week and then we’ll have another week. And you’re trying to manage these trades who are trying to do other jobs at the same time.
That we do eliminate. What we are doing a lot more to trying to get companies that can do more than one task, so there’s a bit less different trades, sort of on site. Simplify it really. It’s when a client doesn’t actually know how to do this. They can totally take a two week job and turn it into three months, just because they don’t know how to manage trades. We had that recently. One of my painters had a certain way they were doing the painting and the client couldn’t understand why that was done or this was done. She kept going off on the painter, and in two weeks I stepped in. That’s the way he does it, he didn’t understand that, ‘No, no it should be this way.’ And I’m like, “But this is the way the painter does it, that’s his method.”
It’s quite fun to try and explain it but the thing is, if a client does engage with us we can then, source the trades, negotiate the price for them and then they can actually work with the trade. It’s not always them having to work it out on their own. For us, it’s all about how to give them maximum value. How can we make the process as simple as possible and help them get more out of their property at the end of the day.

Mike Mortlock: Awesome. I want to talk about investors, who are the main listeners of this show. Obviously we know you are getting good results for people that are selling. But how is it you work with investors, in sort of, boosting their rental yields and grounding some equity for them?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: I said before, we’re moving into this space. We’ve been getting amazing results so far. The strategy is not known enough yet. Basically, what we do is look at how can we take this existing rental property and a lot of times the ones we’re looking at are rundown. A lot of time they are landlords that think, I don’t want spend money I don’t want to outlay, why am I outlaying? And it’s not until we sit down and look at their feasibility. To say, okay, if we were to put in $30 grand for example, how much more rental return can we get? Not only that but how much more equity can we unlock for the property and also to a degree, there’s always a point where the property needs renovating, either way.
You can’t leave the kitchen falling apart and there are so many compliance issues with having tenants in properties that I think landlords don’t realise. If the bathroom is leaking, why would you want to keep letting it leak and affect your property. Go spend money and get it renovated. But it’s how can we look at this in the most strategic way. And, it’s like the buyer, how can we attract the best possible tenants? And funny enough, we did one of our investor nights last week and the one thing I asked, “Are there any tenants in the room?” And there was one gentleman and I put my hand up. And I own property, I’m an investor, and I’m also tenant.
I have chosen to rent at Neutral Bay and I’m one of those tenants you’d love to have. I own property myself, so I know the importance of looking after the property I’m in. The apartment that I’m in, it’s like it’s my own. And I remember when I moved in, one of the bedroom colours was purple and the agent, ‘Oh, I’ll get the owner to change the colour for you.” Because it was going to be my son’s room. And I said, ” No that’s cool, I’m happy to paint it myself. Don’t worry about it.” You’ll get tenants moving in that are like, ‘No, I’m not moving in until this and this and this off and the complications you get with tenants from I believe, a low demographic, who have less money. When you go for more of the professional, some of them choose to rent, not to buy. They don’t actually want to buy where I live. I love renting. So, I’ll pay more to get the better quality property to get property manager, who’s not going to treat me as another tenant. Is going to treat me as a person. That value there is crucial for investors, it’s massive and so many of them are missing it.
Because in some areas if you can get a better tenant, why wouldn’t you invest the money? To get your property looking the best. If you’re getting a better tenant then they’re looking after it better and they’re paying you more. I’ve had some cases where the rental return went up by 40%, just from doing a quick cosmetic transformation.

Mike Mortlock: That’s huge.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Not only that, massive. If anyone wants more details, I can message you my digital magazine, volume 2, and it’s go case studies in the sale and the rental space, that they can look at. On top of that, with our clients that we, say a $30 grand spend, have unlocked $70 grand equity. Now that 70 thousand they then can go back to the bank and I’ve got my bank asking me the same for my own property. We’ll unlock that and give money to go buy another property.
How can we grow portfolio without actually taking money from our pocket? Without using our savings? By just updating our existing investment properties and basically that’s tax free. If you’re spending money, you’re unlocking 70 grand and you going to buy another one. If you strategically do it, you can find a shit property and do another strategy on it. Especially in the current market, you’re getting it cheaper, you go and do a strategy on it and unlock more equity and you go buy another one.
The strategy behind this is huge and this is why we are working now closely with investors and how we can help them grow their portfolio, in say 12 months’ time, where can their portfolio be looking. That’s what I’m really excited to see what we can do.

Mike Mortlock: That’s awesome, and you raise a really good point with property investors if they’re looking at doing a renovation, it’s more about, how much can we put the rent up? How long does it pay for? How long does it actually take to pay off that capital outlay? But, of course, you’re talking about a different quality of tenant, you’re talking about minimising those ongoing maintenance costs, with a dilapidated property. And of course, with your strategy, purchasing the property doing the cosmetic renovation, getting it revalued and pulling the equity.
It’s a difficult financial climate to do that at the moment, the banks aren’t looking at is as favourably as they once wore. But that’s not going to last forever right?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: That’s right. I think it is based too I believe on the bank and on your situation. It was only about a month ago, that I was opening a new account with my bank for the business, and the guy I was chatting to, actually noticed my investment property and saw the money we bought on it. He was like, “Do you want to go buy something else?” So that’s when I was like, wow it’s as easy as that? I’ve had a few tell me that banks are toughing up. I have client at the moment, that through the mortgage broker that he went through, he’s unlocking funds at the moment to go buy another one. I think it’s really based on the case, and who you talk to.

Mike Mortlock: Yes.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: I think if you’ve got a good mortgage broker, there’s a high chance that it could happen. And basically, it’s all just doing the research. Basically looking at, can this be done. Where we at and what can we do? Because if there’s a strategy there that can help you get more money, why wouldn’t try and do it?

Mike Mortlock: There’s a lot of people in Sydney and Melbourne, and places like that, that are sitting on some great equity anyway, couple that with a renovation and quite possibly they’ve got enough funds to purchase the next property. Maybe not in Sydney, but maybe moving to Brisbane where there’s a bit more value for your money. Speaking of which, you work with people in Sydney, and we have listeners across Australia. If people are interested in what you do, how do they find someone like yourself in places like Brisbane and Melbourne?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: The great thing is that I actually work closely with two companies, one is Brisbane and one in Melbourne.

Mike Mortlock: Great.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: That do similar to what we do. The good thing, where we’ve been moving our direction in the last six to eight months too, is very much on the strategy. And the strategy is physically need photos and a video of the property to see how to put together, what’s the most cost-effective way and what we need to do in each room. What we’re doing, funny that you actually asked me that, I’ve had at least eight of my clients in the last three weeks, ‘ Can you please go to Brisbane for me?’ And I’ve said, ” No problem, I’ve got a team there. I basically get the team to take photos, if we can’t get it through the real estate, then I put together the strategy, so then we’ve got it all mapped out. Then I’ve got the two companies in Melbourne and Brisbane to say, okay this is the strategy, this is the budget. Now can you organise trades over there and go overlook it and check defects and liaise back with me.
Now it means that clients, that are Sydney based or even any that aren’t, who want to chat to us we can still do the consultancy part for them. Then I’ve got the connections to make sure that the right price and the right work is getting done with the people that I know in those states.

Mike Mortlock: Yeah, okay. So, if someone has a property in Scarborough or Canara somewhere like that, you’re able to do that sort of strategy remotely and give them advice for selecting their own trades?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Yeah! And the good thing is depending on the property, I’ve got some clients in Sydney and they’ve got properties in Brisbane and other areas. But if it’s a property in the town that maybe they’re in themselves, I’ve even had some landlords that want to jump in and do it themselves for a week. But I’ve given them the strategy first. This what you need to do, these are the products, this is the supplies and where you buy it from. Basically, a step by step guide. Do they want to do it themselves. Do they want to get trade or do they want us to organise the whole thing. So, if I need to source trades over there, I’ve got different people I know, that I can get them in to be able to do it. It means that I don’t have to worry about trying to guess. I had a client recently, before we started putting his interstate strategy in place, that was probably about two or three months ago, a client I knew bought a property in Orange. And the first thing she said to me was, ‘Can we go with a strategy?” We kind of gave her the imprint and she’s trying to do trades over there. That’s what I found the importance of that strategy.
To me I think people, when they renovate whether they’re selling or renting or an investment, they miss the strategy. They just get trades in and think we’ll do this, this, this, yep that’s it we’ll be good. That strategy is the key part. It’s knowing you’re increasing the odds of getting the best results. So not doing that strategy first, can actually mean you over spend, you over capitalise, you do the wrong thing and you put money in the wrong area. And you don’t get the same result. We can do that remotely and then be able to just get the trades to follow the plan, once we’ve done it.

Mike Mortlock: Hypothetically, we’re in a world where you don’t exist. Or people are allergic to Italians with Greek sounding surnames.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: [laugh]

Mike Mortlock: How do people go about doing the strategy themselves. Is it about figuring out who the buyers are? Would you recommend chatting to a real estate agent? And then the next step, how do you source good quality, honest, on time, on budget tradies?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: That’s a hard one Mike, I’ll try and answer it the best way I can. To do the strategy yourself is very difficult. Especially if it’s completely new to you. Because the techniques that can be used and the questions to ask. We’ve built up this strategy over the past five years in doing our own, and doing the business. Even over the last six months, I’ve been constantly tweaking and improving everything we do. So, I’ve picked up more and more things as we go. Someone who is not in the renovation space or is very new to this, I honestly think it’s quite difficult to do that.
At minimum, definitely talk to a few agents. I think talking to one isn’t sufficient. You don’t know where their space is at, what they agree with. Even with a lot of the real estate I’m talking to myself, theirs is a lot where the whole strategy on unlocking equity. They’re still like, ‘Wow, we didn’t even know that could be done.’ It’s quite interesting, because not everyone knows everything. And the strategy that we’re trying to put in place, not everyone actually knows it yet. I think the minimum talk to some agents, at different real estates. The thing with tradies is hard. It’s a built up relationship. I’ve got tradies, if I recommend them to a client, and that client’s not happy, then that tradie is not going to get work from us again. They’re not going to be referred again. We hold more than ten clients at a time and after three weeks we’re pretty much finished, and moving on to the next ten.
We work with so many, so some of those for example, when you get to 100, some of the trades I have, quite a few of them have done at least 3/4 of those clients. To get work straight handed to you is whole different scenario then being a one off client. It is quite difficult. There’s some amazing tradies out there. I think you just have to ask the questions. Even to the extent of asking, how would you do it? ‘If you’re putting a kitchen cupboard in, how would you do it? Give me your start to finish method? If you’re a painter? How would you do it? What’s your process?’ And even just listening to them articulating it, you start seeing if these guys are just painting on the side or are they professional painters.
My other recommendation is make sure you’re getting professional people. I’ve had clients, I remember back in our early days, some of the property managers were trying to get handy mans to change taps and handy mans to bloody paint. And I would say to them,” They’re not professional. You’re trying to save money but you’re not getting the same outcome because the paint doesn’t look like it’s been done professionally.” And you’re risking getting a tenant in. Then they would try to minimise doing the doors and the trimmings to save cost but they needed painting more than the wall needed.
Sometimes it’s not always about saving money, but making sure that you’re cost effective. It’s not being cheap, it’s being cost effective. I think that’s very important as well. All I could probably say is, the easiest way is to at least have a chat with us. We can always do a phone an hour consult on the phone, And I can give them direct strategies and tell them what to look for and what to ask. There is so much to learn to make sure you’re getting the best result, I couldn’t even tell you in this podcast.

Mike Mortlock: The good news, is we have an investor night cued up. Which you mentioned at the beginning, on the first of March. Location to be advised in Sydney. You’ll be doing your thing and I’ll be talking about the depreciation implications for renovations for investors as well. So that’s obviously a great way to chat to yourself. Outside of that how do people get in touch with you, Corissa, if they want to chat with you.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Yeah definitely, so a couple of ways, we are Facebook that’s just Refurb2Sell with a number 2. We do have our website which is You can also call us which is 1 300 950 958 and you’ll get through the office and they’ll put you through to me. Or simply send me an email And just to clarify refurb2sell. Best ways to get in contact with us.

Mike Mortlock: Just to wrap up Corissa, if there’s one piece of advice that you could give to property investors what would that be?

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Have a chat with me.

Mike Mortlock: Good. Shameless self-promotion.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: [laugh] I’m very passionate about the results we can get but not only that I see so many people who are missing out on what they can be achieving. Just because they don’t have the knowledge. I was the same initially, I’ve had my investment properties for years now. I didn’t even think to do half these things until I started getting into this space. I spoke with someone the other day who’s got fourteen properties and he said to me, three of them, gave them the rundown, I just never really bothered. Then after meeting us, he’s like how do I do it? What do I do? And what result can I get from it? I think if it’s not talking to us, talk to people and get check are you maximising your return on your property. What’s the point if you’re not getting the best amount of money. It’s like choosing to work for half the rate because you don’t know to ask for a promotion.

Mike Mortlock: That’s a good analogy.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: That’s just come to me. It’s very true. If there’s a potential to get an extra $100 a week, why would you not try to do that? And that’s exactly how I see it.

Mike Mortlock: It think that’s great advice Corissa. Thanks very much for joining us on the podcast, it was a real pleasure.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Thank you Mike. It’s been great speaking. All the best. I’ll see you on March 1st.

Mike Mortlock: Cheers, see you then.

Corissa Dimitrakopoulous: Bye.

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