I had carefully considered whether to invest in property or shares and decided to invest in property.  Empower Wealth is the best-known property investment advisory in Australia.  Here I give my independent Empower Wealth review.

I first heard about Empower wealth by stumbling across the “Property Couch” podcast.  Then greedily consumed 200+ free episodes full of property intelligence.  Being a natural cheapskate shrewd financial manager, I intended to educate myself, select a property and purchase using as much cheap/free information as I could find.  See my article on what convinced me to fork out for professional advice.

This is a completely independent review without sponsorship or commissions based on my own experience.  It does not constitute financial advice!

Empower Wealth Review: Initial Contact

I was initially unsure which of the Empower Wealth Services I required.  So I spent time talking to several Empower Wealth professionals to understand their respective roles.

It took a couple of weeks each time to get an appointment.  Between my first contact with the company and the actual property purchase was around four months, although our family holiday did slow things down, as I couldn’t get house valuations and paperwork sent promptly.

The team send a request for you to complete detailed financial information on their website. This is used to check you can afford an investment property, and that you are likely to secure lending. If you have already gathered all the information to do your own sums, it doesn’t take too long to put it into the database, and I also found it useful to double-check my numbers.

Empower wealth is based in Melbourne, but offer appointments face to face, by phone or online video conference via “Zoom”.  I chose to video conference and the process was pretty simple, instructions clear to download the app to phone or computer ahead of time.

Empower Wealth Review: Mortgage Broker

I met first with my mortgage Broker, Sarah, who was lovely and keen to answer all my questions.

The entire company have a streamlined process, so after that initial appointment, things ran extremely smoothly.

Maybe the health system could pick up a few hints to providing a more efficient service!

Securing lending was somewhat time-consuming, involving obviously organizing and sending in lots of paperwork and getting our house valued in person (although they can sometimes go ahead using only a “Desktop valuation” generated digitally).

Getting the mortgages structured in the most cost-effective way took some extra time.  It took around three weeks for the pre-approval in order for us to start house hunting.

We’re currently in the process of securing lending for another property (Jan 2021).  Things have not been as well streamlined this time.  Like us all, the company have been thrown into a bit of chaos.  Things have taken longer this time around.  

There have also been more challenges with lending, with the first bank changing rules and no longer offering 90% LMI free loans.

Empower Wealth Review: Buyers Agent

My initial contact with the buyer’s agent process was for an introductory chat.

I didn’t warm to the gentleman involved and was somewhat horrified at the suggestion that I should buy a property unseen.

I had developed a fair degree of trust in the Empower wealth team, through listening to their friendly and informative podcast.  But I was still very nervous, terrified of making a mistake with what would be my biggest financial decision so far.

Like a jittery first-time mum being wheeled into theatre for an unplanned caesarean, I needed a lot of reassurance and hand-holding to feel more confident in the process.

I reached out to colleagues online, to find if anyone had used Empower wealth – and the response I got was overwhelmingly positive.

“They are one of the good guys,” wrote one of the doctors I had never met.

“Growth so far has been on target,” said another.

In general, our profession has strong ethics,

I trust reviews from one of us far more than that of the testimonials on a website, or Google reviews.

It’s just reassuring to hear from one of your own tribe.

I went ahead with the process and asked to be allocated to a buyer’s agent.

My Buyers Agent

I spoke to my Buyers agent, Nicole, via video conference from the virgin lounge in Sydney of all places!

It was difficult to fit in an appointment when I wasn’t working and at least I was child-free, travelling for work.

The experience of meeting her by video chat was great.

She told me about her career and property investment journey. Previously, with finance professionals, these transparent attempts to relax a client and build rapport make me cringe and felt incredibly fake, but not with Nicole.

There had to be a leap of faith at some point, where I trusted Nicole knew what she was doing and pointing me in the right direction, getting to know her helped this.

My buyer’s agent was a very personable, bubbly person oozing with knowledge and confidence, without arrogance. She made me feel completely at ease and comfortable talking with her.

The first chat with Nicole was for over an hour, we talked through my goals, my pre-conceived ideas about what I would purchase, and my knowledge level.

She explained the process step by step and what would happen next.

Based on this conversation, she compiled a “Property blueprint” – a lengthy document shortlisting twelve suburbs (Brisbane and Geelong) that she thought were promising.

The document listed key data and explained why the buyer’s agents thought they were a good fit. Only one of the suburbs matched my own shortlist…interesting!

At this point, guided strongly by Nicole, I confirmed Brisbane as my target area, and then the wait began.  Nicole was very familiar with the Brisbane market, having purchased many properties there beforehand.

Nicole was soon on a plane to view several shortlisted properties. By this point, my thinking had changed quite dramatically. I trusted Nicole and was fully aware she knew what she was doing. I came to feel my viewing the property wasn’t going to add anything to the process, and may result in too much delay.

The Search for a Property

Nicole sent me three properties with potential, including detailed video footage of the viewings.

One property was her recommendation, and Nicole gave me the confidence to make the big decision.

Then came a few days of back and forth discussion and negotiations. There was another interested buyer who had also put in an offer.

Nicole helped me set an appropriate price to offer (less than I would have thought) and put stipulations in the contract for the seller to perform certain repairs.

I was surprised by how much negotiating power my buyer’s agent thought we had, especially as I was competing with another buyer!

Nicole’s experience in reading the situation really shone through.

It turned out a quick settlement was what motivated the seller, and I had the team to manage it!

Empower Wealth Review: Settlement

The contract was signed, buildings and pest inspections and solicitor work ensued.

Again, the team organized all this for me –and made sure everything ran smoothly.

Like in a well-run resuscitation, there were clearly delineated roles and plenty of closed-loop communication!

The team then suggested a choice of rental managers, and the search for a tenant began before settlement.

The first viewing for tenants was organized before settlement, with plenty of interest and four separate applications submitted.

I got to see the names, ages, professions and even income of the tenants, and also what pets they owned.

I had planned to avoid tenants with pets, as I was concerned about damage, but all four tenants had pets. Advice from my rental agency was that it would be difficult to find a tenant without pets and that laws are changing so that tenants cannot be discriminated against for owning pets.

So again, I had to take a leap of faith that it will be OK, organized building and rental insurance. Fingers crossed these tenants and their pets are well behaved – they sound just lovely.

Overall I was very impressed with Empower Wealth‘s service in helping me buy an investment property.  If you want to read what happened next, read the update: Do I regret investing in property: the first six months.  And then, for my experience as a landlord through the global pandemic and beyond!

Find out about the Victorian residential tenancy act changes.

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