Getting the Property Investment Experts in: A Review of Empower Wealth
I had carefully considered my options and decided to invest in property. Empower Wealth is probably the best known property investment advisory service in Australia. I first heard about them by stumbling across “The Property Couch” podcast – and greedily consumed 200+ free episodes full of property intelligence. Being a natural
cheap skate shrewd financial manager, I intended to educate, select a property and purchase myself using as much cheap/free information as I could find. See my article on what convinced me to fork out for professional advise.
This is a completely independent review without sponsorship or commissions based on my own experience. It does not constitute financial advise!
I was initially unsure which of the Empower Wealth Services I required, so I spent time talking to the 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 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.
While waiting for an appointment, 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 in to the database, and I also found it useful to double check my numbers.
Empower wealth are 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.
I met first with a mortgage Broker, Sarah who was lovely and keen to answer all my questions. The entire company have a streamlined proces, 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). To get the mortgages structured in the most cost-effective way took some extra time. I think it took around three weeks for the pre-approval to be ready in order for us to start house hunting.
My initial contact with the buyer’s agent process was with a chap whose job it was to have an introductory chat about what services they provide, and my expectations. I didn’t warm to him, and was somewhat horrified at the suggestion that I would buy the property without seeing it for myself. 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 the biggest financial decision I have made in my life so far.
Like a jittery first-time mum being wheeled in to theatre for an unplanned caesarean section, 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. I guess 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.
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 back from some professional development. The experience of talking to her through videoconference was far more personal, she told me all 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 but no 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 realize that my viewing the property in person wasn’t going to add anything to the process, and may result in too much delay to secure the desired property.
The Search for an Investment 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 would never have thought I could make these demands, 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!
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. A bidding process ensued, with tenants bidding over asking price rent – Not what I had expected! 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. Advise 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.
I have been really pleased with Empower Wealth’s service in helping me buy an investment property. Of course, only time will tell if it will perform as predicted. I will follow up with updates on my experience being a landlord, and of the property’s performance. Watch this space!
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