When you’re pregnant with a full-time job, most people would tell you it’s not the best time to take on a major new project. But Christchurch woman Liz Harris isn’t most people.
It was 1984, and an opportunity came up to buy an old house in the city, divided into four flats. By converting a shed-with-toilet into a fifth tenancy on the property, and upgrading the other flats, Harris soon was making a profit, despite an all-time high interest rate of 22 per cent.
Tough work but good returns
Managing the tenants was tough while she had children but, by creating five individual income streams, the house paid its way – and more.
“When I first did it, I wasn’t setting out to be involved in property, I just thought I’d give it a go,” she says, laughing.
“After I bought my first one, rents went up, I had a bit of a surplus, and I thought, ‘Sh**, this is not bad’.
“It’s ideal for a mother to do, because you can work it around the children to a certain extent and run it out of your own home.”
Harris continued to buy multi-income properties in central locations in cities in the South Island, renovating them to increase their value and putting all the profits back into buying more properties.
Fifteen years later, she had about 25 apartments, a full-time job and, in the evenings, she was helping her husband with his business. Something had to give.
“It got so big, I didn’t have a choice. I was running myself ragged trying to control my job. I realised I should give that money up, back myself a bit more, and go for it. I probably should have done it five years earlier.”
Just get out and do it
Focusing on her properties saw her success soar. She now employs 30 people to manage her properties, which include around 120 apartments and two large boarding houses: Christchurch’s 200-bed Wigram Lodge and Nelson’s Franklyn Village, a 190-bed multi-use boarding and apartment complex.
Now 62, Harris and her husband have a second home in Mexico and spend four months a year travelling.
Her success has rubbed off on her children. All three work full-time in the family businesses and they’re also involved in their own property investments.
“I see so much hesitation and analysis, but it’s more about seeing what things can be, than what they are. “You’ve got to just get on with it,” she tells aspiring investors.
“If you’ve got the capacity to buy or borrow, just get out and do it.”
First published 28 May, 2018.
Story by Amy Hamilton Chadwick
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