Tracy Leske from Cherish Property is one of the most accomplished property professionals operating in Australia today. Along with Know How Property Group founder Bushy Martin, Tracy was listed in the top 10 Australian property specialists by the Property Investor Magazine. So after 20 years’ experience working across a wide spectrum of property and investment roles, what has been key to her success? Tracy told Bushy on the latest episode of the Get Invested podcast that above all else it’s been a willingness to jump in and get her hands dirty.
“You’ve just got to get stuck into it. I mean, you can research and research as much as you want, but we’ve found that we learn a lot by actually doing it,” Tracy said.
After a stint working as a real estate agent in her twenties, Tracy was offered a role managing a portfolio of 35 properties. After just two years, she was managing 400. While Tracy was excelling in her career, she and her husband were also growing their own portfolio of property investments, driven by a belief that money, ultimately, means freedom and the ability to have choices.
“(We were) borrowing as much money as we could (and) when we ran out of conforming lending, we went to nonconforming lending … we had about seven properties at 11 per cent. We purchased a variety of properties, houses and units in Melbourne, and just held those for as long as we could.”
Tracy also realised early on that selecting properties that could have value added through renovations was a way to ensure her investments grew, even if the broader property market was flat.
“I remember Bill Zheng from Investors Direct saying ‘this is where you buy a property and you get your hands and your feet dirty and you go in and you renovate it, because you’re not going to get growth for the next few years, you’re gonna have to do the work yourself’. And so we renovated the majority of our properties. We were the owner/builder. We did extensions. When we purchased, we always purchased something we could add value to … so if you do want to buy again, or you do need to access that equity, you’ve got the ability to create that equity as well.”
After eight years in property management, Tracy then spent five years working for an investment firm that specialised in new housing developments in South East Queensland, and after the birth of her son in 2012, moved with the family to Queensland permanently.
It was in Brisbane that Tracy started working as a buyer’s agent – a rapidly-growing field where agent’s advocate for the buyer, rather than the seller.
“I thought, now this sounds like a niche that I could fall into, because I had the property management experience so I could advise people,” she said.
“I’d been on the seller’s side (and) I could advise people on finance and lending. We can usually save you money … we can usually negotiate really well. We can put conditions in the contract that a lay person wouldn’t know existed (and) we can interpret building reports a lot better. I can look at a property and anticipate any renovation potential or maintenance issues that might come up in the future.”
“We know there are agents that over quote, we know the agents that under quote, we’ve got the data. So I can give a range as to what I think the property is worth, also because I’ve seen in so many hundreds and hundreds of properties I can very easily discern even just looking at photos, aerial maps, Google maps and data, whether or not it’s worth making the next cut.”
Tracy balances property with her work as co-founder of Oceans 2 Earth, a not-for-profit she established with a her sister to facilitate volunteers travelling all over the world to help rescue and rehabilitate injured and at risk wildlife. That journey began in 2001, when Tracy and her sister travelled to Thailand and visited an elephant rescue centre.
“It was just a shock, animals that had been rescued from the logging industry, that were psychologically damaged … and it was up to us to bathe them every day,” she said. “So what we did is, rather than travel the world volunteering, we set up a company to recruit volunteers, source volunteers for organisations such as the one in Thailand. So now we’re in seven countries and we have over 20 volunteering programs, and we’ve raised over half a million dollars in volunteer fees, and provided over 50,000 working hours with people, predominantly young people between 18 and 40.”
Tracy’s next challenge is buying herself more time to be with her family.
“I’m living the perfect lifestyle,” she said. “The relationships I build with my clients over weeks and months are really special. I had a 65 year old client two weeks ago, just put his hand on my arm and said, ‘I could not have done this without you. This has been extremely stressful for me’. So that’s the kind of reward I get from my job … My work with Oceans 2 Earth, again, just incredible to be able to be writing the checks to the wildlife shelters every week, just to send them more and more money so that they can buy more medicines and look after more animals. I just wish I had more time. So, that’s the only thing that I would say, but I’ve got a beautiful family, a beautiful five year old, a beautiful husband, so life doesn’t get much better than this.”