On paper, Chris Gray has everything. He’s amassed a $15 million property portfolio, has hosted a sting of property and investment TV shows including Your Money Live currently on Sky Business, and gets around town in a Lamborghini. But Chris told Bushy Martin on the Get Invested podcast that the best thing about his life is his every day freedom.
“Ideally I never put anything in the diary that I don’t want to do,” he said. “If I die tomorrow, I want to be happy. And I think I would be happy. I hear once a week, or once a fortnight of someone having cancer, or dying, or a heart attack, or something like that. And what it’s done is it makes me push harder on my lifestyle, because I don’t want to be one of the people that literally passes away and on their deathbed they say, ‘ah, I should have spent less time in the offices’.”
Chris realised early on that it was property that would deliver him the freedom he wanted in life. At age 22, living in the UK, Chris was earning £10,000, and rather than buying a £30,000 apartment, which was what his mates were buying, Chris got his father to guarantee the loan and bough a three bedroom house for £80,000, and subsidised the mortgage by renting out two of the bedrooms.
“It was just logical, it made a lot of sense,” he said. “But, my mortgage was more than my wages even before tax, so I’ve been in debt for the whole of my life. And whilst a lot of people, the naysayers would say ‘oh, you have rich parents, it’s all right for you’. And sure, that’s one argument. But a lot of parents will help their kids. But most people wouldn’t have the balls to take on a mortgage seven or eight times their income. And that’s effectively what I’ve been paid for, or paid well for, because I’ve taken that punt.”
Chris kept taking punts, and after moving to Australia and working for Deloitte as an accountant, started investing in the Australian market. By the early 2000s, he had six properties that paid him $600,000 a year, while earning just one tenth that amount from his job at Deloitte. It got to the point where he started to question the justification for having a job at all.
The final straw came when, as a 31 year old junior accountant he bought a Ferrari and asked his boss if he could salary sacrifice it.
“One of the main reasons I left Deloitte is I bought a quarter of a million dollar Ferrari and I tried to salary sacrifice it, they were actually saying, ‘Well, it’s not on the price you paid, it’s on the retail value of the car’. So I said, ‘Oh, it’s not going to work for me because the car’s 500.’ And he said, ‘500 what?’ And I said, ‘500 thousand dollars.’ And you could almost hear him falling off his chair, because they worked out the SVT on the 500 grand was then going to be so much money that, effectively, it was more than my wages.”
So Chris stopped working, and enjoyed life for a couple of years before he started getting bored. He reached out to a friend in the film industry, who got Chris a job as an extra.
“I think we earned 22 bucks an hour, which basically paid for the petrol in the Ferrari to get me there,” he said. Something that started as a reason to leave the house in the morning quickly developed into an entirely new opportunity.
“I met a photographer and then a few months later he said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a lead’. My agency’s trying to find someone who’s in real estate to do a show on Channel 9 and it’s created by all the real estate chains, so McGrath don’t want LJ Hooker doing it and they don’t want Raine and Horne’. Because I didn’t represent anyone, I didn’t sell anything, I didn’t sell mortgages, I was seen as the independent person. And this was a show called My Home. I think it was in 2008 or something like that.”
Through the national profile Chris developed on My Home and other shows he started offering coaching and services as a buying agent to high wealth individuals.
While many investors are cautious, Chris tells his clients to think contrary to everyone else when they are thinking about investing.
“I’ve probably bought half of my portfolio in the GFC (global financial crisis). Everyone told me not to do it, they said the property market’s not going to grow for a few years … And I think it’s exactly that point in time now, whereas everyone else, what happened, we were saying on Sky for years you should buy now, be contrary and it’s a good time to buy. But no one listened. And then it probably took people when the market did recover six or twelve months to actually get in the market, because suddenly everyone was in.”
Chris also focusses on educating other investors, through coaching, TV, and the books he’s authored. Now, he says it’s this that gives him the most satisfaction.
“I had a guy email the other day saying, ‘I’ve just gone from three properties to seven, can I shout you lunch or dinner? I didn’t use your services but I used all your knowledge and I went off and did it, and I’m happy to shout you and I’d love to tell you my story’ … There’s nothing better in the world than having that.
Listen to the full interview here.
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