The Biggest Obstacle for Women Renovators

The podcast for women who want to create income and a life they love through renovating

Join serial renovator Bernadette Janson as she explores the ins and outs of renovating for profit!

Bernadette has over 30 years of experience in the renovating for profit business. She’s a registered nurse, a renovator, a mum, and a teacher.

27 – Susie Guest Her Meteoric Journey To Reno Stardom

On today’s episode,

Bernadette is with Susie Guest and they are going to be talking about her achievements over the last months and how it improved her personal situation significantly that also benefited her clients

Susie started her Guest Property Projects with the intention of providing a range of services to ensure you get the most out of your investment, to attract the right tenant, maximise the return you get on that investment, or to best position your investment for a successful sale.

Listen to Episode 27 Susie Guest: Her Meteoric Journey To Reno Stardom

Bernadette covers,

  • How Susie started her property and renovating journey
  • Susie’s biggest project
  • How Susie added value to improve her client’s lifestyle and finances
  • What are the renovation costs and profits for Susie’s projects
  • The Docklands renovation project that brought successful income
  • What you can do on a low budget scenario
  • How renovating impacted Susie’s life
  • Susie’s 3 top tips for renovators

Episode highlights

01:30 – Myths out of the water.

02:48 – Let’s talk about some projects

03:15 – What sort of value does that add to your client

04:39 – In terms of renovation spend?

05:36 – You actually source the properties?

07:12 – We most signed port Docklands, the apartment.

08:45 – The power of short term rental.

09:45 – An awesome example

11:49 – How has it impacted your life?

12:47 – What would be your 3 top tips?

15:19 – What’s happening in Melbourne in terms of the market?

16:17 – Timing’s everything isn’t it?

18:03 – You really got to stick to your strengths


“That was on a 107 acres and under the law you can excise some minimum of five acres off and retain the hundred acres as land. What we did so we excise 7 acres off. And then had sold the house separate to the land.”

Well hello! It’s Bernadette Janson. And today I’m going to be talking to Susie Guest. Now Susie has a business in that she is a buyer’s agent. She’s based in Melbourne and she’s going to be talking about some of the projects she’s been doing both with Airbnb and renovating to not only improve her own personal situation significantly but also to benefit her clients. She’s now added a renovating arm to her business and is doing some fabulous deals and projects for her clients and we’ll be getting into that in a minute.

Bernadette: Welcome Susie. And it’s really great to have you here. I was quite keen to ask you to join us for an episode because I think that you have learned some myths out of the water. In terms of what you’ve achieved in the last 12 to 18 months. And I’d really love for you to share your story because I think it will really inspire a lot of other women that might be sort of thinking that their time has passed and it hasn’t.

Susie: No they’re not. Definitely not.

Bernadette: Let’s get started. Do you want to just tell us a bit about yourself and your renovating story or history up to this point.

Susie: Okay. I started way back when I was 16 years of age and my father went away to save my brother up in New South Wales, so I decided to paint and wallpaper and decorate the lanterns while he was away like all teenagers do. And then that just sort of kept going from there. So then I got my first time when I was 21 in Perth and we bought that for a grand sum of $30,000 from there then I worked in consulting with curtains and soft furnishings, managing stores that sort of thing and then sort of kept purchasing and renovating over the years. And then sort of done anything from apartments through to bounce.

Bernadette: Yes. So let’s talk about some projects. So which one do you want to start on?

Susie: I suppose my biggest one at the moment is the Richmond project which I’m doing for a client on there. That was a tiny weatherboard place and we’re doing a big extension on the back going up as well. Plus we gutted the whole internal original part of the home.

Bernadette: What sort of value does that add to your client in terms of lifestyle and also like financially?

Susie: The reason that they have gone with this one is that they live on a farm in New South Wales.

Bernadette: Yes.

Susie: They have four children at university or working down here plus they wanted somewhere to stay when they come down so they don’t have to keep sleeping on their kids sofa beds and when all the family are back together again. So lifestyle wise it makes a big difference for them to have a base in Melbourne. The reason we went with this one it was purely location. I think a lot of people look past it and not look twice sort of thing. And it’s mainly because of its position on the block. They gave us off street parking for 4 cars they sent us down along the left hand side of it. So to get that enrichment close to Burnley Street and Bridge Road is pretty rare.

Bernadette: Yeah. And so basically you’re taking that from a 3 bed 1 bath.

Susie: Yes.

Bernadette: To a 5 bed 2 baths.

Susie: Yeah. Five bedrooms and three bathrooms and plus a starting sign in this big main living area and another small living area upstairs as well. So we’re taking it from about would have been about 12 squares up to at 27 and 1/2.

Bernadette: OK. And so in terms of renovation spend?

Susie: Yeah. Renovation spend on that and budgets around the $600 thousand.

Bernadette: And the purchase price was $1.5mil was it?

Susie: It was purchased just over the $1.5mil. The spend on it is $600k so even if you sort of allowing for $100k for around all the other bits and bobs. They’re holding costs and that sort of thing, that’s sort of been the $2.2mil. Even in a really down market at the time it’s finished. It would still have to be in the $2.5-$2.6mil. In a good market you’d be between $2.8 and $3mil.

Bernadette: Yeah. And your clients they’re not buying on the short term so it’s a really solid investment for them.

Susie: It is. They are looking at probably holding it for about 5 years. And see what they do after that.

Bernadette: Yeah. And so you actually source the properties?

Susie: Yes. So as an advocate I found the property for them and then we bid at auction. Obviously we were successful, had it passed into us and then negotiated out the price. Reserve on it was $1.6mil. And I said to them, well we’re not going to see that, so that’s off the table. Let’s negotiate. So we found the builder and the architect. They’re actually doing the roof today as we speak.

Bernadette: Well that’s moved fairly quickly given that you only got approval.

Susie: That’s for the approval of the second stage. We could do more cash but we weren’t allowed to touch without the permits. The external, some haven’t been allowed to paint outside or touch roofing or anything out. So we’ve had all systems ready to go. Just way up the steps.

Bernadette: And I’m guessing that would be in a heritage overlay.

Susie: That is correct. I think most people would have knocked this down and started again. We couldn’t do that.

Bernadette: Right. Beautiful. So let’s talk about some of the projects you’ve done for yourself in the last year.

Susie: This one has sort of taken up a fair bit of time as I said we most signed port Docklands, the apartment.

Bernadette: Yes. So had you already purchased that?

Susie: Yeah. So I’d already had purchased that one, had the kids living in that as tenants then decided now we could make a lot more money by moving them. Then sort of did that one up, refurbish it, painted did some cosmetic work there and then that is now being tenanted to as an Airbnb. It’s $500 a night.

Bernadette: OK. That’s awesome return.

Susie: It is a great return and that we’ve had that now and that’s coming up 12 months now. That’s averaging a month is probably on three weeks out of the month. So if 20-21 nights each month that is all right.

Bernadette: And that’s a 3 bed 2 bath?

Susie: It is. Yes.

Bernadette: And what sort of value would that look, if you were to buy that apartment. What sort of money would you be paying for it?

Susie: Now you’d be sort of in the nines somewhere in this market. One had resold in the building only a month or so ago. That has a river view, ours doesn’t have a river view and so it sold $1.1mil. Three years ago I think it was somewhere around the 700 mark.

Bernadette: And it’s bringing you in about 10k a month?

Susie: Yes.

Bernadette: So that’s the power of short term rental. And the right location.

Susie: Yeah. And a good building with secure building.

Bernadette: Yeah. And are you having that managed?

Susie: Yes we do. We don’t do anything to that one. We just use it when we want to as well, which we’re actually heading up there tonight, for a few nights.

Bernadette: Great. Yeah well that’s definitely been a big plus.

Susie: So that has been a very big plus there. So then we sort of done the cosmetic work on the house down here on Mount Martha. Got this one on the market and sold. Made a profit on this one. And then we’re moving to Martha Cove. We need to start there. So we will hang on to it for a little while because of the market.

Bernadette: Yeah. And the other project that I am very interested in is the Kilmore one.

Susie: Yes. That was the old farmhouse.

Bernadette: Yes. There’s a lot of people that we work with are working in lower budget. And I think that’s an awesome example of what you can do in a low budget scenario.

Susie: Yeah. That one there don’t sort of rule out in the outer areas where you can slice land off.

Bernadette: So you want to just describe a bit more about what that project was, in terms of that was a house on a 100 acres.

Susie: That was on a 107 acres and under the law you can excise some minimum of 5 acres off, retain the 100 acres as land. What we did so we excised 7 acres off. And then had sold the house separate to the land and then came the same price as what we originally paid for the whole lot.

Bernadette: And what did you pay for the whole lot?

Susie: Back then I think was about 400 and 50 and then the house and the 7 acres then went for around the five mark.

Bernadette: But you’d spent a bit of money on it.

Susie: We’d spent probably about a 100 up on that but then the land value was worth around five as well. Just by taking the house and putting them on two separate toes.

Bernadette: Yeah. And did you have to get a planning permit for that?

Susie: Yes. Yes to excise the land off. You do need permits for that because it has to be surveyed and all that sort of thing. Yeah well that wasn’t a quick thing to do.

Bernadette: How long did it take you to do all that?

Susie: We probably did on and off that was probably over a couple of years. One before that we did a house on 9 acres. And that was a new house but it really hadn’t been finished off with all the trimmings. So we did tidy that one up and made 100 on that one.

Bernadette: That’s great. You’re a superwoman, Susie!

Susie: It’s all over the years of renovating.

Bernadette: That’s awesome. So how has it impacted your life other than obviously the income.

Susie: Yeah. Look it’s just given me so much more confidence I think prior to this is it was just a bit more of a hobby and a passion. Now with the kids they gave me the confidence to start this property projects and start renovating for other people.

Bernadette: So how many projects would you be doing at a time?

Susie: It depends on the size of them as I say this Richmond. It’s been a really big one. That sort of taking a fair bit of time and just doing my own little cosmetic ones. Ready to take on another one now.

Bernadette: In terms of if you were going to bestow some wisdom on other women looking at renovating what would be your 3 top tips?

Susie: My 3 top tips would be, the first one would be to be organised and to be diligent in everything. To really stay on top of it all. Take lots of photos and very good record keeping and always check your quotes to your invoices as well. Sometimes I sort of have found a way up that the builder might be invoicing for something that you’ve already paid on a previous invoice and you’re going to hang on that you already paid for that. Be quite diligent on paperwork.

The next one on I’d be paying attention to detail and really know your market so know who your market is. If you’re renovating for young families, professional retirees, you get that market right and check what’s selling in them in the area and who’s buying and what they’re looking for. So that you don’t miss the mark there because that can certainly save you a lot of money and make you a lot of money. That would cause those costly mistakes on there.

And my third one would be to learn to be adaptable and look for solutions. Sometimes the builders and the engineers tell you one thing because that’s the easiest way for them but not necessarily the most cost effective way. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions and see what solutions they come up with.

Bernadette: Yes sometimes particularly with builders you find that they have one way they’ve always done it. Sometimes it’s a bit of a fight to get a look at another option.

Susie: Yeah. One of them we had for example the engineer he’s been telling us this firewall is double brick firewall had to be pulled down and then when we’ve sort of question it. They then said oh no we could put the plates and bolts through it which we did and then did an internal front sealed it off to that mode. And that was the difference between that.

Bernadette: Well that’s a massive saving.

Susie: Yeah massive makes a big difference. But they were already just to rip this whole wall down and then it’s all going to be right down. And it didn’t need to at all.

Bernadette: Yeah. And before we go, do you want to give us a bit of a take on what’s happening in Melbourne in terms of the market at the moment?

Susie: The market is still declining. Unfortunately across the board. So as renovators if you’re selling. I would advise to sell now because there is another wave coming. Well we’re going to have to be paid to sit tight for a while and ride them out. They sort of saying that we could be hit for another round roughly 9.3% in houses roughly 5.9% for apartments.

Bernadette: OK. So it’s not all over yet.

Susie: It’s not all over yet. Not really far from it. But if you’re looking to buy then there’s certainly a big chance there in the areas that your budget might not have meant to reach you previously and you could get better returns. But again be careful not to overcapitalise or you might have to sit on it. To recoup your money there.

Bernadette: Timing’s everything isn’t it?

Susie: It is but these are sort of the best buying times that we’ve seen now since about 2011-2012 was for buyers. If you cashed up and you’ve got your finance ready. I’ve actually got a nice thing here and also listening to on the street down here. There was an 88 year old man with the name of Warren Buffett who’s the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and he’s one of the most successful investors probably on the planet and he believes that the time to invest into the property market is when others are fearful. And at the moment everybody’s sort of sitting on their hands with the election being in a holding pattern and not knowing what to do. Then I don’t know what they’re waiting for. The truth it’s the perfect time to be acquiring assets.

Bernadette: Yeah exactly. So let’s recap. Basically we’ve talked about some of the projects you’ve done over the last couple of years. In particular, you’ve renovated your family home and sold it for a profit.

Susie: We have. Yes.

Bernadette: You converted an investment property into a short term rental strategy which is basically you’ve got a $900k property producing $10k a month in income. Fabulous. And the management’s outsourced.

Susie: Yes it is. They do absolutely everything. The cleaners, the linen the whole lot. And that’s mainly because we live too far away. So then I don’t really want to be bothered doing it at night.

Bernadette: You really got to stick to your strengths don’t you?

Susie: Yeah.

Bernadette: So you’ve added renovating to your business offering and so are now able to renovate for clients. And have a wonderful project in Richmond that’s going to deliver several hundred thousand equity to your clients as well as a fabulous lifestyle. You’ve done a great country project where you’ve bought a house and land and subdivided the house and sold it for about so that you basically got your land for free.

Susie: Yes we did.

Bernadette: You’re really versatile in your strategies and it’s really delivering results which is fabulous.

Susie: Yes. Thinking outside the square that little vision on the different areas and also now doing the business as well and the color consulting too.

Bernadette: Is there no end to your talent, Susie?

Susie: I really just pop that one there now.

Bernadette: Fabulous. So did we get some photos from you for the shownotes?

Susie: I did. I did send some before and after photos just to think of a couple of different properties.

Bernadette: That’s awesome. So anyone that’s listening to this episode you can go over to our website find this particular episode and download the shownotes and you’ll not only see some photos of Susie’s projects, before and after. We all love the Before and After but you’ll also find a link to her website. So if you’d like to get in touch with her that’s how you go about it.

Susie: Well I’d love to catch up and have a coffee and a chat with anyone in Melbourne.

Bernadette: We’ll love a chat and coffee. So yeah that’s good. And we certainly love having you in our community. You’re a great inspiration and thank you for being on the show.

Susie: Thank you for having me.

Bernadette: Take care, Susie.

Susie: Thanks, Bernadette. Bye.

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    If you want to meet up with a group of savvy renovators. I would say come over and join She Renovates Facebook Group. It’s a completely FREE Facebook group and it is growing at the rate of knots. We hit over a thousand members just recently, and now it seems to have picked up momentum. They are all savvy renovating women and men working their little hearts out to live a better life through renovating.

    The only membership you need to grow your renovation business…

    Wonder Women is a combination of live sessions and pre-recorded content to help you get what you need, when you need it. I know that you’re the expert and you’ve got all of your subject knowledge nailed – now it’s time to build the business behind your renovation projects and stop being the worlds best kept secret. 

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