Foong Koh Buckland joined Bernadette and Michelle to talk about her journey from being a pharmacist to a for-profit renovator. She is super-driven, has loads of fun and lives in Adelaide. Foong owns a successful business named after her son, BenJon.
How Foong Became Interested In Renos For Profit
In an attempt to make enough money to be able to retire, Foong and her husband bought fourteen properties. In order to make money from them, they had to be renovated and sold for a profit. That was how she stumbled upon her interest in renovation. Foong got to test-drive her renovation skills on her own investment properties.
Foong’s excitement grew when she saw the payments coming in. Renovating properties is a great way to make money out of real estate, partly because they are quick in and out projects. With the reno-for-profit focus, you get paid sooner than you do with developments for example, which can take up to twenty-four months before you see any money.
She loves the design aspect of renovations. Foong does all the layout as well as styling and design. She finds it very satisfying to be able to turn an unattractive property into something beautiful.
We love the way Foong talks about being the brand behind all of her renovations. She has developed a signature style. Although she is handy with the tools she prefers to let her “fingers do the walking through the yellow pages”. She uses contractors to make her designs a reality, overseeing them as the renovation project manager.
Handling Multiple Projects Like A Renovating Superwoman
Foong is currently working on eight projects with two more in the pipeline. Knowing how much time a single project requires, it is impossible for her to do all the work herself. Foong says that the only way to do it is to have a great team around you.
She relies on her teams and has recently appointed a site supervisor. He is looking after four of the sites and Foong looks after the other four. They swap over so that she doesn’t lose touch with any of her projects.
Cosmetic renovations versus structural renovations
Foong says she takes the renovations as far as she can. Sometimes it is just a simple overhaul of a two-bedroom apartment. Or it might involve a sixty square metre extension at the back of a house. Most of Foong’s renovations involve some structural changes, such as removing walls. Her structural engineer is always on hand to ensure that the structural integrity of the renovated property is sound.
Project management tools
Foong says she is a bit old-fashioned when it comes to managing her many projects. She doesn’t use any fancy software. She prefers to use colour-coded spreadsheets, allocating each trade to a colour and plotting out the project according to expected dates.
How Foong Finds Her Joint Venture Partners
Being part of a community of like-minded people makes finding suitable joint venture partners easy. Talking to other people about where you are stuck opens the doors to collaboration. You might have the cash, but not the time to do the project or vice versa. You can work together to fill the gaps.
Foong posts a lot of her reno-for-profit project progress on Facebook. She has found that to be a useful tool for attracting joint venture partners. Her goal with her Facebook page is to share her experience so that people can learn from her real-life action. This has led to some wonderful collaborations with people who have approached her to do a joint venture with them.
Taking Control Of Your Financial Future With Renovations
Bernadette told Foong she has become a renovating rockstar. Her response was:
Well I’m still learning. I’m still learning because every project has a lot of challenges.
Bernadette couldn’t agree more. The day you stop learning is the day a lot of trouble sets in. If you feel you know everything there is to know, it is time to move on to something new and more challenging.
Before discovering her love of the reno-for-profit business, Foong was a pharmacist. It was a big leap to move from dispensing medicine and doing patient counselling, to getting involved with tools and tradies. She says it was a big leap of faith, and clearly, she has made the right choice.
Foong has transitioned slowly into renovations as a full-time business. Over four years she has gradually cut down her hours as a pharmacist. She cut it down to four days per week, to three days per week, to two days per week, to one day per week, to one day every fortnight and then to just one day per month. Eventually, in November 2021 Foong gave up her pharmacy licence.
Having control over your financial future is our goal for all of the women who join us at The School of Renovating. Foong is at the point where she has a reliable process and has achieved the goal of a stable financial future. She is proof that there are opportunities to be found everywhere. You just need to be ready to pick them up.
Renovating Profit Margins
When Foong banks her money she prefers to speak in dollar terms rather than percentages. She says that percentages don’t mean much to her. Her focus is on return on investment.
Her goal is for every dollar she puts into a project she wants to get two dollars back. That means she is aiming at almost 100% return on renovation costs. For Foong to take on a reno-for-profit project she must be able to make at least $50,000. Anything less she feels is a waste of her time. She is currently banking between five to ten thousand dollars per week for each of her projects.
Tips For Taking On Multiple Renovation Projects
- Have a really good team.
- Use video chats such as WhatsApp so that you can walk around your sites with the trades even when you can’t physically be there.
Foong says these are the two most important things for taking on multiple projects. You can’t be in eight places at the same time and you don’t want to spend all your time in the car driving from one site to the next. You need a team you can trust to be there when you need them, and the technology to allow you to address problems as they arise at each site.
One of the biggest challenges to taking the leap into managing multiple projects is to have the courage to step outside your comfort zone. Foong said:
You can learn so much from the book. You can learn from a lot of mentors. You can learn from everything. You can literally be a walking dictionary, but if you don’t step out of your comfort zone and take action, nothing will happen.
Foong says that she is often on-site until five or six o’clock in the evening. It has made juggling her family obligations a little tricky. She has a supportive husband and has made a plan to outsource her cooking so that all she has to do is heat up the food so that the family can share a meal every night.
Words Of Inspiration From Foong
We asked Foong to leave us with some words of wisdom for our wonderful Superwomen Renovators. She said:
The most important thing for you to grow on your journey is to take action. Just do something. Doing something small is better than doing nothing at all. If you don’t take action you will never improve.
For more inspiration, join our growing She Renovates Facebook Group. It is a group of savvy renovating women and men that are working hard to live a better life through renovating.