5 – What Is It Like To Be Married To A Serial Renovator?

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Serial Renovator

On today’s episode,

Bernadette interviews her husband and business partner, Stephen Janson. Stephen will share his experience on being a supportive partner to Bernadette and how his loyalty and reticence improved their financial situation.

Listen to Episode 5: What Is It Like To Be Married To A Serial Renovator? 

Podcast: Download (Duration: 14:52 — 14 MB)

Bernadette covers,

  • Stephen’s background in carpentry and how he started as an apprentice carpenter.
  • How they started renovating their homes and their different views on renovation.
  • How having different perspectives on renovating keeps the balance between labor and material costs.
  • More perks of being married to a professional renovator.
  • How they’ve influence their children to invest in property and the opportunities from renovating as a family.
  • How they helped their daughter purchase her first home through profits from a joint venture: “The Avocado Smash Project”.
  • The challenges of having a wife who comes home from a shopping spree, instead of buying shoes, is buying properties.
  • How they donated 100% of the profit from a recent renovation to the organization “Hands Across the Water” to help children who come from at risk backgrounds in Thailand.
  • Stephen’s advice to partners of women who are passionate about renovating.

Transcription

Bernadette: Hello! Bernadette Janson the Founder and CEO of The School Of Renovating.

Today I’ve invited in my partner in crime and husband of 31 years, Stephen to share his experience of being married to a mad crazy addicted renovator. The reason being that a lot of the women we work with, find that their partners are quite reticent about them taking on renovating to improve their financial situation. And I thought it might be interesting to hear Stephen’s point of view on what it’s like from where he stands. So welcome!

Stephen: Thank you.

Bernadette: It’s a bit weird.

Stephen: Very formal.

Bernadette: So before we go on. Do you want to share a bit about yourself and maybe your day job?

Stephen: Yeah. Okay. All right. I started in the construction industry actually. Initially was an apprentice carpenter. I grew up in Adelaide and worked for one of the major tier 1 builders. At that stage I moved around to different states with different positions and to different jobs. Have for many years been a senior project manager with other project management firms both in client side project management and originally with contractors. But that’s where most my experience has been generally. I am in large projects more recently, in hospitals, in higher education or university buildings. I am currently working on a billion dollar project in Western Sydney.

Bernadette: Okay. So suffice to say my job’s pale into insignificance. But that’s fine. And so we really started down on the renovation journey together didn’t we? Initially early in our marriage we had a shared passion for renovating and property. And embarked down a path, but as time went on I was the one that sort of hit it off in the renovating.

Stephen: Yeah. I think you know we always started by renovating our homes, every house we lived in, we always renovated. But as time went by I tended to probably do them more as a builder would do them and not necessarily look at the strategy, particularly when you’re looking at renovating for profit.
It is different when it’s your own home. But I think there was some things that were almost bordering heritage preservation rather than straight renovation and that is not the most economical way to renovate a home.

Bernadette: What’s really great is the fact that you’ve been able to see that and take that on. Because that is like we talk about a lot. That is a big problem with builders, to renovate, but even the builders and the tradesmen that we engage, they don’t get that often. The profit thing, what you keep, it’s not an exercise in gutting. It’s a specific process to making a profit from renovating.

Stephen: I mean it’s a balance as well between and I can see often from the builders point of view that their approach is to strip everything out and start fresh. But it’s just the balance between labor and material costs. And I mean there are some times when it is more economical to go one way or the other, but it just needs to be looked at.
It’s often just easier from their point of view just to write everything out and start again. But as you say there’s a lot of life left in appliances and equipment and joinery and things like that. That doesn’t necessarily have to be disposed of at a great cost.

Bernadette: This is a bit of an interesting question. Have you found any perks to being married to a renovator?

Stephen: Well there is. Certainly the additional income, always, and it’s given us some fantastic family trips that we’ve been able to share with our kids which we otherwise wouldn’t have had. So it certainly has additional income. It’s been good. I think it’s also good to share the journey. It’s been good to do things together, which we’ve generally done, with all of the renovations we’ve done, so it is a shared interest. It’s been interesting, a lot of things which I’ve learned as well on the way. So yeah.

Bernadette: OK. That’s great. I would like to say a family that renovated together stays together, and from a family point of view. Would you agree that it’s great to have that sort of interest and focus in the family? That we’ve always had a project?

Stephen: Yeah. I mean I think they’ve been able to see also the value in property and what you can do with property and that shared interest is extended through to a lot. With David becoming an architect and everything else. So it’s sort of running a little bit through the family. But I think they all share a common interest and understand what property can do.
As far as an income or an asset or whatever the case may be. I think that they’re appreciative of what it can do and they could certainly see how. Whether we’re in joint ventures and other things like that. There’s some real opportunities there for families to work together, to help one another.

Bernadette: We should have mentioned that we have four children. Our youngest is twenty three and ranging up to Hannah our oldest who’s just over 30. So we’re currently working our way through them with in terms of doing a project with each child. To help them get into the property market or to help them along their way. And that’s been really enriching.

Stephen: I mean it has. I mean particularly in Sydney it’s very difficult to sort of either for them, to stump up with a deposit or whatever the case may be. They were all learning, they’re all working out reasonably good jobs and able to support a loan. To assist them with maybe the deposit in some of the renovation costs. It’s a win win. You can both make something out of it and they certainly make something out of it as well. And it gives them the opportunity to put the deposit down on the next time after they’ve done a decent renovation.

Bernadette: Yes. And that’s certainly been the case. We are on the second one at the moment. First, we finished last year with Hannah and she went on with that and took that. She made $100,000 profit and she added that to her savings with her husband. And they bought their first home with that and now we’re doing one with David. And so, his will be on the market fairly shortly. And same sort of thing. Personally, I know I’m meant to be interviewing you but I think that’s awesome!

Stephen: It is. Yes. I think they certainly appreciate that as well.

Bernadette: And it’s not coming out of our pocket now.

Stephen: No, that’s right. I mean I hear a lot of stories of everyone sort of saying, oh they’re just doing from the parents money. Well in actual fact, we actually get something out of it as well. We’re not just handing over the money and saying goodbye.

Bernadette: Because we like our avocados smashed too.

Stephen: Yeah.

Bernadette: What are the challenges in being married to someone who comes out. A wife who comes home from a shopping spree, instead of buying shoes, is buying properties? What’s that like?

Stephen: It’s pretty interesting. It has its moments every now and again. I do get the call that you’re about to do something rash. But it’s normal it doesn’t happen that often. It’s usually quite well thought out. It’s well structured. You do know your market particularly well, particularly in the area in Sydney where we are and therefore I think it’s a very calculated risk. But yes. So touch wood with all of the projects in recent years we’ve done. I’ve certainly come out very favourably. And yeah. So it’s not a risk.

Bernadette: Do you ever feel like you need to jump in?

Stephen: No. I know that you’re more than competent and capable of doing it yourself in any case. Which is comforting, but by the same token I know that if there is anything you want any help with, you will certainly ask for it as well. So I don’t feel like I need to jump in unnecessarily. I help where I need to help and we try to do what we can. To support one another, without treading on one another’s toes.

Bernadette: What have you loved the most about the renovating journey? Our renovating journey?

Stephen: We’ve had some really interesting properties. We’ve done some great jobs. The opportunities that come out of that. Also the way that we’re able to either support. Whether, It’s not just money for us, we’ve used money for many other causes. We’ve had particular interests in common, where we’ve raised money through the renovation.

“Hands Across The Water” was a great example of what you can do and how you can help others at a minimal cost. We had to put some time into it, a little bit of energy. But at the end of the day it was a fantastic outcome. We had a lot of support from our team and the students who who also kicked in.
And that was a great moment and a great experience and something you were able to share. We do live in a lucky country and we’re very lucky in what we do. So I think to be able to share that around with others, this is also a great benefit from what some of the things that we do.

Bernadette: Just for those who don’t know. Last year we decided to do a renovation for one of the charities we support. We bought an apartment in Surry Hills, renovated and sold and gave all the profit to the charity. And that went to the care of children who come from at risk backgrounds in Thailand.

In terms of saving, and I actually organized all the finance and got the property organized. But our friends, our students, and our suppliers all jumped in and helped. We were able to donate $120,000 to the organization. Which I’m told is the biggest donation from a single individual in that organization’s history. So that’s pretty cool.

The power of renovating is nice.

Stephen: It is. Yeah.

Bernadette: What would you say to the partners of women? Because we know we have a lot of women who believe that renovating and property is their future. And some partners aren’t as supportive as you. What would you say to those partners?

Stephen: I think the important thing is to understand that it’s not. That the risks are managed. It’s all about what you teach and how it’s trained. It’s all about educating people to learn from some of the mistakes that we’ve made and to deal with it as much as you can. There is always risk in property. I think everyone knows that, but it’s a case of having trust in your partner. That they’re doing a course which is not a get rich quick scheme. It is a learned skill. But if done and applied properly, will deliver the results that we’ve been able to deliver on our projects.

That’s the promise we make. I’m not saying it’s not without risk, of course it has. But by the same token, I think it’s just a case of having trust that this is a course that can put you on the right road. To financial independence or change of circumstances. So I think you’ve got to look at it as education. It’s not just a short term quick scheme that claims.

Bernadette: Yeah. And of course there are risks in crossing the road. Unfortunately the only way to avoid risk completely is to not leave.

My last question to you is, if we had our time over again is there anything that you would do differently? Or you would want us to do differently?

Stephen: I generally know it’s interesting with the time that we have in my view and hindsight’s a wonderful thing. We have probably let a lot of really good properties slip through our fingers and we’ve sold them. I think if I had my time over, we’ve been through times when interest rates were up at 22 percent and it’s very hard in those circumstances to hold onto properties or we thought at that time.

But with the value of hindsight, that was properties we probably should have held. So if I had, I would have probably prefer to have retained more properties rather than just selling them or letting them slip through your fingers. Because certainly over time they would have developed even greater ground profits.

Bernadette: I think we’ve covered everything. And thank you very much. What I should say is thank you for thirty one years of putting up with a crazy addicted renovator. But I think we’ve both love that journey.

Stephen: We have. Yeah.

Bernadette: For those of you who are listening to this episode. Let your partner, your husband, listen in. And just let them know what they’re missing out on. I’m signing off for now and I’ll look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

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