Tom Tung Cat
Table of Contents 1. The Early days
2. Hungry for a solution
3. Doing things differently
4. The magic formula
5. Finding a house
6. Helping others
7. Moving forward
Gayle Copeland, Dollars at Work Australian Credit License: 391310 www.dollaratwork4u.com.au
My name is Gayle Copeland and I run a business called Dollars at Work. I have been in the home loan business for 20 years and I have seen some big changes in recent times, which have impacted many families in getting finance from the bank. Due to the constant changes in the industry and lack of financial education, I believe that most families are unaware of alternative options outside the major banks. I am a big advocate of financial education, which is why I am proud to be associated with Tom and his team at Own Donâ€™t Rent, where the focus is on providing solid alternatives for families who fall between the cracks. Tomâ€™s story is inspiring, not only what he has managed to do for himself, but also the number of families he has helped over the years. I look forward to meeting you at the next Own Donâ€™t Rent educational seminar. Good luck in your home ownership journey. Gayle
Introduction This is the story of how I bought my first house without a bank. Since then I have bought many houses and helped countless families do the same. I started with nothing, so I had to be more creative in order to reach my goals. Along with having no money, I also had limited skills in English as I was born in Vietnam and had a limited education. Despite the odds being against me I attribute my overall success to having a burning desire for change, for investing in myself to gain the knowledge I needed, and to persisting even when everyone told me I was dreaming. Although it took me a relatively short time to transform my life; around 5 years, at the time it felt like an eternity. I would be lying if I said it was easy, but it was definitely worth it. Please enjoy my story.
Early Days My journey begins in Kings Cross, where I was working in a sandwich shop; making coffee and sandwiches for strippers and drunken teenagers at three in the morning. I worked the night shift 5, sometimes 6 days a week without a holiday for 5 years. Every night I kept myself out of despair by reminding myself of the dream I was working towards; I was saving most of the money I earned, and I was going to return home to Vietnam, invest all my savings in Vietnam and live a life as a rich man in Vietnam and never have to work again. But things didnâ€™t turn out as planned, a business venture that had seemed like a good idea had collapsed and one year later I returned to Australia with nothing. Working as a sandwich hand in Kings Cross.
--So here I was again.
My boss at the sandwich shop was kind enough to offer my old job back to me and the strippers and pimps welcomed back their favourite sandwich maker. ‘Tom Cat!’ they would cry out across the shop, (My real name was Tung Cat, but when I first arrived in Australia I had given myself the English name Tom, not knowing that Tom Cat had any meaning) ‘where ya been buddy? We missed you!’ Despite the warm welcome back to the Cross I felt shattered, the dream I had worked for was gone. When I imagined myself working another 5 years, every night, going to bed at 7 am and waking up at 5pm I broke out in a cold sweat, I couldn’t stand it; I couldn’t do it all again. I didn’t get it, I had done exactly what I’d always been told; work hard, save your money, and you will win. I was working the only kind of job I could get in Australia with my education and my broken English. My friends told me I should be grateful for what I did have, and that I was selfish to want more. But I started to think, there has to be a better way.
Endless night shifts merged into each other.
‘I started to think, there has to be a better way.’
Hungry for a Solution Sifting through the business books in the book shop, a particular title caught my eye, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki. I had heard of the book before; a friend of mine had told me that it was really easy to understand, which was exactly what I needed as my English was still quite poor. I read the book in one night, which I had never done before. With every page I became more and more excited. Not only was it very easy to understand, but it had in it an idea that I had always dreamed about. It showed a glimpse of a different way of thinking, of how to escape the rat race that kept us working until we died. The thing that stood out most to me is that if you do the things that 99% of people do, you will be sure to get the result that 99% of people get. That wasn’t good enough for me, I didn’t want to work the rest of my life in a sandwich shop. One thing became very clear to me; I had to start making my money work for me, instead of spending the rest of my life working for money. If I wanted to take control of my financial future I had to buy property, here in Australia.
Reading my favourite book, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki.
With my heart full of hope I marched into the bank one morning after work. I had played out the scene over and over again in my mind. I would walk up to the counter and announce that I would like a bank loan, a friendly chubby Australian man would chuckle and congratulate me for taking this bold new step in life, I would joyfully fill out a few simple forms and a bank loan, tied up in a red ribbon would be handed to me like a diploma, I would take this magical document to a real
‘If you do the things that 99% of people do, you will get the result that 99% of people get.’ estate agent who would tour me around all of his homes like when Dorothy arrives in the emerald city in Wizard of Oz. As I walked to the counter of the bank the reality of the situation suddenly sunk in. I was met by a bored looking woman who gave no response when I announced that I would like to apply for a bank loan, she just grunted that I’d have to take another ticket as I was at the wrong counter. So I took my ticket and waited. When I was finally called up to a desk I explained to another bored looking woman that I had $10K saved and would like to apply for a bank loan. What happened next hit me like a tonne of bricks. First I was told that 10K would not go very far towards a deposit for a house unless I wanted to buy somewhere in the outback. I was told that to buy in Sydney I would need at least 50K to go towards a deposit plus I would need extra for mortgage insurance, stamp duty. Even then I would only be able to buy in the far outskirts of Sydney. Then she started analysing my income; as I had only just returned to Australia a few months ago, I had to wait years before I could show the tax records of a steady income.
Unsure of what to do next.
And then the final blow, the banking attendant conducted an instant credit check and informed me that my credit history had a black spot on it, this would mean I would have to wait 5 years before the bank would even consider me for a loan.
The attendant smiled, ‘My advice is that you wait the five years for your credit to clear up, and in that time you can save more money for a deposit.’ I felt my heart sink, five years! This was just what I had been trying to avoid!
Doing things Differently All my friends told me to calm down, stop thinking so much about buying property. It was clear that I couldn’t buy a house for the next 5 years so I might as well relax. But I couldn’t relax, I wanted change and I knew that I had to gain more knowledge if I was ever going to make a change in my life I had 10K saved, I could have left that money in the bank and kept saving for another 5 years. However, I was too impatient, so I took my 10K and I invesed it in education. I went to every seminar I could get to, read every book I could get my hands on, and I paid to gain access to information from different mentors to teach me how to buy property. Many of the seminars told me the same thing as the bank; that I would have to save and wait before I could buy, but luckily I didn’t let this stop me. Slowly but surely I got what I was looking for; I came across a method of learning how to control property with little to no money. The course to learn this method cost $4K for a three day course. At the time this was an extraordinary amount of money for me. Despite the burning desire to make a change in my life I was still hesitant, there was still something holding me back, a small criticising voice from the past, my family.
Eleanor a new positive influence.
have seen it as a waste, they would have told me I was being naïve and it was a scam. ‘If this guy giving the course is so successful in property why would he need to teach it?’ they would have said. ‘These scam artists make all their money from teaching and don’t really know what they’re talking about’. Surprisingly my new girlfriend pushed me to go for it, she had a totally different way of seeing things; ‘If you don’t commit yourself to learning you will never get the change you are looking for.’
My family would never have agreed to spend this money, they would
So I took the course. It was the most intense three days of my life and I walked, no skipped out, feeling full of life. I discovered that there is a whole way of transacting property that is perfectly legal and that has in fact been used for hundreds of years by people and businesses like Napoleon, McDonalds and Donald Trump.
The Magic Formula The fact that my English was not perfect actually served me well. It forced me to listen to the cd’s provided by the course over and over again. The result was that I had the education provided drilled into my mind. There are in fact dozens of ways to buy a house with no money and also with no bank, but I focused on two methods that suited my situation; the first was called a lease option or also known as rent to own. With a lease option you can enter into a legal agreement with a house owner. It allows you the exclusive right to buy their house within a period of time for example five years (but it could be any period of time). During those five years time you have total control of the house, you can live in it, renovate it and even sell it. In return you take responsibility of the repayments of the house. So basically rather than paying money to the bank, the owner becomes the bank and you are paying the money to them instead. After the agreed period of time you then have the option to buy the house with a bank or simply walk away. If I could find an owner who was willing to sell their house this way it would be perfect for me; the bank had already told me I would have to wait 5 years before I would qualify for a bank loan, but a better way would be if I could have the house straight away, move into it, and make the payments immediately, then by the time I was required to buy it with a bank, I would qualify for a bank loan. I could even sell it for a profit before I had actually bought it with a bank.
Putting new skills into action.
‘If you don’t commit yourself to learning, you will never get the change you are looking for.’
Another advantage was that the increase in property value would probably help to lower the deposit I would have to save. This is not
‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way you are right.’ goes up in value by a minimum of 5% every year (depending on the area and on the economy, but 5% is being very conservative) So every year the value of the house would go up as follows; Year one 300K Year two 315K Year three 330.75K
Year four 347. 28K Year five 364.64K
To someone who has never heard of deposits and bank valuations this could sound very complicated. The most important point to understand is that if you have enough time, with a lease option agreement, the rise in value of a house will mean that you may not have to obtain a big deposit as you would normally need to get into a house. Working together to fix a house.
always an easy concept to grasp so read the next part slowly and reread it again if you need. For example: Assuming I found a house that the owner was willing to sell for 300K and agreed that I could take over the bank repayments for them and could have 5 years before I had to actually buy, then it would work out like this: For a 300K house I would ordinarily have to come up with a 20% deposit in order to qualify for a bank loan which would mean 60K. So the bank is happy to give you 80% of the buying price which would be 240K and you would be required to come up with the further 60K. But over a five year period things change; in Sydney the average house
I was so excited about my new found knowledge that I made the fatal mistake of telling everyone I knew about it. This was a mistake because I forgot how complicated and confusing all of these new ideas were. The result was that instead of being met with enthusiasm and encouragement, most of my friends told me that I was either too naïve, definitely being scammed, or talking about something that was illegal. I have to admit there were times when I started to doubt myself and my new found knowledge; maybe it was too good to be true. But luckily my girlfriend did not share the majority of opinions, and she gave me a quote from Henry Ford that never left my mind; ‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way you are right.’
Finding a House I made a commitment to myself to find a house that I could buy on a lease option within the next 2 months. Within the first few weeks I realised that, like all worthwhile tasks, this was not going to be easy. I got laughed out of countless real-estate agents. I know at the time that my English was not great but I could still tell when people were speaking to me like I knew no English. They would patronisingly tell me that ‘in this country…if you want to buy a house you need; a deposit, good income records, and then you can get a bank loan, that’s the only way to do it.’ Others told me that it was dodgy and illegal. At times like that I reminded myself of something Robert Kiyosaki said in his book ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’; “When someone points at you and says ‘you can’t do that, one finger is pointing at you. But 3 fingers are pointing back at themselves. What they really mean to say is ‘I don’t know how to do that.’” I spent every spare minute I had, searching for my house. I must have heard the word ‘no’ about 1000 times and in hundreds of different ways. But then one day I walked into a real estate agent in Canley Vale, I asked to speak with a real estate agent and was greeted by a shy looking woman named Kim. I started to explain what I was looking for, how it worked and how she would profit from it. I was surprised by her reaction; she seemed fascinated, she wanted to know more and more. She exclaimed that if she could sell all her houses in this way she would be the most successful agent in Sydney. This was the start of a fantastic business relationship, I had found someone who was open minded enough to try new ideas, but also respected enough by the community to be trusted.
The start of a long term business relationship Kim from My Property Centre in Canley Vale
‘When someone points at you and says you can’t do that, one finger is pointing at you. But 3 fingers are pointing back at themelves.’
Kim referred me to a man who desperately wanted to get rid of his house, he was starting a new business overseas and just wanted to be free of the house repayments. His name was Lee, he had no equity in the house so didn’t care which way it was sold as long as he was rid of the responsibility. I called Lee, told him I was interested in his house and arranged a time to talk. Lee had a 3 bedroom house in Roselands, it was a little run down but only needed a bit of love. I found Lee very receptive to the whole idea, he called his solicitor for legal advice. His solicitor struggled with the idea and I got them to call my solicitor. (part of the educational program I had invested in included being introduced to a solicitor who was an expert in the field of lease options) After a lengthy conversation with my solicitor, Lee’s solicitor was confident that it could be done safely and legally. Next things happened so quickly I couldn’t believe it. Within weeks all the legal contracts were done and my girlfriend and I moved into our first rent to own property. Lee had agreed to sell the house for $400K, he required $5K as an up front deposit and agreed that that house would not have to be ‘settled’ for a further 5 years. In the meantime we were responsible to pay the council rates and water bills and to pay $490 per week which would cover his bank repayments. Between me and my girlfriend we were more than comfortable paying $490 per week and we were over the moon about actually living in our own house.
My girlfriend, Eleanor showing her handy side.
We remembered how frustrating it was when we were renting. Sydney was right in the middle of a renting crisis, so finding a place was hard enough, but then the rent kept going up and you never felt like you had any control. Now, we had freed ourselves of the renting trap and would never have to worry about renting again.
Soon after moving into the house I discovered my girlfriend had a real handy side, she patched up all the cracks in the walls, fixed the broken cornices in the ceiling, repaired the broken windows, repainted the entire house and even had the bathroom retiled. The difference it made to the look of the house was astonishing, and I knew that it had increased the value of the place.
Helping Others We lived blissfully in our new house and I started to venture out and buy more houses the same way, once I had done my first house everything seemed to get easier, it was as if once I had seen it with my own eyes, people began to trust that I knew what I was talking about. I met a man name Adam who was in a terrible financial situation. He had bought a new house and had been assured by his real estate agent that his old house would be sold quickly. After almost a year he still hadn’t sold it and he was going bankrupt trying to make up both repayments. I had agreed to buy the house from Adam and make repayments. I was responsible to pay the council rates, water rates, and uphold of the house. I had been given three and a half years to actually ‘buy’ the house with a bank but in the meantime had control of the house, I could live in it, rent it out and even sell it. I then sold the house to Stef and John in the same way; they would make weekly repayments. They were now responsible to pay the council rates, water rates, and uphold of the house. They had been given two and a half years to get their finances in order. At the end of that time frame they could then go to the bank to finalise the purchase. In the meantime they had control of the house, they could live in it, rent it out and even sell it. In this way I have helped two families out of a difficult situation. On one hand I had relieved Adam of the strain of the bank repayments, and on the other hand I had given a young couple the opportunity to own their own home when the banks wouldn’t.
Michael’s life has now changed with home ownership.
Pam, Paul, Lisa and family - when they couldn’t find anywhere to rent, Pam’s kids bought their home 6 weeks before Xmas without a bank.
Janelle bought the house she was renting without a bank.
Hear their story. 26
Moving Forward In the meantime I decided to change the plan a little. I had been given 5 years to buy my house in Roselands but after a conversation with my lawyer, I decided to buy it after only 1 year. I still had to wait a further 4 years for my credit history to be clear, but my girlfriend’s credit was perfect, and after living in the house for a year, she could now also show a years worth of employment history and the bank also took into account the payments that we had made on time for our house over a 1 year period. So my girlfriend qualified for a bank loan and we bought the house. Our payments went down slightly from 490 to 440 per week, which was nice. We also didn’t have to worry about the deposit. We had agreed to buy the house for $400K but over a year the property market had boomed and the value of the property was now $450K. So the bank was happy to loan us 90% of the property value, which is $405, we also received the first home owners grant so we ended up with an extra $12,000, part of which went towards legal fees and mortgage insurance and the rest straight into our bank account! Over the next few years I became an expert at transacting houses without a bank and I have helped dozens of families to own their own. In most cases the bank did play a role eventually, but the method of buying made it so much easier for people to step into the banking system. It was interesting to see that the so called ‘friends’ who had told me to be realistic and that my idea would not work, came back to me years later to ask advice on how they might buy their own house.
Continuing my education and self development.
Looking back on what I have learnt and achieved, I would be lying if I said I took the easy path. I find that there are still a lot of people out there who are unwilling to try anything other than what they know, and will label an innovative idea as ‘dicey’ or ‘illegal’. But I always reassure myself and my clients with the simple quote: from Robert Kiyosaki that really changed my whole way of thinking ‘If you only do what 99% of people do, you will only get the result that 99% of people get.’
Conclusion Thank you for reading my story. I hope you have learnt something new which you can apply to your current situation. I am passionate about helping Australian families to own their own home, please keep an eye out for the regular video interviews I release on my website to equip you with more knowledge to get yourself the house you deserve. I also have started a monthly information seminar which you can register yourself for on the following link. Register for our seminar. Alternatively if you would like to speak to me or a member of the Own Don’t Rent team, please see our contact details on the following page.
Eleanor Clapham PROJECT MANAGER
Tom Tung Cat DIRECTOR
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone:(02) 9896 1612 www.owndontrent.com.au
Jennifer Kanthan GENERAL MANAGER