Driven by a desire to profit for purpose

Yola Bakker’s $3.5m property portfolio spanning the Top End, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia has not only secured her a healthy retirement but is also giving her the financial freedom to invest in her biggest passion: giving back

Yola takes an active role in managing her properties, working in collaboration with trusted property managers
Years investing – 10
Number of properties – 7
Portfolio value – $3.5m
As someone with a passion for helping the disadvantaged, Yola Bakker moved to Indonesia with a desire to get into community-based volunteer work.
“At the time, I was undertaking both paid work and volunteer work in the arts and culture industry, but that particular pathway wasn’t ideal in terms of long-term sustainability,” Yola says.
“I recognised very quickly that property investment was a no-brainer solution that could provide me with the freedom to do anything else I desired. From there on in, I was adamant that I should become a property investor, and profit-for-purpose became my underpinning.”
The transition from earning a living in the arts to construction and property resonated with Yola – it felt like “trying to reconcile two different worlds in one”. Nonetheless, it was a perfect way for her to still accomplish her goal of helping people.
“Essentially, I feel an underlying obligation to give back,” she says.
And so, on her return to Australia in 2007, Yola became a woman on a mission.
“I secured full-time work, built on the savings I already had until they were enough for a deposit, and picked [my first] property because of its location.”

That home was a four-bedroom property in a housing estate 3km from the Darwin CBD. Yola saw a lot of rental potential in the property due to its proximity to amenities, and it ticked the box of being a brand-new construction, which she believed would translate to fewer maintenance issues.
“It’s one thing to invest in property, but the ability to understand and enjoy it is another thing. The advice my father gave me was to ‘get your brain around property’,” she explains.
“That was many years ago, but it made me resolute in my property pursuit, around what that would look like and why.”

“Property investment was a no-brainer solution that could provide me with the freedom to do anything else I desired”

Wait and watch
As Yola’s resources increased, her advisory team grew and her mindset changed with newfound knowledge. This influenced her subsequent purchases, dictating her path as an investor.
Yola is always on the watch for a good deal, which is how she stumbled onto her second investment, which is her most successful transaction yet – a duplex in Mount Gambier in South Australia.
After picking this up “at a steal”, Yola made some minor improvements that enabled a rental increase.
“I essentially picked up two homes for the price of one! With a purchase price of $225,000, it is returning $460 per week. I just love those figures: small outlay, great rental yield.”
A three-bedroom unit in Darwin that Yola had purchased with her husband for $385,000 is also dear to her heart (even though she generally chooses to avoid investing in units as a personal preference) – she was able to sell this apartment for $530,000, making a tidy profit.
However, her journey has not been without its problems.
“My biggest mistake without a doubt was sticking to what I knew, which meant I didn’t diversify soon enough,” Yola says.
“I’ve also made the mistake of overcapitalising in property. In making mistakes like this, not only did I fail to adequately manage my exposure to risk, but I also missed many key opportunities early on that, in hindsight, would have given me a portfolio of double the value.”
If she had a chance to start her journey over again, Yola says she would have gathered more experts around her, for example she would have used the services of a buyer’s agent.
“I would also have started doing improvements on established homes sooner, rather than sticking to new [properties],” she adds.

Golden Bay property. This WA property has seen its value soar by $25,000 in the past two years since its acquisition
Yola tries to think outside the box and develop strategies that increase her rental returns. Her ideal strategy is
a dual-income property

Mount Gambier property.  This duplex generates nearly $500 in rent each week
Shaping a strategy 
Despite the painful lessons, Yola chooses not to regret her failures.
“They proved effective in teaching me what was needed, both to drive me in the right direction and to shape me into the investor I am today. There is always more to learn, and we can never stop growing. As part of that process I find myself constantly resetting where my goals sit,” she says.
“I’ve also been privileged enough to meet some amazing and inspiring property investors along the way, both here in Australia and overseas – all with wonderful stories, which I find drive you that little further.”

“My current strategy is composed of acquisitions of properties that have the potential for manufactured growth”

One of the results of her growth has been the refining of her investment strategy.
“My current strategy is composed of acquisitions of properties that have the potential for manufactured growth, coupled with sequential purchasing – that is, alternating between cash positive and capital growth properties, and strategised selling,” Yola explains.
This has involved shifting her searches from new properties to established homes with upside, which in turn enable her to lease out affordable dwellings to tenants, in line with her desire to improve conditions for the disadvantaged.
“I have a strong passion for financial literacy and affordable housing, so I’m really looking at undertaking small development projects that align with this moving forward,” she says.
Living the dream
To achieve this goal, Yola aims to expand her network base and establish more partnerships.
“The satisfaction I personally get from the whole process is rewarding on so many levels,” she says.
“I love property not only as an investment tool but as a vehicle to achieve other aspirations.
To be honest, I don’t feel that I have achieved anything special in terms of property, as for me it was always going to be one aspect of what I needed to have in place to reach other long-term life goals.”
With the cash flow generated through strategic investment in rental properties, Yola has been able to create an adequate income for herself and her family. She is also now assured of a financially free retirement, with a healthy seven-figure equity position.
“When your mind is no longer tied up in continuing the relentless need to sell your time for a wage, more and more choices present themselves,” she explains. “You gain power to shape your lifestyle and enjoy the freedom to do what you enjoy when you want. I still work, but I do what I really enjoy and on a level that works for me.”
Yola appreciates the time that a career in property investment gives her with her family and also how it makes her a good example for her kids.
“It teaches my children that work is not just about money, it’s about passion and so forth, creating for them a positive perspective and relationship with money.”
1. Knowledge is power
Invest in yourself. Have the self-discipline to act on your commitments and maintain an open mind, and have a clear strategy. A strong mindset is key, as you will encounter many property cynics who claim to know better.
2. Don’t ‘set and forget’. Review your financial position and your investing strategy on an annual basis, at a minimum, and then adapt your strategy as necessary.
3. Innovate.
“I made significant improvements to my Loganholme property, creating two rentals by adding a granny flat out the back – completely detached, with a fence straight down the middle. This enabled a rent increase by over $200 per week!”
4. Just do it!
It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are or how much you earn; it’s what you do with what you have that makes all the difference. It helps if you can build an investment team, including your spouse, that supports your goals.
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