From $20k to $25 Million: The Chris Gray Story

Tyron Hyde sits down with property investment savant, Chris Gray. The conversation traverses Chris's impressive $25 million property portfolio, delving into his unconventional investment strategies that defy traditional norms.

By asking his famous "ten questions",  Tyron Hyde delves into Chris Gray's investment journey, highlighting Gray's preference for value accumulation over immediate equity and discussing the significance of property control in building wealth. Anchored in his contrarian approach, Gray's investment philosophy emphasises spending wisely to leverage money effectively, especially in real estate. Through anecdotes and examples, Chris provides insights into his experiences, spanning from clever property renovations to prudent financial planning amidst shifting interest rates.

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Key Takeaways:




  1. Chris Gray Intro
  2. Chris' Contrarian Views
  3. Limiting Risk
  4. Q1: Best Investment
  5. Q2: Worst investment
  6. Q3: Most Valuable Investment Advice
  7. Q4: Ideal Portfolio Mix
  8. Q5: Investing $20K at 20
  9. Q6: Investing $500K at 50
  10. Q7: Advice to 20-year-old Self
  11. Q8: Legacy
  12. Q9: Definition of Success
  13. Q10: How NOT to Lose Money
  14. Bonus Q: Getting on the Property Ladder


Click to expand the full transcript

0:00:00 - (Tyron Hyde): On this episode of Ten with Ty, Chris Gray - knows a shitload about property, loves his cars and boats, doesn't mind a beer, and in no particular order. How's that sound, Chris?
0:00:09 - (Chris Gray): I reckon that's a perfect sum up. You can speak at my funeral if you want.
0:00:12 - (Tyron Hyde): He has a $25 million property portfolio.
0:00:15 - (Chris Gray): As you can see, I've got an amazing view behind me.
0:00:17 - (Tyron Hyde): So what's his secret?
0:00:19 - (Chris Gray): I think the new generation is you get rich by spending money these days. The old school of do-it-yourself and save money is a false economy.
0:00:26 - (Tyron Hyde): It's all coming up on Ten with Ty.

0:00:30 - (Tyron Hyde): Hi, I'm Tyron Hyde, the CEO of Washington Brown, the property depreciation expert. Now, I'm a qualified quantity surveyor and also a best-selling author who's helped hundreds of thousands of property investors over the years pay less tax through depreciation. I'm also an avid investor, which is why I created the podcast series Ten with Ty, where I ask the smartest people I know the same ten questions to unlock the keys to their success, and hopefully leave a playbook for my family, and your family too, about investing. Now, this podcast is general in nature and not specific to your financial circumstances. We always recommend you sit down with an accountant or financial planner before making any investment decisions. Now let's get on with the show.

0:01:17 - (Tyron Hyde): Hello and welcome to Ten with Ty. My next guest is Chris Gray. He's a contrarian when it comes to property, or his views are. He's a former accountant turned property strategist. He's written six books on property investment. He owns a buyer's agency called Your Empire, and he was host of Your Money, Your Call on Sky Business News, for ten years. That's his official bio, but I've written my own one for Chris. Chris Gray knows a shitload about property, loves his cars and boats, doesn't mind a beer, and in no particular order. How's that sound, Chris?
0:01:45 - (Chris Gray): I reckon that's a perfect sum up. You can speak at my funeral if you want.
0:01:49 - (Tyron Hyde): Now, before we get into Ten with Ty. Welcome to Ten with Ty, by the way, before we get into my world-famous ten questions, I just want to ask you a couple of questions. Firstly, what are your contrarian views that go against the grain when it comes to property investment?
0:02:01 - (Chris Gray): Look, it's pretty much everything if you look at your parents. So the whole idea of go to school, get a good education, go to university, then get a good job, buy a home, get married, white picket fence, pay it off over 25 years, then start investing after that. I thought rather than create this good job and then create wealth, why not start creating wealth straight away? Which is when I started at 22 and I was always so busy with my social life and doing other stuff, I never had time for a full-time job.
0:02:30 - (Chris Gray): And so whilst I did work kind of hard in my 20s it was never to build that career, because I thought the ultimate thing is you build a career to create money, to create wealth. Why not just create wealth from the start and then you can choose what you want to do for the rest of your life? Right.

0:02:45 - (Tyron Hyde): And has that been your rent-vesting strategy or how have you achieved that?

0:02:49 - (Chris Gray): Look, it's pretty much my thing for living. So even in my 30s, when I was at Deloitte, I did a 40-hour job in 20 hours, so I could have the other 20 hours for property investing or hanging out. And my big thing has always been lifestyle. So again, I'm into cars and boats and travelling and all these other things. Not necessarily five-star, I'm just as happy with one-star and travelling, but I always put lifestyle first. But as long as I'd invested some money to kind of look after the long term as well.
0:03:17 - (Chris Gray): And so where a lot of people concentrate on their net equity or their net wealth, I was always on how many assets you control. So rather than have a million-dollar paid-off house, I'd rather have $10 million of property and 10 million of debt. I e. I'm worth nothing because ten doubles to 20 million, whereas one only doubles to two. And so I wouldn't go for the cheapest home loan, I'd go for the bank that lends me the most money. Because rather than save you a few dollars and cents, I want to make another ten grand or 100 grand or another million dollars.

0:03:47 - (Tyron Hyde): What about with interest rates rising? Hasn't that stressed you out a bit?
0:03:48 - (Chris Gray):  I haven't got a single hair on my head now.
0:03:54 - (Tyron Hyde): But in reality, how have you coped with that? Harder to borrow that money.

0:03:58 - (Chris Gray): It's tough. We can talk about my numbers. My debt is in the range of kind of twelve or 13 million. So you increase the interest rates by 4%. I've got to find another 500, 600 grand a year. Obviously, most people don't even earn that kind of money, so that's all part of the cycle. So in the good times, rather than blow all my money, that's when I was then pulling equity out, making sure I've got equity buffers so that I can ride these downtimes without having to panic sell.
0:04:27 - (Chris Gray): Now, over the last 30 years, that I've been investing, we've had lots of ups and downs, GFCs, Covid credit crunches, I'll pay ten or 11% interest rates, I'll pay down to two or three. And the whole idea is this isn't a hobby business, this is big business. Like I've got 20-25 million of property. And so if you think of that as a business rather than just an asset base, that's a lot of money to deal with. And so I treat it like a business. And so I have the best advisors in the country, I know my numbers inside out.
And whilst I haven't got everything perfect, I reasonably calculate so I could go bust at some point in time. Hopefully I won't, but at least I'm making calculated decisions, but with some very big numbers.

0:05:11 - (Tyron Hyde): And how have you limited that risk of the 25 million? What's your strategy there?

0:05:17 - (Chris Gray): So a lot of it's about the quality of the assets that I buy at the first place, so it's not volatile stocks. I'm not buying in mining towns or regional areas, that might double or half overnight. So it's slow and steady wins the race kind of philosophy. And a lot of what I've learned about buying the right stock comes from say, Sky News. As you said, I've been hosting on there for ten years. And so I would then go and invite the guests that I wanted on there, like the economists and the banks, and I'd work out what they like, what they see as risk-free, what they're more prepared to lend on.
0:05:50 - (Chris Gray): Because your ability to go from one property to 5,10 $20 million isn't based on what you think it's worth or how you value the asset. It's what the bank thinks because they're the ones refinancing to then give you the equity to keep repeating. So I learned what the value is like and what they dislike to then be as aligned with the bank as possible, so that when the bank sees me, I haven't got a five or $10 million home.
0:06:16 - (Chris Gray): As you can see, I've got an amazing view behind me, but I'm probably one of the most well-known rent-vestors. I hadn't lived in my own home for probably 25 years, half my life, and I may never live in my own home ever. But to me it's an advantage rather than a negative. So I can do these things because I know the banks hate lending on five or $10 million properties.

0:06:36 - (Tyron Hyde): If you got 25 million portfolio debt of twelve, why do you just sell the whole thing? And sleep better at night? Or is that not your strategy?

0:06:44 - (Chris Gray): Yeah. So, look, you could do just to make the numbers easy. So, say, a few years ago, I had, say, 20 million of property and ten of debt, so I could sell it all. You'd have 10 million, you'd probably pay maybe 2 million capital gains. You're left with 8 million cash now. 8 million cash. Obviously, for a lot of people, then that's a lot of money and they can survive on that and multiple families can survive on that.
0:07:08 - (Chris Gray): But again, my thought is that $8 million is rising by, say, four to 800 grand a year, which, when you live in Sydney and there's kids at private schools and overseas holidays and stuff like that, sure, it is a lot of money, but again, my thought is, say, 20 or 25 million is then rising by, say, one and a half to two and a half million dollars a year. Sure, you've got the debt, but I'm not paying for, say, the negative gearing from my wages.
0:07:37 - (Chris Gray): It's really coming from equity or from the other properties. And so because I know my numbers inside out, I'd rather have my. Rather than 8 million doubling to 16 million debt-free, I'd rather have 25 million doubling to 50 million and then give me a net, say, 35 million or whatever, later on. Because, sure, I get a bit of stress from the debt, say, in times like this, when your repayments suddenly go up four or 500 grand a year.
0:08:05 - (Chris Gray): But in 2021, when I had, say, 20 million in ten of debt, my portfolio was only costing me maybe 50 or 100 grand a year.

0:08:13 - (Tyron Hyde): Right.

0:08:13 - (Chris Gray): And so if I had a million dollars in my buffer, that was going to last me ten or 20 years, it's no stress. So having $10 million of debt is stressful. But if you already know you've got five or 600 grand's worth of rent coming in from diverse properties, I'm not paying back $10 million worth of debt. I'm paying the difference between the rent and the mortgage on $10 million worth of debt.

0:08:36 - (Tyron Hyde): That makes sense. Now, SQM has recently said that rents in Sydney went up 24% last year. Right. Is rent-vesting still a strategy with this rise in rents?

0:08:48 - (Chris Gray): Yeah, because the reality is, for rent-vesting is, I go and buy lots of little properties, and a little property in Sydney is one to 2 million, and that typically rents at roughly three to four, maybe four and a half percent if you're lucky. I then go and rent five or $10 million homes. Not many people can afford those. And the ones that can afford it, don't want to rent, because technically, poor people rent, and so there's a social stigma against it. So the yield is only about 1%.
0:09:15 - (Chris Gray): So even if rents rise, say, 25%, I've effectively got my 4% rents going up at 25%, which is an extra percent, whereas my 1% rent that I'm paying on my home that I live in, that goes from one to one and a quarter. So big deal, because the rents I'm receiving are much more than the rents I'm paying. So I don't mind about rent increases because I benefit.

0:09:40 - (Tyron Hyde): I agree with you. Sometimes, as you know, we view a lot of properties. I think we've done 250,000 reports over the years, and sometimes I do an inspection, I'll go out to see this client. They might have paid, say, $1.8 million for a property. I said, so what are you renting this for? What are you renting it out, for $600 a week? I'm thinking, man, the tenant's winning here, right? Once you take into account property manager fees, they don't value the repairs and maintenance that go with it. All these other things, I'm thinking, you must be clearing, like, $200 and you just paid 1.8 million for the property anyway.

0:10:11 - (Tyron Hyde): All right, are you ready to play Ten with Ty?
0:10:13 - (Chris Gray): Chris, let's fire away.

0:10:15 - (Tyron Hyde): All right, question number one, Chris, what has been your best investment?

0:10:20 - (Chris Gray): So probably one of the best ones I've done, and it's been in quite a few magazines, was in the GFC. So roughly around 2010, everyone said the world was coming to an end. A bit like Covid. Worst financial crisis we've ever had in the world. You shouldn't be buying. I went and bought a $1.9 million block of units in Coogee. It was a block of five units. I think it was three two-bedders and two one-bedders. I then spent 600 grand on it, so it cost me two and a half million.
0:10:46 - (Chris Gray): I converted some of the one beds into three beds, bolted balconies on the front, refurbished the whole block, so it cost me two and a half million. And then the bank revalued it at three and a half million, three and a half months later. I basically increased the equity by a million dollars. I then got, I think, a 70 or 80% loan on that three and a half million, which repaid me all of the two and a half million dollars back.
0:11:10 - (Chris Gray): Plus it gave me a $300,000 buffer as well. So basically bought a property, renovated it, got all my money back. Plus an extra 300 grand in about three and a half months. So if I could do that once a year, that'd be an amazing thing. But unfortunately, life doesn't work that way.

0:11:27 - (Tyron Hyde): It doesn't, does it? Just a couple of questions. So do you still own it?
0:11:30 - (Chris Gray): Yes, I do.

0:11:31 - (Tyron Hyde): So it's still sitting there. And big question, how do you turn a one-bedder into a three-bedder?

0:11:36 - (Chris Gray): It's absolutely amazing. This is the smallest three-bedder in the world. It's about something like 60 m², which is horrendous. And there's almost no windows. So this is in the middle of the block. It was basically a one-bedroom, but then the other side of the block was like a little garden shed. And so we enclosed that and then put that in there, and then there was a little storage room that we managed to turn into a third bedroom.
0:12:01 - (Chris Gray): So in Coogee, obviously, beachside suburb, the amazing thing is for students, it's perfect. So we would get people from, say, the University of New South Wales that could normally only afford to live in Randwick, but they could then move into Coogee for maybe $600. So maybe $200 a bedroom. Sure. It's a small bedroom, but they're spending most of their time either at university or their job, so they're not really hanging out at home.
0:12:26 - (Chris Gray): So it's almost just like a bed at night. So if it's dark, there's no real windows. Doesn't really matter to them. So the only time we've had a problem was in Covid, because people were staying at home. That would be the worst place in the world to go and live in the middle of COVID because you got three of you in there, no windows, no outdoor space, and so it'd be pretty tough. But for the rest of the ten or 15 years I've owned it, it's been very good.

0:12:51 - (Tyron Hyde): Fantastic. Now, question number two. Chris, what has been your worst investment?

0:12:54 - (Chris Gray): Probably the worst. And again, I think of them as learning experiences. So I don't think I've made mistakes, I've made learning experiences. And even if you lost 100 grand on one thing, if it saves you 200 grand from the next one, then that's a good investment of money or time spent. Well, so probably it was buying a house and land package up in Brisbane. This was in early  2000s. I did a joint venture with a guy from the UK.
0:13:21 - (Chris Gray): He basically wanted to buy a property. He couldn't get a mortgage, so I worked out how I could double his rent, double his capital growth. I would do all the work and I'd only benefit after he got his money. So I only basically made a profit after he made a profit. And so we ended up buying a house and land package because he was a foreigner. So we wanted to buy something brand spanking new. And look, it did go up. So I think we bought it for about 300 grand.
0:13:45 - (Chris Gray): I think we sold it for about 450 quite a few years later. So in the time it went up by 50%, Sydney equivalents in the eastern suburbs had gone up by 100%. So sure, I still made a profit. So it wasn't a bad mistake, there was lost opportunity. But again, this was at the start of me building my portfolio. And so rather than go and buy a whole bunch of other properties, like ten or 20 million of those, at least, I only bought the one and then I moved on from it.

0:14:14 - (Tyron Hyde): Chris, number three, what has been the most valuable investment advice you've ever received?

0:14:18 - (Chris Gray): Probably the best investment advice I had was from a guy called John Edwards from Residex, who you'd remember from the old days. A lot of the time people would talk about how can property prices keep increasing when wages aren't keeping up with house price inflation? And he gave the answer to say, well, in the parents' generation, they had double digits, interest rates, they had massive blocks, they had one income earner per family.
0:14:43 - (Chris Gray): These days we've got smaller blocks, we've got double income per family, we've got interest rates in the single figures, and we've got government grants and things like that to give first home buyers a chance to get into the market and things like that. But he said the real thing that pushes property prices is when you go to the blue-chip areas. So if you think of, say, in Sydney, the eastern suburbs or eastern beaches, lower north shore,  inner west, you avoid the CBD because there's no limit of supply and height restrictions.
0:15:12 - (Chris Gray): In those other areas you get three-storey height limits. And so in those areas, there's no more property, so there's no supply. And there's still lots of demand from young professionals with high-paying jobs, wealthy parents that will give them deposits and stuff like that. And we're not talking about buying 50 or 100 million dollar Point Piper, we're talking about one or $2 million Bondi or Manly. He said the basic law of economics, of supply and demand like that you learned at school, that's the thing that will keep pushing prices up. And that's why I think that is the most solid market in Australia or in the world, is those blue chip markets because there is no affordability problems there.

0:15:51 - (Tyron Hyde): So they're saying they're not making any more land. I tend to think that's true in those areas. Right? But where you've got an infill site and you're subdividing, they are making more land. They've just created more land to sell. Right? But definitely not in Bondi. And that's why it's a solid investment, not that everyone can afford it.

0:16:07 - (Chris Gray): So when I bought that house and land package, the presenter there, who's another author as well, it was the classic line of land appreciates buildings depreciate, which is obviously your territory.

0:16:17 - (Tyron Hyde): You say that one, it's a bad thing, Chris.

0:16:21 - (Chris Gray): And so obviously you should buy something with the most land content that you can. But what I've since learned, it's about the quality of the land. Say for a million dollars you get a one-bedroom Bondi. In Melbourne, you get maybe a townhouse or a semi. In Queensland, you get a four-bedroom house. And in the Northern Territory, you get a million acres. But in the middle of summer, are you going to get 50 or 100 people queuing up for those million acres in the Northern Territory No, because there's no demand for it. So it's all about the quality and the scarcity of the land rather than the quantity.

0:16:53 - (Tyron Hyde): Yeah. Now, just to clarify, land appreciates, buildings depreciate. We do know that. But as an accountant, you would recommend that once someone buys it, once they've bought that investment property, a depreciation schedule from Washington Brown is a no-brainer. Right, Chris?

0:17:05 - (Chris Gray): 100%. Again in the early days. So I didn't know about depreciation until probably 20,25 years ago in my late 20s or 30s. Again, a lot of the firms were almost guaranteeing that whatever you spent on the report, you'd be getting that within the first year or two in deductions. So it's a no-brainer. It pays for itself. Why wouldn't you go and get those deductions?

0:17:28 - (Tyron Hyde): Yeah. Excellent. Okay, question number four. What's your ideal portfolio? Because you got a portfolio of 25 million. Is it all in resi or have you split it?

0:17:36 - (Chris Gray): So look, I'm not the poster child for diversification. I'm more for specialisation. So look, if you go and diversify, so if you have properties all around Australia, sure, that can be good. Ideally, you get a bit of each market as the cycle moves around. I'm very much more into specialisation in that I know my subject, the type of property I'm investing in inside out because that's all I've done for the last 20 or 30 years.
0:18:01 - (Chris Gray): So all of mine is resi property. Probably 90 or 95% is in Sydney, in blue chip. The other five or 10% is in the UK, outside of London, similar kind of thing. So, look, it's not ideal. I've then got pure cash in terms of buffer or offset accounts or redraw accounts. But look, one day I should buy some shares, but I'll say I'll buy some shares when I'm rich enough that I can afford to lose the money.

0:18:26 - (Tyron Hyde): That's right. That's exactly right. 

Do you own an investment property? Washington Brown has helped over 250,000 property investors pay less tax with the depreciation schedule. Visit washingtonbrown.comaau to pay less tax today. 

Number five, Chris. Now, let's say you've got children. Let's say one of your kids comes up to you and said, Dad, I've just saved 20 grand, right? They've worked at Maccas for a couple of years. How would you tell your 20-year-old child to invest that money?

0:19:00 - (Chris Gray): Yeah, well, I'm forcing my kids to read my books and saying, do you want to work for the rest of your life? Because they say all the daddies at school go to work, whereas you don't. I said, well, if you read my book, you could have the rest of your life to choose whatever you want to do. But they say, that's boring, Dad, I don't want to read it. So now I've actually got to paying them $50 to read my book and to write notes in the back and then transcribe it into Word for $50. But that's still a slow process.
0:19:26 - (Chris Gray): So we've got a young guy in the office now called James, James Brown. Everyone that works for me seems to be called Gray or Brown or some other kind of colour. He was a random guy that rang me off the back of Sky News, saying he had actually earned 10,000 pounds or, sorry, $10,000. So he was at university but had worked part-time in the pub, and he said, what should I do with the money? And I said, well, saving ten grand is really, really good, but it's not going to get you anywhere, especially in Sydney property.
0:19:57 - (Chris Gray): And I'd just done a property options course. And I said, look, this is going to be a weird comment to say, and probably against what your parents will say, but ten grand is not going to get you anywhere, but the knowledge will. So I said, if you go and do this course for four or five grand that I've just done. I actually need someone to then kind of be my right-hand man to do the feasibility reports. The buy into the next stage is a whole bunch of us are putting in 250 grand to then buy property options. You haven't got that 250, whereas I have. Why don't you go and take a punt? I'll take a punt on you. He ended up working for me. He then started learning more about property. He then joined our Buyers agency, left his job at the pub and university, then started earning 50 or 100 grand. He basically did a joint venture with his cousin out of the army and they bought a 700 grand pre-Covid in Vaucluse in Sydney for 350 each.
0:20:52 - (Chris Gray): They then used that and some of the equity to, then he bought his own one bedroom in Neutral Bay, I think, at the age of 23, for 800 grand afterwards. So suddenly this is a guy that turned his life around, is earning more than his other mates, has then got, effectively maybe one and a half million dollars worth of property now, was contrarian, so the Telegraph picked it up. So if you want to pick up the stories, just Google James Brown, the Telegraph, that they got him for doing a joint venture at the age of 21, then they got him for contrarian investing in Covid when all these rich, clever people weren't doing it.
0:21:26 - (Chris Gray): And so, yeah, he'll probably end up richer than me.

0:21:30 - (Tyron Hyde): Good story, good story. Do you want to just explain to the audience what a property options course is?

0:21:37 - (Chris Gray): Yeah. So the options. Very interesting thing. And I'd come across it a tiny bit, but not too much. So let's just say you've got. We were looking at places like Parramatta. They got, say, a block of 50 units that are worth 500 grand each. We go in there and say, right, okay, we'll pay you a million dollars, but it's not guaranteed. We want an option over it, so we'll pay you, say, four or five grand option fee to have the right to buy your property for double the value, a million dollars.
0:22:05 - (Chris Gray): But we need to go to council. So at the moment, your unit is only worth 500. But if we go to council and invest maybe a million dollars in a DA, with the new height limits, we might be able to take it to 500 units at a million dollars each. So it's a half-a-billion dollar project, but it's only worth that if we spend the million going to council, which you as owners, aren't going to do. So the idea is we then spend maybe 250 grand on option fees to those 50 owners.
0:22:32 - (Chris Gray): We then spend a million, million and a half going to council, ideally get DA approval, then onsell it to a developer for maybe five or 10 million. We've then kind of five times our money. The owners have then got double what their properties were worth and the developer gets a project that they can then go off and build. So it's high risk in that if we don't get that DA through council, we've then just gone and burned one and a half million dollars.
0:22:57 - (Chris Gray): The owners, they're okay. They've maybe been put on hold for a year or two, but they've made, say, five grand for the option fee and they've had a chance of maybe doubling their money.

0:23:06 - (Tyron Hyde): It's the highest risk, but it can be also the highest reward. The probing options game.

0:23:10 - (Chris Gray): Yeah. So we raised a little fund from our clients and we didn't want random people in, say, like, say that James guy giving us a 50 grand investment, so we got 20 people putting in 50 grand, so a million bucks. But we didn't want young people risking 50 grand. We wanted people that ideally were already our customers. We've maybe already made them one or 2 million and this was a little 50 grand punt on the side from the end. We ended up spending a few years doing it.
0:23:40 - (Chris Gray): We've got one investment still going, so we returned half their money back. So they put in 50, we gave them 25 back and then we've got one other investment that we'll ideally pay them another 25 or 50 back after that.

0:23:52 - (Tyron Hyde): Fantastic.

0:23:52 - (Chris Gray): But it's a very long-term thing. It's not for first-home buyers, it's for speculators that you write off the money and it's a bonus if you get some back. It's definitely not, I think, a mainstream wealth creation strategy on that kind of thing. But maybe doing an option for, say, on a house to subdivide it is maybe something more for the average investor or slightly more sophisticated one.

0:24:18 - (Tyron Hyde): Fantastic. All right, Chris, number six. Let's flip it. Let's say you've been struggling to get ahead, life's gotten in the way, and you turn 50 and suddenly your parents have passed away and left you a $500,000 inheritance. So I think that might happen a bit more because obviously the baby boomers are at that age now. How would you tell yourself at 50 to invest that money? Because we obviously can't give financial advice.

0:24:41 - (Chris Gray): So in an ideal world, I'll try and leverage it, because 500 grand cash can only double to a million, whereas if you had an income and you could borrow money. Ideally, that 500 grand could be a deposit and costs on a $2 million property or two $1 million units. Ideally, I'd invest blue chip. So if I could afford Sydney, I'll go eastern suburbs, lower north shore, inner west. If I couldn't afford Sydney, then I'll be going down to Melbourne, and then from Melbourne, probably Brisbane, so generally keeping to the main capital cities, because that's where the shortage of land is and that's where the most income is and stuff like that. If you can leverage it. I would. So if I had 2 million to spend, I'd probably buy two $1 million units, or you could get, which is probably a one-bedder, or you could get a really good two-bedder for, say, two mil, or maybe you go, say, one and a half mil, borrow a few shares and maybe have a bit of money over.
0:25:34 - (Chris Gray): But a lot of people would say, well, I'm 50, I've only got maybe ten or 20 years left, so I've only really got one or two property cycles. But I'd say that's even more reason to go blue chip and slow and steady wins the race, because if you go and screw up that 500 grand and do a property option, or you go and buy regional, or you go and buy off the plan and it doesn't work out, you've got no other chances left.
0:25:58 - (Chris Gray): When I used to run education, I had a guy at 65 come and do my course, and he said, Chris, have I left it too late? And I said, well, look, it depends how long you want to live, because if a property cycle is 7,10 or 12 years, in that case was he did have 500 grand, and this was 20 years ago. And I said, well, at least if you invested 500 grand doubling to a million, that's your ideal kind of return that you want. Will an extra 500 grand help you when you're in your kind of 70s.

0:26:31 - (Tyron Hyde): Do you get a lot of clients com and say, hey, I've got this money. Is that how it works in your industry? And people just are looking for your, I guess, handholding of strategy?

0:26:39 - (Chris Gray): Yeah. So classically with a buyer's agent, normally you go to a buyer's agent and you say, this is what I want. Can you go and do it? And they say, yes, sir. And they go and deliver it for you. We kind of say that, but I'd say, why don't you have a read of my book? Do you want me to suggest what I would do with your money? And quite often I'll be doing the exact opposite to what they would do, right?
0:26:59 - (Chris Gray): Because they've learned from their parents, their grandparents, society, the media, stuff like that. They'd buy something nice, bright and shiny in a new suburb. They'd hear from a mate, oh, this suburb is about to go off. Let me go off and buy that. It's in Covid. Oh, let's go and buy Noosa or Byron or something like that. Whereas, excuse me, and I'm losing my voice, but I'm the boring strategy. So that's why on Sky, I didn't have the best TV show in the world, because I wasn't selling hype and excitement and the rest of it, this is slow and steady, wins the race over 10,20 or 30 years.
0:27:36 - (Chris Gray): It doesn't sell millions and millions of books or anything, but the difference is it works, and that's the thing. So we've got clients. The most a clients spends is probably 80 million with us. The cheapest is these days, maybe 500 grand. And we've got everyone in between.

0:27:53 - (Tyron Hyde): And are you just Sydney or are you branched out to Brisbane and Melbourne now?

0:27:58 - (Chris Gray): So with Sydney that I run, we've then got affiliate offices in Melbourne and Brisbane, which are run by owners that have lived there all their life, that they know it inside out. Because when I was speaking on stage at, say, the Homebuyer shows in Melbourne or Brisbane, they'd say, I can't afford Sydney, I want to buy locally. And I said, that's fine. I can give you all the information. And even if I moved up to Brisbane, sure, I might have more knowledge than most other buyers agents, but unless I've known the agents and dealt with them for ten or 20 years, I haven't got the relationship to get me off-market deals and to get the best deals.

0:28:31 - (Chris Gray): And this is the thing. So for Joe public, you could know everything, but you can't actually compete with someone that's done 100, 200, a thousand deals with a real estate agent, because they've got that existing relationship, just like you have with your suppliers. So that's the thing. So that's why I ran an affiliate office, that they get all my knowledge, but they get a local buying the property at the same time.

0:28:55 - (Tyron Hyde): All right, question number seven. Chris, if you could go back in time and find yourself at 20 years old, what would you tell your 20-year-old self, Chris, about investing?

0:29:04 - (Chris Gray): When I was 20, that was a whole different lifetime. That was like the Dark Ages and stuff like that. Okay, so look, the keys I've learned. So I started investing at 22 I'm now 52, so been doing it for 30 years. The biggest things I've learned is leverage. And so it's using that 500 to buy that $2 million property. It's compounding, which is being in the market for 30, 40, 50 years, if you can. Because even if you get one or 2% growth compounded over a long time, is a lot of money.
0:29:32 - (Chris Gray): It's all about the asset value, not the net equity. So, like I said, having, say, five or 10 million of property and five or 10 million of debt is better than a million dollars that's been paid off. Having high amounts of debt, sure it's risky, but it's the forced savings. You're forced to then go and do whatever it takes to pay the interest on those loans. So it's a great force savings kind of thing.
0:29:54 - (Chris Gray): Then you've got to do whatever it takes to hang on. And then the final thing is, don't listen to friends, family and media, because most of the time they're trying to sell you shit.

0:30:05 - (Tyron Hyde): That's like when you choose your accountant. One of the first questions you would ask your accountant if you're in the property industry or you are buying properties is, how many properties do you actually own? They say, no, I'd probably run from that accountant. And compounding interest. I said this the other day with Dale Beaumont. I said I was watching Warren Buffett the other day and he was interviewed and he said, let me tell you something fascinating. He said he bought his first parcel of shares that cost, like, $150. He said, if I kept those shares and just reinvested the dividend today, they'd be worth $450,000.
0:30:34 - (Chris Gray): Yeah.
0:30:35 - (Tyron Hyde): Compounding interest is the key. 

Ten with Ty is brought to you by Washington Brown, the property depreciation experts. 

 (Tyron Hyde): Question number eight. What legacy do you want to leave your family or your community, Chris?

0:30:50 - (Chris Gray): So, look, I think the biggest thing I want to do is to show everyone that anything's possible. And doing something completely the opposite to everyone else isn't necessarily a bad thing. I guess the other thing is also about kind of being honest and ethical. You don't have to rip people off, whether it's clients or other property buyers or homeowners, whatever, to get ahead. There's plenty of money to be made just being honest and straightforward.
0:31:18 - (Chris Gray): And probably the biggest thing that I get, I guess, at the moment, from people, is people say, you've really changed my life. And other things are, I wish I could have your life with all the lifestyle things that I do. So I know I inspire quite a few people. I know people have left me notes or emails or texts saying, look, I've now bought four or five properties. I haven't used you. I've done my own thing, which is fine, but they've actually changed their financial future and they've had a different life because of that.

0:31:46 - (Tyron Hyde): Didn't someone I think I saw on LinkedIn or Facebook, someone left something under your windscreen wiper or a card and you didn't know them and you changed their life?

0:31:58 - (Chris Gray): Yeah, well, one guy had one, probably about three or four months ago he actually came up to me. So I think I was up in Chatswood or something and just in the car park and I was just getting in my car about to start it and some guy came up and said, you've really changed my life. I've got a note here that I wrote for you. Can you take this note? And I read it after he went and it said, yeah, you've changed my life. Which is amazing.

0:32:20 - (Tyron Hyde): Yeah, fantastic. That's a good lead into my next question because you are obviously successful. You're working 2 hours a day. That's pretty successful if you ask me. But what does success look like to you?

0:32:31 - (Chris Gray): Chris, in the last 30 years I've spoken to a lot of people that are wealthy, that are high-income earners, that have achieved a lot of things. I'm in various entrepreneurs groups at the moment. I think the biggest wealth is basically freedom and time. And people like Warren Buffett, there's a million people with the quotes about, you can't buy time. A rich man, a poor man, they've got the same amount of time, but it really is that freedom. So I worked twice as hard in my 20s, did a full-time job as an accountant at Kodak. I then travelled up to central London four nights a week to study accounting and studies at the weekend and property invested at the same time. So basically worked twice as hard in my 20s, retired from full-time work at Deloitte at 31. So for 21 years now, I've had a much more relaxed lifestyle than most people. Obviously, I still work, I still have a business. And for those in business, sure, you might work 2 hours a day, but in reality it's still 24/7 that you're kind of thinking about things. But to not have to get up, to not have to do anything, most of my life is a great thing.
0:33:35 - (Chris Gray): So where the teachers say to my kids, what do your parents do? They say, my mum goes out to work. My dad eats pizza and drinks beer and lies on the couch watching TV, which isn't quite the truth, but it is for part of it.

0:33:48 - (Tyron Hyde): That's fantastic.

0:33:49 - (Chris Gray): But what I'm trying to instil in the kids is, sure, I do a different kind of work. So I'm lifting the weight of ten or $15 million worth of debt 24/7 for decades. And so that's my heavy lifting. Whereas other people, their heavy lifting might be 60 hours a week, whereas I'm trying to leverage my thoughts, my expertise to do something kind of different, but the freedom it gives me for travelling. So normally I'll travel ten or 15 times a year. I'm into my vintage cars and stuff like that now and boats and stuff. A lot of it's not necessarily expensive, but you need the time to be able to go and do it.

0:34:25 - (Tyron Hyde): All right, question number ten. The final question, Chris. Now this is why I kind of started this podcast, because I saw my father lose all his money and I've done pretty well, and I want to leave something for my daughter and hopefully your kids as well, to look back on. So Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, rule number one of investing, never lose money. And rule number two, never forget rule number one. What's your best strategy to not lose money, Chris?

0:34:49 - (Chris Gray): Okay, so four thoughts here is, buy blue chip. And so it's not going to double overnight, but it's not going to half overnight. So it's the slow and steady wins the race philosophy. It's like buying your clothes from Myers or DJs. You buy a pair of jeans, you know it's going to last. Whereas if you go to the $2 shop or the markets, it might last five minutes and might last a year. I'd rather pay good money for good quality, and it lasts.
0:35:14 - (Chris Gray): The next thing is to have a 10-40 year time frame. So don't go in there thinking, I've got to make money in the next few years. The more greed you have, the more you're going to buy off the plan or a regional area or the latest hotspot or the latest government grant. And generally those things, they're incentivising you to go there because they can't sell it or rent it to normal people. So normally there's a big negative with that. Third thing is, have the cash buffer, which we were just talking about.
0:35:41 - (Chris Gray): And then the biggest tip I've ever had, and this is from one of the biggest brokers in Australia that the ACCC caught and fought for ages. But I still got my best tip from him, always get independent valuation, okay? Because sure, when you go and buy a property, the bank will do a valuation, but it will be a two-page one with maybe three comparables and it's maybe cost them $200. So even though we keep buying the same things all the time, once the $1-2 million investments, every single time we've bought for the last 20 years, we've paid. It used to be 440, I think. Now it's 660 for an evaluation.
0:36:19 - (Chris Gray): An independent third party that proves what it's worth on a 30-page report with six to twelve comparables. Because I remember when I did this course 20 years ago and they were trying to sell commercial strata units down in Melbourne for cash flow. Like, commercial property, it's only a couple of hundred grand. It's a couple of hundred grand. Why worry? And this guy, he wouldn't go too far. Wrong again. I paid I think, 550 for evaluation.
0:36:46 - (Chris Gray): And they said all that due diligence you've been given, it's all a whole bunch of rubbish. It looks impressive, but it's all out of date. It's a whole bunch of rubbish. There's so much of an oversupply, it's overpriced. Walk away. And so I walked away and I've saved a fortune from doing those kinds of things. So whether you're investing for 50 grand, 500, a million, 10 million, 100 million, get an independent valuation. It's a no-brainer. It's a tiny little cost to double-check. You're doing the right thing.

0:37:15 - (Tyron Hyde): I think that's probably the best answer I've had for that one for number ten. Thank you. That's why Chris Gray's on the program. I agree with you. Independent evaluation. People will spend $2 million on a property, but not spend $600 before you buy it, before, get an independent val. Must be hard, though. Now, what about with property? When property prices are like, you've quoted 2 million and it ends up going 20% extra at an auction or private sale, how does that work in terms of getting an independent val?

0:37:44 - (Chris Gray): So even if you go and buy five of them, say we go and get a valuation, so we'll get a valuation on a property and it's say, 950 to a million dollars. We know we're happy paying at the upper end of the valuation, $1million, because we know in the cases over the last 20 years where we haven't bought it and it's carried on till auction, it's sold for a million and 50 or 1.1 or even 1.2 in the really extreme cases. Just because you're paying a dollar more than someone else at auction doesn't mean that's market price.
0:38:16 - (Chris Gray): Because we've been seen properties that we've been offered for a million dollars that we've said no, we don't like it, no parking, development site next door. We've then had clients that didn't use us, that then we found out they paid 1.2 for it and they said, I only paid another grand more than the other person is. Just because you've got two stupid people at auction that don't know the value of the property, that have both bid an extra 200 grand doesn't make that property worth 200 grand more that we wouldn't even paid a million dollars on it.
0:38:45 - (Chris Gray): Now, let's just say you had to buy ten valuations to get there. It's cost you six grand. Would you rather overpay 200 grand or pay six grand for valuations, nine of which you didn't make the most of? I think that the new generation is. You get rich by spending money these days, spending money on valuations or on buyers agents, or on depreciation reports or whatever it is, whereas the old school of do it yourself and save the money is a false economy.

0:39:14 - (Tyron Hyde): I'm surprised, actually, a lot of people don't, especially with larger stock that we deal with in depreciation. People don't get two reports or three reports. There's nothing stopping someone getting three depreciation, because depreciation is actually the only subjective claim that you can have as a property investor. Everything else, your property management fees, your strata, is basically what you get as an invoice. Whereas I might value the construction cost as x and someone might value x times 1.1. So it does surprise me that people don't do that sometimes.

0:39:41 - (Chris Gray): Yeah. So maybe you need a little like all the petrol companies you all can get together. We'll offer a three-for-one package. Buy a report from all three of us?

0:39:53 - (Tyron Hyde): I think there might be laws around that, Chris. Now, there is a bonus question, which I haven't told you about. It's related to your skill set, and obviously helping property investors and property owners is your skill set. It's obviously really hard for young people to get on the property ladder now with property prices the way they are, interest rates, et cetera. So let's say you're an average couple. Let's say I'm a nurse and my husband's a police officer. Politically correct there. How would you advise that couple to get onto the property ladder with minimal savings? They're on the average wage, it's very hard. How would you advise them?

0:40:26 - (Chris Gray): Look, it's tough. I think the best knowledge out there is books, because, like, we've talked about the media and look, I've had most of my life in the media and writing, I guess, articles and being on Sky News and stuff. And I'm telling people, don't listen to the media because most of it is hyped and you're getting all of the guests on there would have had marketing reasons why they would have come on my show just like I'm on your show. Everyone's got a vested interest in doing something. Generally with books for $30 or something, the amount of information you get from a $30 book can almost be comparable to what you might get in a 4-5 grand course.
0:41:06 - (Chris Gray): And look, maybe you get 70 or 80% of it. And so when I went to do The Renovators on Channel Ten about ten years ago, I'd done some renovations, but I went to New Zealand for the weekend. I went to Dymocks and I bought 15 renovation books. I read them on the plane. And while I was over there, every time I learned something new, I wrote it in the back of the book. By the time I got to the 10th or the 15th book, I was hardly writing anything down, because most of the knowledge I'd already gained from the other books, and that's an education for a few hundred dollars and, say, 100 hours of your time or something like that, I think that's one of the best ways to get a general understanding because you're never going to know everything about property. You're still learning, I'm still learning, but it's all about getting 80%, so you can learn the tips, like the valuation, to stop getting you into too much trouble.

0:41:57 - (Chris Gray): So I think that's part of it, is build some knowledge. But without trying to get 100%. It's then using people like mortgage brokers. Mortgage brokers are the essence of property investing now. So in the old days, then 95% of property investing was finding the right property, doing the deal, property management. Now, 95% of the deal is getting a mortgage from the bank. And that's where mortgage brokers versus going direct.
0:42:22 - (Chris Gray): They've got the knowledge, they're investors themselves. They work with a lot of other investors. They're going to have the knowledge to hold your hand through the whole process in a way, most first-home buyers can't afford buyers agents. So I'd say you're better off probably doing your first one by yourself. Because if you've only got 50 grand deposit and you pay ten or 20 to a buyer's agent, you're going to lose most of your deposit and you can't afford to buy a reasonable kind of property.
0:42:46 - (Chris Gray): And then obviously the podcasts and stuff like that, stuff like this, there's so many podcasts around, there's a lot of knowledge, but still take everything with a pinch of salt at the same time.

0:42:55 - (Tyron Hyde): That's fantastic advice. Now, speaking of books, we're coming to the end of the show. Chris, thank you so much. Speaking of books, where can people get your book?

0:43:04 - (Chris Gray): Yeah, so probably the best one I've written is called The Effortless Empire. I wrote it back in 2008. It's still exactly the same. We haven't changed a word. The only thing we've changed is the examples used to be half a million now we then changed them about eight years later to a million. Now we probably need to move the examples to $2 million. But if they go to or au, you can download that one in a PDF or an audio or a hard copy.
0:43:31 - (Chris Gray): And there's also another one called How to Live the Life of a Multimillionaire Without Being One, which is all about how to get the five or $10 million homes, the super yachts, the supercars, flying first class, or business for the price of economy. That's a really fun thing. And that's really a book of how to spend the money to get more from your money rather than buying the home and paying it off type thing.

0:43:53 - (Tyron Hyde): Fantastic. Well, thanks again for being on Ten with Ty. I've really enjoyed it, really learned a lot.

0:43:57 - (Chris Gray): Thanks a lot. And sorry I've lost my voice. I do sound reasonably normal normally.

0:44:02 - (Tyron Hyde): Excellent. Thank you, Chris. 

If you own an investment property, then Washington Brown can help you pay less tax with an ATO-compliant depreciation schedule. Visit to pay less tax today.

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