I’ve been in the property investment market for most of my life. It all started when I turned 17 years old and joined the Australian Defence Force.

On the go? Here’s 30 seconds of take outs:

  • I joined the Defence Force at 17 years old in June of 1996.
  • From my first regular wage I saved $15,000 which was enough to buy my first investment property on the Gold Coast.
  • 11 years later, I sold for a tidy profit which allowed me to buy my principle place of residence on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

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I join the Defence Force in June of 1996. I was a young and impressionable country bloke and I jumped on the train from Bundaberg to Brisbane for the final round of interviews.

I was nervous as I disembarked at Roma Street and headed in to the Defence recruiting office in Brisbane’s CBD. I was just 17 years old and this trip was the first time I’d been away from home by myself.

I vividly remember being in the last and final interview for the day. I sat across from the interviewing officer who asked me questions and then gave me the final nod. ‘You’ve been accepted,’ he said.

With nervous excitement I thought “WOW, what now!”

They put me up in a hotel and the next day I was on a plane down to sunny Cerberus (as they call it).

We arrived in Melbourne in the evening and made our way out to HMAS Cerberus. When we arrived, we jumped off the bus into the cold miserable rainy night. Someone managed to fling a “goodbye to your goldie locks, boy!” my way.

And away we went to recruit school!

For the first time in my life I started to earn an income and was paid on a regular basis. Every week or two I would phone home and clearly remember my Mum encouraging me to keep saving my money.

Being so young I wasn’t granted overnight leave on the weekends, so in a way that helped me save.

I graduated (GE 131) Rankin Division – Recruit School and started the next round, category training for Marine Technician. After my ‘Cat School’ training finished I streamed DDG (Guided Missile Destroyer) training.

While I was in ‘Cat School’ my parents organised the delivery of my old beat-up rust bucket of a car that I had bought for $1,500.

My Dad and I spent countless hours cutting all the rust out, and I painted it with spray cans. As a result of my Marine Technician training, I took an interest in fixing up the engine after the water jacket corroded through to the oil gallery. My ‘Cat School’ colleagues and I rebuilt the head of the engine but did not replace the rings.

Suffice to say, the car didn’t make it past the NSW / VIC border. I ended up selling the car to an owner of the local pub who put me up on his couch for the night. He paid me $100 for the car (including the contents!)

The next day, carrying as much as I could, I jumped a train from Sydney to my first posting at HMAS Kuttabul for a month before the HMAS Brisbane got back from deployment.

Around November 1997, I posted on the HMAS Brisbane before taking leave during December to head back to Bundaberg.

Between June 1996 and November 1997, I had saved about $15,000. Back then this was enough to put down a 10% deposit and costs on a house.

My Mum and Dad came with me to the Sunshine Coast to look at some properties. The old man of one of the boys from the ship was a real estate agent. He showed us a couple of different established properties as well as a vacant block of land.

Going on intuition, I opted to buy the vacant block of land. Next thing I know we are at the ANZ branch in Caloundra talking to the bank manager and signing the mortgage documents. As simple as that it was away we go!

The block settled, I cleared a few trees and engaged a few different builders and built my first project home.

The first real estate agent I engaged to manage the property after it was built absconded with the first couple of months of rent! It wasn’t a great start, but stuff happens when you’re a property investor. My parents helped me get it back through fair trading which was a bit of a process. But I did get it back eventually.

After that first hiccup things went relatively smoothly in the first couple of years, even though I was deployed on the HMAS Brisbane for a few months at a time with no email or mobile phone at that stage! I still had all of my mail going to my parent’s house.

Fast forward 11 years and I sold the property for $435,000 (not a bad return!) and this helped me get into my first principle place of residence in the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

Is property investing too hard to start by yourself?

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When you book into a free discovery session with Capital Properties, we’ll spend some time getting to know each other, we’ll explore your goals and discover property investment possibilities for you based on your current Defence pay rate and lifestyle.


Property Investment SOP – by Marcus Westnedge

In this book, Marcus shares an investment strategy tailored for the Defence lifestyle.