Darren Francis recently won not only the Investor for Change award at the SA Property Investors Network but also received a standing ovation as he was named Investor of the Year...
From the first dilapidated property which Francis rebuilt and renovated and turned it into a multi-let property, he has been bringing jobs and hope to the Cape Flats. This is how he did it.
When did you start investing in property?
The journey truly began on 2009 when, at 27, I read a book written by Jason Lee, Making Money out of Property. I was gripped within the first five pages, and began researching, talking to people and looking at property trends. I decided to focus on residential property for the first three years but I had no idea of the journey and growth ahead of me. Ten years later, I sold my first investment property.
What made you choose property?
I have tried forex trading and started photography, PR and other businesses, but property has been more consistent in terms of growth. The strategy I employ is simple, and I play in a market that is not focused on the big players. The return on investment on almost every investment since 2019 has been very satisfying. To date, we have flipped six homes, are registering a vacant erf and have one rental property in our portfolio.
Tell us about the first property
It was a complete and utter wreck. You could stand at the front door and look through the walls. There were holes in the walls where there’d been copper pipes, and the window frames were being removed when I bought it. The only thing that was intact was the roof, but I could see the potential. Many months later, with tears, sweat and stress, it was transformed into the property I knew it would be.
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Every project since has been similar – of the six, five required a full gut and replacement, from the toilet bowls to ceilings. In the last property, we replaced ceilings and the wiring.
What challenges did you encounter?
Dealing with inefficient workers/contractors and a shortage of material were very challenging, but we used creative strategies to ensure we limited our risk. The teams I use now are based on those early lessons; we operate much more smoothly and work 50% faster.
What is your vision?
I come from a poor background and, growing up in Tafelsig, I wanted to do good as well as make something of myself. After flipping my first property, I visited my mother and she sent me to the shop for her. I looked at the young people sitting idle on the corners and it dawned on me that I could make a change: through my investments, I could employ people and hopefully change their circumstances.
I dropped my mom’s goods off and told her, “This property thing is bigger than me – the purpose of my journey is bigger than me making money.”
My vision was first to secure cash for growth, but I always knew this strategy would change once we reached our desired level. That time has come now. We want to grow our share of the rental market in 2022 by offering quality, affordable accommodation with excellent services for the people of the Cape Flats and surrounds.
What is your new strategy?
We are working on something that could feed many families for months while creating jobs in these areas. Money isn’t our main focus; we want to create jobs and living spaces that our people can be proud of. We are working on and adapting to our new tenant strategy: to look for tenants who are trustworthy and to treat them well.
What area do you focus on?
I focus on Mitchells Plain. Not many people would think of investing there, but Mitchells Plain has always been close to my heart. Analysts and other investors always look at the big markets, like the Atlantic Seaboard, but ignore areas like Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.
That was my opportunity. I watched the market, and it went in the direction I believed it would. Billions of rands leave these areas, but very little investment is made there. We are looking at changing that. There is room for big investments in Mitchells Plain, and we hope to secure partners to create opportunities for our people while creating significant returns on investments.
What advice do you have for youngsters who want to become property investors?
Dream! Then follow the dream with dedication, determination and discipline. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is part of the journey to success. Make sure you have sound financial goals and live by them. Then get the right education to assist you.
What does winning these awards mean to you?
I’m looking forward to the training I’ll be getting from Just Property. Trying to change the lives of many requires building relationships with experts in their relative fields. We are looking at using our relationship with the agency to ensure our future growth.
* The annual SA Property Investors Network awards ceremony brings together property investors, financiers and property professionals to celebrate those who have put together property deals that uplift suburbs, communities and cities.
Paul Stevens, head of Just Property, one of the main sponsors of the award, says: “We believe in creating wealth through property, and this is exactly what Francis does – not only for himself but for people in his community too.”
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