Profiles

Villas Tijuana

When Len and Michelle Lester migrated from South Africa to the Gold Coast in January 2010 on a business skills visa they intended to open a plumbing business there.

But after looking around at businesses they discovered management rights and knew it was the right business for them.

“After 30 years running my own plumbing business and my experience in construction combined with Michelle’s 17 years experience in real estate, management rights looked like the perfect business for us,” Len said. “We looked for about six weeks and inspected 10 properties on the Gold Coast before deciding on Villas Tijuana, we loved the feel of the complex and the position was perfect.

“We bought the management rights through Bayview International, who were great to work with and gave us tremendous support and still do today. The outgoing managers were extremely helpful and took time to train us, making the takeover less daunting.

AN26-5-PRO-Villas_Tijuana_10“We sent in a change of circumstance explaining why we were going into a different industry and then waited for the Queensland government to approve it (they took over Villas Tijuana on April 1, 2010).”

On previous visits they had been to Perth, Sydney, Cairns and the Sunshine and Gold coasts.

“We came straight to the Gold Coast because we loved the area,” Michelle said. “Our lives have changed, migrating to a new country changes your life completely.”

The gated Villas Tijuana complex accommodates permanent residents in three bedroom villas.

The 66-unit complex is home to eight owners and there are 56 units in the letting pool.

“We have wonderful tenants and have made some good friends in the complex,” Michelle said.

The Mexican-themed complex was only completed 10 years ago by developers Bill and Con Nikiforides so maintenance is not a problem. Villas Tijuana has 100% occupancy rate.

“The website is not necessary, we put an advert on realestate.com.au and find tenants immediately,” Michelle said.

The Lester’s use the Hirum property management system and their biggest change was switching tenants from paying cash to electronic banking. “We stopped the cash because of security concerns and having to go to the bank daily,” Michelle said. “Now everything is done electronically and it is so much easier.”

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With skyrocketing water prices on the Gold Coast after the Queensland government-enforced takeover of the water grid by Allconnex, Len has put water meters on all the taps in the common areas and the rainwater tank used to top up the pool and spa.

“I have also changed over to LED lighting and put timers on the spa and water features which were previously running 24 hours a day,” Len said. “Just installing the timer on the spa so it is off between 9pm and 6am is saving about $500 a month on gas.

“We also upgraded the gym equipment, refurbished the entrance, painted the swimming pool area, cleaned all the mosaics and pressured cleaned all the concrete that was showing the effects of the recent prolonged rain.

“The feedback has been good with many investors telling us they wished they lived here.”

The biggest attraction of the complex is its central location. Skilled Park stadium, home to the Gold Coast Titans, is just across the lake at the rear of the complex. Len said it as so well sound insulated that residents never hear any noise when a match is on.

“We never have an empty unit because it is so close to all amenities: the railway station, new Robina hospital, the Robina shopping centre, the airport and the freeway,” Len said. “Tenants have access to all the facilities: swimming pool, spa, sauna, gym and gardens without having to look after them.

“Our tenants like the complex because it is peaceful, spacious, private and secure.”

At Christmas Len added a special feature for the children by decorating the entrance with Christmas lights. “We even had the bell covered with them, the children loved it,” Len said.

“It had never been done before.”

The Lesters enjoy management rights for the flexibility it offers.

“We have time to explore the things the Gold Coast offers,” Michelle said.

“And you don’t have to drive to work,” Len said. “We have become friendly with the people in the complex and chat with them all day. We have really good tenants and don’t have any problems with damage or security.

“We are very fortunate and the body corporate is fantastic and the committee are excellent people to deal with.

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“Our body corporate manager, Body Corporate Services, is also very professional and approachable and were really a big actor in the process of moving into the business.”

Len said investors and villa owners benefited from having them there 24 hours a day so they can attend to any problems almost immediately.

“Len and I have never worked together so there have been many challenges, we both want to be the boss but we are getting used to it,” Michelle said.

In their spare time Michelle enjoys art while Len tries to improve his golf. Len bought a motorcycle, which they use for rides through the hinterland on the weekends.

In South Africa he was deeply involved in motor racing. “Unfortunately we don’t have the facilities here to store and maintain a racing car,” Len said.

However, he looks forward to October and the annual Surfers Paradise racing season and any other motor sport events. “When there is motor racing anywhere, I go to it,” Len said.

The Lesters have to wait a year to gain their permanent residency then another two years before they can get citizenship.

“A new beginning in a new country and new business venture has been the biggest challenge we have ever gone through,” Michelle said. “But we wanted a new adventure and love the opportunities available to us and our children in Australia”

So would they go through it all again?

“Yes it was worth it and we would do it again, we are very grateful for all the opportunities we have been given.”

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