Advice and Opinion

10km to, and from, school: Thomas Chauke’s journey to property investment

Thomas Chauke, owner of Gardenia at 149 Johnson Street in Pretoria.

Thomas Chauke’s journey towards becoming the owner of Gardenia at 149 John Street began by walking 10 km to, and from, school every day.

After moving to Pretoria upon matriculating, Thomas started his property development journey through his first acquisition which came about through a chance opportunity to purchase property from a friend.

After obtaining his degree in Electrical Engineering, he worked for Eskom and then Telkom as a technician and with the money earned from a driving school he owned (and his career), he made his first investment, a single unit in a building which introduced the value of having a predictable monthly rental income.

Thomas set himself a goal of obtaining five buildings, but he soon realised that the capital outlay to purchase buildings was considerably more than required to purchase single unit apartments and he turned to TUHF for help.

The first building I wanted to purchase was valued at about R20 million. The requirements from other banks were very difficult, but I found TUHF to be much more user-friendly,” he explains.

His purchase of Gardenia in Pretoria was unique in that it is part of a bouquet of other properties. Gardenia consists of ten x 1-bedroom units and ten x 2-bedroom units. The property did not require major refurbishing, but rather minor renovation and maintenance work.  

The key attractor to the purchase was the building’s location. Situated close to a main road, Gardenia offers residents easy access to transportation. “There are a lot of people who stay in town who cannot afford to rent in the suburbs, which command higher prices. Because of its location, however, they can rent in town and travel easily to and from the suburbs,” he explains.

Gardenia is also near a railway station and university, making it ideal for the property’s target market – students, young professionals and those starting out in their adult lives. It also caters to young families.

The property offers two essential amenities – Wi-Fi and a shared laundry. Internet connectivity is either provided as part of the rental agreement or on an ad-hoc basis using tokens. While younger tenants have been interested in sharing the two-bedroom units, the pandemic has driven up interest in the one-bedroom units, as people prefer to have their privacy.

The pandemic has not had much of an impact on the student accommodation business, with Thomas still expecting a 12% return on his overall investment.

One learning from his experience that he shares is the value of having a satellite office and several properties close to one another. This makes property management considerably easier, enabling one caretaker to manage several properties.  

Thomas does not intend to stop investing in properties, but plans to keep moving forward, taking one step after the next as he did to obtain his education, purchasing further properties and growing his business, with a trusted partner in TUHF.

Whereas other banks require you to present the details of your project to try secure funding they do not give you support if you are successful. In TUHF, I have found ongoing assistance and guidance all the way”.