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new challenge presented itself. “I have
a commercial property in Milton (in
Brisbane’s inner west). I used an office
upstairs and a tenant rented downstairs. I
also own a house down the road.
“It was early January (in 2011) and my
sister rang me one day to warn about
possible flooding. I thought I’d be fine
where I was so I didn’t prepare. As the
day went on, I could see the water rising
and started to think about it. I went to
move my car. By the time I got back, the
flood water had risen up. It was so quick.”
Both properties were significantly
inundated and Orane copped a major
damage bill. She wasn’t covered by
insurance for flooding as they were in
flood zones. Instead, she used savings and
a low-interest loan offered to flood victims
to pay for extensive repairs.
“The downstairs office tenant lost
everything and was basically broke, so
I let him out of his lease. After that, I
couldn’t rent the building at all. I had to
think on my feet about what I could do, so
I converted it into a community meeting
space for about 15 months.”
The space was casually rented to local
businesses and community groups.
“When the market shifted again, I
rented it back out as an office space. It’s
returning about $80,000 per year now.”
In the three years
since the floods,
Orane has well
and truly bounced
back but she
“It was tough. It
really got to me and
for a time I suffered
depression, I put
on a lot of weight.
I went through so
but have come out
the other side.” API
In the space of three years, Brisbane-
based investor Orane Swan, 55, went
from being a single mum with a modest
income to owning a diverse property
portfolio worth a few million dollars.
By the end of 2004, she was riding the
wave of a housing boom.
She began in modest circumstances
with a block of land in Brisbane’s southern
suburbs that she’d been awarded in her
divorce settlement. She built a home on
it, borrowing against the block to fund the
construction. That equity gain bankrolled
the purchase of her next few investment
properties and before she knew it, Orane
had amassed a very enviable portfolio.
The market surge in the middle of the
previous decade was very good to her
too. Emboldened by her success, she
continued rapidly growing her holdings.
“I kept buying and buying,” she recalls.
“Things were good and I was doing well
so I continued leveraging and borrowing
as much as I could.”
By 2007, she had a mix of residential
and commercial assets, including several
houses, a few development-ready sites, a
block of flats and even a shopping mall.
When Orane’s bank manager suggested
she merge her separate residential
mortgages into one business loan, for the
sake of cost-savings and convenience,
she thought it sounded like a good deal.
“It was the worst mistake I’ve
ever made,” she says. “Not long after in
2008, after the GFC hit, the bank sent a
letter advising they wouldn’t be renewing
my facility and asking me to refinance.
“I hadn’t read the loan documents
carefully enough and didn’t realise they
were able to do that with a business
facility. They called in their loan.”
Orane was given four weeks to refinance
her huge liability, at a dramatically lower
loan-to-value ratio than she’d enjoyed.
Considering some of her loans had been
for 100 per cent of the purchase price, a
more common but risky practice in the
pre-GFC lending climate, she faced the
frightening reality of having to come up
with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
She borrowed a hefty amount of money
from her business partner to get the new
loans across the line and later liquidated a
prime investment in the Brisbane suburb
of Toowong to pay him back.
“I had to refinance everything back to 80
per cent with three different banks. It was
Not long before being plunged into
that precarious position, she’d bought a
riverfront development site at Caboolture,
45 minutes north of Brisbane and
obtained development approval for 52
units. She was just about to kick off when
the bank came knocking.
In addition to that buy, which wasn’t
earning an income but required a lot of
money to service, Orane also snapped up
a house in Scarborough in Redcliffe.
“It was an emotional buy and the
value has since dropped by around
$100,000, so that was another poorly
All Orane could do was tread
water. Thankfully, her shopping mall
asset in Moorooka to the south of
Brisbane was one that brought in a
Cash flow, her business partner’s
loan and the Toowong sale got
her by. Just as she thought she’d
climbed up from rock bottom, a
One minute Orane Swan was flying high with a multi-million dollar
portfolio, raking in a couple of hundred thousand dollars in annual
rental income. The next, she was fighting against losing it all.
The flooded Milton commercial property
Use your smartphone
or tablet and your
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app to see photos
of some of Orane’s
ORANE SWAN \\ MY PROPERTY NIGHTMARE
Use the button below
to see photos of some
of Orane’s properties.
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