Property millionaire: "Are you mentally, emotionally and financially ready when a good property investment deal come along?" asks Milan Doshi

Remember this name. Doshi.... Milan Doshi. He’s the savvy investor who made his millions through property and stock market. With many investment strategies and effective money management at his disposal, he is indeed a go-to figure in the world of making and managing money.

Doshi, 47, graduated with a Degree in Economics in the late 80s and worked as a physical commodities trader for five years in Singapore. His purchased his first property, a HDB flat in Singapore, in year 1993. Fast forward to this year, he purchased four properties worth a total of RM6.4 million in the first three months. met up with the down-to-earth millionaire property guru at his office in Kuala Lumpur and learnt about the importance of being emotionally, mentally and financially prepared when a good investment deal comes along. Doshi also talked about getting the best out of properties and explains why investing in stock market and properties can complement one another. Read on to find out if you have what it takes to be a property magnet.

When did you start investing?
I bought my first property in 1993. It was a HDB flat in Singapore. I was about 30 years old. At that time, things were different. Singaporean males graduate about 24 to 25 years old after completing two and a half year of national service. After working for about five years, I got married and bought my own house. That was purely for my own use, not for investment.

And that was how I started. In January 1994, I moved to KL. And some time in the middle of that year I bought two properties. One was an apartment and one was a double storey house. At that time, the market was good. These were the first two that were for serious investment. The first one I bought (apartment), the yield was 12%, so it was a no-brainer - just buy. Instead of buying our own home, we decided to continue staying in a rented apartment as we had no children and at that point, we could not decide where to sink our roots in KL.

Do you still have that unit?
Yes, I do. It is still rented out. The double storey link house that we bought in Bangsar for RM560,000 was meant for us to stay in the future, as majority of my community and relatives live there. At that time, we saw the prices of landed houses in Bangsar going up by RM50,000 to RM100,000 every year. Since Bangsar was our first choice to settled down in the future, why not buy to lock in.

Did you eventually stay at that double storey house in Bangsar?
Until today, that house is rented out. It is quite a basic house. So quite a bit of renovation needs to be done. One of the things that I don’t have the time nor interest is renovation. So, what happened in January last year was that I came across a nice double storey house in Bangsar which was fully renovated. So I decided to buy it.

Which was the apartment that you referred to earlier?
Palm Court in Brickfields. Until today, I still have it. I bought it in 1993 for RM160,000 and rental was RM1,600. So it’s quite good. Now, the rental is RM1,500. I think the market value is about RM240,000. When you look at it, the price have gone up, but not that much.

What sort of business do you have?
We made our money from the stock broking business. The problem in this, as in many other businesses, is that there are a lot of ups and downs in terms of monthly income. Hence, property is quite a good way to support (the business). At least every month we have rental income. So that brings some stability to our monthly income.

Your apartment had a 12% yield then. At the moment, isn’t it difficult to achieve, say an 8% yield?
While the yield back in 1994 may seem fabulous at 12% per annum, bear in mind that our interest costs on our term loan was pegged at BLR +1%. If I am not mistaken, the BLR at that time was around seven to eight percent per annum.

Today, it's easy to get eight percent or higher yields in low to medium cost apartments. Further, bank's interest rate today is around four percent per annum (BLR -1.8%). Hence the spreads (i.e. yields - interest costs) is still as attractive as way back in 1994.

The 8% is calculated based on selling price?
For example in Shah Alam, (you) can easily get apartment rental for RM550. Say if you buy (the apartment) for RM70,000 you can get 9.4% [(RM550 x 12 / RM70,000) x 100%]. But for those sorts of properties, you are buying purely for rental, because they don’t go up in value.

What does your property investment folio consists of?
In the last five years, I shifted more to commercial. Right now, my portfolio is probably 70% commercial and 30% residential.

Do you focus on a specific area?
For residential, I focus on areas that I am familiar with, which is Bangsar, Brickfields, KL city centre and Ampang. These are places I go to quite often. So I know the areas very well. For commercial, I focus mainly on (Berjaya) Times Square. I have seven retail (shops) in Berjaya Times Square. For commercial, because sometimes there is a limited number of units, we have to spread our wings. I have bought shops in Masjid India and Old Klang Road. Wherever the good deals are, we look at it. For commercial, I don’t restrict myself. If it makes sense, I buy.

Internet was probably at its infancy stage when you started investing. How did you go about acquiring knowledge?
Back then in 1993 or 1994, there was no Internet, no property investment books, no seminars and no mentors. So how do you buy? Just follow the crowd. You read the newspaper. Everyone buy, you also start looking. So of course, you ask friends for advise and talk to real estate agents. So you try to get as much information as you can. Whether those are reliable sources, you don’t know. So I had to go on my gut feeling on many occasions.

Did your gut feeling lead you to any mistakes?
So far, I think I am quite blessed. I have not made any major mistakes. Any mistakes I made, as long as it is rented out, it is okay. So far, I am not caught with a vacant property except for one, which is newly completed. So if a property is vacant for one year, it is quite common. I think one of the earliest and most painful mistakes I made was with one of my HDB flats in Singapore. I bought the first one, a four-room HDB flat in 1993. I sold that one and bought a bigger five-room HDB flat apartment in 1994. And I think that I actually bought during the peak. My wife was telling me not to get carried away. But at that time, I a bit gung-ho. As a result, I went from positive to negative cashflow for the next 10 years. Luckily, today the rental and prices have both moved up.

As long as you buy in good locations and can rent it out, any mistakes that you make, as far as buying at a high price, will eventually be corrected.

You held on to all your purchases?
I prefer to buy and keep forever. I am not a flipper (buy-to-sell) like many people.When you sell, you have to look for another investment. That takes a bit of time and effort. Also, there are substantial costs involved at both the buyng and selling stages. In order to save on that, I’d rather be very choosy, whereby when I buy, I buy with the intention to keep for at least the next 10, 15 or 20 years. So I buy with the intention to hold for a long period of time.

How much is your portfolio worth?
No idea. Never really sat down to calculate. To me, the monthly cashflow and your net worth is more important than the combined value of your properties.

What about your rental income?
The positive figure is about RM15,000 to RM20,000 per month.

How long did it take to achieve that passive income? Was it achieved within the first five years?
Frankly, the RM15,000 to RM20,000 only happened in the last five years. Before that, it was less than RM5,000 a month. The real big jump only happened in the last five years. That’s the time I seriously went into commercial properties. Residential properties can give you financial independence, but if you want to be financially free, you have to someday venture into commercial properties.

So commercial properties are the way to go?
Apparently, the big money is in commercial. For example, I bought the double storey link house in Bangsar in 1994 for RM560,000. Today, that house is probably worth RM1.1 million. (It took) 16 years to double. That is still okay. Luckily, that property is paid for. Otherwise, I will be running a negative cashflow (for that investment) because the rental is not enough to pay the loan. So even though (the value) doubled, in actual fact, you don’t know if you made.

Whereas in commercial properties, my rentals and property value has close to double in three plus years. Of course, the location and your timing have to be right.

Let’s talk about your workshops. How many do you conduct per year?
This year, the plan is to do four full programmes which are 3-day long each. But in order to run four full programmes, I need to do a lot of previews of our workshops. That’s why you have been seeing quite a lot of me in the market [laughs].

How would someone benefit from your seminar? What do you usually teach?
My seminar is comprehensive and holistic as I cover money management, property and stock investment and how to leverage properties for stocks and vice versa. I actually spend one whole day on personal money management because a lot of people are managing their money wrongly. A lot of it is due to wrong mindset or wrong investment made in the past. If these people try going into properties without correcting any of their past mistakes, they are not going to do well. They are not going to optimise or get the best out of properties. For me, that is quite important, and that’s why I spend one whole day just on pure money management. I don’t even talk about properties. Are you managing your money correctly? A lot of people don't even realise that they have big holes in their pockets.

What are these “holes”?
For example, credit cards, wrong type of loans, too many car loans.

So, basically debts...
Yes, mainly debts. Sometimes, even the mindset is all wrong. It’s only the second day that I actually go into properties. Because, you see, a lot of people just want to learn about properties. But if you have not learnt the money management part and you might have lots of wrong investments out there, what’s the point. You are not going to go far in life.

So, one full day on money management. What about the second and third day?
First day on money management and second day on property investment. The third day is spent on property negotiation and I also talk about stock market for about two hours. For the stock market, there are many different strategies. I teach three basic "no-brainer" strategies. No need for fundamental and technical analysis. All that is needed is common sense. Because of increased volatility today, the stock market will give you, at a minimum, two to three opportunities per year, where you can make 10 to 15% in six months or less. So why not learn it? And all you need is plain common sense.

We also spend the last two hours on real life case studies or "live financial consultations", the most interesting and fun part of the three days.

So these are real life case studies...
Yes, these are real life case studies. Real life problems that people have. I will invite about five participants of various backgrounds to share their financial goals for the next two years. They will need to show the class their current financial situation, which means sharing their income, expenses, assets and liabilities. We then brainstorm to help them get from where they are today to where they want to be two years later.

Invest in yourself: Continuous learning and networking with like-minded individuals is an important part of an investor's journey towards riches

I have done a lot of financial consultations and one thing that I have realised is that 70 to 90% of people's financial challenges are the same. It's just that we don't normally share this private and confidential information with other people. If you don't share and discuss your personal challenges and goals with other people, how can you expect to discover the right answers on your own.

For example, I have come across many highly paid employees who do not optimise their borrowing ability.

What do you mean by optimising borrowing ability?
Optimising loans means that you borrow to the maximum. One of the things that I teach is that you can actually retire in the next five years. All you need to do is have RM3 million in good property loans.

For example, if you have high income but no passive income. Your properties are under construction and you stay in your own house. You might be worth RM2.5 million, but your passive income is very low. So this is something you would have to look at. Because in the worst case scenario, the moment you stop working, your RM30,000 income stops. You’re going to get into trouble very quickly. So you must look at your expenses. If your expenses is about RM11,000, so the first step is to have passive income of at least RM11,000. So it is step by step. That is how I teach.

Where are your seminars usually held?
We usually use a hotel near a shopping centre because there is a game where they (the participants) have to go out and look at commercial properties and also look for business investments.

You talk about getting good debts. How would one know if it is a good debt?
Firstly, it must be a good property. It’s very simple. Good location. Easy to rent, say maximum less than two months, and the place you’re buying has more than 90% occupancy. And you’re buying at a place where you can get at least 8% returns. That’s it. That’s a good loan.

What if the rental yield is 6.5%?
You can still consider, provided there’s appreciation potential. There’s no right or wrong. For example, if you buy a double storey house in Bangsar. The rental is about RM2,500. So, say the house is RM1 million, your yield is 3% [(RM2,500 x 12 / RM1 million) x 100%]. But that doesn’t mean that it is a bad investment. Because if you buy at the right time, like this year alone, I think houses in Bangsar will go up by at least RM100,000. So if you time your entry and exit correctly, you can make some (profit). So it does not necessarily mean that a return of 3% is a bad investment.

So let’s say, I want to get my first property for investment. What would you advise?
For one, don’t be in a hurry. That’s the problem I notice with a lot of people. Good deals will always be there, whether the market is up or down. Question is are you ready when the good deal comes. When I say are you ready, are you mentally, emotionally and financially prepared. Why do I say that? See a lot of times, you don’t realise, but say when the property comes, if you don’t have the right sort of knowledge, and you are not mentally and financially prepared.

Sometimes when good deal comes, you can’t take it. Or you think it is a good deal but in actual fact it is not a good deal. One of the things I always advocate is always to invest in yourself frist. Get the knowledge, get some mentors, network with other like-minded people. Because we are all on the different boats, but our destination is still the same. Going from here to there. Just that we are using different vehicles, different boats.

It’s good when you have a network. Sometimes when a property comes, there’s always this doubt whether you should buy or not. When you have that sort of network, you can call up and get a few opinion. That will give you the confidence or they will give you some ideas that maybe you may not have looked at. That’s why I say, you build up your knowledge base, your network base, and that gives you the confidence to take the risk when the good deals come.

How old are your children? Do you take them to view properties with you?
Yes, I do. I have three children. 14, 13 and one is three years old. Normally, I try to bring the elder two along. So whenever there’s opportunity, I bring them along. Once a while, I will bring them to my seminars, at least force them to listen.

Do they object?
Depends on their mood. They’re still a bit young, but I think that there’s no harm in starting young. Whenever developers have nice show houses, I like to bring them. So at least they can see something. Sometimes listening is just ideas, but when they see a house, they can appreciate it.

So types of attributes would make a good investor?
Number one, must be a continuous learner. Must always be learning. Must always be networking. And I think you must have a win-win mindset. A lot of times, people think that if someone else took a good deal, there’s nothing left for me. Sometimes we have this “scarcity” mindset. Must have an abundance sort of mindset. Many times when a good deal come, I notice people who have poor mindset, they always think it is win-lose. My compatriot take it (the deal) means that I lose. It doesn’t matter. There are actually plenty of deals. So many times I tell my students, if you don’t want I take it. So that actually gives them the confidence to take it!

You should have thought beforehand. You should have prepared. You should have your borrowing ability, everything checked out. Otherwise, you will forever be waiting.

That’s why - emotionally, mentally and financially. Financial refers to your borrowing ability and how much funds to allocate. Emotional is so that you do not get carried away. Don’t use your heart, use your head. Mentally preparation refers to knowledge and mindset.

How many books have you written so far?
Two books in English, which have been translated into Malay.

Any more? Coming soon?
I am still trying to finish my third one [laughs], which I have been working on for two years.

What is the new book all about?
It is an interesting topic. It is ‘How to discover your unique niche in life’. Nothing to do with property investments. More about finding what you are meant to do in this world.

Ever heard the phrase, “What I wouldn’t do to get a million Ringgit”? How many times have you heard someone say that, or perhaps, even mutter it yourself? How about making a million Ringgit within a short period of five years or less? Have you ever thought about ways to make a million Ringgit or more in real estate, with the least risk and highest gain?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then read on.

What I am going to share is not the dummy’s guide to real estate investment and nor is it a textbook formula. It is just something that many of my fellow associates and I have practiced with repeated success.

While some might opt for the high-risk route, I am sort of the opposite. I favour investing in anything that gives me the least amount of risk, but with good returns. Becoming a multi-millionaire via property investment is really achievable and here are the steps to achieve it.

Step one: Go for capital returns
If you are like me, holding a 9-to-5 job with limited seed funds to start investing with, then you definitely need to look into investment strategies that incorporate some sort of capital returns. You can look at simple “buy-to-sell” strategies or the more complicated “no-money-down” strategies. Use these strategies repeatedly until you accumulate enough funds to purchase bigger units that you can hold/keep for better rental returns.

Step two: Accumulate properties for rental returns
Alternate between step one and step two until you have a portfolio of properties that give you good rental returns (now and in the long term). Ideally, look at properties that give you 8% returns. These are the ones to keep. Sell the remaining/other properties that you have for capital returns, which in turn lets you buy more properties. It is important to maintain a healthy portfolio. My rule-of-thumb is that you should only have one or two properties to flip (sell) at any one time and the rest of your efforts should be focused on properties that will give you good rental returns.

When do you stop investing?
Well, ask yourself how much you need to be able to retire? For example, if you need RM10,000 per month for the rest of your life, use the rental yield formula below to find out how much you need to invest to achieve your financial freedom.

Assuming that you are getting 8% yield from your properties (90% of my properties give me returns of 8% and above), then put it into the formula below.

Assuming that your monthly desired income of RM10,000 will be derived from rentals, then put that figure into the formula below to determine the total number of properties you need to invest in.

In the example above, you need to invest in properties worth RM1,500,000 to get RM10,000 every month.

Is this achievable? Of course! The best thing about property investment is that you get the highest form of leverage with the longest loan tenure!

To achieve this figure you need to have funds of RM150,000, and service the remaining amount in bank loans for 20 to 30 years. You don’t need to do it all at once. Split your investment portfolio into several properties amounting to RM1,500,000. Once that is accomplished, you are home free!

Some of you may not like the fact that you can only truly retire after the loan is completed. True, but hey, we aren’t finished yet. This is where Step Three comes in.

Step three: Start reducing your mortgage/loan
Continue investing in properties, even after getting your millions’ worth of properties. But this time, use the capital gains to pay off your loans. A word of caution - do this only after you have reached your total property portfolio. Never try to save while investing. Otherwise, you will only confuse yourself and your banker! Invest until you have enough, and then continue to invest, with the purpose of paying off the mortgages.

Once you are done, you can finally retire. Then, it’s tee-off time!

Michael Tan conducts property investment seminars and workshops throughout the year. For details, call 03-2283 1740 or visit