The company headed by a celebrity real estate guru who claims he bought 170 properties by his 30th birthday is accused of badly failing some of its clients.
Nathan Birch, 35, who says he has a $55 million portfolio of more than 200 homes, runs property investment firm Binvested.
The Bentley-driving wunderkind, who has been dubbed ‘The Property Whisperer’ on TV, boasts of rapidly building an empire by buying ‘undervalued’ homes and using the equity to finance the next mortgage.
He gives the same advice to his clients and preaches relentless positivity for property values regardless of the economic climate.
Nathan Birch, 35, who claims to have a $55 million portfolio of more than 200 homes, runs property investment firm Binvested – but not all his clients are satisfied
Mr Birch will frequently trot out success stories to real estate media of young couples buying half a dozen properties in a year.
But not all his clients are thrilled with the results, claiming their investments were mismanaged, or they were pushed to buy ‘uninhabitable’ homes no one could rent.
One of Binvested’s money-makers is charging a fee of $10,000 to $20,000 to find properties Mr Birch and his acolytes claim are bargains.
For this, investors get information on suitable properties and suburbs along with assessments of potential homes they could buy.
These payments are contractually non-refundable, even if the client doesn’t end up buying a home as a result.
Investors are then pushed for a quick sale on the promise that they don’t even need to inspect the home – the firm will take care of everything.
Mr Birch often personally spruiks ‘opportunities’ to clients in upbeat hard-sell emails, but some unhappy customers say staff are suddenly unreachable at the first sign of trouble.
Former client Izzak Smit is now taking Binvested to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal claiming breach of contract.
He and three other current and former clients told Daily Mail Australia of their horror stories with the company that cost them thousands of dollars.
Within hours of Daily Mail Australia requesting comment from Binvested, all four were sent letters by the firm’s in-house lawyers.
The company said it was ‘investigating’ the claims and would not comment until that process was completed.
Unit trashed by two tenants in a row
Mr Smit engaged Binvested subsidiary Blink Property Management in November 2015 to look after his investment unit in Beenleigh, Brisbane, while he was living overseas.
He claims he did not receive an inspection report until July 18, 2017, despite sending numerous emails asking for reports during the intervening time.
After a year of more of the same, Mr Smit asked why he had not received more inspection reports, and was soon sent three for the wrong property.
Zac Smit engaged Binvested subsidiary Blink Property Management in November 2015 to look after his investment unit in Beenleigh, Brisbane, while he was living overseas – and a tenant trashed it
Mr Smit found his unit looking like this after it was trashed – holes in the walls and the shelves damaged and filthy
The same day Blink inexplicably told him it did not even have a set of keys to the property with which to conduct an inspection.
‘We are currently arranging a suitable time with the tenant to carry this out and will update you asap,’ the email on July 9 read.
Four days later Blink advised that the tenant had been evicted, and a property report revealed the awful state it was left in.
‘The unit was uninhabitable,’ then-property manager Emma Snowdon wrote in a signed statement to QCAT seen by Daily Mail Australia.
‘There were several cats and even more birds running/flying wild inside, animal faeces on the walls and in the carpet throughout, as well as mould throughout. The small was disgusting.’
Thousands of dollars was spent to repaint the house, repair holes in the walls, replace destroyed flyscreens, window locks, a towel rail, blinds, and the toilet cistern.
Mr Smit claimed Blink didn’t do inspections as it was supposed to do, and the property was trashed by two different tenants
‘There were several cats and even more birds running/flying wild inside, animal faeces on the walls and in the carpet throughout, as well as mould throughout. The small was disgusting.’ the then-property manager said
The badly damaged front door also had to be repaired along with the bathroom ceiling that had signs of mould growing on it.
A new tenant moved in on February 14, 2019, paying $270 a week and Mr Smit said he against received no inspection reports until they moved out six months later.
Mr Smit claimed Blink allowed the tenant to leave, and be paid their bond, and it was not until a new tenant was found that he discovered the unit had again been trashed.
‘Please note in attached report that there is reported damage to the walls, ceilings, doors and floors, including a hole in the wall,’ he wrote in his QCAT complaint.
‘This is after the entire unit had been patched and painted.’
Mr Smit once again spent thousands of dollars repairing the unit before firing Blink and appointing a different company.
‘Blink Property Management have clearly not provided the service for which I have been paying for for years,’ he claimed in his QCAT filing.
Thousands of dollars was spent to repaint the house, repair holes in the walls, replace destroyed flyscreens, window locks, a towel rail, blinds, and the toilet cistern
‘Due to this negligence, the property has suffered severe damages and multiple tenants have left due to issues not being resolved.
‘Had the inspections been carried out as per the contract, this situation could have been avoided.’
Mr Smit said he had repeatedly tried to get Blink to refund the costs associated with its alleged negligence, without success.
‘They continue to string me along and show no evidence of wanting to take ownership of their behaviour by compensation,’ he wrote.
‘I have been as amicable as humanly possible and given them ample time and opportunity to find a resolution, but continue to be made a fool of.’
Mr Smit said he paid $5265.54 in property management fees, and the damages cost him more than $10,000 to repair.
Sold an ‘uninhabitable’ property
A business development manager at an investment firm said he was inspired by a YouTube video of Mr Birch making property investment seem easy.
He spoke to agents at Binvested who pushed him to fork out $20,000 in fees for two ‘below market’ properties they could arrange for him to buy.
‘They reassured me that I didn’t need to visit the properties because the team would organise inspections and every other detail of the transaction to be taken care of,’ he said.
The client said he paid the fees and was pitched a property in Woodridge, on Brisbane’s outskirts, and Mr Birch personally emailed him to push for a quick sale.
Another of Binvested’s clients claims the company convinced him to buy this dilapidated house in St Marys, in western Sydney, without visiting it or knowing the condition
‘This is a steal especially being only about 25km from Brisbane CBD – you couldn’t even build this property for this price lol,’ Mr Birch claimed.
‘I am taking advantage of the situation and making the sellers out there bleed on price.’
Mr Birch warned he needed to jump in quickly as ‘there are other scavengers out in the market and trying to get these bargains’.
After noticing inconsistencies in what Mr Birch was saying about the property, he balked at the sale and was instead offered a house in St Marys, Sydney.
He said Mr Birch, his staff, and a broker Mr Birch brought in all insisted that the property was a steal and would be rented within two weeks.
The client, who lives in Melbourne, bought the house for $285,000 without visiting it, and the sale settled on June 21, 2018.
The client, who lives in Melbourne, bought the house for $285,000 without visiting it, and the sale settled on June 21, 2018
Weeks went by and not only was the house not rented out, he was told the keys had not even been picked up.
He said it was not until a month after settlement that advertising for tenants began, and four months later it had still not been rented out.
Increasingly desperate, he flew to Sydney and found the house was unlivable, in contrast to what Binvested allegedly told him.
‘The property was completely run down, there was no way someone could live in a place like that and the unit required a full renovation that would have cost thousands of dollars,’ he said.
‘The entire kitchen was rotten, the bathroom was disgusting and basically the whole place was completely rotten.
‘Not to mention the smell inside and the condition of the staircase of the building. The garage wasn’t even accessible as the door was broken.’
He said he repeatedly tried to contact Binvested for an explanation and demand a refund, but was always told by assistants that they were unavailable.
He was told it would have a tenant within two weeks but when this didn’t happen and he couldn’t get hold of the company, he flew to Sydney and found the house was unlivable, in contrast to what Binvested allegedly told him
He said he had no choice but to hire another agent to sell the house, eventually offloading it for $5,000 less than he bought it for.
All up, he alleges he lost more than $50,000 from the saga including fees, stamp duty, and minor renovations to get the house listed as a fix-up.
‘The whole experience has been the worst nightmare I’ve ever gone through. I lost most of the money I saved since I was a child,’ he said.
‘It took me over 20 years to save that $50,000 and everything was vanished in less than six months leaving me with an enormous amount of anxiety, grief, and the loss of all my capital.
‘I’ve started having anxiety and panic attaches that took me nearly a year to overcome.’
The client said he repeatedly asked for the $20,000 Binvested fees to be refunded, as he didn’t even buy the second house.
After Daily Mail Australia asked for comment on his case, he was sent a letter from Binvested’s lawyers.
‘You contracted to and were aware at the time that the Buyers Agency Agreement fee is a non refundable fee for presentation of prospective properties to you and that at your discretion you may choose to purchase or not purchase,’ it read.
Underquoted on land deal
A third client and his wife were offered a house and land package in Fletcher, near Newcastle, and paid $16,500 to Binvested to set up the deal.
‘Mr Birch and his team were very easy to access and would even call us quite frequently mainly to keep us motivated to sign up to one of their property deals,’ he said.
Emails showed before they paid the deposit, Mr Birch quoted them $450,000 to build the duplex, which was within their budget.
Mr Birch in the same email to prospective buyers at several points pushed them to sign up within two days or the opportunity would be lost.
‘The only catch is that the developer wants these properties sold before a deadline. That means first in, first out, sorry we can’t wait!’ he wrote.
About six months later an information night on the development quoted more than $508,000 for the cheapest build, plus council contributions fees of $26,000 and subdivision costs of $50,000 to $100,000.
Mr Birch, pictured with a friend, is something of phenomenon in real estate circles, claiming to own an ever-increasing number of properties aged just 35
He claimed Binvested never mentioned any of this before he and his wife paid the deposit.
‘Nevertheless we had faith in the company to get us out of this mess. We approached management to get some answers and also advise us on what to do next,’ he said.
‘All of a sudden they were uncontactable, their staff would say that they would call us but that call never came.’
He said that after six months of no communication, he and his wife had no choice but to give up their land back to the seller.
He said the fees involved cost the couple more than $30,000.
He said they eventually secured a meeting with Mr Birch where he claimed the couple were previously presented with a solution, but wasn’t able to provide any record of it being communicated to them.
‘They proceeded with an apology and acknowledged that their lack of help and communication lead us to lose a lot of money,’ he said.
Mr Birch allegedly promised to review the matter and consider refunding the $16,500 fee, but the client claimed he heard nothing.
‘It’s been months and we still haven’t heard from him,’ he said.
After Daily Mail Australia asked Binvested for comment, the client was sent a letter offering to settle the matter, but declined the company’s offer.
Four years of poor management
A fourth client had similar problems with Blink Property to Mr Smit over the course of four years from February 2016 until he sacked them last month.
The man owns four properties in Labrador and Nerang on the Gold Coast, Beenleigh in southern Brisbane, and Gosford on the NSW Central Coast.
Accounts and correspondence show a succession of a dozen Blink property managers were persistently late paying council rates and strata fees.
This alleged mismanagement of his properties cost Mr Taylor thousands in late fees and missed on-time payment discounts.
One one occasion in April 2019 he was sued by the strata management for $3,607 in unpaid fees on his Gosford property.
‘I found that I was not informed ahead of time whenever there may have been a shortfall in my funds causing potential late payments,’ he said.
He also said fees were often not paid on time even when there was ample funds in his account, or they could be taken out of his rental income.
‘I seem to be paying management fees without any return on them apart from the built-up stress of errors made, legal notices issued and the absence of good property management advice or quick decision making/follow-up of any raised concerns,’ he wrote in an email to Blink in August 2019.
Mr Birch preaches relentless positivity for property values regardless of the economic climate, as seen in this Seven News program
On another occasion he wrote: ‘I now pay all council and strata bills for this property myself as I couldn’t trust Blink to do it in a timely or correct manner.’
There were even bigger problems with his Beenleigh property, which was trashed by a tenant in September 2018 after Blink failed to conduct inspections.
Correspondence showed he was advised by his then-property manager to lodge an insurance claim before carrying out repairs and renovations.
However, Blink later admitted this was incorrect and the work should have been done immediately so another tenant could move in a rental income resume.
A new tenant did not move in until June 2019, costing him more than $8,000 in lost rent.
Repairs and renovations totalled about $25,500 but he only got $2,206 from insurance. Blink later admitted the claim was not done to an adequate standard.
In October 2019, he was informed that water was leaking into the unit below his as result of the bathroom repair and renovation.
‘This water leak has destroyed half the power to unit 3 below and has caused fast growing and excessive black mould to unit 3,’ Blink wrote in an email.
Blink believed this would be covered by warranty and the client asked for his property manager to make a claim with the plumbing contractor.
However, it was not until April that he was informed the repairs had not been carried out because money was still outstanding from the original renovation.
‘Why was I not notified about this much earlier in the process of dealing with this?’ he replied, noting that he would have paid the balance if told of the issue.
Repairs were still not done by May 20 when the manager of the downstairs unit contacted the owner directly in a desperate attempt to get something done.
‘I am writing to you as a last resort… Blink Property has done little to rectify the issue and we have been unable to get a satisfactory solution,’ the latter read.
‘Every day our unit suffers more and more damages due to the water leak and it is affecting the structure and habitability of our unit and tenants.’
The unhappy client told Daily Mail Australia that instead of making his life easier as a landlord, it had added to his stress and expenses.
Binvested success stories are frequently pitched to news outlets showing 20-something couples suddenly amassing a multimillion-dollar portfolio
‘Blink have done the opposite of what they say they’ll do (let me as a Landlord relax because my properties are in good hands and give me the best advise as a Property investor),’ he said.
‘I’ve endlessly been frustrated/stressed by having to micro-manage my properties because of the continual mistakes made, being terrible at communication, and basic lack of action or long delays in action taken.’
Binvested recently agreed to manage his Gosford property free of charge for the next 12 months to make up for its past performance.
When he asked instead for a 12-month refund so he would be free to change property management, he was told this was ‘against company policy’.
‘We have not been negligent, and the credit that we are offering is already in good faith,’ a Binvested operations manager wrote.
After Daily Mail Australia asked Binvested for comment, the company contacted him and agreed to meet his demands.
Who is Nathan Birch?
Mr Birch is something of phenomenon in real estate circles, claiming to own an ever-increasing number of properties aged just 35.
He was all over the news in 2015 when he was said to have 170 properties at just 30 years old, and now claims to own more than 200 homes worth $55 million.
Now he flaunts his wealth on social media, drives a $200,000 Bentley with personalised number plates, and brags about ‘collecting properties like kids collect action figurines in a Happy Meals’.
His origin story claims he bought his first investment property soon after turning 18, and by 24 had 14 in his portfolio.
That year he quit his series of dead-end jobs and started Binvested, sometimes buying more than a dozen houses a year.
Mr Birch’s origin story claims he bought his first investment property soon after turning 18, and by 24 had 14 in his portfolio
Mr Birch claims his strategy is so simple anyone can do it.
‘I buy below market value in lower-priced suburbs and the rent has to be enough to cover my mortgage costs,’ he said in one of countless puff pieces over the years.
‘When the value of the home increases I use the equity I’ve gained to help buy more properties.’
This is exactly the same procedure he spruiks to Binvested’s clients – pitching them cheap homes on the outskirts of major cities he claims will grown in value.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Mr Birch or any of his companies have engaged in any wrongdoing, only that some of Binvested’s and Blink Property’s clients have been unimpressed by their experiences.
Binvested success stories are frequently pitched to news outlets showing 20-something couples suddenly amassing a multimillion-dollar portfolio.
This feeds into Mr Birch’s mystique, along with relentlessly hocking himself as an expert commentator on the property market.
His takes are always bullish, railing against ‘negative Norman’ experts even when the market is in the midst of a downturn.
Just three weeks ago he was calling the coronavirus pandemic ‘the greatest opportunity for property investors we’ll ever see’.
Having already purchased six new homes during the pandemic, Mr Birch said he hoped to buy another 20 to 30 properties by the end of the year.
‘I’m really excited. I’m smiling ear to ear… people are saying the property market is going to crash but it’s not going to crash. It’s going to go up,’ he told Real Estate.
However, Mr Birch’s strategy is criticised by some property experts as being a house of cards that leaves owners open to disaster in a housing crash.
The perpetual buying many of his success stories, and those of other investment companies with the same strategy, is to use equity in homes to borrow more cash.
The first home is often subsidised by parents, or the deposit gained by living rent-free at home. Then the cheap home is given some cosmetic renovations and revalued.
But this only works if the market keeps going up, and the speculation is correct that these cheap suburbs will become more desirable.
‘Often the last part of the market to go up is the first part of the market to go down,’ a senior real estate reporter told Buzzfeed in 2017.
‘These are properties not serviced by real things that give them real value – nearby infrastructure, public transport and job opportunities.
‘The ones who jump in late in the cycle are the ones who are burnt the most.’
One of the many ‘motivational’ memes Mr Birch shares on his Instagram
Mr Birch later that year ended up in a small spot of bother himself when a lender for one of his properties sued him for failing to pay the mortgage.
Permanent Mortgages, a subsidiary of La Trobe Financial, took him to the Brisbane Federal Court over a block of three units in Paradise Point, on the Gold Coast.
Mr Birch had failed to meet repayments on his $535,000 interest-only mortgage and the lender had him declared in default by the court after he didn’t file a defence.
Mr Birch in January 2018 claimed he only ‘briefly’ fell behind because of tighter lending restrictions brought in by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.
‘Most importantly, they’re all paid up now and I’m coming to the end of this challenging year on top of things, still with an ever-growing net worth position,’ he told the Australian Financial Review.
About the same time as he was being sued in mid-2017, Mr Birch admitted he was selling off 20 or so properties to improve his cashflow.
He said in a blog post on the Binvested website that the change in APRA, which limited the issuing of interest-only mortgages, made the finance market ‘tight’.
‘I don’t want to sell them, but what I’ve realised is the finance market is really, really tight,’ he said.
‘My clients, in the past I’d help them buy 20 properties in two years, now they’ll struggle to do eight in two years.’
Mr Birch said he was still actively buying properties, but was just changing what was in his portfolio.
‘It’s like in Monopoly when you trade the four green houses for the red hotel,’ he said.
The APRA regulation change kicked off a fall in property prices around Australia and scared many investors off the market.
The company rejected suggestions of a pattern of poor communication and service and said it was negotiating with Mr Taylor and Mr Jifkins.
However, it promised to improve its practices to prevent similar issues from happening in the future.
‘More stringent processes are currently under discussion to be in place as a matter of priority,’ it said.
‘Our core values centre around honesty and integrity and we always endeavour to manage expectations to the best of our capability.
‘This is, however, sometimes compromised by developments that are beyond our control, but we are always very candid with our clients about the potential risk involved.’
The first property Mr Birch bought in Mount Druitt, Sydney, it was riddled with termites. He bought it for $248,000 in 2004 and it was worth $600,000 by 2016
Binvested did not directly address general criticism, and insisted clients were advised to do their own due dilligence.
‘We always stress the importance of our clients doing their own due diligence on the information that we present them with and ultimately, it is the client’s choice on whether or not to move forward with the deal in question,’ it said.
‘Risk is inherent with any form of investment, and the property investment journey is neither linear nor a get-rich-quick-scheme.
‘Potential investors need to be aware that there will be ups and downs during the process of building a property investment portfolio.
‘That is why only 0.001 per cent of the Australian population ever make it to 6+ properties. Property investment is hard and it takes a lot of hard work, but if done correctly, with a solid strategy in place, the results yielded make it worth it.’