I AM HANH tôi là Hanh

by Gina Kantzas

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

Melbourne – it’s good to be back. How good was the weather this last week, felt like the south of France in Spring, only better?


Rumours abound that people are leaving for greener pastures. Wow they haven’t travelled much then. There is no better place in the world. But if you’re going, ok, more space, parks, beach, schools, restaurants, healthcare and ….. for us.


With inspections starting back earlier than planned, there is a lot of paddling going on beneath the surface, for buyers and sellers and agents. Since Monday last, it has felt like it has been more about getting ready, rather than getting it done.


Everybody has their senses open for the 3 Big Mo’s  – Momentum, Money & Mosaic (diversity of results).


The Biggest Mo – Momentum – not here yet, but we are all looking for it.


Early Days New Stock Advertised: Last week in Lockdown, 10 new properties hit the internet. This week out of Lockdown, 94 Top End family homes hit the internet in our coverage area.


Continuing our 20 learnings in 20 years and what a brilliant story Gina has for you today.


It’s a must read for every young woman, young man and young agent. There is so much good stuff here. And for the rest of us, WOW, what a story of quiet determination.


Welcome to I AM HANH tôi là Hanh. Enjoy.

Hanh – Inner Melbourne (2013, 2017)


Hanh recently bought for the second time with our help – a $10 million home. She is a university graduate, an entrepreneur, a single parent of 2 beautiful children, an immigrant and a woman.


Hanh’s story in many ways, is the same as mine, the same as almost any woman involved in buying, selling, renovating or working in Inner Melbourne property.


This is Hanh’s story.


:|+ ‘70s Vietnam


In 1977 I left Vietnam for Australia, via Malaysia in a boat with my parents and younger brother. I was 4 years old. My 2 other siblings were born in Australia.


I cannot really remember Vietnam. My father was an engineer and Mum was a law student before the war. After the war, Mum set up a photography business as everybody wanted the memento of home before they left.


We left Vietnam because Mum could see, she really knew, there was no life for us there.


Mum was a wheeler and dealer, always just going for it – whereas Dad was more risk averse.


Dad always said Mum was the driving force in the decision to come to Australia.


:|+ The Boat Trip


Dad was a really good organiser and the trip had been months in the planning – he bought the boat and arranged for all in our wider family, from all over Vietnam, who wanted to come, to be at a certain place on a certain day, well-hidden until we could leave under the cover of nightfall.


Dad arranged three captains and this was smart, as one didn’t show and one told us half way through he couldn’t sail (people were desperate) and luckily the third captain could.


Dad used a compass from a fighter plane to navigate.


The trip by boat wasn’t as fraught as it has been for other Vietnamese, it was comfortable as the seas were calm and we didn’t run into any Thai pirates.


When landing in Malaysia my grandfather’s hat fell off into the water – it’s the only thing I really remember about the trip.


:|+ Malaysia to Australia


We stayed on the beach where we landed in Malaysia. It was a beautiful beach and we were given rations and we were kept away from the locals.


We were treated well as it was early times for refugees – now it is a lot different.


There were always authorities coming around and the ones from the UN were offering countries for our family to go to. We were offered America a number of times and others – but we waited and waited until we were told we could go to Australia. It was probably one of the best decisions.


We had a few relatives in Australia and we knew it had a good health system. We are so glad we didn’t go to America, as we think the ones that went, were not as lucky as us.


After about a year in Malaysia we were sponsored to a place in Melbourne where we stayed in dormitories and later we were moved to Sydney.


:|+ Betty a caring woman


In Sydney, we were so lucky we had Betty. The last time I saw her was at Mum’s funeral a few years ago. She was living in Housing Commission and I gave her money but I know that anytime I gave her money, she would give it away. She was like that.


Betty and Ralph lived across the road from us in the 1980’s. Ralph was a typical VB and spaghetti man, but it was Betty we all loved.


Betty took us in, she took us to hospital, to church, to school – she helped us with forms and English and so many other things.


Betty and Ralph also had two daughters, Anne and Lizzy and after we had all moved out of the street, I heard Lizzy was killed by a man in a domestic violence situation.


It was so sad – such a caring lady, she helped us so much and then that happened to her, she didn’t deserve that.


:|+ Growing up and going to school – Sydney


Between 4 and 23 our whole family moved around.


At one point for about 6 months, I didn’t see much of my father as he hired someone to teach him watchmaking so he could open up his own business. Imagine, an immigrant who didn’t know English and he took out a loan and took out a lease.


I went to public school and did really well and then Mum and Dad sent me to a private school in Year 10 and then I struggled – I just didn’t fit in; my parents weren’t the same, I didn’t have designer labels or the expensive debutante dress.


I remember that I would walk into Grace Brothers and I felt invisible as the girls would not serve me.


Because I saw the massive difference in how you were treated if you had wealth, it became a reason I wanted to do well.


It’s not about the money or becoming rich or wealthy. We came as migrants, my parents worked hard and within our community we were well off, but when you get put into a privileged school you can see the vast differences. I was striving to be treated the same regardless of dollars.


That’s why my Mum and Dad worked so hard. They worked 7 days a week and only after so many years, they decided to close on Chinese New Year Day only.


:|+ Career & Business – Melbourne


At 23, after I completed my degree, I bought my first business.


I wanted to do law, but my Mum said a girl shouldn’t argue; if I wanted to do law, I would never get a husband.


As a young child I was interested in law because I went to council as my dad’s translator. I wanted to help people.


I studied reasonably hard, I didn’t go out a lot and upon graduation I began working as a night packer. This was 1997.


As soon as I started work, my Mum began pestering a business owner to sell me his business.


I was put on an overnight bus from Sydney, finalized the deal, and owned a business and stock on a 10% deposit and a 90% bank loan, guaranteed by some wholesalers, who I would buy my supplies off. This was 1998.


I paid Mum and Dad back in my first year and the banks within 3 years. I also bought the freehold during this time and all from a business I literally knew nothing about, but Mum and Dad thought I should do it.


:|+ Getting started in Melbourne property


In 2000 I bought my first apartment for $235,000. I chose it because I just wanted to go straight down the main road to my business, no other reason. I was working a lot of hours and I wanted things outside work to be simple.


Since the early 2000’s every one or two years I have bought a home.


If only I knew earlier how to buy better ones, as not all of them were great. They were good and it was right to start buying early, but if I had bought properties in other areas, they could’ve gone up 4 times as much.


Different people reach out to buyers’ agents for different reasons, not just because they are newbies to residential purchases only. It can be because they are time poor, lacking knowledge in an area or lack of presence with agents because of being a woman.


I’ve bought over 10 properties, yet my 2 biggest purchases were not by myself. It’s the emotional side, the clear head needed or someone on your side – it is circumstances, timing and connection and the agents.


Everything leads back to relationships.

Hanh’s property advice:

:1+ Ask for help


When I was 23, I had no experience in business, but I had a shop assistant who literally told me what to do and I just followed her instructions. It’s been 25 years and we still text daily.


It’s the people you meet and the relationships you build that create your life.


When I started out and to this day, if I don’t know something, I ask for help.


And I believe in helping others when you can and when asked.


:2+ Value your money


This is not about being frugal or being cheap to accumulate money – it’s more about valuing the money you earn and worked hard for. It’s making smart money and valuing the money you make by spending it wisely – to be able to spend within your means so there is a bigger future.


For example, for me it’s about not being embarrassed to value my money by using coupons at petrol stations and selling and buying online. 


Valuing your money gives you the biggest ability to say no and have a choice.


:3+ Be Independent


You need to be able to stand on your own two feet financially and not be reliant on anyone else – personally and professionally.


This is not about being rich and having money or been known as successful. To me the blessing is that the smart choices you make when you learn to value your money, will help you in the end. The dollars won’t make you happy or change your life. Having your own means to making money will help you move along with your life a lot easier, so that you can have time to concentrate on other things may it be – relationships, health etc


Ultimately, the aim is to be able to be independent as a woman – to be able to make your own choices. By that I mean, to be able to say yes or no rather than having no options because you don’t have control of the finances, as you gave that up during marriage and motherhood. My hard work and determination was so that I have that option to choose what I want to do or not do.


Having independence over the flow of money gives you the biggest ability to say no and a choice.


:4+ Think ahead and Start


Start investing as soon as you can, start early and then pay down what you can and then let compounding growth of your property portfolio do the rest.


If you can’t buy big then buy a little property and upgrade later.


Always invest.


Don’t sell. If you can help it, don’t sell.


Always think ahead. I bought an investment property close to the secondary college I wanted my kids to attend and another near the Uni they may attend. 


:5+ It’s a bigger issue being a woman, than being a Vietnamese boat person when it comes to Melbourne property.


In this pandemic, my discussions with my bank is currently around childcare as a single mother – not my 25 years in business, not that I have paid down my facility by half and that my assets cover it easily or that I have a solid business. I’m being put through the wringer now to get a half million loan. I will deal with it though – I’m used to it.


Everyone’s got a story but when you’re buying your family home, even if you’ve bought many investment properties, it will be harder if you are a migrant and/or a woman.


Migrant Jews, Greeks, Italians, Vietnamese, Burmese, Sudanese and so on. They all have a similar story – it’s what you make when you come over here that changes it.


But the female story, the same story we all have, even after one generation, two generations it’s still the same.


As a woman, you have to prove to yourself and to others what you have achieved then you have to go out and continue to battle over and over again, it’s not like you have a title then it’s over … it’s continuous.


I am Australian. I am Vietnamese. I am also a Woman. When I was buying my current family home, the sales agents did not ask for my email or my phone number – in fact, they did not even ask my name.



Buying Agents: Gina Kantzas James Buy Sell

Architects/Builders: Variety

Selling Agents: Variety


This is a 100% true story as told to Gina – only names, times and photos have been changed for privacy reasons. The story was approved in full by Hanh before publishing and we are grateful and thank her very much for this learning.