Wendy and Clive Hewitson

Investing in people and property in Dunedin

Wendy and Clive Hewitson are Dunedin based property developers and investors.  For the past 15 years, the couple has been building student accommodation on Otago University’s campus.

If you pay attention to the media, the reputation of Otago student flats is legendary, although Clive is quick to point out that things are improving.

“We purchase older properties, demolish and rebuild them.  We’ve built 42 units and have been the landlords for the hundreds of students who have lived in them,” says Clive.

“There are problematic streets among the 1,900 plus rental properties in the prime student area including Hyde Street, but they’re slowly getting tidied up.  There were properties that used to be rented a year in advance, or even bid for, but now there are empty houses dotted along these streets.

Tenants are demanding better quality accommodation and the balance of who is renting has changed from 70 percent men / 30 percent women to almost the reverse.”

In 2014, the Hewitsons won the ‘Best Landlord’ award at the annual Otago University Students Association’s Best and Worst Landlord Awards.  They were placed in the top three again in 2015.

“We provide very good accommodation and we consider ourselves to be caring and responsible landlords.  We charge some of the highest rents, but we both work full time in the business, which means we can sort out any problems immediately.  Gone are the days of landlords ignoring properties.  With 200 students coming and going annually, you have to be very good at what you do.”

Clive and Wendy also invest in commercial property, with two sites in Dunedin currently planned for re-development when their leases come up.   They also have shares in commercial properties in Auckland, Queenstown and Christchurch, which Clive says “spreads the risk”.

Clive’s connection with student life dates back to 1980 when he owned the Royal Albert Tavern, then the Oriental Tavern restaurant, followed by the Fat Ladies Arms.  He also owned a bakery and a fleet of mobile ice cream vans.

Clive recalls the ‘specials’ nights at the Oriental when students would be queued out the door and sitting on the pavement to eat their meals as the restaurant was full.

“Hospitality was the stepping stone into property investment. Plus we received a lot of publicity from the slightly controversial events at the Fat Ladies Arms.”

It was when Clive owned the Royal Albert Tavern that he joined Markhams Otago.  “I went into business and needed an accountant.  I would have to say I’m probably one of the longest standing clients at Markhams Otago, having been with consultant Gavin Craw since the beginning.”

“We consult over every business decision I make,” says Clive.  “Gavin will run numbers for me if I’m looking at a property deal and also handles the financial management of our business.  Rules and regulations change so much, especially around taxation so I’m happy to leave it to the experts.”

Published Autumn 2016

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