Top 20 Questions for your Potential HMO Agent

If you’re considering HMO’s as your next property investment, have you thought about how you will ongoingly manage them?

If you intend to use an agent, how do you know how to benchmark them against each other?

Top 20 Questions to ask your potential HMO agent…

1. What experience do you have in renting out properties like this HMO?
2. What is the type of HMO you specialise in?
3. What is the average room rent you achieve?
4. What is your average void period?
5. What is your average type of tenant?
6. How do you advertise the properties?
7. On average how long does it take you to rent a room?
8. What percentage of rent advertised do you achieve?
9. Do you rent any licensed HMOs?
10. Are you the manager of any licensed HMOs?
11. What does your service actually include?
12. How do you deal with maintenance and repair jobs?
13. How do tenants contact you for emergencies?
14. How do tenants report issues or general queries?
15. How often do you/your team visit the property?
16. How do you deal with rent arrears/missed rent payments?
17. How do you ensure the cleaner is managed well?
18. Which KPIs do you gather and supply to your clients each month?
19. What is your inventory process?
20. What advice would you give to an HMO landlord?

Get Organised with Viewings

If you know that the returns in your area are not what you’re looking for, choose another area. Don’t stress too much about finding your goldmine area just yet. One will appear.

However, you need to trust and follow the process first. Learn HOW to follow a process for sourcing and viewings so that when your ideal area becomes obvious, you are ready to pounce! Creating a system so that you regularly contact agents and vendors, organise viewings and follow-up is key to your actions if you’re going to find deals.

Stay Ahead of the Winter Weather for Property Success

A survey from online letting agent upad.co.uk, which surveyed 4,000 landlords, showed that nearly half of landlords fail to carry out routine maintenance checks before Winter sets in. The impact of failing to prepare for the bad weather can be huge, especially if your property is an HMO. Frozen pipes resulting in no heating and water, and then water leaks and further problems lead to unhappy tenants who may choose to move elsewhere.
Our maintenance team carry out monthly checks on all our properties, but every quarter they run a more detailed assessment to identify and prevent longer term problems. Here are my suggestions for areas that you need to include in a routine check (or make sure your managing agent does)!

1. Gutters, drains and roofs
Leaves and debris can quickly cause water damage if they’re not cleared regularly. I would recommend that every 6 months someone needs to go up on a tall ladder and check the state of your gutters and downpipes, clear the debris and run a hose of water through them. Make a similar regular date with your roof. Loose or missing shingles may lead to leakages with rain or melting snow, and flat roofs may be prone to leaks after heavy rain.

2. Trees and external objects
If you’ve got a tall tree or foliage that overhangs the property, check whether this needs to be cut back or pruned so that in high winds there’s no risk of damage to the house. Having deciduous trees near to the property can cause other problems such as root growth damage and leaf pile up, so it might be a good idea to assess whether this is the right time to remove a tree altogether.
The television aerial can also get dislodged in high winds, so it’s worth having a look to see whether it is securely lashed to the chimney stack and can withstand some force from the wind.

3. Heating and lighting
Boiler failure is one of the most irritating and costly issues to deal with and can cause real upset with tenants – understandably. Have your boiler serviced at the end of October to flag issues early and consider whether you could add boiler insurance to your policy for extra cover.  You may choose to use a service plan to ensure you have back-up should the boiler fail. Alternatively find a reliable local plumber who is happy to do emergency calls at an agreed price. Furnish your agent with full boiler instructions and a detailed guide as to how to re-set it or top up the water levels as this can sometimes be the issue. Also make sure your tenants know who to call if anything goes wrong.
Heating woes are not all about the boiler, however. While three-quarters of landlords who carry out winter maintenance check the boiler, only half remember to do a health check on the pipes and radiators too, according to the upad.co.uk survey. Bleeding the radiators and checking for leaks across the property ensures the whole system will work more efficiently.
Using a remote thermostat like Hive from British Gas or Inspire will allow you to control the heating remotely. This means that you can set the property’s heating to come on regularly each day. Ensure your tenants understand the thermostat set levels and what to do if they want to change the heating settings.

4. Condensation and mould
Condensation can be a major problem in the winter months and regular room checks will allow you to see whether this is occuring. Air flow through the property is key to reducing humidity as is the use of extractor fans. Check that all extractor fans are in use and working properly, and remind tenants of the importance of good ventilation.

5. Alarms and security
Every habitable floor of a rental property must have a working smoke alarm – and any room with a solid fuel appliance (eg, a working fireplace) should be equipped with a carbon monoxide alarm. While testing your alarms, check the burglar alarm is working for added tenant reassurance on dark nights. If you have an outside light or PIR, make sure it stays on long enough and the range is wide enough to be of use. If your tenants have to pull bins out onto the street, or don’t have enough light to see where to put their key in the front door, their annoyance will only be exacerbated by having to wave at the external light that fails to stay on long enough to be helpful.

6. Insurance
Ensure your current home insurance is up to date and check your policy gives adequate protection for any winter-related damages. And if your property has a flat roof, it’s worth checking your insurer covers flat roof damage – most insurers do not cover flat roofs, and structures of this kind can be prone to collecting water as it can’t drain off.

Having a regular approach to maintenance is both proactive and reactive and will help you ensure that your HMO works well today and for the future.

For more tips, advice and information on running a successful and cash-flowing HMO portfolio please join my Facebook group ‘The Ultimate HMO Success System. Or alternatively you can find out more about my mentoring services at www.wendywl.uk/mentor.html

Image Credit: Getty

Education: A Dirty Word?

I hated school. I really did. Ask my parents, and they’ll tell you how much I resisted getting up in the morning, I resisted getting dressed. I resisted homework. In fact I was pretty good at finding a number of reasons why I should not have to go to school. I didn’t think that school was important, or that I was learning anything useful and I believed that the subjects were completely irrelevant to my life.

And the end result: I failed miserably at my ‘A’ Levels. A year later, with some theatrical experience under my belt, I scraped into a college of Higher Education to do a Drama degree.

What astonished me immediately, was how much I enjoyed it. I bounced out of bed in the morning. I rushed to my lectures to be there on time (gasp!). I spent time in the library, reading and applying myself. Even when I was struggling, I somehow found the focus to keep going. I ended up getting a BA (Hons) 2:1 in Creative Arts. When I phoned my parents to tell them, I think my mum nearly fainted with amazement.

What I realised was this: to learn at your best and your highest level you need to find out what intrinsically motivates you and then spend time learning this on your own terms. I chose the college I attended, I chose the course, and I chose the time commitment. Somehow these three factors had a massive impact on me, to the extent that on the day of graduation, I said “I could do that degree all over again. I LOVED it”.

Fast forward many years later and I felt as equally trapped as I had done at school. Only ironically I was now the teacher, and had a teaching role in Higher Education! In truth, I loved teaching and sparking the process of an amazing lightbulb moment where a student grasped a new concept or understood a theory for the first time. Working directly with students was what I loved best. There were much wider political and structural forces at work, though,  that meant I was often drawn into debates and challenges that had really nothing to do with teaching. I began to feel that there were no other options but to pursue this career to the exclusion of all else. Forever, until I retired. And that I resented.

Now, at the age of nearly forty, I could feel that same resistance I felt when I was a teenager. “I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to get dressed and go to work. I want a hot dinner not a packed lunch”!

I took a long hard look at my life and realised that I had stopped learning. I had cornered myself into a small place and it was time to expand my mind and my reality. As a side-line and a future legacy for my children, I had been developing another small income stream from a few single buy-to-let properties. But I had ignored it, and become rather blase about this small portfolio. This moment of emptiness with my job made me realise that the time to make a change was now. If I didn’t take the leap now (even with a job and four children to manage) I would never do it.

So I started to educate myself. I attended loads of webinars and networking meetings. I read books and subscribed to relevant magazines. I asked lots of questions and attended courses. And more courses!

And I started to buy bigger houses to convert into Houses of Multiple Occupation.

I began to apply what I was learning, and this made me hungry for more. My resistance lowered. I WANTED to learn, I wanted to read and know and I wanted to be AN EXPERT at what I did. I recognised that I was intrinsically motivated to learn how to create HMOs, how to create passive income and how to become financially free…

It’s true that for me, traditional education felt like a waste of time. Only learning what I was self-motivated to learn has ever inspired me enough to maintain my interest. Staying the course depends on you having the interest and aspiration that you feel for the subject matter.

Since that time, I recognise that I love entrepreneurship, business, communications, and people. These are the areas of life that I could study all day long.

It makes it even more fun when I apply it too.

You have to take risks when you are learning something you’re motivated to learn that’s not a school subject. People will think you’re a bit crazy, stupid or mad. No worries. Let ‘em think it.

  • Stay centred on your passion.
  • Make time for learning – theory and practice
  • Keep applying what you’ve learned to make it fresh and real (practice)
  • Take a break when you need some space to cogitate
  • Invest wisely – books, courses, materials.

And above all, find something you are intrinsically motivated to learn. Whether it’s crochet, cookery or computing. Patchwork, pottery or property. As Ray Croc, the McDonald’s owner once said ‘When you’re green you’re growing, when you’re ripe you rot’!

How to FUND your HMO Project!

You’ve heard the phrase ‘ Money Talks’ no doubt. But if all yours has ever said to you is ‘Goodbye I’m off’ then you’ll know that making money from property is not as easy as it looks!

Funding your project is often the hardest part of the system unless you know what you’re doing! If you’ve FOUND a great property but have no money to buy it or develop it. you are well and truly STUCK.

Here are some of my top tips for ensuring that you DON’T GET STUCK without money when you are investing in HMOs…

1) Your money mindset is the most important part of the process.
If you believe, trust and TAKE ACTION, you can raise as much money as you want to. I know this may seem a little airy fairy, but trust me, I have worked with many people who say that the difference between being wealthy and being broke is what is between your ears! Not what you can do, your background or your education. It is purely how you THINK and ACT that makes the difference.

2) Create a clear budget for what you need.
Purchase Price – £140,000
Refurb costs – £50,000
Legals – £700
Stamp Duty – £4,500
TOTAL = £195,250
It looks like a lot of money doesn’t it? But how about if you break it down and challenge yourself to raise each part, bit by bit? (In reality most of this will come from your investor but it’s a great challenge to get lots of little pieces and put them together).

3) Do the maths on the project
How many rooms will you create: 6
How much will the monthly rent be on average per room: £600
Total Annual Rent: £43,200
With those figures you can work out the Return on Investment for your investor, your yield and the possible re-valuation at the end. It’s not an exact science as there will be voids, maintenance and so on. The key thing is to understand the maths behind it, so that you can give your investor some rough ideas as to their return.

4) Create a compelling reason why your investor should work with you
This might be because of your personality, your work experience, or your relationship with them. It is very rarely just about property investing experience or money.


5) Network and learn continually.
You are always pitching, whether you realise it or not. Your social media, your emails, your meetings and your networking say a TON about who you are. Make it great and make it memorable. People will fall at your feet to lend you money!

Multilet Income Multiplier Event
If you are dribbling to know more(!) I am leading my VERY last Multilet Income Multiplier event next weekend – 17th and 18th November at Crewe Hall in Cheshire. It is a fabulous hotel, and I’m even gonna take you out for dinner on Saturday night!
The event will cover everything you need to know to set up, scale and systemise your HMO business and is the very last one I will be running. As this is my last event, I am offering a very special rate for the last few seats I have available.
Just £499 plus vat for your ticket to this amazing weekend experience.
If you would like to know more, please click here https://goo.gl/6kERgs for full course details and information about what will be covered on the two day event.

The Information I Gather…

I’d like to share the pieces of information I gather when doing due diligence on a new area:

  • The local population number (you want it to be no less than around 80,000)
  • The mix of local employers (are there a couple of larger employers taking more than 100 new people on per annum)?
  • The mixture of properties available  – a mixture is important for steady rental demand
  • The demand for rooms (look at Spareroom as a guide – but notice the low quality of many of them)
  • The price of property versus the rental income
  • The public transport system and connections
  • The connections to the wider region in terms of jobs, transport and partnerships

All these are important factors when deciding where to invest.If you can nail down these facts, and demonstrate a strong demand for high quality rooms, in a place where there are good opportunities, and connections, you may have found your perfect investment area!

Are there other factors that you think I’ve missed?

Did I mention that I got into the last 100 for the Great British Bake Off 2018?

The experience reminded me that when you’re trying to create 6 cakes that are identical, you need a clear recipe to follow and a very logical approach. If not you get a terrible mess!

My recipe for success is simple. It’s five steps that are easy to remember:

Find It
Fund It
Finish It
Fill It
Future Proof It

Follow this and you won’t go wrong!

Finding the Right Location for your HMO

Finding the right location for your HMO might take some time but if you want to create an HMO that cashflows for many years to come, your due diligence now is worth it.  This is the first step in the process and the MOST important. Identifying your ideal investment area will also allow you to grow your portfolio quickly as you test and refine your model with a relatively small set of variables.  This will eventually save you time and money and allow you to create a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach as we have done in our company and repeat the same steps faster and more efficiently each time.

Initially you will need to choose your ‘macro’ location. This is the town or city where you are going to make a professional HMO work for you. In terms of an area where the most successful professional HMOs are located, there are some key characteristics you need to look for, which are namely:

  • A population of NO LESS than 80,000 people – otherwise you are unlikely to have the right number and supply of houses.
  • Robust and various transport links to the wider region (train, coach, bus, motorway, tram etc).
  • Within 20 miles of another equally large conurbation.
  • At least 20 medium to large employers (3000 people plus) who have a significant need for skilled or semi-skilled labour.
  • Local plans for growth, regeneration and investment (this is not always easy to uncover but looking at the local plan will ascertain local trends for housing and employment. Knowing the priorities of your local council for development over the next five years is a core part of understanding the viability of a potential HMO).
  • Retail and shopping facilities that cater for all segments of the population.
  • At least 10-15% of property in the rental market (i.e. predictable and steady rental market). This is true of most of the UK at present! This factor is important as it influences your tenants’ ability to move up and out of your HMO eventually. Some may leave due to job changes, others will purchase their own property and many will move into a single let property. If there is limited opportunity to move up the rental ladder this will affect the popularity of the area with regard to HMO room lets. Also having a strong local rental demand will ensure there are plenty of lettings agents locally who you can work with to let out rooms.

So as you can see, choosing the right location to invest in is critical if you’re to make the most of your money and investment, doing all you can to get a good return. After all, that’s why you’re in business, isn’t it?

Dressing a Room

As an additional sales tool when showing potential tenants around your HMO, the room ideally needs to be dressed. By dressing a room I mean ensuring that it is displayed to its fullest effect so that potential tenants can imagine themselves actually living there, sleeping there and making this their home. This means making the bed with a duvet and cushions, and possibly a throw. Are the pictures straight, the bin empty, the windows clean? Is the living room tidy, cushions plumped and curtains drawn? Turn all the lights on and consider replacing the low energy lights with higher wattage ones for the viewing. Close all the doors and drawers to the furniture. If the room has a slight smell (either from the previous inhabitant or as a result of being new) stick a plug-in air freshener into one of the sockets. Before the viewing you will also need to arrive early to check all the communal areas and tidy up anything which looks obviously off-putting.