Saturation, Supply and Shifting Sands

If anyone tells you that the laws of supply and demand don’t apply to property, be very careful to analyse their motivation! Whilst property prices are much more linked to the supply of mortgage lending rather than the supply of properties, when it comes to rental availability there is a clear correlation between supply and demand.  In any market place, where there is an over-supply of product there will be an impact on the strategies used to sell that product. This might result in lowered prices, or better deals, or an improvement in quality. HMO rooms are no exception to this rule. If you are investing in HMOs you might have seen some changes to local supply. The fact is that in some areas of the UK there are more rooms than demand at present, and landlords are struggling to fill their HMOs. Why is this?

  1. The first reason is that investors have realised that the only way to maximise their portfolio income has been to invest in HMOs a) to counteract the pernicious new tax laws that are being introduced b) to benefit from higher monthly cashflow c) to leverage commercial finance and d) to protect against potential voids. With access to better information, training and support, more and more investors are recognising the power of HMOs for long term wealth and immediate profits.
  2. Secondly, the introduction of stamp duty on second properties over the price of £40,000 has meant that smaller, single buy to let properties are proportionately more expensive to buy. Coupled with the minimum mortgage or purchase price requirement from lenders where investors are investing via a limited company has lessened the appetite for cheaper properties, and increased the need for a higher return linked to a higher purchase price. HMOs make the perfect foil to these prerequisites.
  3. Brexit and immigration. Certain parts of the UK have already felt the negative effects of Brexit, with many Eastern Europeans migrating back to their home countries. According to Migration Watch UK ‘Although we have seen a fall in net migration of EU8 citizens there have been continued increases in immigration from Romania and Bulgaria, so it is too early to say what effect the referendum result has had on long-term international migration’. In other parts of the UK there is a growing immigrant population. Predictions are that immigration will stay steady in terms of net figures, but that certain immigrant communities may change substantially in terms of culture and mix.
  4. Student housing impacts. In many traditional University towns, an enterprising landlord could make a good living from students renting rooms in the locality. Recently there has been an explosion of high quality, contemporary purpose-built student accommodation wiping out the demand for individual HMO housing, necessitating a shift in market offering from landlords still wanting a profitable return. In many instances, they have adapted and upgraded their HMOs to attract the professional market, and this has in turn impacted the current professional HMO stock.  

These factors have created excess provision in some areas especially where investors have failed to understand the forces at work in the local economy and the necessity to adapt and change to the marketplace. So what can an investor do who is facing competition and wants to resist the lure of price reductions just to fill rooms?

  1. Ensure that you are creating a product that not only offers great value but also has a niche offering. Whether you offer personal service with a smile, have wonderfully designed interiors, or make HMOs great communities, you need to identify what it is you are good at and tell your market place about it. In this day and age, unique and niche brands get people talking and sharing, and your HMO business is no exception.
  2. Tell everyone what you do. Use social media like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to share your message and learn how to create advertising copy that sells your rooms (linked to the ideas above).
  3. Work with local businesses and estate agents to create win-win referral deals that benefit them too. Incentivise your tenants to give you referrals and ensure you get plenty of feedback that you either act upon or share!
  4. Respond fast and flexibly. If you cannot respond to a viewing or request quickly, in a competitive market place you will probably wait much longer to fill your rooms.
  5. If you are unsure about consistent supply of tenants, always have a plan B. What else might you do with an HMO that you just can’t fill? Might this present another opportunity that you have missed?

The ebb and flow of supply and demand in HMO rooms is constantly shifting. As investors we not only have to adapt to survive but also to thrive. In this changing landscape of rooms and provision, the creative, savvy and determined investor has the edge. Make sure you’re one of them!

 

52 Week Video Series – Week 5 – The Four Ps!

Do you REALLY know how to make customers return to you time and again? What are the four Ps that make them use YOUR services/ and business more than anyone else’s?

 

 

 

I look forward to hearing how you get on increasing your business by using these four Ps!

Why mentoring makes a difference

When I first started out in my property journey (over 20 years ago) I went to speak to a friend’s husband who had 5 student multi-lets to find out exactly how he had created this small but effective portfolio. I copied his model, learned how to raise finance from the bank before BTL mortgages were created, and studied tenant and landlord law to develop my knowledge and application. With Alan’s guidance and support, I began to make good profits from my very first student multi-let property, and I didn’t look back.

Over the years I have had other mentors – business, personal, HMO specialists – all people who have done what I wanted to do but didn’t know HOW to do it. In the past, I have also worked with a personal trainer and a spiritual advisor to help me grow and develop as a person and to this day still implement the practices I learnt with them.  Often I chose people that I wanted to work with because I could see that they had done something against the backdrop of challenges which I too was facing. My personal trainer for example, also had a young family, so could understand the difficulties of fitting exercise around a busy lifestyle. She also understood the problems of feeding a family when they want to eat egg and chips and you want to nourish yourself with avocado and feta salad.

If you need to find someone who is right to mentor you, it helps if you have an understanding of where you are now, and also what’s stopping you. You may have identified a goal that you want to achieve but you aren’t sure HOW to achieve it. You may look at others who are successfully running businesses, creating passive income or building property portfolios but just not know where to start. This confusion leads to you chasing your tail. It leads to indecision, procrastination and defeat. How do you avoid this trap? You need to find someone who has already demonstrated a PATTERN of success, that you can simply copy and paste. Also, someone who you can relate to and who has themselves proven that despite life’s challenges, they have achieved success.

The benefits to you in finding someone who has already done this are multifarious:

1) Not wasting time on U-turns and dead ends looking for answers that someone else has already discovered

2) You can build a business based on tried and tested principals and practice

3) Utilising someone else’s mistakes from which you can grow

4) Improving on the ideas you glean from another person’s implementation

5) Finding short cuts and faster routes to delivery (i.e. NOT reinventing the wheel)!

6) Staying accountable to your goals

7) Regularly measuring your progress

8) Having someone who’s on your side with whom you can confidentially share your worries, concerns and questions

9) Having your ‘blind spots’ illuminated and your ‘starshine’ magnified

10) Saving thousands of pounds and hours of time in non-personalised and irrelevant learning which doesn’t take account of YOUR situation, strengths, position and goals.

The question is – WHO do you need? And WHAT are you trying to achieve? THEN you can find someone who has done it successfully, COPY their systems and processes, and PASTE them into your life, with help and support tied in to ENSURE your SUCCESS! The only question is WILL YOU?!

Nike, Adidas or Puma -does your brand really matter when it comes to HMO rooms?

footwearBelieve it or not, what you do, how you do it, what you say and how you say it says a LOT about YOU. And that applies to properties and HMOs too. If you’re not convinced, let me share how your BRAND speaks volumes to your customer.

Let’s say you are a prospective tenant called Paul, a working young professional, perhaps starting a new graduate trainee scheme in a new area. You don’t want to rent a flat with all the encumbrances of bills and direct debits. You just want to pay one price for fully-inclusive rent. Simples! The answer is of course to rent a room in an HMO – a shared property where you have a private bedroom and possibly ensuite, but shared kitchen and outside areas. You will have to take on some of the responsibilities of emptying bins, locking up and cleaning your own room, but if you haven’t mastered those things by the time you’re 21 what use is good parenting or a University education??

So, you are quite prepared to take the ups with the downs of communal living, and you start searching on Spare Room (self-proclaimed number one website for house shares in the UK). There are a number of vacancies in the area you’re searching and you’re pleased with the choice. As you start to examine the photos and the descriptions of the properties, you notice some stark differences between the adverts. Some have great photos of lovely rooms, presented well and with detailed descriptions of what’s in the all-inclusive price. Others look frankly neglected – a mattress with obvious stains and an unmade bed; mismatching furniture, and blurry photos taken on a dated phone camera after the cameraman had had one too many lunchtime pints at his local. You’re reaction is ‘Yuk, who would want to rent THAT room?’

Two very different offerings and two very different brands. Probably two very different landlords and two very different sets of tenants. Not necessarily two different sets of profit figures though, which might surprise you.  There is a market for both. At the lower end of the market there is a need, a great need, for cheap, simple and basic accommodation. True, the tenants you attract may also be described as such, but as long as they pay on time and look after the place, are you bothered?

On the other hand, you might want to corner the local market for more up-scale, trendy rooms which demand a higher price tag but can also demand a more discerning and, ahem, a more demanding clientele. In this case, Paul has a choice. He can choose to pay more for a more luxurious room, but in his mind he might also be wondering, ‘Will the landlord be a pain, checking up on me all the time? Will the other tenants be high maintenance and always complaining about stuff?’. Paul then wonders about the other room. It’s certainly cheaper and less salubrious, but it probably means he can get on with his life without any hassle. On the other hand, if there’s a leaking tap, how likely is it that this landlord will be bothered to fix it?

As Paul ponders these questions, I want to put some questions to you, dear HMO investor. You see, the way you or your agency interfaces with tenants also says a lot about your core values – are you traditional (old fashioned some might say) and do everything with paper (remember that stuff that comes from trees)? Are you highly geeky and use all the latest apps and online tools but find that an actual conversation with a person is quite stressful? Maybe you are the next and upcoming editor of HMO Vogue and know your pantone colours from your RAL codes (paint codes for the colour ignorant).  Your HMOs are beautiful inside and out, but you have to rent an additional warehouse for all the arty additions displayed in your photos and you are VERY protective of your designer wallpaper.

What about communication? How do tenants contact you? Will you accept a text at all hours of the day or night? Or is it by telephone only during office hours? When a tenant moves in, what kind of impression do you create? Do you carry out an induction, explaining how everything works and the ground rules, or are you more laid back, letting know that the key is under the doormat, please keep the fridge clean, and we’ll see you in 6 months?

Each aspect of your business builds your brand – so examine WHAT you do and HOW you do it. You are conveying a message with everything you do. In marketing, professionals use the three Ms – Media, Message and Mode – and these can be directly applied to property too.

What Media are you using to communicate with your customers what does this say about you? What is the Message you are trying to convey (a better question is what emotion are you trying to elicit so that the tenant will rent your room and stay) and what Mode of communication are you using – and which modes do your tenants prefer?

The three Ms can be applied to all aspects of your business, none more so than in your interactions with the outside world – your market. For them, like Paul, they are assessing those three Ms subconsciously to be convinced that you have exactly the right room in the right house, and that they will be the right tenant paying the right price.