The mistakes I made with HMOs

It’s easy to think that everyone else has it easy. Especially if you’re looking ahead at someone who has ten times more property than you have. We all have a tendency to compare ourselves with others don’t we? Even though we know it’s not helpful, if we’re completely honest with ourselves we can’t help it!
Although comparing yourself with other people is often unhelpful, it can also propel you to take more action than you would have done alone. I wanted to share with you how I took a lot of risks and made a lot of mistakes to get to the point of having over 150 rooms in ownership or management, a pub, a commercial conversion, and a portfolio of single buy to let properties.
For example, when I decided to invest seriously in HMOs in 2012, I bought a small two-up, two down. It had one shared kitchen and one shared bathroom. It was small but I loved it. I poured hours of my time into that one house. And I spent very little on the refurb – about £7000. Which is about the profit I made in my first year. It was 100% return! But I was still swapping my time for money. That house became a part-time job for me as I tenanted it, managed it and even cleaned it!
On my second HMO, half way through the refurb, my builder mentioned an idea he had to go into the loft and convert it to another lettable room. Despite not having the money, nor knowing where the money would come from I said YES to him. So he started the work and I couldn’t pay him.
When the Council’s Building Regs Control officer came round his jaw opened to the floor. Not because I was doing such a good job project managing it. Quite the opposite! He dropped the bombshell that I would need planning permission for a 7 bed HMO and acoustic insulation. I had NO idea what he was talking about so had to rapidly go home and google it.
If I had known all that beforehand, I would have saved myself thousands of pounds.
I began to see that doing it alone was costing me time, and money. And I wanted a business that saved me time and made me money.
My basic problem was that I was too proud and independent to ask for help. I wanted to show the world I could do it and I wanted to prove that I was as good as anyone else in property. Deep down, I felt second rate. In many parts of my life I had felt a failure (I failed my ‘A’ levels, my first marriage failed, and I didn’t think I had always put other people first as much as I should have). So here I was determined to change it!
Wendy was going to WIN! But my pride was getting in the way of my success.
I bought a flip that flopped.
I failed to properly investigate asbestos in a building which cost many thousands of pounds to put right.
I bought a house with Japanese Knotweed.
I bought an apartment in Portugal and rapidly had to sell it when we realised the market was flooded.
I bought a house with my JV partner which I massively underestimate the refurb costs on and we overspent by £30k (and had to leave it in the deal).
…and many more.
The reason I am listing all these admissions is to say that you too will probably make many mistakes if you are determined to get to financial freedom. But the biggest lesson I learned was not to try to do it on my own.
Once I got involved in a community, listening to experts who had already done it and could help me with my deals and warn me of upcoming likely challenges, and educating myself about property thoroughly, I started to see the impact.
And I got my time back, and I started to make money.
This is not a post to sell you mentoring or training and education. This is a post to help you see that you will probably make mistakes. And you will learn just as I have. But you could avoid many of those mistakes and go faster and better if you align yourself with the right people at the start. Learn from my mistakes, so that you can make money quicker and with far less stress than I did.
Oh and by the way, apart from the Portuguese apartment, we still have all those other properties to this day. So there is always a silver lining to the property cloud of doom.
What mistakes have you made? What is your biggest regret?
Discussing a property deal

Ways to do more when you have less!

When you’re building a property business and also working or managing other responsibilities (childcare, domestics etc) finding the time to make it happen is really hard. Here are a few suggestions to make more out of what you have, to get better results in less time, and to scale up faster.

  1. Recognise this is a marathon not a sprint. Create a rhythmic plan (just as if you were training for a marathon). When I ran the London Marathon I did three runs a week – a fast short one, a long slow one , and a medium paced one. In your property business, you will need to block out time to do viewings, finances, and admin. Which will you do and when?
  2. Hire someone as SOON AS YOU CAN to help you. Whether this is a cleaner, a gardener, an ironing person, or a VA! Write a short description of what you want them to do and how you will measure quality. 

Examples:

 

  • ROLE: Ironing lady.

 

  • Purpose – to iron your clothes accurately and with a good turnaround time for a good price.
  • Your role: Organise a time and date for them to collect. Ensure washing is ready and in the bag. 
  • Quality measures: What is their price per item/ per bundle. What is the turnaround time? What is the quality of the ironing? Does this person save me time and money overall?

 

  • ROLE: VA – Three hours per week. 

 

      • Purpose – Finding suitable properties to view and arranging your appointments on a chosen day. Writing to local landlords and finding DTV deals. 
      • Your role: Issue a spreadsheet with the metrics inside they can use (price, area, size, condition etc). Make a video to show them what to do. Give them an example letter
      • Quality measures: How many properties do they come up with? How many are really deals? How many wasted / potential viewings have they created for you? 

 

This is not rocket science but will help you measure and track progress if you haven’t ever hired someone before.

3) Make sure you get enough sleep, eat nutritiously and exercise regularly. You are an engine and you need to feed and nourish the engine. If it means giving up sugar and alcohol and boozy nights out – DO IT! Give yourself a life-giving opportunity to have excess energy, sleep better than you ever have done, and enjoy what you do! If your downfall is lack of food planning – them create a weekly or fortnightly plan, order online and stick to it. You will also save tons of money.

4) Get up half an hour earlier to think and prepare for the day

5) Create a written plan every month to lay out your goals. Three per month is enough. 

6) Find someone to talk to about your goals and aspirations. Become their buddy and ask them to hold you to account.

7) Get as much buy in from your family as possible. Explain what you are trying to achieve and ask them to help. Can you share the cooking, cleaning, childcare ( – outsource the cleaning PLEASE)!!! Keep them in the loop with your results and activity. 

8)Focus on one strategy for 6 months. If you see no results, stand back and analyse why. Tweak, and re-set. Then go again.

9) Think of yourself as a high performance engine. Are you wasting time on things that don’t help this engine to perform? Are you putting the right fuel into the engine to go fast? Are the tyres on the engine inflated enough to adapt to different road conditions? What must you STOP doing and what must you do DIFFERENTLY? 

10) Answer emails twice a day only. 

11) Use an answering service if you are missing too many calls, or set up your answerphone properly to take calls and message you ( I use Answer4u and HulloMail). 

12) Limit your time in the shower in the morning to 5 minutes. I can get clean in 5 minutes and wash and condition my hair.  

13) Reduce complexity in your life. Buy less, live in fewer outfits, choose what suits you and stick to it. 

14) Tell your children when you are off-limits and need to work. Train them to respect your working time and then give them lots of attention and full on presence. Ditto with your partner.

 

I’m sure there are LOTS more ways to save time, be more efficient and make more from less. What have you found to be most effective? 

 

Worried about occupancy rates in your HMO?

If so, perhaps Google translate should be on the top of your list of tools rather than Spareroom!
WHY?
Here are the latest official UK population figures
    • UK population is growing five times faster than the EU27 average (Official ONS figures)
    • The UK population is now estimated to be 66.4 million, as at mid-2018
    • 10% increase in number of international immigrants over preceding year, jumping by 54,000 to 626,000
    • In the last year it has grown by 395,000 net (after people leaving, births, and deaths)
  • 69% of the population increase was due to immigration
  • England takes a disproportionately high level of this increase, out of all four nations of the Union
HMOs are perfect for new people to the UK because
  • they can’t get a mortgage
  • they want the convenience of all-inclusive rents
HOWEVER we as investors and landlords need to help them (and us) by
  • providing accessible information
  • explaining the legal requirements and their obligations under the AST
  • ensuring rents can be collected (if they don’t have a
  • using Right to Rent when necessary
  • checking all documents thoroughly
What other things might help you attract foreigners to your HMO and keeping them as paying tenants?

How do I maximize my profit in an HMO?

If you’ve got your first HMO up and running, you’ll know that the first 9 – 12 months are what I call the ‘teething period’ . Your bills will be all over the place, you’re still working through all the costs of the refurb, and your tenants are still settling in. There’ll be snags you hadn’t predicted, and your agent will be frustrating!
At this point you might think ‘was it all worth it, or should I do Serviced Accommodation’?!!
HANG ON IN there! Is my advice – it gets much better in year two. You haven’t yet really benefited from all that hard work you put in.
Here are some suggestions to help you maximize your profit after the teething problems have died down:
1. Create key performance indicators that you regularly assess, such as cashflow, profit and loss, occupancy rates, time on the market before rooms are filled, your monthly cost of advertising, your time input, monthly maintenance costs and yield. Some of these KPIs can be analysed annually, others quarterly and some monthly. Keep an eye on your business statistics so that it is controlled, measured and tweaked where necessary.
2. If you are using the skills and time of other people, either as contractors, service providers (such as a VA or PA) or employees, ensure they report to you their key results areas (Read Life Leverage by Rob Moore for more on this) on a weekly basis. With this information you can then identify where time and money is being lost and where their skills are most useful and effective. And remember Sheryl Sandberg’s famous words when it comes to choosing a member of your team – ‘Hire slowly, fire quickly’.
3. Each time you readvertise a room, consider adding a few pounds per week increase to the price. A small amount will not affect your enquiries, but it will increase your bottom line.
4. Collect rents on time and regularly check them with your online accounting system. Each time you create a new tenant entry, you can create a recurring invoice (which doesn’t need to be sent to the tenant). This then allows you to reconcile with actual income in your business bank account. Even a few days of late payments per month will impact your cash flow.
5. Create a late payment policy. Although you cannot charge fees to set up a tenancy, you can charge for chasing rent and late payments. Decide at what point you will go down the route of evicting a tenant, and keep abreast of the legal process by becoming a member of an accreditation scheme such as the Residential Landlords Association or National Landlord’s Association (who are due to merge soon anyway). They have helpful guides and legally compliant forms and letters you can use. Having a policy means you can remove the emotion from the process and outsource this to a member of your team.
6. Assess your regular outgoings such as utility bills, insurance, broadband and mortgage costs. Reducing bills, even by 5–10% per annum will compound your cash flow and profi ts. Does your cleaner need to come weekly or could fortnightly be enough? Are all the bulbs in the house LED?
7. Take regular meter readings to assess usage. If bills are rising fast you need to investigate and identify why. There are a number of devices available that allow you to control the heating and temperature (often the largest jump in bills is due to additional heating. Tumble dryers are a common culprit for rising electricity bills). Are there appliances that could be linked up to a coin-operated meter and cover the cost of use?
8. Keep an eye on new technological developments in the HMO industry. Whether it is a new piece of software that can help notify you of late rent payments or an app that can control your heating remotely – use technology to systemise your business, thus saving you time and money. We have a phrase ‘low-cost and no-cost’ which helps us evaluate the cost v return of any app or product.
What other ideas do you have or have you used to grow your profits year on year in an HMO?

How to grow your HMO profits year on year

So you think you have no money to invest with?

One of the biggest problems that I hear from people when they start investing in HMOs is that they don’t have any money. They think that they can’t invest or do rent to rent or do anything. They feel completely stuck. 

The biggest problem that they have is NOT that they don’t have any money but that they don’t know how to find money. In fact many people who say they want to start investing DO have money! They’re nervous and fearful about using it to invest with. It’s their pension, or savings, or back-stop. So they start by thinking that the only way they can invest is by using other people’s money. 

I love using other people’s money. In fact it was only by using other people’s money that I grew my business from two to over twenty HMOs. But I realised that in order to put my money where my mouth is I had to start by using my own money; my own resources; my own confidence.

If you have resources that you’re not willing to use, because you’re fearful and don’t really believe that what you’re doing is going to work, do you think an investor will be willing to work with you?  What money do you already have that you’re not prepared to use yet? If you’re not prepared to use your own resources, that demonstrates a lack of belief in what you’re doing. If you don’t believe that you can make money should you really be using other people’s money with which to invest? 

Until you funnel ALL your resources into getting your property business off the ground you probably won’t ever become investible. This is a huge mindset shift for most people, but it’s so important. You need to be totally committed if you’re going to make investing work. You have to take risks (which yes, you must identify and mitigate) and you must be prepared to give it 110%. If not 200%! Obviously doing the deal analysis, sourcing the right properties and doing the necessary foot work is also part of what you give. But you MUST use some of your own financial resources too.  

If you do believe that you can make money in property and you’re prepared to take the risk first step is to find and use your own money. Where do you find the money then? 

  1. Old savings or bank accounts that are sitting lying dormant 
  2. ISAs and other investment accounts that are giving a lower rate of return than you could make with an HMO
  3. Using your pension. Not all pensions can be used to invest in property but some can, and this is worth investigating
  4. Saving with your hard-earned cash. If you can’t make cutbacks and budget and save each month, you cannot look after money. If you cannot look after your own money you will never be able to look after someone else’s.
  5. Remortgaging your house
  6. Selling stuff you no longer need on ebay to make some cash. Selling other people’s stuff when yours is all sold
  7. Set up a car wash business, dog walk business or cardboard box collection business (yes I do mean used cardboard boxes. Think of all those deliveries that fill up people’s re-cycling bins so there’s no room for anything else). Charge a reasonable amount, do it regularly and leverage your time using other people’s skills. Save the money, use it to invest in property.

What else could you do to find the money yourself? How do you feel reading this? Do you think I am off my rocker?!

Raising Finance for your HMOs

I could write a lot here about the HOWs of raising finance. (In my latest book there is a whole section on this – so grab your copy now – www.epfop.co.uk)! 

But I don’t really think that it is the HOW that is the problem. There are two areas that influence us MUCH more with regard to raising finance:

  1. Internal beliefs
  2. External context

As Henry Ford (apparently) said ‘If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right’.

How is it that some people have investors lining up to work with them, and yet some of us, despite having good deals (even average deals), find it SO hard to raise person-to-person finance?

With mortgage markets getting more regulated every day, and products becoming more refined, there are also many more challenges to getting commercial finance.

So we are facing two problems – getting mortgages from banks and getting money from investors. And as we all know, without liquidity we cannot develop HMOs (even if we are buying with ‘low’ money down).

Here are my tips to creating a pipeline of money for your deals:

  1. There are amazing stories of people who have gone out and raised £150k for their first project from an investor. Yes that does happen. In my mentoring group, one lady did just that with NO experience. Amazing! But TBH this is the exception. Most people start by raising £20-30k from family and friends. Aim to start small. Just raise a small amount (although treat it like a large amount) and take it on a % return basis over 12 – 24 months.
  2. Build your confidence first. Speak to people you know, like and trust and share your hopes and dreams with them. Those that doubt you, stay away from – they aren’t ready to lend you money. Others who do want to help you and encourage you on your journey are the ones to focus on.
  3. Take some form of action EACH DAY. NO EXCUSES. Talk to one person you know. Put a post on Facebook about what you’re doing. Follow up someone from a networking meeting. Keep asking the question ‘ WHO do you know who …’ You’re action will create momentum and belief.
  4. Study money mindset. Work on your internal beliefs. Read about other people’s achievements in raising finance. Allow yourself to believe that YOU CAN DO THIS. When you find yourself disbelieving tell your mind it has got it wrong! If it can be done, you too can do this.
  5. You can only control your internal environment. You cannot alter the wider environment with all its facets. Be controlled about what you let yourself read, think and be affected by. Environment dictates performance. Ensure you spend 70% of your time (or thoughts) in an environment of success. (Not always easy if you are in a job you hate, or with a negative partner. They cannot control your mind though, only you can do that).
  6. Learn to be laser focused and the best in your niche (your area, your brand, your type of HMO).
  7. Study financial markets to understand just HOW VALUABLE your offer is to an investor. Understand the effect of inflation and QE on the value of money (and cash). And how (as Kiyosaki says) ‘savers are losers’. If you understand this, you can explain it. If you can explain it, you can educate people. When people are educated they start to see you have the answer to their problem (and will be much more interested in working with you).
  8. Create a CAPSTONE pitch (I can tell you more about this if you wish). There’s an infographic uploaded to the group you can read that tells you more.
  9. Keep getting better every day. Engage, read, learn, listen, look.
  10. Get your paperwork right. (Tomorrow I’m going to share ‘How to be Mortgage Ready’). If you get organised, then bank finance will be much easier to come by.

Do you have any other thoughts? How do you feel about raising finance? Nervous or excited?

If you want a FREE copy of my new book (just pay P+P) go to www.epfop.co.uk

The Rules Of Money to Live By

I have discovered that just like any other energy form, money has its own rules. When you defy them, you don’t have enough if it. When you fulfil them, you have more than enough. Here are my thoughts but I would value yours too!

1. Money likes flow – what does that mean though? It means that you need to think of money flowing through you. It comes in, and it goes out. As you make it, you spend it, invest it and use it. It is not there to be hoarded. It is a gift and an energy which needs to move to increase.

2. It likes to be used and leveraged in a structured and managed way. If you don’t have a handle on your money you will lose it, and won’t be able to make more. Every month you should assess your personal expenditure against your income and make sure you keep at least 10% for saving. This is not a pot for long term saving but for investing. Never spend more than you earn.

3. It needs to be backed by an asset to be properly magnified! That’s why property is such a powerful compounding tool. Always invest against an asset. Whether that is a fixed asset like property, or a paper asset like stocks and shares. Property is better as you can leverage far better.

4. It comes to people who can manage it and show diligence, competence and discipline. Decide today to raise your investment game by managing money better. Save some, invest a lot and spend as little as possible on wasted items and fripperies.

5. Your gearing (amount you borrow against the asset) should be based on four things

1) how much risk you are prepared to take

2) your long term view about your involvement in the asset (ie: when and what is your exit strategy)

3) how far your cashflow will be reduced and whether that is acceptable to you, and

4) the cost of borrowing.

If you can borrow at a much lower level than you can make (at least 10% difference) then it’s often worth taking the borrowing. Example: Your return on an HMO is 15% yield, and your borrowing is 4%. The difference is 11%. Therefore it’s worth borrowing the money.

Your cashflow after gearing should be double the amount of the cost of borrowing. Eg: Your mortgage amount per month is £476. Your cashflow (profit) should be £952.

6. It grows when you add value. Property is a people game, as such it needs you to be a people person! It’s not about bricks and mortar, it’s about solving as many people’s problems as you can. You do that, and you’ll get rich. You are already wealthy. You just now need to manifest it through the zeros (added to the numbers) in your bank account. But remember – keep it flowin’ and you’ll keep it growin’!

What do you think? What have you learnt about money as you’ve been investing in property?

If you have any questions about investing in property, or want to know about Houses of Multiple Occupation please book in a FREE half hour call this week: https://fwfozt-free.10to8.com

After that, I’m on holiday!

Why you have to take a leap of faith at times!

In life there are many times when you cannot determine the outcome of your actions. You cannot see the final results that will be achieved by what you decide today to do, or not do. You might be able to guess at your results by looking at other people’s outcomes who have taken the same action, but even then there are so many variables, it’s impossible to determine with certainty that you will get the same results as them.
Where does that leave you? One path of action would be to find out more information. To analyse your potential strategy in more depth. To minimise the risks of failure.
Another action would be to look at people similar to you and see how they got the results you want. How did they overcome some of the same hurdles you might have to jump? Another action is to wait a bit longer, and see whether things will improve by themselves. You might win the lottery after all, and then all this planning and action taking could be a real waste of time couldn’t it?
Or what you could do is make a commitment. A decision. Today. To change what is the BIGGEST issue in your life. Today. Whether that is lack of money, being overweight, a dysfunctional relationship, not getting enough sleep, not reading enough or smoking and drinking. The only thing you need to do is make a PROPER decision. Not a half-hearted ‘maybe’. Not a procrastinator’s ‘Will do that when …..’ But a true, decisive YES.
Today I commit to …… getting out of debt in a year; losing half a stone; stopping seeing x person; going to bed at 10pm; reading a book a month; quitting smoking and drinking. Today I commit to being the best person I can be. I commit to finding deals and finding money so that I can invest in property and in (2, 3) years time (you decide) leave my job.
There. That’s it. You’ve done it. Now you have to just do it. Nuff said.

Taking leap of faith

Photographing your HMO rooms!

When your HMO is completely ready and fully dressed, set aside some time (or pay a professional) to take a full series of photographs, detailing all aspects of the HMO. Effective property photography involves a little planning, time and applying the right techniques to get the best results. Photos should sell your listing and help to create a story. They need to show the property in the best light and appeal enough to get tenants to visit in person. Here are some common mistakes to avoid, plus ways to fix them to ensure your listing stands out from the competition. Here are ten tips to ensure that your photos show your property off as aesthetically as possible.

  1. Use a DSLR camera. The biggest error many agents and landlords make is using poor quality images. Especially with low-cost listings, many agents think it is acceptable to use grainy images, which often results in room voids. Property advertising requires high quality images. Smartphones and basic point and shoot cameras just don’t provide this. To get the images required for effective marketing, you need to use a DSLR camera. Research shows that listings shot with a DSLR camera gain more interest faster than those that were not. Learning how to take your own photos isn’t hard, it requires the correct equipment, some practice and knowing basic techniques to get started.
  2. Attach your camera to a tripod. Hand held cameras are great for taking spur of the moment pictures, but a tripod will give you the stability to take clearer, sharper photographs.
  3. Switch on all the house lights. Even during the day, having all the lights on in the property will instantly make it look warmer and more appealing. Switch on all bedside lights, draw back and straighten curtains and blinds, and turn on any ensuite lighting. Lighting makes a huge difference to the appeal of an image. If there isn’t enough light then the photo will appear dark and grainy, too much light and the image will be over-exposed, reducing the amount of detail visible.
  4. Avoid reflections. There is nothing more unprofessional then flicking through images of a listing and seeing a reflection of someone in a bathroom. All good photographers have the skills to avoid getting their reflection in a shot and this also includes the reflection of a flash and the camera. Try using different angles in a room that has reflective surfaces, like kitchens and bathrooms, to reduce the chances of getting caught in the photo. Sometimes it isn’t possible to completely avoid a reflection, especially in small, tight spaces. All you need to do is take your photo as normal, then use an image editing service to remove the unwanted reflection. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid catching your reflection in an image. Another suggestion is to set up the shot using the self-timer on your camera, then step out of the room.
  5.  Use lighting equipment. Dark corners don’t do an HMO any favours online, and simple lighting equipment will help you illuminate them. A flash will help, as will a reflector and even a light stand.
  6. Use a bubble spirit level. To prevent your pictures looking wonky, use a bubble spirit level to ensure your camera is perfectly angled for each room.
  7. Take exterior shots in the morning. Getting up a dawn isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it’s the ideal time of day to get the best photographs of the outside of a property: dawn light is better and there are fewer people around.  Watch how the light hits the property. At different times of the day, and at different times of year, the light will change how the house looks.
  8. Process the images. Processing helps to soften, sharpen and generally tidy up any imperfections. Using online tools you can sharpen, blur, soften and lighten shots, adding to the quality. Be selective in the images you use, and only include those that show the good features of the property. All the images used should tell a story and add value to the property – you want to show off as many features as possible in the most appealing way
  9. Take a photography course. If you plan to take your own photos and know your skills are not up to scratch, there are photography courses run at adult education centres all over the country, and are the best place to start learning about taking better pictures.
  10. Use the services of a professional photographer. Good quality photos can make the difference between your rooms renting quickly or not. With a one-time investment in professional photographs, you can re-use them each time you come to let the property. Even if your agent offers to take photos, I would still recommend you take a series of your own. Then you can decide which ones are of a higher quality for advertising purposes.

For more fabulous tips please come along to one of our brand new ‘Get To Know HMO’ events – see the website for more details:

www.hmosuccess.co.uk

Creating a Pipeline of Deals

There are plenty of places to find deals, and creating a sourcing pipeline needn’t be difficult. You do need to be organised and have a structure in place to ensure that you maximise your chances of success. To find great properties and great deals you need four things

1.       Process

2.       Perception

3.       Paperwork

4.       Persistence


Without a process you won’t be able to create a steady stream of potential property deal. Without perception you could uncover a wealth of amazing properties but not know what to do with them. Without paperwork you can’t finalise the deal. Without persistence you can’t grow wealthy. As you can see, only two of these are practical actions – the other two are personal attributes. Finding deals needs you to be practical and personal.

1.       Process. Ideally you want to design a campaign. This gives your activity definition and purpose and allows you to learn each time from your mistakes and successes. I would recommend that you design a 4 week campaign, in which you agree to target a particular area of no more than 1.5 square miles.

·        Using a map, define the area you are going to target and find the postcodes that are part of this location. This will be the HMO location that you’ve already pinpointed. Now locate all the shops, post offices, takeaways and supermarkets that serve that location.

·        Next, you want to get some leaflets designed that tell people about you and how you can help them. We use www.smartpropertyleaflets.com who provide ready-made templates ideal for leaflet campaigns of this type. One thing to remember: you will want to repeat your campaign up to seven times before you see steady results. Order enough leaflets at the start to ensure you have enough volume to repeat your campaign regularly.

·        Find a reputable leaflet delivery service. There are many ways you can achieve this – one is by working with a local takeaway service who are already delivering leaflets in the area. Another is by hiring independent leaflet distributors. Make sure you have a way of spot-testing the coverage of the drop.

·        Write out a number of simple postcards that you can put up in shop windows locally. A suggested wording would be:

   ‘Struggling to sell your house? Do you need to move fast? I am looking for a house to buy and might be able to help you. Please get in touch to see if I can help you call Wendy on xxxxxxx’. A simple postcard with a call to action is the best way to get your message out there.

·        The third aspect of your campaign is direct-to-landlord letters. You can download a sample letter from the website www.centreround.co.uk. The letter needs to be direct, friendly and polite. It needs to state what benefit you can offer to a landlord and how you can help them. One piece of advice: persistence is the key. I regularly receive letters from well-meaning investors who have found my details online and are offering to help me rent or sell my properties. I always wait until I’ve had a second letter before I respond. The sad thing is, I’ve rarely had that second letter. Remember that landlords who may be ready to sell, want to know you are committed. One letter is not a sign of commitment.

·        Another great tip is to incentivise your recipients in some way to meet with you. I mentored a female partnership who had no money to invest and were looking for a rent-to-rent deal to get started. I suggested that to stand out from the crowd, that in their letter they offered to meet up with the landlord and pay for a coffee. As a surprise incentive, even if the landlord was not willing to meet in person this time, I suggested that they include a voucher for a free coffee. As a result they had a number of calls from investors, one which led to a profitable rent-to-rent deal making them over £800 profit per month. Be different.

·        Your campaign should also include contacting all the people like estate agents that you’ve already started to engage with, and should include networking like crazy.

·        Plan your diary so that you can give yourself deadlines and structure. You don’t need to complete all your actions in week one.

·        After you’ve completed the four weeks, spend some time analysing what went well and what didn’t. It takes time and experience to execute a great campaign. Now you need to wait for your seeds to flourish, plan the next campaign and follow-up any leads you have generated.

2. Perception. Perception gives you insight into the possible motivations of a seller so that you can delve into the real reasons for a fast and efficient sale. This is a vital skill as it means you can cut to the chase and start negotiating on terms that are meaningful to you both. Perceiving what will work is a core skill when negotiating with people, and if you rush into the details of an offer too quickly you may miss important details.

However, educating yourself about the various strategies available to secure property is also a must. Without education I would have overlooked many potential deals that crossed my desk. It’s by understanding what makes a deal work that you will be ahead of the crowd, and you’ll be able to work with vendors, agents, local people and your contacts with confidence and insight. Knowing how to adopt the right strategies in particular situations, coupled with understanding people, will allow you to find and negotiate great deals.

Knowing the different approaches for securing property deals will allow you to have a number of strategies to use in addition to the usual route of traditional buying. This will give you confidence to negotiate deals. It will also bring you a streak of creativity when it comes to funding. Many sellers are not necessarily looking for cash. Although their property is up for sale, and it apparently looks as if a purchase transaction is what’s required, many vendors have reasons they HAVE to dispose of the property even though selling is the least beneficial to them. They don’t know what you know and therefore choose go to an estate agent to sell the house. They simply don’t realise that other strategies are possible. It’s your job to work with them and use your knowledge to help them too.

Other vendors are desperate to sell and need a fast transaction. So in an environment where sellers want SPEED and CERTAINTY, how can you work with that? Unless you understand the process for executing a deal fast, you won’t be able to meet the needs of a seller and you will most likely lose out on a possible deal.

In the negotiation for a deal, then, perception and awareness is key. If you struggle with this, here are some tips to help you:

·        Put the vendor first. Make sure you listen more than you talk, and hear more than you speak.

·        Create rapport by asking pertinent and meaningful questions. Watch the person to see how they react to you, and whether they are nervous, shy or wary. Are they a dominant person, a decisive person or an impatient person? Take some time to find out a bit about them but be aware of their motivation. Don’t prod too far immediately, or spend too long on meaningless chatter. There is a maxim in psychology which is ‘pace, pace, pace, lead’. In other words, let the other person set the pace while you set the structure. Then you can mould the interaction and lead the discussion.

·        Have a list of questions already prepared, but sense when it’s time to stop. There are facts you’ll need to gather to assess whether you can form a deal or not. Some people want to get to the point of the offer immediately and others are assessing you to see if they even want to do a deal. Don’t rush into making an offer or saying something you’ll later regret. If you sense that the other person wants to rush you (which is common if they’re motivated to sell) just explain – ‘So that I can make you the best offer, I just need to go away and crunch the numbers. I’m sure you’d rather I got this right than messed you around?’. Most people will say yes to that.

·        After any interaction with someone spend some time reflecting on what you learnt. What did you observe? What were the give-away clues about the motivation of the vendor? What conclusions could you draw about whether a deal is possible on a personal basis? Did you rush the discussion? How were you feeling throughout?

·        It is impossible to predict the outcome of a discussion at this point. Stay calm and positive, and press on with your next steps.

3. Paperwork.

Having the right structure to do the deal once you’ve found a motivated vendor is vital. Before starting any paperwork, you need to gather some core pieces of information from a vendor (seller). These pieces of information are best gathered face to face. Your leaflets and postcards and letters will generate interest and phonecalls. You need to be prepared to take some basic information on the phone. However, the idea is that by meeting in person you can create far more rapport and trust and have much greater chance of creating a deal for you both. The aim is a win-win situation.

Without the following pieces of information you won’t be able to come up with a succinct, clear and precise plan that benefits you both. The core pieces of information to gather are:

  • Address and details of the property and the vendor
  • How long the vendor has owned the house/ property
  • How quickly the vendor needs to / wants to sell
  • What the reasons for the sale are (divorce, downsizing, moving abroad, pay off debt etc)
  • Why the property isn’t up for sale already with an estate agent
  • Are other people to be involved in the decision (partner, parent, siblings etc)?
  • Is there any debt on the property (mortgage, second charge, bridging finance)?
  • If there’s a mortgage, how much is it, what type is it and what’s the remaining term
  • Has a purchase of another property already been agreed?
  • Would the vendor be prepared to let out the property rather than sell it?
  • Has the vendor got plans for the money from the sale?

Once you have these core pieces of information you can then go away and crunch your numbers and come up with a suitable offer. There might be a number of different possibilities so be sure to present them clearly and slowly. Chances are your vendor has never heard of some of them, and was awaiting a simple purchase price offer. They will be pretty mystified when you start to talk about lease options, rent-to-rent and delayed completion if you’re not careful about avoiding jargon. Your communication skills in presenting a deal will be paramount to whether the offer is accepted or not. Practice your delivery with someone who can give you fair feedback if you are unsure of your ability to be clear.

Once you’ve had a successful meeting, you’ve come up with a plan, and an agreed way to proceed, it is vital that this is captured in a Heads of Terms Agreement. This simply lays out the roles and responsibilities that the partners in the agreement will take. This needs to be signed and each partner should have a copy. The Heads of Terms Agreement then forms the basis for your legal documentation. I always advise people to take legal advice on any deal. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that many general property solicitors are not well-versed in creative deal strategies. You may have to refer your specialists to your vendor in order for the deal to proceed.

4. Persistence. Sourcing an attractive deal takes patience and determination. It takes time to set up the pipeline, and time to negotiate with the vendor. It may take a few weeks before you see results from your persistence. You may get a few phonecalls that lead nowhere. You may feel like you’re wasting your time and money. However, in property, like investing generally, persistence pays off. Don’t let your early failures or lack of progress set you back.

After a number of months being seen and heard in our local area, telling people what we were doing and what I was looking for, I hadn’t seen much progress. I began to wonder whether it was worth all the effort and time I was putting in. I was sitting at my desk one day when I received a phonecall from a man who didn’t want to pay for an estate agent to sell his house. The house was a great size and in a good location for an HMO. I was first in the queue! By being known in my local area, I had a distinct advantage when it came to buying or negotiating a deal. He and his wife wanted to downsize, having raised their family in this spacious terraced property. However, the house needed some work to make it attractive to a family buyer – cash he didn’t have. I was able to sit down with him and work out exactly what he needed to move on, and how we could benefit too by creating a win-win solution that worked for us both. He was delighted to save the money that otherwise he would have spent with an agent, leaving him more to put towards a smaller house. In this situation, knowing the strategies that can be used in property deals is paramount, as a simple purchase transaction is only one of many that can be employed to buy and secure property.

So remember Edison’s famous words when you’re tired and feel like you’re getting nowhere, and when you’ve had little results from your efforts:

‘Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time’ ―Thomas Edison