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:

Who do you need in your power team?

As a little girl, I have to say my favourite crime fighters were Charlie’s Angels, (those Farrah Fawcett 1970 curls got me inspired every week). Me and my friends would act out the stories pretending to be these beautiful female special agents, solving crimes and busting the baddies. Charlie was the boss, setting the challenges and letting those three female crime fighters do their bit for society!  Whilst this was a childhood fantasy, it was clearly Charlie (who was very much behind the scenes, simply directing proceedings from the other end of a phone) who was the boss. The Angels simply carried out instructions and let their flowing locks and impressive designer dresses do the talking.

Many years and moons later, I was a property investing seminar and this guy starts talking about a property power team (at which point my mind jumps to Charlie’s Angels). You see, Charlie had his power team in those three ladies. They were all good at different things (wielding a gun, manoeuvering a boat or fluttering those lashes). When you start to develop and refurbish property you too need some Angels (and sometimes you need ones from up above as well as ones on earth when things get really bad) 🙂

So who do you need?
It’s essential to have a good lawyer or conveyancer for the process of buying. You also need a speedy and accurate mortgage broker who has access to the whole of market (including commercial) and is prepared to be creative to find the best solutions for you.

Ideally you will need to identify an accountant or book-keeper (although early on you won’t have much work for them).

Next you’ve got your project team – builder, plasterer, joiner, electrician and plumber, also a great painter and decorator.

If you are the lead contractor and project manager for the work, it’ll be your job to organise them all. It’s often easier to delegate this and use a builder who has his own team.

Next you’ll need some help to rent out the property – an agent or a staff member who you employ to help you do this. A maintenance person is also a key part of your power team, unless you like the idea of fixing bulbs and taps on your days off.

If you want to completely leverage your time, a sourcer who can find deals for you is also someone you might want to add to the list, along with an architect or planner should you undertake more extensive or complex projects. They will most likely have contacts that could prove very useful to you such as a structural engineer, interior designer or garden designer.

In the end your power team will be as large as you need it to be – but remember you are in charge! So like Charlie, you must assign the work to your power team with purpose, clarity and certainty. But don’t be afraid to ask for advice – these power members are specialists in their field so they can advise, support and protect every step of the way. Then your power team will become your dream team!

WHY do you do what you do – NO I mean REALLY!

Have you ever had a burning question that rolls around your mind, often popping up least when you expect it, and waiting like a crouched cat to pounce and devour the answer? I have. It’s a question that has been troubling me all year and is simply this – “WHY do I do what I do”? Is it coincidence that I fell into this property lark? Or is there a greater design at work here? Is there something unique and ‘me-like’ that I bring to the industry which makes it fit like a glove with my preferences and lifestyle? Or is it just that as an entrepreneur I wasn’t entrepreneurial enough, failing to innovate, create or design a inventive enough solution to another great worldly problem, which meant that I had to tread a well-worn path instead? So property investing was an easy enough strategy to follow and with the right mindset and skillset enabled me to make enough money to live on and have a great lifestyle. Is that the REAL WHY though? And actually does it matter?

My background is in early years – a passion I still hold close to my heart, believing as I do in the innate value of children and the opportunity for learning and growing that is presented to us all in their very existence. However, I am no longer making my presence felt in that domain. Despite the passion and the intrinsic purpose which I feel for the subject. I had worked in the domain of education for many years and as a sideline invested in property.

My life pivoted two years ago, when, my DH and I had a choice – whether to accelerate our property portfolio or to continue in our (well paid but very mundane and quite stressful) jobs. There was no debate. What would you do? Turning right rather than left at that T-junction enabled us to leave our jobs (and the rat race), spend time with our growing sons, increase our giving and participating, and still expand our portfolio. Looking back I can see that the last two years have been an amazing journey, allowing me to express my greatest value – FREEDOM! It has also plunged me into the most incredible world of mentoring which I LOVE with a passion!

Admittedly I haven’t been as consistently passionate about property. I can’t deny that the extra cashflow and the pride of a growing business feels good. But when I pare away my ego and stare at myself hard and long (like a Paddington hard stare) I realise that even that is actually not enough to persist with it. In fact after a while I find it becomes a little boring and empty just pushing for more money, when there’s no clear purpose driving me forward.

So I’ve started to examine my motives more transparently and challenge myself to find the truth behind why I do what I do and whether it constitutes enough significance to continue. Another T-junction you might assume. I have wondered that myself. But then I BELIEVE that this is the right place for me, the right industry for me, the right path for me. So that wasn’t meant to be a veiled intention to stop investing in property. In fact I don’t think I could stop now! I love finding great deals, helping people out of sticky situations, making money for investors, helping people find great places to live, looking after our tenants and creating a slick and profitable venture.

Oh – HOLD ON! I think I’ve stumbled across the answer to my question.

So why am I still struggling with WHY? Well because I have lost touch with those very things that rev me up and get me going in the morning! I actually do love viewing dirty, smelly, horrible properties but which offer SO much potential! I LOVE meeting investors and creating a win-win which meets all our needs and desires! I love having a team of people who I work with and who are specialists in their own right. There’s much in fact that I DO love but which now other people do for me. Maybe that’s the reason I’ve lost the WHY.

You may have experienced the same thing! You started something with a clear WHY but it has become lost under layers of activity which don’t nourish your inner being – your vision – your real WHY. As our business has grown, I have become involved in so many things which are not really ‘ME’. That’s why I find mentoring to be so thrilling. The relationship interplay which enables another person to learn and grow and which is so akin to my early years background and so ‘ME’! Mentoring is aligned with my vision, passion and purpose explicitly and implicitly. In property I seem to have lost tough with that connection and perhaps that is causing this internal questioning. Maybe then, my next steps on this thrilling yet challenging journey, need to be about re-visiting WHAT I love to do in property, for in so doing, I wonder whether the muddy puddle of my mind will be stilled enough to allow my WHY to appear.


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?!

Does the quality of your rooms really matter?

You’ve seen pictures of them on Spareroom or RightMove, the incredible low watermark of rooms which agents and landlords think will attract the right kind of tenant. You know the kind I mean – a scruffy looking blue checked divan plonked in the middle of the room complete with mattress that’s either had a two ton weight  fall on it from a great height, or a fat slob use it as a permanent reclining sofa from which to gorge on Monster Munch and Pot Noodle, whilst simultaneously watching trash TV. Furniture which even the local recycling centre would reject due to it being a health hazard, and vertical blinds with an obligatory slat missing or loose, left to trail over the windowsill and onto the floor. Perhaps a stain or two in the middle of the carpet (one shaped very much like the base of an iron), and the faint shadow of a damp patch lower down in the corner of the room (don’t get too close for a sniff or you might discover what caused the damp).

As Loyd Grossman’s famously used to say ‘WHO lives in a room like this’? Well no-one actually cos he moved out to find somewhere better. Where the landlord could be bothered to undertake some basic maintenance and where he treated his tenants with some respect. And in turn the tenants treated the house with some respect.

As landlords and investors the standard that we maintain in our properties, that we are prepared to set and live by, will shape the existence of those we rent to. I am not making excuses for the fat slobs who cannot be bothered to get a job and live on tax-payer benefits. They have to live somewhere too. But the vast majority of tenants are not like that. They are decent, hardworking, perhaps a bit uneducated and ignorant, but actually like you and me, in wanting a safe, pleasant and cared-for place to call home.

But YOU are the one who sets the standards. You are the one who creates the rooms, the spaces, the places for people to live in. So it is your responsibility to set the tone, the rules, the parameters. Generally speaking, good rooms get good tenants and higher rents and less hassle. But you have to be prepared to invest well to start with, to set up systems for maintenance, repair and renewal, or to find an agent who will do this on your behalf. For without realising it, you are having an impact (albeit small) on someone else’s life. It means being responsible, aware and proactive. It doesn’t however have to mean a lot of expense.

Our mantra is ‘low cost or no-cost solutions have to be found’ before anything else is sought. The most expensive part of maintenance and repair is people power, for which you have to budget. But if you are to have rooms that will let out quickly, retain tenants for long periods, and maintain the fabric of the building, then yes the quality of your rooms DOES really matter.

Which room would you prefer? 

THE most important resource you have!

What is the one resource you cannot make any more of; you cannot predict how much you will have; and is measured the same way for everyone?

Yes, TIME.

On the day of your birth, nobody knew how your life would turn out. No-one could predict that you would be the way you are, with all the experiences your life would give you. As you grew up and discovered the world around you, you gradually became aware that you were living YOUR life, the gift that was given to you when you were born. As  the hours, weeks, months and years ahead of you began to unroll and you passed through them, did you ever wonder how, if you had taken a different path, your life might be quite different now? I know I have often wondered ‘What would my life be like if I had stayed in the South East and not moved to Crewe?’ ‘What if I hadn’t met Andy, had the boys, made the choices I had made?’. These aren’t questions I have asked to the tune of regret. Just questions of wonder, which I suspect many of us ask ourselves from time to time.

I have also asked myself about the habits I have installed into my life. Are they habits that help me grow, improve, be a better person? Or are they habits which nonchalantly diminish who I am, and eat away at my life, my time on earth and the impact I have?  Small things, done repeatedly in our lives can create big impacts with the passage of time. For example, overeating and not taking exercise one day is no big deal, but repeated on a daily basis slowly and gradually leads to obesity, ill health and ultimately death (sorry to be morbid)! What if instead, you took regular exercise, regulated your food intake, got enough sleep every night and drank water instead of sugary drinks? Not just one day, but every day of your life? How might your health be today taking this path, as opposed to adopting a less healthy approach?

‘Narrow is the path that leads to life, and few find it’ said Jesus. (Matthew 7:14)

The problem is that when we look backward we regret not taking simple repeatable actions, but when we look forward we are scared of the mountain of change that seems to face us. Actually we are scared of ourselves. We are scared of failing and making promises to ourselves that we’ll break. Promises we make to ourselves to get fit, eat less, eat better, lose weight are so easy to break. But they are the most damaging too. When we break a promise that we have made to ourselves, we tell ourselves that we are untrustworthy, our word is not our bond, that the pain of sacrifice is worse than the pain of failure. And we give ourselves all sorts of excuses that allow us to fail. Worse of all, we then start to engrave false beliefs on our soul that confirm that we CANNOT achieve our goals, so why bother trying?

And by the way these conversations only take place within the space of your brain. No-one else can overhear these messages (that’s the good and relieving news). Giving yourself the option of failure is always the wrong choice. The gnawing pain that resurfaces in your heart is God’s way of telling you – your life needs to change; YOU need to change! Pain is like the Universe’s thermostat – it is there to tell you that the stronger it gets, the more action you need to take to address it.  

One of the great quotes of the world’s most famous philosophers (well, ok it was Yoda in Star Wars) said ‘ Do, or do not do, there is no try’. In other words, to DO it, you need to commit to it. You need to say YES and YES again. You also need someone else to coach you, support you, encourage you, guide you. Someone else who not only understand where you are and where you want to be, but who has done what you want to do. Who has achieved what you want to achieve, and can relate to your challenges and pain.

Are you stuck in a job that is unfulfilling and pointless, except perhaps that it pays the mortgage? Maybe you have started to invest in property but feel disheartened due to your lack of progress or lack of real profits? Would you love to fire your boss? Would you love to find a sustainable way to make money month on month? Maybe you have a business that is running you ragged and your profit is not what you had hoped? You are just about managing and wishing there was another way you could get out of the rat race?

I know exactly how you feel! In 2012 I was working full time. My employment was part-time but with four children to care for, I definitely worked more than a 60 hour week. My husband worked away as an IT contractor during the week and I was also developing a blossoming property business, specialising in HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupation). I was rushed off my feet, trying to juggle everything, but deep down I knew that the investment seeds I was planting were going to grow into great oak trees for us later on. It was only two years later that my husband gave up his job to join me in the property business, and we now have plenty of time for doing what we love!

But it took simple, repeatable steps. It took determination and discipline and lots of denial of gratification! We didn’t spend much on anything that many of our friends took for granted – posh cars, foreign holidays, skiing! We re-invested and worked on ourselves. Doing what few people will do in order to be and have what many people would want. I also took the brave step of finding a mentor who had been there before me, who understood my challenges and stresses, and who could relate to my journey. But someone who could offer wisdom, insight and practical help too. Creating a business that brings financial freedom is not to be done alone. You need to find others in a community who will cheer you on when the going gets tough, and salute you when you have a great success! You need to find someone who understands why you are taking the path that many others fear to tread, and has already walked that way before you.

Each day you have a choice about who you will be, what habits you will embrace, which seeds you will sow. Don’t let fear, or procrastination or overwhelm hold you back.Take action today – decide and act! Be brave, courageous and a little bit crazy. You have one life, make that time matter, whatever you choose to be or do.

Make your time count today so you won’t have to count the time you have left.







Andy and I doing what we love – cycling in the fresh air!

Finding your Power Team

What is a Power Team? And do you really need one? You may have heard a lot of people speaking about their Power Team – and how valuable they are. If you are new to property, or going up a gear in your investing, you definitely need a team of people to support, advise and work with you. Known as a Power Team because they empower YOU to be better, they undertake specialist roles that you can’t do and they enable you to do stay focused on the BIG PICTURE.

So who are these people and who do YOU need?

Optimally you will have all of the below who you can call on when you need advice, guidance and support. Some of these people you will deal with very regularly and others only occasionally. Dependant on your strategy, some of these people will become more or less useful to you. For example, we specialise in HMOs but have an internal team who manages the rentals, so we need to know how to market and sell as much as how to source property. If you haven’t identified someone in each of these categories yet, make that your goal for 2017.

Internal Power Team *who work either exclusively for Best Nest or are contracted to work with us:

  • Operations Manager
  • Lettings Team
  • IT specialist
  • Property sourcer
  • Project Manager
  • Maintenance team

It may be that you want a more ‘hands-free’ business, in which case the above list may be irrelevant for you. We’ve found that the best way to manage HMOs is to keep them ‘close to your chest’ – in other words to handle the lettings personally and grow your business through further development of units of accommodation.

External Power Team

  • 2 mortgage advisors (IFAs)
  • A specialist property solicitor – who can not only undertake conveyancing but can also advise me on transactions and structures of deals
  • Accountant and bookkeeper (can be the same or can be different people)
  • Builder
  • Commercial and residential estate agent
  • Structural engineer
  • Surveyor
  • Tax advisor
  • My mentor

These core people have access to sensitive, personal information and help us with strategy, guidance and risk. So being able to trust them is critical and their reputation and continual commitment to high levels of service delivery is also crucial. Outside of this immediate External Power Team we have other contacts within our network who we know personally and who we can pick up the phone to if we need advice, help or suggestions.

  • A letting agent
  • Planning expert / advisor
  • Marketing expert
  • Furnishings experts and Interior Designer
  • Tradesmen – Gas Engineer, Plumber, Electrician, Joiner, Window and Door fitter, plasterer, tiler, bricklaye

If you network and also test these individuals for reliability, commitment, pricing and delivery, this will massively help you grow your income from property. Knowing all these people within our network enables us to find answers to questions,  brainstorm dilemmas, and find solutions. Unleash your power by finding the right team – ‘cos when you do that,  not only will you help them, you’ll hugely help yourself too. jobs-quote