Coping with Business Grief

after Covid-19

I recently came across an article describing the variety of emotions that people had experienced over the coronavirus pandemic.  There are the obvious stories of grief from those who have lost nearest and dearest. Their feelings are raw, real and still tumultuous. There were also stories of those deeply concerned about their future employment and job prospects, now that they were on furlough. Fear, doubt and worry were their core emotional reactions, which some struggled to manage healthily.

But what resonated with me most was the impact that coronavirus has had on small business owners – particularly those of us whose sector has been affected time and time again by state intervention. The author discussed the feelings not just of loss but also of grief that were being experienced by these entrepreneurs. I could so relate.

Over the last few days I have felt wave after wave of anger, disgust, resistance, abhorrence to those who are in government and beyond. The protest marchers have my sympathies (although not always my agreement with their arguments) in that they feel that their personal freedoms are being eroded in the name of covid-19.

As an entrepreneur, property investor and business woman, I too feel a deep loss – that over the last few years, the foundation of all I believed to be strong and true has been slowly and steadily eroded and dismantled: the right to own and occupy property; the law of contract; Human Rights to peaceful enjoyment of property (whether tenant or owner); even the procedural understanding and constitutional premise that laws have to be passed by Parliament – not by a Minister sitting in his drafty Westminster office on a Friday afternoon after reading yet more of his Twitter feed bemoaning the price of rental property and the very fact that tenants are required to even pay rent (perish the thought)!

My reactions may not garner sympathy from tenants who have lost their jobs or worked supremely hard and risked their lives to care for others. I haven’t experienced either of these situations so I can be humbled by their suffering, and yes I have great compassion for those who have borne much of the burden for a pandemic that was not of their making – doing the tough jobs that are deemed only to be as valuable as the minimum wage. I also recognise the difficulties of those who are in a far worse economic position now, just when they were scraping to get by before the pandemic.  

I can relate to this as I know what it is to be poor. I know what it is to have less than £25 to feed a family of four for a week. It is excrutiatingly difficult, and desperately embarrassing. You don’t want others to know just how hard it is so you pretend that you are saving up for something very, very special, which is why you can’t go out for a cup of tea with your friends, or buy some new leggings, or get a nice bottle of red for Saturday night.  Your money is going somewhere else. Yes of course you have the money – you just choose not to spend it on fripperies. Or maybe you don’t really have it and can’t face the explanations.

I fear that soon we will see this kind of poverty re-emerging in our society. My experience of it was in the early 1990s, way before working tax credits, Universal Credit or free childcare. The only way out of poverty at that time was grind, and possibly a bit of good luck. Now there is far more state help than ever, yet the country is deeply in debt as a result, and therefore I’m sure that we will see even higher rates of poverty emerge.

You see, state help doesn’t help anyone ultimately. It is a short-term anaesthetic. It nulls the immediate pain and belies the impact of the truth. But it alters the relationship between provider and receiver – producer and consumer. It dulls the fire in your belly to make a better life.

In those days of the 1990s, the fire in my belly burned and burned until I was able to change my situation.

It still burns today, but now I am incendiary with disbelief at the decisions the government is making to control everything around me. My business, my income, my trade.  Everything I have worked for; to raise myself and my family from their poor beginnings to where we are now.

When what we need is greater freedom and opportunity – not state strangulation. Landlords need it, tenants need it, people need it! For it is from humble and poor beginnings that many people rise when they realise they can. Tenants can become landlords. A few of mine have! When we equalise society not through state winners and losers, but by what we are born with – the ability to graft, the will to achieve a goal, the fire in our belly that drives us forward. This is what allows people to improve their lives – freedom so to do. Freedom to trade with limited regulation; freedom to exchange goods and services for a fair price (measured by the market); freedom to fail and to win. In return, consumers (customers, tenants) get choice – they get to pick the winners; they get to say who should earn their money, and rightly so! They also should get to reject the goods and services which do not serve them. If this means business failure- so be it. That is the free market. When it is allowed to work cleanly and properly, it works well and serves those it is supposed to serve.

One of the most powerful incentives I relish in being an entrepreneur is that it matters not your educational background, your previous failures or your qualifications. Anyone can do it, and anyone can succeed.  There are risks and skill is needed, so those of faint heart should tread carefully.  You might win and you might lose. But now we have a state who wants complete control, and it is that steady loss of freedom which I grieve for.  I believe in time, we will realise just how dangerous it is to have such overarching state control , and just how much the erosion of freedom will have cost us. It may feel comfortable and good that the government is helping everyone out, but in time this will be the noose that hangs us all.  I just hope my grief is an awakening and not a premonition of worse to come.

The 5 Most Common Mistakes Made by HMO Landlords

Wendy Whittaker-Large

  1. Not Understanding Your Tenant Type 

Understanding what your tenants need and want is crucial if you are going to consistently and regularly rent your rooms.  Many tenants move into an HMO for reasons of convenience – they like the benefits of an all-inclusive rent (particularly professional tenants), regular cleaning, and of course superfast broadband. Professional or working tenants might be moving into the area to take up a new job role. They may be earning a basic income, or living away from home. In which case finding cost-effective and convenient accommodation which is also easy to rent is top of their priorities. HMOs provide an affordable and social form of accommodation, which avoids the hassle of organising utilities. However, communication, management and understanding what your tenants need is also key to ensuring low voids.

2. Non- Compliance with HMO Regulations

Did you know that there are over 170 pieces of regulation and legislation when it comes to managing property, including HMOs! These cover all aspects of property management including licensing regulations, landlord and tenant legalities, money management, building regulations and planning permission. Being compliant with the government’s and local council’s requirements is vital, as failure in any area could result in a heavy penalty. If you’re not sure what you should be doing, the first place to check is your Local Council housing standards team. They can advise you on licensing rules, room sizes, and fire & safety features that you will need to install.

Another consideration is whether your HMO will require planning consent. Article 4 directions (Town and Country Planning) can require planning permission to change a property from a C3 class which is a single household dwelling to a C4 class, which is what most mandatory HMOs and additional licensable HMOs would fall under. Any HMO occupied by more than 6 people will be in a class of its own, also known as Sui Generis. If you’re a first-time HMO landlord, having experts at hand who know the regulations and local council’s specific requirements, is a huge benefit and extremely reassuring. 

3. Property Maintenance

HMOs require a higher level of maintenance than a single buy-to-let because there are more people living there and using the facilities on a daily basis. In addition, because the responsibility for almost everything falls to the landlord, even cleaning communal areas and changing light bulbs and smoke alarm batteries becomes a headache. Having regular proactive checks is crucial as  poor maintenance procedures can cost you dearly, especially if it leads to a penalty through non-compliance. A few tips to help you manage your properties more effectively:

  1. Use a suited keylock system that gives you a masterkey and sub keys. This will save you huge amounts of time managing keys
  2. Install a small key lock box outside the property – somewhere discreet. This will allow trusted tradesmen to enter on receipt of the code rather than having to meet you there in person
  3. If you are bombarded with calls from tenants, set up an out-of-hours answering service who can take your calls and send you a text and email. 
  4. Note down all the maintenance issues that crop up. In future you can use this as a tool to predict certain issues that regularly occur and take action to reduce them. 

4. Doing Everything Yourself

Many landlords believe that they can deal with HMO standards, find tenants and carry out repairs themselves. This can lead to an unmanageable amount of work. Well-run and well-maintained HMOs have good teams in place to be able to deal with everything. For a landlord who is looking for passive income and financial freedom from their property investments, working hard to keep on top of everything means that this is not the dream they originally set their sights on. Developing a power team around you who can help with the practical side of the business is critical to ensure you work on and not just in your business. 

5. Not Using an Agent

Many property investors start out with a dream of having a portfolio that will make them money and give them more time. With HMOs, there are so many specialist areas of management that you can find that self-managing your portfolio is just not worth it. In these cases, enlisting the services of a specialist HMO letting agent is almost certainly the best option. With experience and knowledge they can advertise, tenant and maintain your shared house more effectively and efficiently than you. A good agent will have a team already on hand, complete with the necessary advertising platforms, tenant application process and checks, a 24/7 phone and maintenance reporting service, and cleaning companies. They are required to know the law around rent arrears and evictions and can advise you about what to do if your tenant gets into difficulties. Overall it makes sense for you to hand the hardest and most intense part of investing to a company who knows what it is doing, leaving you to do what you love!

Learn to run your business as a business and it will pay you well!

For more information about HMOs and how to make money from just a handful of properties please go to www.hmosuccess.co.uk


Coronavirus and your HMO and the economic outlook – a summary

This piece is taken from my Youtube video which you can watch here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9QFmQC9dtk&t=49s

Coronavirus and your HMO and the economic outlook – a summary
There is no crystal ball in property. All we can do is educate ourselves and learn how to read the signs. Financial education will help you understand what is the best course of action for you to take for your circumstances at this time. 

Being an experienced investor (I’ve been investing for over 23 years) has shown me two things

1) People always need homes

2) There are always opportunities to serve others and make money
Financial education will help you protect yourself, your tenants, your properties and your business. It will also help you make wise decisions. There are some key economic factors that we as investors need to understand

  • Inflation
  • Interest rates
  • Debt and borrowing ratios
  • Cashflow
  • Spending

These apply to nations, business and property. National income and turnover is called GDP – Gross Domestic Product. The current biggest threat to our GDP right now is Coronavirus. Tax receipts will go down, and spending will go up – leading to more borrowing. Will this lead to higher inflation? What will that mean to us as investors?

3) Only 34% of the UK’s income is from tax receipts. That means that spending, leverage and borrowing are fuelling the economy. Tax receipts will go down and spending will go up due to Coronavirus. Equally the government has borrowed huge amounts of money to get us through this time, leading, inevitably to higher inflation (eventually). 

Over time, this will affect you if you are a borrower or have leveraged your property with debt because inflation erodes debt. It also causes prices to rise and house prices to increase. This could be good news for investors. However, if the government raises interest rates to slow the rate of inflation, there will be an impact on mortgages. Monthly rates will go up and reduce cashflow. 

4) House prices are more linked to money supply than demand. 

  • The government has recently started a further round of Quantitative Easing recently which has added another £500bn to the money supply. What will this do to inflation in the long run? If this money starts to circulate (as it should) then inflation will be the result. This will result in higher house prices and capital growth. 

5) What does this mean if you invest in HMOs?

Use a cashflow forecast to create a tight handle on your income and expenditure.

Keep a tight control of your finances. 

Communicate with your tenants regularly to ensure cashflow – they still need a home, and you need an income. Create a compromise on rents so that you can both get what you need. 

Now is the time to plan and learn so that when the opportunity arises you are ready to pounce!

6) Keep up to date with advice and information from the government. Set aside a few minutes per day to understand what the advice means for you. Reduce overwhelm by addressing your immediate issues and then blocking out time to look at the stuff that’s important but less urgent. 

7) Making Decisions during Coronavirus

Make decisions calmly and on a risk-based scenario (impact and likelihood)

Analyse how you are making decisions (fear based or information –based)

Sound out any particularly big decisions with a friend, business colleague, mentor or trusted individual.

Create a Plan B should the worst happen

Set time aside every day or other day to stand back and analyse key performance metrics (income/ expenditure/ room sales/ rental income/ arrears).

Don’t bury your head in the sand! Reach out if you need further help. 

8) Should I carry on with my HMO purchase?

If you are currently buying, consider renegotiating price or delaying purchase

Worth keeping any finance deals on the table as they could be harder to get later

Soon there will be some great deals

Work with investors as savers are losers

If you are currently buying – take a RISK BASED APPROACH – do the maths on the deal 

Keep an eye on auctions

Otherwise wait


9) Your Own Health and Wellbeing as an Investor

Look after yourself and your family

Take action and use tools to run your business properly

Make sensible decisions

Be responsible, not selfish

Be patient and have faith

If all else fails – remember, this too will pass

Tax Breaks for HMO Investors

Here’s a list of things you can claim in your property business to reduce your tax (thanks to Billy Turriff for compiling this).

1. Pay yourself the most effective salary so that you stay under the employer NI -£8628 pa also the min needed for credit for the state pension

2. Take dividends. £2K tax free. Lower rate tax payer – 7.5%. Higher rate tax payer – 37.5%

3. Reward family with salary and dividends as long as they are a shareholder too

4. Pension contributions qualify for either employer or employee tax relief

Can make contribution of up to £40K pa

Tax effective up to about £1M – you can withdraw from pre-tax profits

For IHT planning, a pension is treated far more favourably than company shares

Pensions are a great way of saving on corporation and income tax

5. Electric cars get a large benefit from April 2020

6. Health insurance – entitled to 1 health assessment per year. Make sure that you are fit and well. No limit on what this can cover.

7. Relevant life insurance policies. These are left to trust, and therefore beneficial on IHT purposes. Important for property investors as we have a lot of debt and we need to make sure this is all taken care of to make life simple for future beneficiaries

8. Bicycles. If used for work transport. No BIK

9. Trivial benefits. Up to £50 per item up to max £300 pa. Spa treatments. Meal out etc

10. Phones and laptops used mainly for work.

11. Interest loaned into company . Personal savings allowance. £1K tax free lower rate tax payer. £500 tax free as higher rate tax payer. You get tax free money and also save on corporation tax

Better off taking the money that is loaned into the company out of the company rather than taking out income or dividends – it is tax free

12. Directors loan ISA

13. Tax free loan of £10K – this needs to be paid back at the end of the year

14. Education that is related to the work that you are doing

15. £208pa home office allowance

Are there any other things I’ve missed? What else have you done legally to reduce your tax burden?

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

Clarity, Momentum and Accountability

I really believe in clarity to create momentum. I believe in accountability to ensure completion.  If you don’t have any of these three elements (clarity, momentum and accountability) you will probably fail. It may sound depressing, but you know what human beings are like. We set great goals, have high expectations, and huge hopes, but week 4 after the diet has started, we’ve slipped off the wagon and are justifying why a Mars bar is a necessary mid-morning snack.

We all do it! It’s what is called RESISTANCE! The block to achieving what you want. You start but don’t continue. You start but don’t complete. You start but don’t finish.

In property, as in investing generally, unless you are part of a team, it’s very easy to slip. To procrastinate, to delay. And before you know it, you’re six months further off buying your first property. Prices have gone up, the market has changed, and you’ve been left behind. Leave it too late and you’ll be completely unable to invest at the prices and rates you once could. Leaving you with regret and pain. Instead, you need someone who will help you stay accountable, plan with you to deliver energy and momentum and help you focus on what is really important, thus giving you clarity.

Over the last 12 months, I’ve been totting up how much property my small group of mentees has purchased. It totals over £5.1m !!! That is an average of £340,000 per person. Many of these properties were in the North of the UK so costing less than £80k. This figure does not include the cost of the refurbs or the income they have created! What’s even more extraordinary is how they have done this with little or none of their own money! All of them have created high cashflowing HMOs using my simple five step system, saving them time and money, and enabling them to deliver results fast.

It’s because they decided to get clear on their direction, gain momentum on their journey and stay accountable to me (and each other) that this incredible result has happened. I’m really proud of them for all they have achieved. Many of them started with little to NONE of their own money!

If you’d like to be part of a close-knit HMO investing team who really care about you and your struggles, and will work closely with you to help you achieve your goals then please get in touch. I’d love to help you be part of this magnificent result.

Wendy Whittaker-Large; Best Nest

Diarise Property Viewings

If you’re planning on growing your property portfolio this year, the one action you will have to diarise is regular viewings.

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.

Create a spreadsheet with three tabs at the bottom – one for each area that you’re analysing. Better to analyse a postcode area than just a general town/ city wide area.

Within the spreadsheet create 9 rows…

  1. Average price of property sold in the last 12 months
  2. Population size & growth
  3. Large employers in area
  4. Growth plans and development
  5. Transport links
  6. Spare room average rental income
  7. Number of tenants looking for rooms
  8. Number of rooms available
  9. Views from local lettings and estate agents about HMO demand

How to Future-Proof your HMO

Future-Proofing your HMO is all about systems and processes that allow you to maximise your profits and minimize your costs while still providing excellent service and value to your customers – your tenants.

There are the three main parts of this process which are:

  • Maintaining Customers
  • Management of the HMO
  • Maintenance of the HMO

Maintaining Customers

Communicate with tenants regularly.  Simple steps like a monthly group email (try mailchimp.com) lets your tenants know that you care about the quality of their experience in the property. It’s a great, easy-to-use automatic email system that allows you to schedule emails in advance. You can gently cover topics that might become issues or risks to the overall smooth-running of the house by introducing the topic and then saying something about it in the main body of the email. We have found this reduces rather than raises queries, as tenants then understand procedures and policies more clearly and also what kind of behaviour is expected of them!

Using a telephone answering service is invaluable as it allows all calls to be answered and dealt with professionally while freeing up your time to attend to other aspects of the business. I have found that tenants like having ONE number to call and don’t cope well if you give them a variety of different numbers to call depending on the severity of the issue.

Management of the HMO

Keys can become a major headache for a landlord (or agent) if you don’t have a clear system for managing and tracking them. If you don’t want to go to the expense of installing a masterkey system (although I would heartily recommend it particularly if you wish to scale up your business), you need to develop a system using a spreadsheet and large cabinet! Code each keyring so that you  know which door the key opens in each property, always have at least one copy made and track them as they leave and enter your office!

Compile a list of tradesmen and maintenance people who you can work with to undertake the routine and emergency work that will no doubt be required from time to time, no matter how well you have Finished It! Always have a preferred supplier and a back-up for the times when your original tradesperson isn’t available. You may wish to set up a retainer or a regular payment to maintain the flow of availability. There are companies that offer landlord emergency cover for a small monthly charge and ensure an immediate emergency response to any problems in the property.

Maximising your profits

Ensure you are collecting rents on time and regularly checking them. Even a few days of late payments per month will make all the difference to your cash flow.

Keep a sharp eye on your outgoings – and take time to identify how you can reduce your bills on a regular basis. Reducing bills, even by 5-10% per annum will compound your cash flow and profits. If bills are rising fast you need to investigate and identify why. 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.

And finally, enjoy your investment! You have worked seriously hard to create a property that will serve you now and for years to come, so look after it and it will look after you!

 

 

How do you REALLY feel about setting goals?

I have to say I have to admit that I am very MEH about goal setting. I know I shouldn’t say it, and I know I need to do it – I just feel very MEH about it. (Is that a proper word? I think you get the gist even if it’s not in the dictionary yet).

I know it is important and that’s why I have an accountability buddy who I talk to each week about my goals. We discuss which ones we met and completed, which ones are in progress and which ones have stalled. It is very useful and gives me a massive kick up the bum each week!

However, I believe that PROCESS is more valuable than PRODUCT because I find that following the process actually achieves far more long term. This is because when we focus on doing the RIGHT things over and over again, it creates habits, patterns and thinking that translates into language, action and behaviour.

And ultimately that leads to you being in the right place at the right time in the most unpredictable way!

Often I have met people with money, or deals, or knowledge that I needed. Yet I wasn’t actively looking for them. I didn’t have it expressly identified on my goal sheet as ‘MEET SOMEONE RICH’. Instead my goals were : ‘ATTEND ONE PROPERTY NETWORKING EVENT’ PER MONTH’ and ‘SEND OUT REGULAR EMAILS TO MY DATABASE’. The goals were actions and processes that, when done regularly will create more momentum and growth than simply having goals that I can tick off a sheet.

So goals, in my mind, need to be more about your habits and activity than your outcomes.

With that in mind, you might find the following list of questions about goal setting very useful. So, whatever your view and experience of setting goals – remember, make them meaningful and process oriented. That way, you will find that magically, you will create a life of your dreams.

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1. Which goal(s) do I think about the most?

2. Which goal(s) would give me the most energy if I could commit to it now?

3. What accomplishments would make me feel the most proud of myself?

4. Which accomplishments can I take with me forever, and/or which accomplishments would seem the most permanent to me? Is this important to me?

5. In ten years from now, how important will the goal be to me?

6. Which goals are in line with my true values?

7. Which goals are fully within my control, and not too dependent on other people or circumstances?

8. Is this goal an external ‘should’ or an internal desire?

9. What do I have a sense of urgency to get on with right away?

10. If I could take action in spite of my fear, what might I want for myself right now?

11. Which goals give me a heavy or lethargic sensation when I think about them, and which goals give me a positive “rush” of endorphins when I think of them?

12. Which goals and their required efforts best fit into the “flow” or pace of my life? Which fit best within my current life context and/or circumstances?

To your growth!

Wendy

Think Bike!

When you’re planning your next HMO, don’t forget bikes! Many HMO tenants will use a bike as their main form of transport – so you must consider where they can be left safely and securely.

The hallway of the house is not a suitable location for a bike! Not only does it create a safety hazard it is against fire regulations. In some areas, and where you need planning permission there is a requirement for cycle racks to be installed.

So consider access to the rear of the property for tenants to be able to bring bikes in, and also to move bins in and out. Think once, think twice, think BIKE!