Education Wendy Whittaker-Large  

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