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I suppose everyone’s journey is different. Mine started 10,000 miles away in the sunny eastern province of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. I was born in Durban and grew up on a sugar farm 100km north near a lovely place called Zinkwazi Beach, where I spent most of my weekends paddling away in the surf.
I went to university in the mid-1990s to do a BComm and then did a bit of travel, as you do. I’ve always had a passion for travel and exploring new cultures. I later studied IT and networking systems, so when I moved back to the UK in 1999, I had no trouble in getting a post as an IT manager with a big telecoms company in London. In 2001, I hit the road again, travelling overland from Europe to Australia, where I spent a year. (Part of a 2-year trip)
Back home, my father had taken an interest in property and property education and had bought a handful of properties; he believed it was a good investment vehicle. It was always in my mind to do the same as a tool for my retirement. I studied authors like Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ and others. For me, personal development was critical.
In 2006, I found myself back in the UK to help set up a European sales channel for a South African technology company. In 2009, I bought my first property in the UK sourced through a friend, which had given me a bit of seed capital, but I wasn’t sure what to do next. I spent nearly the next 18 months and many a weekend or weekday evening at free property seminars without buying another property. Mostly out of fear of getting it wrong and tying up the seed capital.
I remember that I had invested (rather than give up) a Monday night to travel to the Berkshire property meet. Tony, one of Glenn’s ambassadors, was there. It resulted from the meeting and talking to him that I attended a competition that Glenn was holding in late 2010 where somebody would win free mentorship over three to five years, however long it took, from wherever they were starting until they reached £1 million in equity. Boy, was I going to make sure I was there, and yes. I was fortunate enough to win, and I joined Glenn’s 12-month mentorship program pro bono. It was exactly what I needed, and I immersed myself in it. There were weekly webinars and a monthly get-together in Milton Keynes, plus a wealth of priceless information.
One of the initial challenges that Glenn set me was to research five high-yielding cities in the UK that I might want to work in and then spend a day there getting to know the local market. Wherever you get your first property deal, that is where you settle. So off I went, and over the five to six days, I managed to see some 60 or 70 properties, around ten per day-believe me. I was working hard and determined to crack this thing. I wasn’t coming back empty-handed!
I finished up in Bristol. At first, the offers I had put in were cringingly low as I had Glenn’s voice in my ear saying, “If You’re not embarrassed with the price you are offering, it is too high!” Fortunately, I had also remembered my training and said to one estate agent, “We can also help people who are being repossessed or are in arrears by paying off their arrears, then accept a sale over time.” He said, “Hang on, I think I have someone who is in exactly that situation,” and that’s precisely what we did for them.
For me, that was a good learning point. Always aim to understand the seller’s problem and match them up with a win-win solution.
Sometimes it might be about the speed of sale, and the vendor may have equity to part with and can compromise on price; other times, there may be no equity, but they would like to move and leave the debt behind and will agree to your terms if you take care of the more significant issue and offer them their required price. Property education will give you a toolbox of strategies that you can implement to find a win-win in most situations.
So back to our first Bristol deal. The estate agent phoned the gentleman up and invited him into the office to see how I might be able to help him.
He had two properties in arrears by some £8,000 and was facing repossession in the following four weeks. One was a three-bedroom house that was cash flowing but not very well. The other was a much larger four-bedroom, three-reception victorian terrace, which was making money and that he wanted to hang onto.
At that time, I was living in London in rented accommodation. Glenn took this into account with his advice. We had to offer on both properties or neither and then make sure the seller gets what he needs. I agreed to pay off his £8,000 arrears in return for a five-year lease option on both properties and pay him what he has asked in today’s money. He was delighted as he was just two steps away from being repossessed. He also knew that this meant that he would receive £30k from the one property within five years and £15k from the other property. He was nearing retirement age, and this was a huge burden off his shoulders. We signed the deal. I went to court with an N244 form and had the repossession stopped. It felt good; that would be the first of many times in court stopping repossessions.
I was now responsible for £1,500 in mortgages plus the rent of our London flat. We quickly handed in our notice and moved into the larger of the two properties, which we returned into an HMO.
It gave us space for an office, and we were able to live and work there rent-free. My wife was still a nurse in London at that time, but she could see the big picture of what we were doing and was prepared to work shifts and commute whilst staying in bed and breakfasts for a couple of days per week. It was less than ideal, but it enabled us to achieve our objective, and I could focus on property full time.
In the end, I assigned the option to buy on the first property for £20,000 and the property sold, netting the vendor £30k as promised. Everybody was happy. The other property I have recently purchased outright and refurbished into a five-bed, all-suite HMO is still part of my portfolio today.
Meanwhile, in Bristol, I was still putting into practice what I was learning through the Mastermind group. I systematically learned the tricks of the trade of the property world and how to buy with no money down legally; how to do delayed completion and lease options etc. It was great to be surrounded by people who were doing these things every day and were happy to share their knowledge and experience. There is no doubt that it speeded up my business growth no end.
I kept on working on my marketing “funnel” in the Bristol area. I developed a relationship with several estate agents on the lookout for properties that matched our criteria. I also spend a lot of time looking for off-market opportunities. When you put yourself out there and market your services, opportunities will arise. If you invest in your education, you will maximize your chances of converting each option. I also put a lot of effort into streamlining our processes and systems. If you know that your office systems, accounting system, bookkeeping, and property management are running smoothly, you can concentrate on those IGT (income-generating tasks). Getting bogged down in penny tasks steals your time – and that is far too valuable to waste!
It took me five years to reach the £1 million equity target, and my new goal is to double that within two years. The focus now will be on development and new builds. I do not tell you to impress you but impress upon you that you can reach your goals within reasonable time frames with the right mix of education and hard work. I know some people who have done it much faster and others that have made no progress at all. It’s not a race; it’s a journey.
To do that, I have had to change and remove myself from the everyday noise. My systems make that possible. I now have a Virtual Assistant in the Philippines who works 20 hours a week to do research and admin. I also have a Personal Assistant who is my property manager. She does all my viewings, check-ins and check-outs, property maintenance, and inspections. You can imagine what a load that is off my shoulders. The systems allow us to travel, knowing that everything will continue to work as it should without me. Freedom is a bonus and the reason for getting into a property in the first place.
If you are starting in property, my advice would be to get correctly educated. Runaway from people who are all theory and no track record! Go to your local property investor network events. Find a mentor that you feel you would like to work with.
I will always be grateful for the mentorship/advice received along the way from everyone. You don’t know what you don’t know.