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DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 16

I have seen a nice house in Barrow for sale at £38,000. I know the area and I have a house in that Street.  I go to visit and the condition seems very good for that price. Please find a link to a video I have done that shows you what this property looks like.

This is a Probate Sale and they want a quick exchange from a cash buyer. We can oblige and do. To me this is a real bargain. In my view the Seller might have been better to put this to Auction because I believe it would have gone higher than £38,000.

Many people assume Auctions are for those who want to make a quick sale and are prepared to take a lower price. They think that if the Property was sold by an Agent then it would sell more slowly but you would get a higher price.

I go to a lot of Auctions and buy properties from Agents and I have to say that whilst there is some truth in that it is far from always the case. I have seen properties at Auction go for what I consider to be absurd prices because on that day there is strong demand from a number of Buyers who bid it to high levels. Equally we have purchased great buys like this house in Barrow because the Property is put with an Agent and as one of many on the market has not just attracted the right attention.

I certainly would not assume the best price always comes at an Auction.

There is an interesting dynamic to Auctions and one that I am sure we will come back to in this blog. Anyone looking for high yield properties certainly needs to consider them because what they offer is certainty. You can see all the information about a property in one go. You can go on one day and buy it and be certain it is yours

By contrast buying privately can be a very slow process. Information is released in dribs and drabs. Solicitors can cause delays and you never know when the Seller might change their mind and pull out for all sorts of reasons.

If you are a serious investor you normally have a number of different possible investments and there is nothing more frustrating than picking property A over property B and then 6 weeks down the line losing property A and finding property B has gone elsewhere as well.

But as I say you cannot be too rigid in your thinking because private sales can offer great opportunities. The secret is to get as much information about the reasons for the Sale and who the Seller is and why they are selling. We would be very unlikely for example to buy a property that is in a chain. The risks of breakdown are too great.

Then you need to create a sense of urgency for all parties. Make deadlines and make them seem really important. It is amazing how people respond to that. Rather like new build developers who are expert at making you think you have to act within a certain time or you will lose the deal. We do that here a within two weeks we have exchanged contracts

DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 15

We are ready to proceed with the Liverpool Purchase. The mortgage funds are in place. The Legal Work has been done. We have the deposit so we can exchange

But I am not feeling right about the transaction. We had a chance to look at all the flats when the Surveyor went round and now we have seen them all realise that a lot are very small and not well proportioned.

As an aside it is a useful tip to know that you can go round a property with the Bank Valuer and often this is your best chance to get access to all areas because Sellers do understand they have to give access if you are going to get finance. When you want to go round (especially if it is a block of flats ) they will come up with all sorts of reasons not to give full access. But tell them the valuer wants access and they will work with you to provide that.

Our main reason for buying is capital growth and as things have got more and more uncertain I am less sure about that certainly in the short term. I tell my solicitor we want to put a hold on this for 2 weeks (we are just about to exchange) I call the Seller and explain why we are doing this. He is not phased although he must be disappointed. But he plays his cards close to his chest and it is clear the is not going to reduce his price to incentivise us to proceed. I do not mind because that is not my objective in putting a hold on the deal.

This is a difficult moment that every serious investor will face at some point.  We have spent time and effort to put the deal together. We are committed to about £5,000 in various legal and survey fees. The deal is ready to go with an offer and funds. Does it make sense to stop this purchase now? Many aspects of the deal do work so why not take a chance and go ahead?

But, but, but we are not happy. This is a big transaction for us and if we get it wrong it will not be a major problem but it will not be insignificant ( unlike say buying a £50,000 2 bed terrace) These are the concerns that run round my head for the next few days as I weigh up this deal.

Ultimately I decide not to proceed. They do say when in doubt leave it out and I decide on this occasion to follow that maxim.

And the moment I make that decision I feel a great sense of relief so I know it is the right decision for me and I phone my Solicitor to cancel the deal.

DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 14

We are considering buying a block of flats in Liverpool..

It is in a good area. It is not cheap but it is a purchase governed by an expectation of capital growth. There are 11 flats for a price of £525,000 and with a rent roll of just under £50,000. So, the yield is very much at our lower end. It is a purpose-built block with a car park for 9 cars. The flats are not that large and are mainly 1 bed. It is relatively well maintained although it will need some work to be up to date with current health and safety standards

We have studied it closely and done our research. For some reason though I am not convinced. It is in a good area. It has genuine Tenants and will provide income from day 1. It does not need a lot of work. If Liverpool keeps improving, then this property should go up in value. It is near the major development known as Liverpool Docks 2 and near to Cosby Beach in an up-market part of town.

But the yield is low so what really justifies it is capital growth

We have been to the Bank because on this property we are buying with a mortgage.  We have had a survey and it has valued well and on this occasion, we are going to get a much higher loan to value than we normally get on our remortgages That is a promising sign

Less promising is a discussion I have had with the Seller about payment of rent arrears. It seems he has £6,000 or more of arrears that he thinks we should pay. This is a discussion you often have with Sellers. They say you will be inheriting the right to collect this money so you should pay me and then do so. But my argument is why are there arrears? Surely that is a bad thing not a good one. For all we know we will inherit a Tenant who stops paying altogether and then we find it takes 4 to 6 months to get possession and we have no rent for that period. It is adding insult to injury to be paying that Tenant’s back rent to the Seller as well.

After various discussions, the Seller backs down and accept we can collect rents due. But the fact we have had to have this discussion leaves me uneasy

DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 13

As we develop this blog I want to incorporate videos and photos to try to give a real impression of where we are and the sort of properties and people we are dealing with.

I am a Londoner through and through and if someone had told me there might be a day where I would be buying Properties “Up North” and eventually living up here I would not have believed it.

Like most Londoners who have not been to the North I only have a very vague idea of what it is like and many of my impressions are based on images that are no longer relevant. Not unlike Americans coming to London and expecting to find pea Souper fogs and Sherlock Holmes living at 221B Baker Street.

When you are used to London prices and the London Property Market it is very difficult to understand markets that are radically different. I find a lot of my friends have similar misconceptions and the aim of this blog is to help dispel those misconceptions and present a picture of the truth as I have found it.

There are so many misconceptions I cannot possibly list them all but typical examples would be:

  • Not understanding that prices can fall or stay static and fail to rise over a sustained period.
  • That rents can stay stable for many years
  • That the level of renewal and gentrification is far lower than in London and in many areas never really happens
  • That City Centres are not always so desirable
  • That sharing accommodation is much less prevalent
  • That there are far fewer flats and those there are, are usually best avoided
  • Most importantly in this list that because you buy a property for £50,000 and let it to a housing benefit Tenant and make a yield of 12% you are NOT necessarily a slum landlord. A lot of the housing stock in the North at £50,000 is surprisingly good quality. You can let the property to one family to make your yields You do not have to divide it into 6 little flats as in London.
  • Although I am sure there are poor Landlords in the North there is no need to be one because actually from a commercial and moral point of view it makes sense to keep your properties in good repair to minimise management and ensure you get your returns with the least fuss. When I see our Tenants in their accommodation I can honestly say that if I had to choose to be living on benefits where they are or in London I would choose the North. A couple with a child in a typical two or three bed house on benefits are in a space which if they choose to keep it nice is very acceptable. They do not have to share. They have adequate space over two floor with all facilities plus a yard and normally will be in a good location for shops and amenities. Hopefully as this blog progresses you will see what I mean.

DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 12

We are in Sunderland having seen a potentially interesting block of flats. We are exploring the area around the shops. Many of the surrounding streets are full of lovely houses often converted into professional offices e.g. solicitors, accountants, architects etc. The only downside is the hostel and the pharmacy next to it which supplies the legal drugs for those with a drug problem.

We chat to people we meet, we go into local shops and talk to the people serving, we go into local letting and estate agents and generally get a feel for the area. Our experience is that people are usually very keen to talk to you and give you their opinions

The general consensus is that because of the hostel the area is rough but safe. On the whole the people in the hostel will not interfere with the people working and living around them.

Sunderland City Centre itself has a nice shopping centre and most of the shops you would expect in a major town but clearly is not at the peak of its prosperity. Many shops are vacant and there is not the buzz you get in Cities experiencing renewal. Talking to people we find there are no specific plans for Sunderland as such so if we buy this property it has to be on its own merits and not in expectation of revival. That is not the case in most of the Towns where we buy as we usually pick Towns where there are serious plans to regenerate and revive the Town or the area we are buying in.

But we also gather that the consensus is that a one bed flat in this area should fetch £400 to £450 per month. We know the housing benefit rate is £390 per month and if that is the case then the price of £255,000 gives us the yield we want.

So, long story short we go back to the Agents and eventually agree a price of £235,000.  This is a property we are buying with our London investor so we give him a full report and he agrees this is one we should go for.