Blog

DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 11

We arrive in Sunderland and park near to the flats which are above a parade of shops. Look back to Days 4 and 5 for full details of these properties. We would be buying the entire first floor. The properties are arranged in 4 individual blocks with their own separate entrances. That is a bonus.

Near to one entrance a person is sprawled out on the road with a police and ambulance next to him. Looking on are a group of his “ friends” from a homeless hostel across the road.  Apparently a lot of the people in the hostel have drug issues and judging by the look of the person being helped by the authorities that might be the problem with the person who is unconscious. Not such an attractive scene.

We look round the flats which are very nicely proportioned but in a very poor condition. They are going to need some work on them to get them up to standard. We then start researching the area. We walk around to get a feel for what type of area it is. It is actually very nice.

We are literally a 3 minute walk from the Town Centre. Just one minute away is the best café in Sunderland (according to trip advisor) which seems to have a very nice class of person in it including a lot of people who we assume are Overseas Students (as we were told they were potential tenants in this area). Definitely worth exploring which our next blog will cover

DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 10

The viewing trip for Sunderland and Manchester is upon us. We are doing this over 2 days. The Manchester viewing will take most of the day because there are a lot of properties to look at.

We start off in Manchester meeting at 10.30 at the first property  (it is a two hour plus journey for us to get there) Although I say the properties are in Manchester they are actually based in and around the Wigan / Leigh area. We consider that Manchester but no doubt those who live there would not.

The first property is not a good omen. It is in a nice enough little town but it is at the end of a row of terrace houses next to a railway bridge / railway line. To us it looks as if it might have some structural issues. There is a Tenant who seems genuine and seems ok (you would be amazed at how many properties claim to have Tenants but in practice do not have genuine ones if at all) but for the price proposed the yield would only be about 8% which is below our normal criteria. Having said that because we are potentially buying up to 17 properties in one go and because these are houses that may have capital growth potential the yield is not the only factor in this particular purchase

As we carry on round we become more and more concerned. All the properties are potentially in good areas but the specific ones chosen by the Seller do not on the whole appeal for one reason or another. The Seller is a very nice person and via his family (the business was started by his father) they have built a very substantial portfolio but we can understand why they are selling to take advantage of the Manchester market moving up.

But the conclusion we have come to is that these are just not the right properties for us. We consider if may be there is a smaller selection of the better properties we could make an offer on but even then we decide the answer is no. So we move on to Sunderland. If you look back on this blog you will find the full details of the Sunderland properties in Days 4 and 5.

DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 9

I get details of possible dates to view the Manchester portfolio and decide to do this in the same week as the Sunderland viewing to get them out of the way in one go. This will mean a lot of travelling but travelling to view properties is a major part of my life so I am prepared.

I then get a phone call from the Seller of the mixed-use property (see day 7) we were considering. He is very keen to sell and wants a fast deal. He knows who we are and knows we have the cash so his question is what price would allow us to proceed. I go back to my fellow directors and we all agree £120,000 would work. I go back to the Seller who accepts that offer. That is a price that works for us and it seems works for the Seller so we now move quickly to sort out an exchange If you want to see what we got for our £120,000 click this link to see a Video of the property.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkpC1yTtTaY

I get a call from our London Investor. He wants to discuss where we are with his portfolio and our plans moving forward. We have one large block of flats in Liverpool which we are refurbishing and which we should be able to do a major remortgage on shortly. We also have funds available to consider a further purchase and I tell him about our trip to view properties in Manchester and Sunderland

DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 8

One of my co- directors is concerned about the mixed-use property (see Day 1) we are in the process of purchasing. The concern is that there may be more problems than we have anticipated and also that the shops will probably be difficult to let (all shops in the North are potentially difficult) and we have not factored that into the price.

We go around to have another look and the concerns begin to multiply. This can happen when you are buying complex properties. My fellow Director thinks we should offer £120,000. I am not sure that the Seller will go for that.  We have already negotiated the price down from £175,000 to £140,000. Will the Seller go for a further reduction? The property has a lot of potential. But we are worried about the condition of the property and how easy the property will be to let especially in regard to the shop.

After a lot of discussion, we come to the conclusion that we are just not happy about this purchase. This is not an easy decision but as the old saying goes ” when in doubt leave it out”

I telephone the Seller. My approach is not to ask for a price reduction as such (which I feel would not be fair to the Seller as we have already negotiated the price down) but to express our concerns and say that we are worried that this may not be the right property for us and to warn him that we may not be able to proceed. He had said another party was interested and if that were the case then it might be better to go with them in view of the fact that we were not sure about our position. He says he understands our position

I also hear that a viewing has been arranged for Sunderland and get some details about the Ownership. It seems the freehold owner is creating a new 125-year lease for the top floor which will be good. There is a fixed ground rent of £1,000 which does not rise during the term of the lease.  I have also been doing more research and am getting increasingly interested in the location which I think has potential. The flats are only a 5-minute walk from the centre, the station and the local shopping centre The Bridges. Interesting.

DIARY OF A PROPERTY INVESTOR – DAY 7

I think I have gotten to the bottom of the statement by Shelter that 40% of Tenants live in “substandard accommodation”. I have to say that if I am right in one sense I am not surprised but in another I am amazed that no one has picked up on this. But let me explain what I have found and then you can make up your own mind.

If you look at Day 6 you will see I posted recently about Shelter’s assertion that 4 in 10 properties are substandard This caused a lot of comment for example, see in the link below

https://www.facebook.com/groups/UKProperryTraders/1796914283886839/?comment_id=1797078103870457&notif_t=like&notif_id=1476904128763292

But what was clear is that both myself and those who commented took at face value what Shelter had said. The question I was asking was could it be true that 40% of Tenants are living in substandard accommodation. Nobody including myself questioned what that meant. We all assumed it meant living in horrible accommodation that no reasonable person would want to live in. The question I was asking and people were responding to was could this actually be true?

Today I have seen the news item below

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37655908

What I think this is saying (although I would be grateful if someone with more knowledge than me would confirm if factually I am right) is that Shelter have introduced a new standard for what they say is acceptable and then decided that statistically 4 in 10 properties do not comply with that standard.  They have reached this conclusion based on a survey of less than 2,000 people.   So in other words the Guardian article about 40% of Tenants living in substandard accommodation is based entirely on this proposition. So the term” substandard ” cannot be taken at face value. It has to be taken as the definition provided by Shelter against which all accommodation is judged.

So I looked further and found the definition by Shelter which you can find here

http://www.shelter.org.uk/livinghomestandard?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=LHS&utm_content=Text_ad_6&gclid=CPXOm6ye7M8CFcIV0wodOK8C2g

To me this makes all the difference in the world to what is being said by Shelter. I accept that in an ideal world it would be great if all Tenants lived in accommodation as Shelter proposes. But I am not sure Landlords alone are responsible for this. Look for example at one of the criteria e.g. Neighbourhood. How can Landlord’s influence that? But any Tenant in a bad neighbour is classed by Shelter as living in “substandard accommodation”. And the implication from the Press is that Landlords are to blame.

But this is not the real point I am making.  My concern is that language is being used that gives a very false impression of what is being said.  Saying people are living in substandard accommodation gives an impression of people living in complete squalor in their home, squalor which is the fault of the Landlord. Saying people are living in “substandard ” accommodation because they are not in a nice neighbourhood to me is saying something very different. It is like saying people who earn less than a certain amount should be defined as living in poverty and then equating their poverty with the poverty of someone living in a very poor country with nothing and maybe facing starvation. If people are housed fed and provided with a small income they may be in relative poverty but they are not in absolute poverty. If you call both poverty to me, you are completely confusing people and equating two situations which actually have nothing to do with each other.

You might say so what?  The problem is that if this type of argument if not challenged it begins a narrative whereby all Landlords get branded as bad. Now I started my conversation because to me it seemed staggering that 2 million plus Tenants could be living in substandard accommodation as stated in the original Guardian article I saw.  From my experience those figures just did not match the reality of what I see as a Landlord. I think that now I have the full picture it is clear this statement and how it is being used is very unfair to Landlords. But what I can also see is that this type of assertion being made on a regular basis by well-funded pressure groups like Shelter is having a demonstrable effect on Government Policy for all parties and is becoming accepted as truth because it is repeated so often.

So I wanted to ask the question is this true or not and if it is not true why (as far as I can see) it is never properly challenged by those bodies that represent Landlords   It was not a case of just wanting to attack or defend a point of view it was to try and get at the truth. Because it is only if we know the truth that we can defend our interests properly. If it turned out that 40% of Landlords do provide sub-standard accommodation (as an average person would define it)  I would be the first to condemn this even though I am a Landlord because to me to make our sector more acceptable we have to get our house in order ( if necessary!!!) and then we can defend what we do that is right.

Based on the new information I have found (and if I am right and actually what is being said is that 40% of Tenants do not live in accommodation based on an artificial standard Shelter have decided to set and that assertion is based on a survey of less than 2,000 people) then to me that is completely different.

But my question is why is there no one to point this out and put the counter argument. Why do Landlord bodies allow the media to make assertions like this and not challenge them properly?

It is all well and good for us to throw up our hands and just dismiss this as prejudice but what is worrying me is that this is the basis upon which our industry is being taken apart and if we just leave this undefended we can expect more. My suspicion is that if we looked into it is this type of spurious argument that led George Osborne to turn on Landlords

So my question to you is how can we get bodes to defend our interests by looking at the points that I think really count like this and making sure these points are nailed on our behalf. I just do not see that happening at the current time with the bodies representing Landlords like the NLA or RLA.

Sorry for this rather lengthy digression from the normal content of my blog but I do think this is important for Landlords and if I am trying to really let you into how my journey as a Property Investor then hopefully all aspects of what I consider are of interest