MY EARLY MISTAKES
Don’t get emotionally involved in the deal. When I was starting out in 2004 I went to a seminar hosted by a big property investment company and was sold the dream of becoming an armchair investor with a property abroad. I ended up buying a three-bedroom flat off-plan in Spain. I got swept up in the excitement of owning a holiday home overlooking the sea and the idea that my daughter and I could stay there whenever we wanted.
My plan was to make money from short-term holiday lets. As an armchair investor, I trusted the company to invest in the right properties for me and guide me along the way, but as soon as they took my money they were off. I paid an inflated purchase price of 120,000 euros and ended uphaving to sell it at a loss five years later for 80,000 euros. On top of that I paid extensive service charges for cleaning, pool and lift maintenance, plus furniture. I lost about £50,000 in total. In reality,there was too much supply and not enough demand as too many properties were built on the same site at the same time. The company I trusted, Inside Track, later when bust.
Don’t kit out an investment flat – In my early days of investing I used to imagine myself living in the buy-to-let flats, so I’d fill them with all sorts of things that weren’t necessary – lovely paintings, good quality crockery from John Lewis, even tea towels! Years ago, I bought two two-bed flats in West London and wasted £6000 kitting them out. Of course now I know a landlady would never be expected to provide these things in buy-to-let accommodation.
Be careful of your cashflow – In 2004 I also bought a two-bed rental flat in an area up North that was new to me. Several local agents estimated I would get £650 rent a month for it, but in reality I could only get £400 a month. It still covered the mortgage, but the figures were extremely tight. I never would have bought it if I’d realised the profit margin would be so low. Thankfully I hung onto the flat and it’s proved a good long-term rental investment as it now earns me £450 profit a month, thanks to low interest rates on the mortgage.
Find the right investment area – Back in 2001 I was happy with my job as a lawyer, earning a good salary but decided I wanted to invest in some properties with long-term growth potential, to provide for my retirement one day. I researched up-and-coming areas and found an area of West London that was affordable then, but on the rise. I bought two buy-to-let flats near a train station for £140,000 each. They’re now worth £500,000 each and haven’t been empty for one day! The key is to research your area and know what your investment aim is.
Build a good rapport with estate agents – I’ve forged good relationships with so many agents but one in particular sticks in mind. Back in 2008 I got to know her personally though doing block viewings of several properties and as a result, she gave me a sneak preview of a four-bedroom house just before it went on the market. I bought it for £485,000 and today it’s worth £950,000. I turned it into
a six-bedroom HMO and now it earns me £2300 profit a month.
Befriend the seller from the start – I’ve managed to save many deals that would have collapsed by making direct contact with the seller from the start. In 2013 I bought a three-bed house in the South East, which is now worth £165,000 but I nearly lost it. There were several hiccups, which were out of my
control, from silly spelling mistakes on my mortgage application form to delays in local authority searches. The sellers were getting twitchy as the agent had only told them, ‘Oh, the mortgage application hasn’t been received’ without explaining. Luckily, I’d already sent the sellers a card saying, ‘Call me if there’s anything I can help you with.’ When things got hairy, luckily they did and I was able to reassure them I was still a serious buyer.
I always chat to sellers on viewings too. With good open questions, it’s amazing what they’ll reveal. In 2013 an owner of a two-bed house told me she was in the middle of a divorce, gave details of other offers she’d received and told me the bottom line she was prepared to accept. The house was on the market for £100,000 but I got it for £84,000, converted it into a three-bed and it’s now worth £160,000.
Be prepare to move fast – I once came across a new, inexperienced valuer who’d marketed a
three-bedroom house at £100,000, which I knew was worth £120,000. I had to move fast before anyone else pounced so I offered asking price and today it’s worth £180,000. Never be afraid of paying asking price if you know it’s a bargain.
Bindar Dosanjh is an award-winning landlady, property investor, mentor and lawyer. She started out as a secretary and now has a
multimillion-pound portfolio. See www.smartcorewealth.com