Legislate meets the Property Investment Geeks

HMO specialists property 'geeking' since 2013

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In this episode, Legislate meets the Property Investment Geeks, Charlotte and Phil, and learns all about how they have built and maintained their property portfolio of 31 residential lets. The Property Investment Geeks share their investment strategies and how they manage their portfolio, providing top tips, such as forming a relationship with your local council.

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Charles Brecque: Welcome to the Legislate podcast, a place to learn about the latest insights and trends in property technology, business building and contract drafting. I have Charlotte and Phil from the property investment geeks on the show, the property investment geeks have been geeking since 2013 and have 31 residential lets. Charlotte and Phil, welcome to the show. Would you like to introduce yourselves and share a bit of background about the property investment geeks?

The story behind the Property Investment Geeks

Charlotte: Hi, I'm Charlotte so, okay, a bit of background about us. I suppose we first got into property, didn't we, about eight years ago.

Phil: Yeah, yes. So we both worked in the corporate world of sales, we still do that.

Although I took a break from it to work on the property portfolio . Having a corporate sales jobs, we also wound up a property investment company.

Charlotte: Yeah. So basically it all started about eight years ago when we bought our first house and did it up from top to bottom really- complete refurb. So pulled the kitchens out and bathrooms, replastered, redecorated the whole lot.

Phil: Yeah. We really enjoyed it as well. I think that was the key thing. We realized spending that time on a property, that time together, we enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.

Charlotte: It made a big difference cause it was our family home. Yes, it was our first home together wasn't it.

Phil: We made some good bargains as well. Focus were closing down at the time and we got a lot of really cheap deals.

Charlotte: We got some door handles. It was supposed to be like thirty-five pounds- we got them reduced to a pound. It was brilliant.

But yeah, after two years, cause we basically got a fixed mortgage for two years and then we decided to move on to a town that we'd gone on a few dates called Stanford. We'd fallen in love with it and we decided it was a financially sounder our idea to keep the first property. So without knowing it we basically fell into a strategy called BRRR. Which is buy, refurbish, refinance, rent. So we basically refinanced property keeping 25% equity in it and then moved on to our next one. After that, we decided to keep on going didn't we.

Phil: Yeah. We kept going with our single let properties.

And then I had a conversation with a friend of mine, Alex Wade. He owns a wine bar in Stanford and he's heavily involved with HMO. He shared a lot of information. And then after that we decided to go on a couple of courses about it ,really started to look into HMO. And I think that's the key for us is we've always, we're always looking for education. We're always looking for how to evolve in what we do. So we don't just stick with something and then just stay in that place. We're always trying to push boundaries.

Charlotte: So we went from single let. But then after we'd been on a few courses, we realised actually HMO the yields are significantly higher. Yes, there's more time investment upfront and throughout really. But the yields can sometimes be three times more the yields on a single let.

So that's what got us to where we are today isn't it.

What's been your favourite moment so far?

Charles Brecque: So it's now been eight years and you've built a portfolio of 31 residential lets what's been your favourite moment so far?

Phil: So I take the job of converting. So it's my job to convert. Let's say a mid terrace housing, predominantly Woodston Peterborough. And then I'll turn that into, a HMO. And now all of our HMOs have an on suite as a minimum. And all of them have a small kitchenette.

Some of them have a separate kitchen. Or kitchennette. So for me, my favourite moment is when you've purchased that property. And then you bring in the contractors, you've walked around, re redesigning the over and over again to get the en-suites where you want them to maximise the space, to make good living areas.

Because obviously you have to adhere to a minimum space set by people, city council, for us, and it's that day that you walk around. There's no tradesmen and Charlotte and I'll walk in. You'll take the pictures.

Charlotte: Yeah. That's quite a satisfying moment maybe to take the pictures to put them on openrent, Facebook marketplace and more recently Instagram.

And since we've set up the Instagram page, the property investment gates. I think just for the three of us, there is a third investor as well, just going from a house. To go into view it, to then actually bring in a teammate and converting it and then actually walking around it once it's done.

Phil: This has come from, our heads.

Charlotte: And hard work.

Charles Brecque: I can imagine.. And so from identifying a potential property to buying it doing the work and then getting your first tenant in how long does it take on average, how much work is involved?

Phil: 6 to 9 months depending on the size.

Charlotte: Yeah, for us it's slightly longer, just because certainly in the early days it was more six months.

But if we do anything now, it's a longer period of time just because we've got a toddler and also we work in the corporate world also, so we're very busy and we have a hectic schedule. Yeah, but in the early days, when you would just work on the properties for six months.

What do you wish you'd known before getting into property?

Charles Brecque: So you got into this eight years ago. What do you wish you'd known before getting into property?

Phil: Yeah. Yeah. This is this is a common joke about the club, but in my family. So before Charlotte, I got into property way before two or three days I worked for a company called Personal Group, and we had a client called Vinci and they had a head office in the UK in the city bank building and I went with my briefcase up to the 24th, 25th floor. Through security doors, if you've ever been to city bank building it's a tricky one to get in and out of.

And the Vinci floor, even more so because they have a scale model of this proposed rail line that nobody had heard off. a part from people working on it, it was called the cross network rail, which we all know what it is now. I looked and studied this. scale model even pointed out, oh, I've got a friend that lives there and, oh, that's not far from where I grew up, identified places that, were going to get rail links from east to west and yet didn't react to it because I just wasn't keyed in at the time a second income wasn't codified, I hadn't even contemplated property.

Certainly wasn't contemplated apart from living in one. But, yeah, that's my biggest shoulda coulda, woulda,

Charles Brecque: I guess you could just go up those floors again. And see if there are any updated maps.

Phil: Yeah. I'm not sure they'd let me do that,

Charles Brecque: and so obviously there's three of you in the property investment geeks. So it's a bit of a family business. What's the plan for the next three to five years or the longer term. And even beyond that.

Charlotte: We started off with just Phil and I, and then a few years down the line the third investor who incidentally is my dad came in place as well, but we started off with single lets and then we ventured into And now recognising that between the three. We've come through multiple educational courses and also of course, eight years of experience doing what we do. And we actually know quite a lot now about what we do. And

Phil: yeah, I think, in the eight years of experience, we've made mistakes in that time as anyone does when they first move into an area that they haven't gotten before, but we've made some wins as well.

With a beam recently been recognised by the national resident landlord association in their quarterly publication and yeah, it's just we've got support. We've realised we've got a lot to share so Charlotte's plan.

Charlotte: Yes. So we are working on the online educational route which may go into classroom education as well.

But for now it's going to be online. And certainly that's a plan for next year. We're already working on the course and we plan to release it hopefully by the start of quarter two. And that may get to the end of quarter two, depending on how much running around my toddler gives me. Yeah, that's the long-term plan .

We also have a plan to utilise the gardens and the garage spaces that we have in the HMO's, because we've recognised that these were actually areas that we could potentially build annexes or convert garages into another lets. Certainly the double garage is a big enough.

Yeah, that's what we've got in the pipeline for the next few years. But in terms of the educational side, just picking up on what Phil was saying it's so important to get your education first, before you venture into a market place like this, it's it can be quite easy to think.

Oh, I've watched a few YouTube, so I can go ahead and do that. But actually it can be so costly if you don't get it right. Just to give you one example, we had a situation a few years ago. We developed this HMO. We were so proud of it and it had five lets. So one of those lets, we actually couldn't let for a short period of time because the council came into one of the rooms and said you have to have 10% light basically in the room.

And because the window only allowed 9% light, 8%, we had to knock out the window. And increase it by one centimeter to just to get that extra percentage of light in the room. So that was a costly learning curve for us

Phil: but it turns out happy moment when everything's done.

Charlotte: Yeah.

Phil: But again, but that's we've always done is we built a relationship with Peterborough city council very early.

So we've always invited them in before we start letting. Because for us, it's really important to do things, we work closely with people from the city council. And I think that's why we've learnt so much as well is because anyone can sit and think, you know what that'll do.

That'll do, we'll just do this. But the fact of the matter is, as being a landlord yes, it's a business and there needs to be a yield there but you always have to remember, it's your house, but that's someone's home. You have a responsibility to them, to their safety, to their wellbeing.

And light is a factor of that. A fire escape is a factor that fire doors, there's all these things that there's legislation around you're not held to form legislation on the size of it, depending on the size of your HMO. But we tend to go to the full capacity. Because as well as protecting your investment, you're protecting your tenants. So for us, that's really important.

Charlotte: Absolutely. Yeah. So the course of we're launching next year, it will include how to make the most out of your investments and getting it right. And making sure you don't fall on the red tape that's in place.

Charles Brecque: You mentioned, and obviously the council is key for and permission and avoiding costly mistakes where you also get councils involved in its course, or at least provide tips and suggestions to landlords in terms of how to engage with council so that they are on the right track from the start.

Charlotte: Yeah. So there is a thing called mandatory licensing. So it used to be selective license five years ago, but it's now gone into mandatory. What that means is that now every council has the same standards for HMO. So the same room sizes. Whereas when we started our venture five years ago in HMO, selective licensing, that was specific to the councils.

So it's actually a lot more easier now. They still, definitely still challenging. Mandatory licensing makes it a lot more clear cut I'd say. It doesn't change.

Phil: I think in answer to your question, Charles, I think we'll have some conversations with all contacts of Peterborough City Council and if we can involve them I'm sure he gets a couple of them.

Maybe just have a little bit of input just to guide people on it because it's very hands-on you often see him on that rogue landlords, bad tenants I can't remember what it's called.

Charlotte: It's a program to deal with landlords anyway. But yeah, Peterborough City Council. They've always been they've always been great to us haven't they?

And any helping advice that we've asked for at the start, mid or end of project they've come in and helped us so yeah, we certainly will be encouraging people that are more in our courses or people that we're mentoring to, to have the council actively involved.

What are the key agreements you interact with the most as a landlord?

Charles Brecque: Great. So you've been doing this as I said, eight years, and you've got a combination of single lets and HMO's what are the key contracts that you interact with the most frequently?

Charlotte: So mainly it's for us it's tenancy agreement. So before a tenant moves in, we have to obviously make sure that tenancy agreement is completed.

But along with that, there's also three other forms. So there's the Right to Rent. So every landlord has to complete that now with a tenant. And that's basically to ensure that the tenant has the right to live in our country. And, if we didn't fill out that form and the tenant didn't have the right then we could be fined quite heavily for that. So it's really important that we get that completed.

Phil: You don't have to do any investigation providing you have ID. As you're doing your due diligence

Charlotte: Yeah. As long as it's the correct form of ID. Application form. And then there's a deposit form as well, which details how much deposit they're paying and where it's being held.

But yeah, in terms of the contracts and the only one that we really deal with as landlords is a tenancy agreement. And it's so important to have that in place because it protects both tenant and landlord. And more recently we've started using yourself to send those contracts over to our tenants. So rather than the old school way of doing it, where I would, drive from our house to Peterborough which is a 35 minute drive to complete a contract, now we'll just quite simply send the contract and these three forms that I've just discussed through Legislate and the tenant can just easily complete that on the phone. And I usually have it back within 20, 25 minutes, 30 minutes.

What are the common questions or objections with tenancy agreements?

Charles Brecque: So you mentioned the tenancy agreement is the key contract and now thanks to Legislate you no longer need to drive to meet your tenants, which I imagine was quite useful when fuel shortages, but when you create your contracts and your sending them over to tenants, are there any key objections that they raised with you?

Phil: Well, I think previously the, it's not uncommon for us to have tenants that don't have access to printers or scanners. So one of our main objections, I'd say probably the only objection we used to get was, oh, I can't print this out, then I can't scan it.

Charlotte: Can't sign it electronically, which is why I used to drive 35 minutes to visit them, to have it complete. Because we found that was quicker rather than sending it over and then getting that objection of I can't print or I can't edit this document because they haven't got the software or they haven't got a printer.

Phil: Yeah. Oh, they haven't got it. They talk if we're sending a contracts that then try to view it on their phone. But again that's why for us, your system just works really well for what we do.

Charlotte: You've made our life a lot easier, Charles.

If you were being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?

Charles Brecque: Music to my ears. And we're definitely working on a lot of things to take as much admin out of your life. Creating contracts will become easier. Transferring data between documents will become easier and and making it foolproof for tenants is something that we work on everyday.

Obviously your feedback is very valuable and is helping us improve. But hopefully your experience with Legislate will get better even more every day.

 I've really taken a lot of your time. I'm going to ask you the closing question we ask all our guests, if you were being sent to contract assigned today, what would impress you?

Phil: I think in terms of being impressed, it's just the fact that it's user-friendly you can view it on your phone or your laptop. If you're out and about, and it's something you want to get signed and sent back or to answer it from my tenant's perspective, it's that it's not clunky. That it's well signposted and it's easy to use.

I've used various sites, DocuSign's in the past that get a little bit clunky. I regard myself, relatively techie, and I've come across some that you'll hopefully link I'll use it wherever I've had to sign this. Yeah, I think, and I think that's the problem is when you sign up, when you do it, not on your phone or your iPad and actually what they want you to do is do it on your laptop.

Charlotte: Yeah, absolutely. Some of our tenants are not using software on a regular basis it would be type of jobs that they have. Just to make it super easy. So we don't get that pushback of, I don't understand it. I don't know what to click. We certainly haven't had that pushback yet.

With Legislate we get it back really quickly, so that it's important. We don't want to be spending time on the phone to them saying right. Click here, sign here. We just want that to be seamless.

Charles Brecque: Yeah. Seamless is one of our mottos at Legislate. Yeah, speed and efficiently equals seamlessness, but yeah we tried to do that as much as possible.

Great. Thank you very much, Charlotte and Phil for being on the show and sharing a bit of background about your journey The next projects and building your portfolio and I'm looking forward to seeing your education course next year.

Charlotte: Thank you, Charles. Thank you very much for your time.

Phil: Yeah, thank you for the time.

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