344 : Dean Starr on social housing and his route into investing in property

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Today, I’m delighted to be joined by Dean Starr, a developer with a social conscience who started out in property in a fairly typical fashion with student houses in Huddersfield. He had a desire to simplify his income so he could move him and his family to New Zealand. But things didn’t exactly go to plan and a chance meeting with an old colleague who was also investing in property, led him on a path to create Cornerstone Partnership, a social enterprise that is trying to make an impact on the housing crisis with social housing. In fact, it is making an impact on the housing crisis in the UK by following the Aldi model, one of the companies that Dean worked at before he ventured into the world of property- high quality and high volume at low cost. Without a doubt, this is one of the most interesting conversations that I’ve had on the podcast for a while and whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned developer, there are lessons in here that you can take and apply to your own business.

Listen to this episode below:

Here’s what we discussed this time:

4:20 – Dean talks us through what he was up to before property came into his life. He was in the corporate world working in supply chain and logistics, most recently with Aldi before making the transition to property. He credits them for picking up a lot of skills and knowledge, and how that has set him off well.

6:47 – The idea of property – where did that come from? He talks through how his father built their own family home when he was young.

11:03 – Dean discusses the importance of investment in himself and how valuable that was.

12:23 – Mike asks about what the first investment really looked like? He talks through having lodgers and also buying a two-bed house in Huddersfield that they converted into a small student house. He talks through the numbers of it.

15:57 – He chats through the logistics of the properties and how they run today.

16:55 – He talks through the concept of normal houses for the normal tenant profile.

17:17 – Mike discusses the importance of having a shorter-term focus as well. There’s an element of risk management and an element of moving fast.

19:07 – They talk through the concept of larger HMOs and how they can be difficult to exit – if you are going into a large HMO, you need to focus on your longer-term planning and be aware of this. It’s all about balance and diverse income.

20:32 – Dean talks about how, as he advances as an investor, it’s important to him to provide homes. He wants to provide family properties and family homes. He discusses how starting in HMOs allows him to do it.

21:25 – Dean discusses his flexible working situation with his company.

23:39 – Mike asks about the choice behind Huddersfield when Dean was living in Warwickshire. How did that distance work and impact the investing?

25:53 – Dean talks us through how his business partner came into his life through Aldi, and how they decided to set up a social housing company.

28:05 – He tells us about how it scaled really quickly and how it felt a bit like stumbling upon an opportunity.

29:30 – Dean discusses learning on the job about social housing and taking the time to really know the ins and outs of the sector. Once he started seeing the crisis, he realised how horrendous it is and how it is getting worse with a lot of families living in hotels. He talks about how the charitable sector needs support from the housing industry.

31:50 – Dean tells us how the logistics work behind the company.

32:56 – Mike asks about how it compares to his original vision and how Dean has changed his needs from more selfish needs to incredibly selfless needs.

‘You only need so much money – needing loads of money was never going to tick the box for me. It should be about more than that.’

35:15 – They talk about the idea of putting things off that could be done now.

37:39 – What is the longer-term vision for the social enterprise? Dean discusses the markets that are totally not catered for at the moment and the projects that he has in planning right now.

40:10 – Mike asks about the feasibility side of the equation and wonders how Dean can make it work. How does he provide affordable housing at such a scale? He goes through the economic difficulties.

44:16 – Is the social housing sector a part of the market that other investors could be looking into, but Dean points out that it can’t come only from an altruistic point of view. There has to be an element of commercial acumen in your business model as well.

46:25 – Dean talks about finding people to partner with and how it’s important to find someone who balances you out.

49:29 – Mike encourages people to take baby steps.

50:14 – They both discuss evolving from landlord to business owner and how you take those steps to change the way you work. Dean talks about becoming a facilitator and the more strategic side of the business.

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The Links We Mentioned:

If you have any questions or you are an investor wanting to know about the social housing sector, you can find more about Cornerstone Partnership on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. You can also find Dean directly on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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