Jess Leader Profile

377: Why chasing unicorns is the wrong strategy, with Jess Leader

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Unicorns really do exist, although the point of today’s interview with Jess Leader is that whilst we can occasionally find those projects that give us all of our money back out, they’re usually pretty rare and we certainly don’t need to focus on them in order to build a life changing income from property. 

Jess had completed 7 projects before she finally caught a unicorn on her 8th, and today she gets into the details of what her own investing story has been like. 

Jess Leader Property Investor

What we discussed in today’s episode:

  • Jess spent most of her career working in marketing for large corporations. Although she initially started her career in commercial property brokerages, the thought of property investing never crossed her mind.

  • Things changed when Jess felt the need to find a career that would challenge her while still allowing her to spend time with her loved ones. She was determined to grow her skills, keep her brain active, and have the freedom to be there for her family.

  • With a little effort and some upgrades to their first London flat, Jess and her partner were able to sell it for a substantial profit. Making a sizeable sum of money was a game-changer and Jess realised that property investing was the way forward.

Jess’ first flat – a one bed ‘lower ground floor’ garden flat in SW London
  • They used the money from selling the flat in Stratham to buy a Regency townhouse flat in Brighton for renovation and a three-bedroom HMO in the Midlands. 

  • They have continued to use this strategy, with several HMOs in their portfolio providing good income. 

  • When it comes to investing in HMOs without prior experience, Jess stresses the importance of being well-informed. Taking the time to learn and self-manage the property is crucial in gaining a deeper understanding and ensuring compliance with regulations. It’s also essential to assemble a knowledgeable team and ensure that they are equally compliant.

  • Their latest property deal was a huge success. Despite the initial challenges – the property was in dire shape with structural damage, located in a protected area, and had a history of planning refusals – they managed to turn things around and were able to refinance at a higher level and recoup all the money they’d invested in the property. 

HMO interior design inspiration from Jess Leader
A beautiful 15sqm studio room with kitchenette, work space, dressing area, en-suite and garden views in her latest HMO conversion.
  • Jess opened up about the challenges they faced while searching for the right people to work with, and how they relied on different sources to purchase properties in their investment area – the West Midlands. 

  • They decided on West Midlands after carefully considering pricing and rental rates. Eventually, they moved from Brighton back to the Midlands to be closer to their investment area, which allowed them to look at more properties and build better relationships.

  • Their experience with sourcing agents has been mixed, but they’ve learned to keep an open mind and consider deals that may not have been on their radar before. They also value the connections they’ve made through their investor network, which has been helpful for sharing information, properties, and feedback.

  • Investor finance is a fundamental part of their business and they rely on it heavily for portfolio growth. They had worked with investors on both a debt and equity basis and believed in building relationships with investors where both parties could benefit from working together. 

Jess Leader Investor Update
A typical investor update from Jess to her finance partners
  • Equity partnerships can be beneficial for growth, but it’s crucial to have a solid foundation of trust and understanding with the partner beforehand. It’s also important to have everything legally sorted out and to take the partnership seriously.

  • Jess finds the personal side of investor relations highly satisfying and viewed it as an extension of their previous client relationship-building experience in her marketing career. She makes sure that their investors are comfortable with everything, including receiving reports every quarter and being invited to on-site visits. 

  • As the market for high-end homes grows, they are constantly looking for ways to balance the financial aspects of the business with the personal touch that sets their homes apart. Their ultimate goal is to make a profit while providing tenants with a beautiful and valuable living space that they can truly call home.

HMO property styling details
Little details can make a big difference when it comes to achieving tops rents AND keeping tenants happy.
  • Despite investing a significant amount of money in property education, Jess believes that there are now more accessible and realistic ways of learning about property investment. 

  • Jess believes that the key to embarking on a successful property investment journey is to approach it with a positive and resilient mindset and to remain receptive to learning and taking action. 

  • Now, Jess’s life is focused on her family. She moved back to Shropshire to be closer to them and lives there with her partner and 17-month-old daughter.

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