380: You can build a property portfolio AND travel the world, with Kim Opszala

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Since last being on the podcast in 2020, business and life for Kim Opszala have changed dramatically.  From a property perspective, she’s switched her focus from R2R to buying HMOs, giving her much more security for the longer term by actually owning the assets that she’s renting out, although as you’ll hear during the interview, she still obviously has a soft spot for rent to rent and the opportunities that model created for her in the early days

But more excitingly, at least from my perspective, is the change to her living arrangements, as she recently converted a van into a camper and splits her time between life in the UK and life on the road, travelling with her family whilst continuing to run and grow her property business. And as a fellow travel junkie, I spent more than a little time asking her about how this is working out as well. 

A great follow up interview with Kim that I’m sure you’ll enjoy, so let’s get started. 

Kim Opszala Property Investor

What we discussed in today’s episode:

  • Kim Opszala and her husband Mike are running their property portfolio from a converted camper van. Kim spills the tea on how they transformed their van into a personalised, cosy home on wheels, and the benefits of creating a living space that’s tailored just for you.

  • But don’t be fooled, building a camper van it’s not an easy feat. Kim reveals that it took over a year to complete the conversion. And as for the cost? Let’s just say they didn’t keep track and went over budget.

  • Despite challenges, they found a sense of freedom and excitement in van life. In April 2020, they embarked on a full-time adventure around Europe, exploring several countries while running their property portfolio. They even managed to buy two houses while living in the van!

Kim Opszala's camper van
Kim Opszala and family travelling Europe in this camper van whilst managing their property business

  • Mike and Kim have recently relocated to the Midlands as their home base when back in the UK, but their property game is still going strong in Milton Keynes and Northampton.

  • Balancing work and fun while on the move can be tricky, as is managing stakeholders’ perceptions. However, Kim and Mike ensure their business venture is sustainable by emphasising clear communication and regular updates to investors.

  • They both have designated roles in their business, with Mike handling maintenance and Kim managing landlord liaison and negotiations. Although they didn’t start with set roles, their responsibilities evolved. 

Kim and husband Mike finalising the copy of their new website
Kim Opszala and husband Mike finalising the copy of their new website

  • To manage work while travelling, they rely on a virtual assistant and hold weekly meetings. However, since there’s no childcare in the van, only one of them can work at a time unless it’s bedtime. They prioritise their work based on its urgency.

  • Kim gives us an insight into the couple’s property investment strategies, with a combination of flipping properties and rent-to-rent yielding the best results. 

  • Rent-to-rent is a great entry strategy since it’s less expensive and time-consuming. However, their focus now is on buying, refurbishing, and refinancing properties for long-term capital appreciation and legacy. 

  • This strategy presents new challenges, such as negotiating with vendors and working with builders. To manage these challenges, they have developed effective systems, such as using investor finance to purchase properties and using their own funds to pay for refurbishments. They then refinance and repay the investor, keeping any profits.

KOMO Properties website
Showcasing Kim’s projects in her newly launched Komo Properties website

  • Kim is a networking ninja and social media maverick! She has managed to find investors for her property portfolio by networking and utilising the power of LinkedIn. 

  • Using a direct-to-vendor approach worked out to be the best way to find good properties, especially in the current economic climate. They prioritise properties that the council doesn’t want to miss out on. By avoiding the frenzy that can occur when properties are listed on Rightmove, going directly to vendors has helped them negotiate better deals. Consistency has been crucial in their approach, such as sending batches of letters, rather than just one.

  • When buying existing HMOs, they typically require the properties to be vacant so they can carry out necessary renovations. They have a local building team that handles their projects, and they oversee the process themselves. 

Kim Opzala's biggest achievement of 2022
Kim Opszala’s boldest and biggest to date achievement, a 7-bedroom, 5-bathroom student house

  • Kim and Mike’s property journey hasn’t been a smooth ride. In a recent renovation project, they faced an unexpected appeal from three local councillors who objected to their HMO application, despite meeting all requirements. The couple didn’t throw in the towel and they were able to successfully manage the renovation project, even though they were away for a brief period.

  • Kim shares their plan to continue their nomadic lifestyle in their van for the next 18 months until their son starts school. After that, they must decide whether to continue homeschooling or transition back to a traditional lifestyle. 

  • Lastly, she encouraged others to take action and not let self-doubt hold them back. You can follow their progress and find more details about their projects on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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