Mike and Victoria Stenhouse

250: How to get started in property investing, whatever your time, money or knowledge

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Mike and Victoria Stenhouse

The new year always brings a fresh influx of aspiring property investors, but not one of their circumstances is the same. Two of the most common stories we hear are of Steve who’s in his forties, has got a £200k redundancy and doesn’t want to return to the corporate world and Samantha who’s in her mid-late twenties, works full time, has £10k in savings and has always wanted to be a property developer.

Steve and Samantha share a broadly similar common goals but they have noticeably different amounts of time, knowledge and money: the three essential ingredients needed to achieve their goals. Whilst the more you have of each of these three ingredients, the easier investing should be, options are still available to those who don’t have a lot of all three or are lacking a particular one.

The 3 essential ingredients…

Money

Property acquisitions aren’t cheap and nor are renovations. Let’s take 3 categories of wealth that you may fall into at the beginning of your property journey.

The first is where you’re only chances of getting started are finding money from somewhere or seeking a strategy where you control the asset rather than own it. Even the most basic buy-to-let property is going to set you back £80,000, meaning you’ll need a deposit of £20,000. The further North you go, the more likely you’ll find a property that is habitable at that price, meaning all your funds can go into the purchase. However, once you’ve factored in surveys and legal fees, it’s safe to say you’re going to need an absolute minimum of £25k to get started.

The second category you may fall into is that of having between £25k and £100k. Here, you’re in a better position to get started, but there’s limits you need to be aware of about how far your money can go. If you’re aiming towards a more profitable investment like an entry level HMO, a single-let in need of refurbishment or serviced accommodation, you’ll also need to reach deeper in your pockets. The absolute minimum we’d recommend for investing in a mini-HMO is £50k. That works out as £25k on a deposit of a £100k purchase and £25k for renovations. Today it’s far more common to need at least £80k for a mini-HMO and that figure will only go up in the future.

The third category is for people who have more than £100,000 cash in the bank. If you’re one of these, you’re in a pretty good position for most starter projects.

Time

Now onto the next essential ingredient: time. We all have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. We also all usually have non-negotiable constraints on the time we can spend on property investing, these include: the day job, child care and family commitments.

As with money, there’s broadly 3 categories you may fall into with regards to your time commitments.

At one end, property might be a slow burn for you. It’s something for your distant retirement or maybe even just a hobby. You might have a day job you like, kids you want to spend time with and weekends you don’t want to give up. You’re probably only willing to give up a few hours a week to it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but you should take account now of how much you expect to realistically achieve. Let’s say you’re in it for the long term.

The next category is for those who are perhaps willing to sacrifice personal time and an hour or so of sleep every night in order to achieve their goals. These people can spend a couple of hours each day on their projects. If you’re one of these people you’re likely desperate to leave your day job and make the move into property full-time.

The third category is reserved for the lucky few who are able to make property pretty much their full time job from day one. Often these are people who have been made redundant and have received a payout that lets them bide their time for a few months. It also may include people who have just retired or women on maternity leave who’ve realised they don’t want to go back to full-time work and have 6 months to replace their income.

Another thing to bear in mind at this stage is that if you’re starting in category 1 for money and don’t have much experience either, sweat equity – aka putting in more time – is the only thing that will set you apart.

Knowledge

If you’re completely new to property and at present have absolutely zero experience then you’re in category 1. You’re at the beginning of your property journey and have a lot of skills to learn and a lot of education to invest in, in order to be successful.

That said, just because you have no experience of buying an investment property doesn’t mean you’re necessarily starting from scratch. Many of us enter the industry with relevant skills and experience from our day job. Project management skills are pretty transferable. If you come from a finance background you’ll understand calculating yields vs ROIs. If one of these profiles fits your position, you’re probably in category 2. You’ve likely been exploring the possibility of property investing for a while. You know your JV contracts from your JCT contracts and you’re bringing some transferable skills from your career.

Then there are the people coming to property investing independently, but having lots of property experience from their day job. They might be an architect, a tradesperson or a surveyor. If you’re coming from one of these backgrounds and have spent a substantial time educating yourself about property you probably fit into category 3.

When it comes to educating yourself about property, it’s difficult to know where to start. There’s a wealth of information out there, but its quality varies massively and it’s probably not all relevant to where you are on your property journey right now. Magazines, podcasts and networking events can give you a head start in understanding the different options, without breaking the bank.

The possible scenarios…

So if we’ve covered the 3 major ingredients of success, and the 3 categories of each, how do we piece this all together into some sort of strategy that can help you get started with your own investing?  

I’ve thought through some common pairings of the different ingredients, and hopefully one of the scenarios I’m about to share closely reflects your own current position.

If you have a low score across all three ingredients

Let’s start with the obvious one – a low score across all three ingredients, so I’m talking here about having seriously limited funds, no time to focus on investing activities and no relevant experience. This is a difficult place to be, and honestly I’m not going to make grand promises or share some magic formula that will take you from rags to riches overnight.  

Realistically, you need at least one of the three elements to get off to a strong start. If you’re in a position where you don’t have one of them, then that should be your focus.  Figure out a way to raise some funds, which could be a slow process spanning the next few years. If you’re in this for the long run then that’s a small sacrifice to achieve the bigger picture.

Spend your spare time learning everything you can about the strategy you want to pursue. I don’t just mean the occasional blog post and success story. I mean every detail: the legal aspects, in-depth market analysis, assessing every potential project and site in your area, shadowing other experts, learning on the job by working for others, whatever it takes for you to become the expert.  

Or figure out a way to free up some time. Sleep less, stop watching Netflix, give up the 5 a side league twice a week.  

If this all sounds extreme, it’s not intended to be so. I’m trying to make the point that you can’t expect to start with nothing and create something without a lot of hard work. It’s possible, but it won’t be easy and it will require sacrifice.  

If you’re in category 2 for at least one ingredient

If you fall into category 2 for at least one of the ingredients, we have a lot more to work with.

For instance, if you have plenty of money to invest, that can overcome a lack of time and experience by making you extremely desirable to other developers, investing either on a JV basis or even just for a fixed return.  You can grow your own portfolio and you’ll be more able to stomach the costs of good sourcing agents and project management services.

If you’re already an expert in a related area you’ll be able to put that to good use as well. Depending on what your background is, the options are varied. Say you’re an estate agent used to bringing in residential sales. A small tweak in your focus and marketing efforts could have you finding off-market projects with development potential, where you can sell them to other developers and cherry pick the best ones for yourself. Or if you’re a builder maybe you could attend a few local network meetings to find investors with projects but no development experience. Offer your services for an equity stake instead of a fee. The options here are pretty much as wide as you can imagine, but in a nutshell it comes down to putting your skills and expertise to work on yourself, rather than for your boss or the company you work for. And I’m not suggesting you do this to the detriment of your job, but they can sit alongside each other comfortably until you’re ready to go it alone.

If all you have to offer is an abundance of time, then that’s valuable as well. Probably not as much so as money or knowledge, but if you can do the leg work for a successful investor, learn from them, see how they operate, or scour Rightmove, Zoopla and Gumtree for deals day and night, post flyers to find market opportunities, spend the time educating yourself, building a network and so on, your break will come eventually.

If you have the money and time, but not the knowledge

Typically most people getting in touch to share their story have two out of the three ingredients in category 2 or 3.

So someone will have a good amount of money saved up and some free time because they’re on maternity, or were made redundant, or are happy to do their day job then work from 6pm until midnight every day on property stuff.

For those of you in this scenario, I’d suggest a couple of options. The obvious missing link is the knowledge, so spending some time and money to get yourself up to speed wouldn’t be a bad start. I’m not necessarily talking about £20k on an in-depth mastermind or going back to university to get a degree in quantity surveying, but you need some knowledge to make sure you’re spending your time and money wisely.

You’re in a pretty good position though. Thinking back, this was the situation that Victoria and I found ourselves in about 10 years ago. We had well paid jobs, some savings, plus access to cheap money through personal loans and credit cards. We also had a pretty easy schedule and a willingness to get our hands dirty in evenings and weekends.  

The process of doing a lot of the work ourselves was some of the best education we’ve had. I’d suggest getting stuck in, but start small and grow from there. Find a cheap flip that you might only make a few thousand pounds on, but that will teach you a lot. Start to develop your network of service providers and trades, teach yourself about the different project stages, what the conveyancing process is like, dealing with estate agents, solicitors and everyone else that will become an important part of your success later on.

We started off doing one small flip a year, then two a year with a bit of overlap and gradually scaled both the size and volume of deals. We didn’t make any stupid decisions that would bankrupt us if they went wrong. We were patient. It was painful at times, but absolutely the right decision in the long run.

If you have the money and knowledge, but not the time

If you find yourself with money and knowledge but not time then you’re in a very similar position to more experienced investors who are running property businesses, rather than just dabbling in it.

They’ll have access to capital, whether it’s their own money or through investors. They’ll have a wealth of knowledge from their years of experience, but time is precious. Running a business and keeping the plates spinning means you don’t always have time to focus on specifics like sourcing, or managing a building site.

If you find yourself in this position, the most important thing I would focus on is outsourcing those tasks you don’t have time for. Sourcing for instance can be handled in numerous ways. You can find reliable sourcing agents who can find properties to suit your needs, or you could define what you’re looking for and outsource the process to a virtual assistant. This is exactly what Rob and Sarah from Maygreen Investments have done, who featured on our podcast towards the end of last year.

If you’ve got time in the evenings to do some sourcing on Rightmove, but the struggle is managing projects during the day, why not outsource this work to a main contractor or a specialist project manager? Similarly you can outsource ongoing property management and the design and planning process.

Alternatively, you could find a partner to work with to pick up the slack in areas you don’t have time for. They might be a younger version of yourself who you can give guidance to whilst helping them up the ladder. With their time and energy they can assist you with the execution side of your investment plans. That’s just one idea, but some of the most successful people I’ve met over the years have achieved that success because early on they had a business partner who could complement their strengths.

If you have the time and knowledge, but not the money

The final scenario is when you’ve got time and knowledge, but no money. I found myself in this position after our initial growth phase, when we’d made our own mistakes and grown a portfolio, but had aspirations to do bigger projects. I’d left my job, Victoria was supporting both of us and we didn’t have the money to execute these projects.

If you’ve got a track record of delivering projects, perhaps from a construction background or another related industry, then you could look for your own projects and raise cash either on a debt or equity basis to get started. If you’ve got a big professional network, or some friends and family with a bit of money to support you, it’s definitely possible. That said i’d only ever advocate using other people’s money for your own first deal if you had a lot of experience delivering similar projects for other people. It’s too big a risk to your relationships and your reputation to take on external finance without the experience to know you can handle any complications that might arise.

If your knowledge is good but not that good, then you can explore options like sourcing deals and R2R. Sourcing is sometimes seen as the lowest level in property, but in my opinion it’s the most important task in anyone’s strategy. And of course I’m not talking about looking on Rightmove for something then trying to flog it with a £2,000 fee stuck on top. I’m talking about a genuine sourcing business with marketing budgets, constant analytics, and a huge crm database. The guys at WeSellbmv have built a superb business focussed on sourcing property in the right way and as a result they’ve been able to grow their own portfolio along the way.

You sell on the majority of deals to other investors, but when a real unicorn comes along you insist on an equity stake, even if it’s a small one. All of a sudden you’ve got the first step towards your own portfolio.

R2R is often seen as a dirty word as well, but if you remember Pete Baker’s episode last year, or if you check the success Katrina Jones has achieved, you start to realise it’s not to be sniffed at.

What I would suggest if you go down the sourcing or R2R route, is that you look at the profits from those activities as the start of your investment pot, rather than your personal income.  R2R might not be around forever, and sourcing isn’t exactly passive, so taking the proceeds from these activities and diverting them into your own portfolio makes much more sense than simply creating another job for yourself.

3 extra things worth considering…

The key things are to do a self-assessment to understand what ingredients you’ve got in abundance and which ones are lacking. Next start to think about how you can fill the gaps. This could mean focusing on a strategy that doesn’t require an abundance of all three.  

In addition to the three essential ingredients, we’ve decided to throw in three extras that can help the process go a lot smoother if you’re looking to succeed in investing. Think of these as the seasoning.

A network

The first is that you need a good network to succeed in this business. Your service providers or power team, whatever you want to call them, can help you massively. Other investors are always good to know as well for advice and input on the local market and where it’s going, and the team you build around you as you start to grow can all help you out massively. Treat people well and start building those relationships now.

Common sense

The second thing she mentioned is that whilst you can get away without in depth property knowledge, you do need a good dose of common sense. Don’t take stupid risks, don’t run before you can walk, and keep an open mind to the advice offered by others.

It’s not a get rich quick scheme

Finally, remember that property is not a get rich quick scheme. It can make you very wealthy if that’s what you’re looking for, or it can simply provide a good stable income as a buffer or to replace another income. Whatever your financial aspirations are, it’s a slow burn, and that can be frustrating at times. Conveyancing is slow, planning is slow, sourcing is slow, newly plastered walls drying in the middle of winter when you’re desperate to start decorating is slow. Don’t come into the industry with notions of making a fortune overnight and disappearing to a beach. If you keep that in mind and have realistic expectations, property can hold the key to a phenomenal life.

Lastly… a word on the IPI Community

Hopefully that helps, and if you want to discuss this or anything else property related in more detail, then why not join the Inside Property Investing community?

We’ve got over 100 members signed up already for a free trial whilst we build it out, with plans to deliver monthly education, coaching and support for only £40 a month when we officially launch.

To become a founding member, just head to insidepropertinvesting.com/ipicommunity

 

 

 

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