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Tom and Philippa Charrier spoke to us back in November about creating a successful property business in an area where many investors fear to tread, student HMOs. Tom has since handed in his notice at his job of nine years, several months earlier than he expected to be able to do. He catches up with us to discuss why now was the right time to go, his upcoming plans and professionalising the business.
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Why is Tom quitting his day job for property now?
Speaking to us on the eve of handing in his notice, Tom is equal parts apprehensive and excited. ‘There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of anticipation, certainly some nerves,’ he says.
‘If you’d asked me before Christmas, when do you realistically think you’re going to be leaving work and going all-in on FAT Properties, I’d have said maybe the backend of 2019.’
Fortunately for Tom and Philippa, business has grown at a faster rate than they expected. After working with branding experts on articulating their values more clearly, they’ve been flooded with interest in their student HMO business.
‘We’ve put ourselves out there. We’ve put out what we’re about, why we do things and why we believe things and the way we like to do things. People have resonated with that,’ Tom says.
‘We’ve had a lot of interested people to work with, to the extent that we’ve generated enough business coming in to a. [be] able to go full-time and b. to do that because we can’t deliver on those things longterm if I don’t [go full-time].’
Why go full-time?
For Philippa and Tom, the plunge into property full-time is motivated by their desire to create their own business and take control over their own lives. ‘The worst thing for me would be waking-up in twenty years and look[ing] at the people who did it and I [having] bottled it,’ says Tom.
‘That’s just not an acceptable place for me to be in my own mind. If it all comes crashing down and fails miserably, as painful as that may be I can live with that. What I can’t live with is the regret of not giving it a go.’
Reaching a position where he can leave his job hasn’t been easy. It has involved plenty of 5am starts, often not finishing until midnight. Tom and Philippa also have three young children. Keeping sight of the future helps keep him going in tough times. ‘Whenever it gets hard, whenever I’m tired, whenever it gets tough, I just have to ask myself – project forward 20 years – [what] place do you want to be in? And then it’s like this is not hard at all. This is an opportunity.’
‘Look at the big picture. It’s 2018. We’ve got it on our smartphones. If you want it, there’s no excuse.’
Professionalising the business
Aware of the difficulties many have obtaining mortgages based solely on property income, Tom consulted a mortgage advisor before deciding to hand in his notice. ‘The benefit of being a couple is that Philippa has had her income and I’ve had a salary and we can rely on her SA302s [for proof of income].’ The couple also sought the assistance of an accountant to review their finances before Tom handed in his notice.
Diving into property full-time has forced them to re-assess their roles in the business and consider areas where they may need outside help. They decided that Philippa with her background in architecture and urban design, as well as her penchant for interior design, acts as their creative director.
They have recently taken on a virtual assistant, acquired through PeoplePerHour, to help them with bookkeeping, social media tasks and admin. Unlike many investors, Tom and Philippa opted for a UK-based virtual assistant, saying they wanted the process to be as ‘frictionless’ as possible.
Sticking to student HMOs but branching-out
Whilst Tom and Philippa intend for student HMOs to remain their core focus, they have no intention of limiting themselves. ‘We don’t want to be blind to other opportunities that come along,’ says Tom.
Nevertheless, they are selective about the projects they choose to pursue. They have for example declined to project manage for other investors, concerned that these projects may not be in line with their brand values, such as high spec interior design. ‘We didn’t want to develop properties for people and then they be managed by someone else not very well and by association our name get tarnished,’ adds Tom.
With 80% of their attention still devoted to student HMOs, they can now commit the remaining 20% to exploring strategies they’re unfamiliar with, such as serviced accommodation. Being based in Kendal and having a portfolio of properties in Lancaster, the couple are in a prime position to tap into the tourist market of the wider region, particularly that of the nearby Lake District.
@FatProperties – follow Tom and Philippa’s latest projects on Instagram.
fatproperties.co.uk – for more information about their brand and properties.