When we consider the changes afoot for the property industry, one thing I’ve seen over the last 16 years owning and managing HMO’s (over 1,000+ rooms over this time period) is that in order to be ahead of the game, it’s important to embrace new changes and ensure that your HMO is fit-for-purpose in today’s world.
Here’s a few things for you to consider to improve your HMO.
1. Easier Transparent Contact
The way we contact each other is changing. As landlords we need to embrace newer methods of technology and offer tenants a multitude of different ways for them to contact us including:
Messenger apps – facebook/whatsapp
2. Live & Work Spaces
More and more people are living and working in different ways and its important that we recognize this. Tenants are no different to anybody else and we need to embrace this by offering
Additional facilities such as work-study desks
More access to local co-working spaces
3. Shorter / Longer Contracts
We live in a mobile society where jobs are often for months if not week rather than years. With this more transient society means that we may need to consider short-term contracts (something that does not really exist right now apart from the somewhat spurious licence agreements) so that tenants can move into a unit for a shorter period of time.
At the same time, tenants have been pressing for longer term contracts which is again something that may be considered in order to allow for more security of tenancy.
This could of course disrupt the internal dynamics of the housemates relations but should be considered as something that will happen and thus we should begin to make compensation for this.
4. Community Integration
One of the accusations made towards HMO tenants is that they do not integrate with communities. Given that we are under pressure to deliver 300,000 homes, I see no other way through which this could happen without the help of HMO’s.
We therefore need to encourage more community interaction and engagement with our HMO tenants including education, liason and getting involved with community projects.
5. Smaller or Large HMO’s
Council-driven regulations seem to be honing down on the ideal 4 and 5 bed HMO’s as standard. This is disappointing given that for me, the sweet spot has always been a 6 bed HMO but more and more councils seem to be preferring the smaller HMO’s as they have ‘less impact on the community’.
All anecdotal of course but then at the other end, we see more and more applications being approved for the monster HMO’s of 10, 15, 18 or 20 bed units which to be fair have to be run in a completely different way to a small HMO with more hotel-type facilities and a higher-level of management.
6. Larger/Smaller Rooms
Recent regulations have come out enforcing 6.51m2 as the smallest allowable room for a HMO tenant to live in. However, is this the smallest room that somebody may CHOOSE to live in?
We’ve had a few rooms in the past measuring 5-5.5m2 which have been eminently suitable for contractors only wishing to stay a few days of the week but under new regulations none of this rooms will be now available.
How many box rooms in the country will now be unavailable as a unit of accommodation? 10,000 – 30,000 – 50,000?
And how does this regulation impact the ‘Rent-a-Room’ scheme where a homeowner can rent out a room? Different rules, same accommodation?
At the same time, a tenant would generally prefer a larger room and this could be possible through new methods of build and technology but only if these are embraced by local planners and councils – modular homes anybody?
7. Home Automation
With the advent of technology being amongst us there are now more opportunities for both tenants and homeowners alike to take advantage of the wonders of home automation.
Imagine being able to ensure the hot water is on when you come home to have a shower or that your heating in your room is at your preferred temperature of 20° or even that you can put on your front porch lights before you get home.
It’s here, it’s here to stay; how can you utilise this to attract more tenants to your HMO?
8. Integrated Entertainment
More and more tenants are demanding the best possible entertainment.
Forget digital channels such as Sky or Virgin; today’s tenant is more likely to watch Netflix or Amazon Films so how do you utilise this growing trend to attract tenants? Group Netflix accounts are here so why not consider extra accounts for your tenants?
9. More Bathrooms / Ensuites
People don’t like sharing bathrooms. People don’t like sharing bathrooms.
Enough said but how do you facilitate letting people have their own ensuites when its possible the Valuation Office may revalue your ‘all ensuite’ HMO as individual units?
Simple; have a mixture of ensuites and shared bathrooms for up to three people.
Want More Tips or Ways To Improve Your HMO Business?
Why not consider grabbing my 'HMO Optimisation Toolkit'; this is a physical product mailed out to you with 50 tips that you can use in your HMO business.
Based on my experience of building a multi-million pound portfolio and managing thousands of units over the last 15 years, you can grab a copy (whilst stocks last) for FREE and pay only £3.95 postage and packaging.
The toolkit is a handy playing card sized product, easy to use and carry and if you implement one tip a week this will keep you busy all year round.
I want to spend some time talking about myths that are going on right now in the property industry, because there are a lot of them, and explain some of the things that are plainly, plainly wrong.
So, here goes.
Property Myth One
The first one that I want to cover is; there is a myth out there that is predicated, and positioned, and proposed by a lot of educators, and training companies, and so-called gurus that to invest in property, you don't need any money.
And in fact there's been books written about no money down property investing and I want to debunk the myth that that's actually not true.
You do need money to invest in property investment
As to how much money you need, that is a different question entirely.
So when we look at the amount of money that's required; let's say that you're not going to actually purchase a property, but you're going to do some kind of rent to rent or lease on a property.
If you did that, you would have to find the money to pay the first month's rent, and pay the deposit more often than not, potentially pay some admin fees. And you would then need to furnish the property.
Now this is because most properties that you're going to rent or lease in order to make a return on the difference between what you're renting it at and what you're renting it out for are going to be done through some kind of HMO or potentially even serviced accommodation combination.
So you'll have to get furniture.
Now, there are ways in which you could rent furniture for sure, but most people when they're getting started are probably going to buy the furniture outright.
And you may have to put in things like fire alarm systems. You may even have to get white goods and brown goods. So you're going to be looking at really four, five, six thousand pounds in terms of doing that to get into a rent-to-rent or a lease option.
So when people come on and say, "Oh, you don't need any money," that's not true. It's just not true.
Now, I'm not saying that you can't find people to help you with the money, and obviously there are investors out there that potentially would give you the money, providing that you position the deal and it is a good deal.
But if you're just getting started and it's your first deal, that's going to be pretty tough to do.
So the first myth is, no money down is not true.
You'll always need some money, always. And we haven't even talked about anything to do with legals, brokerage, surveys and all that jazz – if you're buying a property.
There are ways in which you can purchase a property and refinance it and pull a lot of money out.
But in terms of having the money in the deal and not having any money leave your bank account and go to the vendor's bank account, it's just not going to happen.
The second myth that I wanted to share with you is, there's a myth out there at the moment as well that you have to be in this whole property investment arena full time in order to make a success of it.
And again, you don't.
There is a myth out there that if you're not full time in property, and you've not given up your job, and you've not gone into it 100%, and you've not burnt all your bridges, and you not said goodbye to employers; you're not a real property investor.
That is not true.
You do not need to be full-time in property investment to be successful
It is perfectly reasonable, and in fact I have many clients that are still in a full time job or run a full time business that are building a property investment portfolio on the side as side income. And because they're doing that, that means that they're able to still benefit from the job that they have and the credit that comes along with that job; in the end, the potential ability to borrow that comes along with that job.
It also means that they're able to build this pot, this portfolio, which grows, and grows, and grows the more, and more that they develop it and effectively build more properties and refinance over, and over again.
So when people say, "Oh, you can only do this if you're full time," it's not strictly true.
And in fact, I firmly, firmly believe and am of the opinion that you can get involved in property investment in probably around five hours or so a week and make a success of it. Absolutely.
So it is a myth that's out there and I think it should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Obviously, if you are spending all of your time and energy on it, then you're potentially going to accelerate a lot quicker. However, at the same time, you are not necessarily going to be any better off than the person that is still employed or in the business and building a portfolio on the side.
So you don't have to be full time property to be an investor.
What you have to have is the right tools, the right power team, the right structure in place in order to make it successful.
The third myth that I want to get out there, and this is one I see time, and time, and time, and time, and time again, is people talk about, "I've got to get a deal," and it's all about the deal, and nothing else matters.
And I'm here to say that that is actually wrong.
What's really crucial when you are investing into property and you are effectively wanting to build a portfolio, it is not the deal to begin with.
It is not the deal, because I could show you a deal right now and say, "Hey, here's this deal. Here you go."
Let's say I have a deal and I say to you "Here's the deal. It's a great deal. It's 20% below the market value and you're going to make £1,000 a month, and it just needs a small refurb and you going to make all this money, and it's great, and you should buy it."
But you don't know anything about where it is.
You've just been told it's a deal.
A deal is not a deal if it’s in a location you don’t know
And the thing is, it's easy to present a deal if you don't know the area. It is really easy. It's almost, basically, it's a little bit like pick-a-mix to some degree.
You can go and you can pick something, but you're not really sure what you're getting, but you know you're getting a sweet.
And it's the same thing in chasing deals. You've got to stop chasing the deal. It's the wrong thing to do, and everybody is doing this. All you have to do is focus on chasing the location.
This is what people do wrong over, and over again. So chasing the deal is not the right way to go about it because unless you understand and know the area in intimate detail, it's just a potential deal.
Now, if one of our agents rang me today and said, "I've got a deal," and it's in our local target area where I buy all the time, I would know pretty much within seconds of him or her telling me what the deal is, is it actually a deal?
And the majority of times it is, it is a deal.
Sometimes it isn't, but you've just got to be aware of this that from the perspective of really focusing on what's out there and what's happening in terms of deals, it is very much, a deal in an area that you understand, and if you understand an area and you know it well, then it is a deal.
But I'm so, so frustrated with people, even clients calling me up and say, "Oh, I've got to deal. I've got a deal." "So, where is it?" And it's in an area that they're not researching. It's like it's not a deal. It looks like a deal, it ain't a deal.
The fourth myth. This is something that is very rarely mentioned by a lot of the big training companies, big gurus, the big people that run around the stage, jumping up and down, getting you excited and speaking really fast, then moving their hands around and getting you to invest in nonsensical 2 grand courses that deliver naff all; you know the kind.
Property investment is made and is at the same time killed through your tenants.
Now what do I mean by that?
Effectively, your tenants who pay your rent effectively pay your mortgage.
Anything that's left over from that, it's where you make some cash, which you can then reinvest into other properties, reinvest back into the property, take something to live off, build up your savings, whatever it is you're doing.
But it's tenants that do all that for you.
So if you're not looking after your tenants and you are not making sure that the property is safe, clean, it works, everything works, and you're addressing maintenance issues, and that they're happy. Then without having tenants being happy, then you run into problems and issues.
And this is when tenants stop paying the rent. It's when tenants basically start moving and getting into this whole issue around causing problems.
And this is when we run into issues regarding the eviction of tenants through Section 8 and Section 21, and they're not leaving, and then I have to get bailiffs involved.
A happy tenant pays on time and keeps the property in a good condition
So the fourth myth that no one talks about, but is actually the foundation of which property investment is made, or isn't made, are tenants, look after your tenants.
So if anything, if you're going to be a property investor, and even if you're going to be one that is say, having this as a side income and you either outsourced some of that to let's say an agent, you've got to make sure that they are looking after the tenant for you.
Because if you're not looking after the tenants and they're very much around this whole issue around not catering for the tenants' needs, looking after them, then you will run amok very, very quickly.
You could have the best deal ever in the world. But if you're not filling the property with good tenants, then the deal is not a deal, right? It's just not a deal.
So that's the kind of fourth myth that's kind of out there.
The fifth one, and it's the one I want to end on is really around this other myth that's out there at the moment that again is being positioned, and proposed, and talked about by a lot of big training companies, and a lot of these so-called gurus out there is that you can be a jack of all trades.
What do I mean by this? You’ve seen these sales pages and videos and they say, "Oh, you're going to come along to this event and we're going to teach you how to do buy-to-let, we're going to teach you how to do HMO, teach you how to do service accommodation. We'll teach you how to do flips, going to teach you how to do small developments, going to teach you how to do to big developments, we're going to teach you how to do this, this, and this."
And in the end it's like… you don't need any of that stuff.
You just do not need any of that stuff.
What you really need to get started is a thorough understanding of what it is you actually need from a revenue and income perspective, how much it is you need to live on, and then you need to look at what strategy allows you to do that the quickest.
The reason why this is so relevant is because when I first got started in property investment, and you can check out previous articles/videos in terms of how I got started and why I got started; I focused on DECIDING.
But when you're starting to get going in property investment, you really need to look at, where you're at the moment, and where you want to get to.
And what I quickly realized is, it will be impossible for me to go and buy standard buy-to-let properties and replace my income, which is what I wanted to do at that stage.
I was in a position where I had to leave my money, my job, my world, my career. It would just be impossible.
So this is why I specialized in HMOs, which became rent-to-rent, lease options and refurbishments, small developments, and so on, and so forth.
But going down a very similar route, which is, the whole thing around HMOs, whether it's boutique, or professional, or student, or whatever.
Now, it's really easy to get into the whole shiny penny syndrome and think, well, let's say that you're in an area and bread-and-butter buy-to-lets work really well for you. Let's say you're in the north and you're getting nine, 10% deals, and you think, "Right, well now I need to start doing something else."
So you start maybe doing some small developments, and then they don't work as effectively because you're not necessarily an expert in that area.
You don’t necessarily have a power team behind you and you've diverted your attention from where you were, to something else.
Being a generalist in the property investment world does not work.
All the people I know that are making really good money and are really crushing it are focused on probably one strategy, two maximum, but certainly one main strategy.
And the second one is a side strategy and it gives them some income, but on a periodic basis, not every single month.
So, if you are getting started in property investment and you're thinking that you've got to do this, this, this and this, you don't have to do all those things.
You don't have to run around doing four or five different strategies at once. It will be foolish for you to do that. You want to start, and you want to focus, and you want to go really deep into a strategy to make it work for you. And that way, you'll start to build up your income really, really nice.
So, just recapping where we are in terms of these myths then, because there's five myths that I explained.
The first myth is everyone says out there, you don't need any money to get started in property. I say that's bulls**t, you always need some money.
Now it may not be yours, it may be an investor's and if you can persuade an investor to give you their money and you don't have any experience, then well done, you've done really well.
But for the majority of people, that first deal that you do, you're going to have to put some money in. And the lowest amount of money you're going to be putting in is probably five to 8,000, probably around that figure.
The second myth is you don't have to be full time to do this.
Everyone tells you, you've got to dive in. There's this whole thing around ‘I want to become a property investor so I can leave my job’. It may not be the job that you hate, it may be the fact that you're reporting to someone that you don't like, and it could actually be that your industry is still really good for you, but don't leave too soon.
Start percolating, building it up in the background and really start focusing on having that income coming in, whilst you then build up your career at the same time. Maybe move company's get someone better, and keep building that portfolio up.
The third myth is that you shouldn't be chasing the deal.
What you should be chasing is the location, and then the deals will come to you in the location.
Don't get focused on, "I've got to find a deal. I've got to find a deal, I've got to find a deal." What you want to be focused on is, you've got to really focus on getting the right location right, and then when you've found the location, then the deals will come to you.
The fourth one is, in order for this property investment to work, you have to have tenants.
You have to look after your tenants, you have to respond quickly to tenants, and you have to make sure that they are happy.
Happy tenants pay your rent, and unhappy tenants do not pay your rent, but the best rule in the world, you will always have at some point issues with tenants and you will always have issues with them not paying money. This is going to happen. It will happen to you. So do not go into this with your eyes shut thinking this is not going to happen. It will.
The fifth one is the fact that you cannot be a generalist.
You can't be doing three, or four, or five strategies.
You've got to focus on one strategy. You've got to get really good at that one strategy. You've got to go deep into that strategy. You've got to master it in your chosen area.
Then when you've hit those target levels that you're aiming for in terms of perhaps you have all of your bills paid for so that you can then potentially leave your job and go and do some charity work or set up another business, or do something different, but have an income level in place that you're aiming for, and at that stage, maybe think about doing another strategy, but don't do it too quickly.
The focus needs to be on doing one strategy really, really well and really then leveraging off the back of that.
Don't worry – the sun will keep shining … (Or in the case of most of Britain, the rain will keep falling) even if I did Vote Leave.
This is an extract / reworking of a few posts I put up in 2016 on social media platforms when the referendum to leave the EU first took place.
After last nights diabolical shambles I felt I needed to put pen to paper again to share my views and despair about where we are headed as a country.
I've lived in Great Britain all my life. First a Yorkshireman then an Englander. Then this thing came out about Europe…
When I was at school I was President of the European Society and organised talks with Export Directors of major companies including Rowntree/Cadbury and ultimately ended up organising a one day European summit.
When I look back to the Maastricht treaty and the promises of a brighter future – on paper it all sounded magnificent. A Europe with no borders with freedom to travel and work.
With university and work and then my own businesses later down the line, this "ideal" for me became even further removed from the sad reality of that bright promised future.
The problem is as I see it and nobody wants to tackle this is that fundamentally we are talking about 28 different countries who have their own language, customs, cultures, laws, perceptions (and some their own currency) all trying to be shoehorned into something that doesn't "quite" work.
I love France, I love Italy, I love Spain, I adore Switzerland and Austria amongst others – but I'll be damned if I understand them. I'll never understand or quite get the quaint customs or places or people or way of life that make them unique but I'm eternally grateful for them.
But – do I want to have the same laws that apply in France apply in Great Britain?
I'm all for free trade (which we don't have incidentally as the EU has not negotiated trade deals with several countries – how long does it take) but I have no interest in someone I wasn't involved in electing or voting for tell me how I should run my business or my life.
We have plenty of that already here in the UK thank you very much.
I own a lot of property. I did this because 20 years ago I foresaw that I would not have a big enough pension to worry about what I did for 20-30 years AFTER retiring. If the vote was stay then I would probably have made a ton of money from capital appreciation. If the vote was no as it needed up being, I'll still make money but it will be from cold hard earned cash from rental profits (the way any business should operate ironically) and maybe some from capital appreciation (but the very fact that you can make 100,000 in 6-8 years from your property without doing anything is incidentally complete down to the buffoons in national government, local government, national house builders and the nimby that exist everywhere.
I run a business. I'm forever hampered by this EU regulation or this EU law about X,y,z which I can maybe see at a high level "could" work but it was made as usual by people who are trying to shove a round peg In a square hole.
I vote for Europe and always will do but I don't vote for the EU. I vote leave.
The founding fathers would be horrified if they could how it has ended up; the wastage; the not-in-my-backyard politics, the behind closed doors deals (TTIP anyone) and more shockingly the forced view that if you are not for combining your countries armed forces, currency, democratically elected government and so on – that you are actually against progress or freedom or friendly relations with other countries.
What utter tosh…
For me – this comes down to having a say.
I believe that you and I are more likely to be able to "make a difference" and have our opinion counted than where this all originating from Brussels/Strasbourg or wherever the EU is meeting today. This is why I Vote Leave.
A lot of talk has been made about trade agreements and how we will be worse off. Utter poppycock.
A lot of European countries need our money as much as we need theirs. If there is a will there is always a way.
Will the Germans stop selling us BMW's? Will the Italians stop selling us Ferrari's? Will the Spanish no longer welcome us to Costa deal Sol? Will IKEA refuse to serve us because we're British?
Can the EU enforce a trade tariff that is not in our interests? Yes. But would the countries stand for it??? No, they would vote leave as well.
My hope for Europe is that this experiment comes to a shuddering halt. And countries start to question why, what, where, how – the EU can be truly reformed for the BETTER for the PEOPLE for the good of ALL.
When we voted leave on June 23rd 2016, I was astounded to learn that our Government led by David Cameron has been instructed to make no plans at all to leave. None.
But what’s more interesting to me is the amount spent on this referendum as published by the Electoral Commission.
Just read these figures and wheep …
Remain In the EU Campaign
Liberal Democrat’s £2.2m
Richard Branson £0.5m
Best for our future £0.4m
European movement £0.3m
Labour Leave £0.5m
Democratic Unionists £0.4m
TOTAL £16.95 million
Vote Leave the EU Campaign
Vote Leave £6.7m
Aron Banks £0.6m
Mr Harris £0.4m
Brexit Express £0.6m
Democracy Movement £0.4m
TOTAL £9.3 million
That’s a £5 million pound difference yet the British public still vote LEAVE.
What on earth does that tell you folks?
We could also talk about the £9.3 million pounds our elected Government (who should have been neutral in this matter) spent to send a glossy 14 page booklet to every household in the UK telling them why they should vote REMAIN.
And it still didn’t matter.
When oh when oh when will the ruling classes and the elite in this country recognise when there needs to be change and change needs to be led by working together?
The reason everybody is scared is because they all know that once we are out, then it’s just a matter of time before a toppling domino effect with France, Germany and Italy having their own referendums and also voting to come out.
I believe that from these ashes could be formed something magnificent that could really take shape and promise the Europe that many of us have dreamed of but which for the majority of us does not exist (except in dreamland…)
And I am absolutely sick and tired of so-called business and government leaders telling us that without The EU (note I didn't say Europe) that we are just Little Britain!
Come on people – let's be proud to be British. Show some spirit and backbone.
Here's just 10 things we invented here that CHANGED the world!
World Wide Web
railway steam locomotive
All on our own. Didn't need Uncle EU to help us out did we?
The vote happened and it was leave.
Whether people agree with it or not, it was a valid result that should ensure that we leave but why oh why are we still messing around at the 11th hour?
Again, we have another proposal another negotiation another vote that says no.
It is because in my honest opinion because our so-called leaders, our so-called democratically elected members of parliament have forgotten two things.
ONE – we the people voted to leave so you must do all that you can to make this happen even if you disagree with the decision (and if you seriously disagreed that much you can always resign as an MP and lose all of your cushy benefits can’t you?)
TWO – there is this thing that happened during the terrible world wars we had back in the day and it was called WORKING TOGETHER. I fail to see any of the parties working together and I believe they are all as bad as each other and ultimately – whether you’re in government or you’re not in government your voice SHOULD be heard in this awful time and you should bury your snide remarks, your upmanship, your ridiculous notions of power and work together on behalf of this country to demonstrate to us the people that you are listening, that you do care and that you are actually elected for the right reasons.
Right now, it seems that everything we hear about is the imminent end of the world but consider this.
I didn't notice the sun not getting up today nor people not going to work nor the electric/gas/water still not coming into my home and the Internet still works – so I'm thinking it might just be ok?
It is every MP’s and the Government’s CONSTITUTIONAL duty to act on behalf of the people we call English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish that make up the Union who by democratic right have voted to Leave the EU.
It’s really not that hard.
As I said way back in 2016, here’s what I would do if I was in charge …
10 point plan
Article 50 enactment set in place immediately (eventually we got there 29th March 2017 a full 9 months after the vote)
New budget with projected agreed redistribution of EU tariff including protection for NHS, education, farming and fisheries.
Trade agreements agreed with major trading partners and reclamation of our fishing grounds
Movement of people within Europe policy agreed
Immigration policy and border controls
Legal uncoupling from EU
Financial uncoupling from EU and stabilisation of London financial services
EU Grants/loans review of existing contracts with grandfathering in for agreed contract and formation of new grants body
Military reorganisation with uncoupling from EU forces where appropriate
Relaunch of Great Britain
I suggested at the time that MEP's probably won't have jobs for long so perhaps they could be utilised to help with transition, trade and foreign ambassadors and then offered appropriate roles in government to replace over paid and unnecessary quangos and consultants.
Quite simple really but then I'm just a businessman who likes to have a plan!
I am quite frankly sick and tired of MP’s postulating and trying to get air time to give their tuppence worth on the vote, the proposals, the vote, the proposals. Oh it is so dreary. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself – do YOU have a vision for Great Britain in 2050 – what is it, what does it look like, where are we in the world, how are we impacting global issues, how you will be involved – and then bury the hatchet and open up meaningful deep honest and open dialogue between your parties. This is NOT the time for bi-partisan politics, this is the time for NEW GREAT BRITAIN.
I and 17.4 million people vote leave.
Let’s join forces, let’s get a plan and let’s get it moving!