No, I’m not a multi millionaire with a Bentley. Nor do I have 100’s of properties to my name. I have 6 properties in London and they pay for me and my family to live reasonably well. My journey started in 1993 when I need a place to live having graduated from university.
£0k to £85k
After 3 months of paying rent to a ’live in’ landlord I soon realised rent was just ‘dead’ money – I’d never see any future benefit. I needed to own my own place. 1993 was an exceptional year interest rates were at a staggering 15% and property was falling in value. I’d managed to save a small deposit of around £10k doing freelance work in the evenings for a year which enabled me to borrow a further £30k – That doesn’t sound much but it enabled me to start looking at flats in west London around the £45k – £50k mark. Now bearing in mind prices were falling and you would only stick your place on the market if you were willing to take an offer, I thought now was a great time to be a buyer, I looked at around 30 different flats, I did my research and I put in my first offer. Being a first time buyer the agent obviously saw some green in me so tried to negotiate. I managed to stand my ground knowing that my offer was low but the seller was motivated. 2 months later I was the proud owner of a nicotined stained flat with no central heating a serious damp problem, no kitchen and no bathroom. It was also going to be my home!
At this point I was still in full time work as a graphic designer. So I found myself in the position of getting up at 6 doing an hours work in my pyjamas before washing, getting changed and going a full time job. I would then come home and do another 2 hours work before collapsing into my oven ready meal for 1.
With 4 months I’d managed to make a ton of DIY mistakes, correct them and get a valuation of £85k helped in no small way by the reduced interest rates! I sold.
£85k to £120k
Like many people I’d always thought you can buy below market rate properties at auction. I had seen a property for auction on my route to work so decided to go along to one of the viewings. This was a terraced house that required modernisation; no gas, no bathroom – the usual story.
I obviously had a limited budget, £85k and there was a guide of £80k so even if the property did go for the guide price I would still need to pay fee’s and find enough dosh for the development, so it was going to be very tight. I went to the auction anyway. the lot was late in the day and by the time I had turned up there where very few people in the room, to my surprise the bidding started very low and the auctioneer struggled to get significant increments from the 2 bidders in the room, so I decided to enter right at the end and managed to get it for just shy of £80k.
Work took place with the help of some tradespeople who I still use today and within 9 months I had achieved a valuation of over £120k.
£120k to £300k
The next step was pretty much a repeat of the last. I now had the auction bug and was studying catalogues every week along with their achieved prices, then comparing it with other sold prices. In April 1997 I bought another terraced cottage in west London for £115k giving me £5k for development.
£300k to £600k
Life changed for me in 1997 and I met the girl of my dreams who I’m still with now. So I took some time out to focus on my career (yes I was still working). But in 2002 I sold the terraced cottage for £300k and brought a 3 bed house in the same area for £289k. I had that property valued in 2006 for £600k. At this point I changed my direction . I still had my original mortgage plus some development expenses of around £30k so I was in a great position. I decided to rent and release equity I had in this property to do another development.
This decision enabled me to focus on property development and put my career on the back burner
£600 to £1.1m
I’ve always been a fan of 60’s architecture, whilst that might seem odd to many, in my mind the 60’s heralded a new age for living. Central heating, insulation, built in kitchens, upstairs bathroom all stuff we take for granted now but in the 1960’s these really were innovations. Unfortunately 1960’s is not fashionable, in fact many see 1960 and 1970 architecture as ugly. But I see it differently. I see good sized rooms, built on decent plots that are warm and efficient. I saw my first 1960’s house in 2006 and whilst I confess that I didn’t fall in love with her looks I did fall in love with her potential. 2 years later I sold a modern refurbished west London house for £750k and I was now carving out a niche renovating ugly 1960’s houses and turning them into modern suburban idles. I had my focus, I knew the sort of house I wanted and so did every agent and auctioneer west of Battersea. So it wasn’t too long before I had my hands on another 4 bedroom 1960’s bombshell.
It’s now 2013 and I’m about to sell again for £1.1m. I’ve taken my time, I’ve had to take huge risks, I live almost mortgage free but more importantly I love live. I know I could have borrowed more and I’ve definately benefited from todays low interest rates and rising house prices. But here’s the thing. I’m just a graphic designer, most of my peers still live in 2 bedroom apartments with no hope of getting anything bigger unless they move from London (where they may struggle to find work) so for me becoming a property developer has given me financial feedom and a pension.
If I was more ambitious I perhaps could of delegated more and taken on more, but the truth is I’ve really enjoyed my journey, I don’t have a stomach ulcer, I see my kids at night and I’m secure – it’s a good place to be.