Hi Vanessa, who are you and what do you do?
I am a former MTV Presenter turned professional landlord, property consultant, speaker, and co-founder of Property Tribes, the U.K.’s busiest Landlord and investor community.
I have had a strange journey from rock n’ roll to bricks n’ mortar! It almost seems like I have lived two different lives. One minute I was on-stage with Aerosmith in Boston, flying in Metallica’s private jet, and dining with Sharon and Ozzy … and then my show on MTV was cancelled and my life changed overnight. It was time to re-invent myself and do something new and challenging.
I went from in front of the camera to behind the scenes and started producing and directing music programming for lots of different and varied artists including Ricky Martin, ColdPlay, Motorhead, Kylie Minogue and Madonna. But, after a few years of London life, the stress of dealing with massive budgets, and working long hours started to take its toll on my health and I realised that there had to be more to life than sitting in a darkened edit suite for 15 hours a day!
It was around this time that I met my wonderful husband Nick, and he was to be the inspiration to seek a different way of life.
We went on holiday to Miami and it made us hungry for a better quality of life. My two bed flat inLondon that was purchased for £70K was valued 12 years later for £300K, so we decided to release some equity and start building a property portfolio. Simples right? No! Far from it!
How long have you been Property Investing for?
We started investing in 2004. We knew the area of North London very well and knew it had a lot of potential due to the Emirates Stadium being built, and great transport links. We bought a number of upmarket flats in Camden, Highbury, Islington, Walthamstow, Edmonton, and Finsbury Park.
How has your strategy developed as an investor?
Our strategy has been to constantly improve our cash flow. Without cashflow you don’t have a business and we soon realised that running a property portfolio was akin to running a business, and that cash flow was king. If you had cash flow, you could most likely survive to benefit from capital growth … but of course, in the current climate, capital growth is suppressed … so cash flow is even more vital.
What’s your biggest regret as an investor?
I try not to regret anything, only to learn and grow as a business and property person. But if I had to choose a regret it would probably be that we didn’t buy more property when mortgages were so easy to obtain, and that, on a couple of occasions, I went against my instinct when choosing properties, and this came back to bite.
Why do you invest in property?
Sometimes I ask myself that! I guess I see it as a long term strategy to achieve financial freedom. In the beginning, we thought it was simply a case of buying a few houses and then retiring to a beach somewhere hot, as is often portrayed by these “get rich quick” property clubs, but it has been a long, hard slog, and we still have a long way to go. I won’t be retiring any time soon!
Having said that, I love property and being a Landlord and it has afforded us a reasonable lifestyle … Our original dream was to buy a yacht, but that never materialised as it was way beyond our means. However, we have now purchased a motorhome, and that has proven to be even better as we get to go away pretty much whenever we like, and we enjoy the freedom it affords.
How do you build on your knowledge today?
I seek to learn something new every day and get my main inputs from the web … mostly twitter and Property Tribes forum. I also attend business and networking events, read a great deal, and meet new property people every day.
What’s the best investment you have made?
If you mean property … We have a number of good quality family homes in the South East and it would be hard to choose really. We have a huge 3 storey 4 bed townhouse in High Wycombe that is twice the size of the house we live in ourselves. I also love coastal property and we have two stunning seaside holiday lets … one at Camber Sands beach in East Sussex and one on the isle of Portland in Dorset. The house in Dorset is my favourite place to spend time and we have the added pleasure of knowing that we will retire there one day. These houses all have yields in excess of 12%.
But the best investment I have made is in my own knowledge and also the time I have invested in the web. The returns are more than a property portfolio on many levels as I believe in emotional wealth more than actual wealth and we could lose our portfolio, but we could never have the knowledge we have gained taken away from us.
What’s advice would you give to a new investor?
That due diligence and research is everything. This is one of the reasons we formed Property Tribes … as a place where people could learn and seek independent and impartial advice. There are so many sharks in the property world and many gullible and trusting people get stung. The best person to look after your money and make investment decisions for you is the person you see in the mirror every morning. This same person is also responsible for the tenants in your properties so understand your professional obligations and make sure you run your properties in a professional manner. As a Landlord, you have over 70 rules, regulations, and government statutes to comply with … and ignorance is never an excuse in a court of law, so understand your obligations.
Finally if you were a property what type of property would you be?
I would be a contemporary townhouse overlooking the sea with far-reaching sea views. I feel happiest at the coast and will move their one day when my property days are done!