How to manage your property portfolio from abroad

How to manage your property portfolio from abroad

This is a guest blog from @ukpropertygeek a globetrotter that invests in UK property, we asked him to share his experiences and pass on his expertise to our investors. 

When you start talking to people about investing in property, you’ll frequently be told that it’s a very hands-on business and you’ll need to be popping round there at all hours. Landlords are never shy to tell tales of boilers breaking in the middle of the night, and you might conclude that you need to invest locally as a result.

But if yields are poor in your area, or you’re an ex-pat, or you just like travelling a lot like I do, you’ll be forced to take a more arms-length approach.

Granted, it’s not for everyone, and some types of property (and tenant) are more effort-intensive than others. But if you do fancy running your portfolio from a beachside cafe, here are some tips to help it go smoothly:

Store your documents in the cloud

Councils, insurers and others have an annoying tendency to ask for arcane documents at inconvenient times. So to avoid schlepping around with a ring binder, scan all your documents and upload them to Dropbox.

Dropbox syncronises automatically with your computer, so every time you add a new document it’ll be backed up online for you to access from anywhere.

Sign on the dotted line…online

Printing out an agreement to sign and posting it back from abroad can be a real pain. Where possible, use a service like SignNow to sign documents digitally.

All you need to do is upload a PDF, type in any text you need to add, sign your signature digitally, and email it back. Digital signatures are legally binding under EU law, and it saves lots of waiting in post office queues.

Get a good managing agent

If you’re in a different country from your property permanently, you’ll want to employ a managing agent to deal with check-ins and check-outs, as well as handling any problems that come up.

But a bad agent can cause you more headaches than they solve. And remember: the legal buck always stops with you, even if the agent hasn’t done what they should have done.

Avoid getting a dud by asking for personal recommendations, and mystery shopping some candidates by phoning up and posing as a landlord and a tenant. Don’t just go for the cheapest: a poor agent who’s 2% cheaper will cost you much more than that in the long run.

Or you can self-manage

Some people are aghast when I tell them I self-manage properties that I’m away from most of the time, but I’m yet to find a problem that can’t be solved from a distance.

Even if you don’t have a trusted tradesman locally who can deal with repairs, you can use MyBuilder.com to find reviews of people who can do the job. A few emails and an online bank transfer, and you’re done.

Have a rapport with your tenants

It helps if you can meet your tenants early on, and get on well with them. They’re more likely to rip off a faceless person they only hear from when the rent is late, than a nice chap/chapess who sends them chocolates at Christmas.

Get some local eyes and ears

It’s human nature to take advantage when we don’t think we’re being watched. So if the tenant knows you’re on the other side of the world, they’re more likely to move in a friend without asking, or undertake some “improvement” works of their own.

Overcome this by having a local friend undertake quarterly inspections – having given the tenant the required notice, of course. They’ll also be able to drive past and keep an eye out for warning signs like a build-up of leaves in the guttering, or rubbish being stored in the garden.

Rob blogs about property investing at Property Geek, and is the presenter of the UK property podcast.

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