Archive | March, 2011

What Goes Around – Comes Around!

31 Mar

Today I am going to tell you a story which starts in 2006 – ends – and then re-starts today in 2011!

So let’s go back to the year 2006.  When Justin Timberlake was playing on the radio, petrol was 88p per litre and banks used to lend on property development…feels like a lifetime ago!!

In my wisdom I had bought a detached terrace of old antiques shops in Stoke on Trent. They were dilapidated and in need of some serious work.  As you can see!


But, I also knew there were special grants available to assist bringing these buildings back into use – and I knew these grants were worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The properties sat on a good plot size and while they were in a conservation area, I felt that I could get change of use and make some money – so I applied and got planning permission for 9 apartments with associated parking.

And then I set to, got my quotes, checked the end values and realised that if I went ahead with the project I wouldn’t make any money.  I was shocked. I had already secured a grant in excess of £200k  – how could it not work?!

This wasn’t at all what I had intended.  I went out to tender again.  I got another structural engineer in. I got my architect back again. I rechecked and re-did everything. No matter how I tried to cut it, I just couldn’t get the numbers to stack.  I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that a conversion could cost so much!

It was an important lesson which I had to face up to – it was a beginners mistake. I hadn’t costed the job properly.

And so I decided to sell the property with the planning permission and with the grant that I had secured.

I sold it in late 2006 to an Irish man who I spoke to on the telephone once. We never met. I made a £2800 loss.

Fast forward to 2011…

I am invited to present at a council heritage day to talk about re-locating my business to the area and how I have benefited from the council’s grant scheme.

I am introduced to an Irish lady, who is the new owner of my old dilapidated antiques shops and who is now bringing the scheme forwards – although in a different format to what I had originally envisaged.  It only turns out she is the wife of the Irish man who I spoke to on the phone!

We talk about the scheme, and when I admit to her that I was the one who sold her husband the properties she offers me the keys back!  The project has been hugely problematic and costly. The renovation bill is set to exceed half a million pounds.  It is stressful, time consuming and costing a massive amount of money.

Then today, in the ultimate twist of “what goes around, comes around” the new owner calls me. She wants me to let and to manage the building – it is almost finished and she wants it tenanted.  She has done an amazing job – I really do take my hat off to her.

So now I have the keys back! The project that I once bought, envisaged and then sold is now back in my hands. I may not own the building, but my dream for what can be done is still alive. I will help bring back businesses to the area and I will make a success of this building. It may have a new owner on paper, but in my heart this building will always be part mine. I am part of the history of this building and I am proud to be a part of the future.



Unusual Auction Property Lots!

24 Mar

You get used to seeing odd lots at auctions – chapels, conservative clubs and reservoirs aren’t that rare!

However, this month I have noticed a definite increase in unusual lots at auction and I thought I would share them!


Odd lot 1:


No rent AND the tenant is protected! Yes this bargain property in Southampton is let on a protected tenancy paying no rent! Oh and if you want to view – dream on – their rights are protected and the auctioneers note (in capitals!) PLEASE RESPECT TENANTS RIGHT TO PRIVACY AT ALL TIMES


Odd lot 2:

This unassuming chapel in Essex with a guide price of £135k just made me laugh – it’s the “Peculiar Peoples Chapel” Seriously – what a great name!  I just have to live here and change my name…Peculiar Sam, who lives at the Peculiar Peoples Chapel – just trips off the tongue 🙂


Odd lot 3:

This large corner building arranged as three residential units and offered with vacant possession was sold with NO RESERVE. It had a total plot size of (approx) 229 sq m (2,465 sq ft). This property was located in in the town centre of Könnern (Germany) with a population of approx 5,000. Konnern (in the auctioneer’s description) is “an attractive town with many cobbled streets and the majority of its buildings are well cared for”. The building sold this month for £2,000. Yes £2,000!

Odd lot 4:

Harrogate is an expensive area – but this is just crazy. Here for sale we have a hotel room (room 3003 to be exact). Located within a 4 star hotel this room comes with a plasma tv and a sofa – and is “an investment opportunity not to be missed” at a guide of £135,000 I think I’ll pass…so did everybody else – it remained unsold at auction!

Odd lot 5:


This recently constructed building offers an interesting investment opportunity – the “land” comprises the common parts of this completed development. So yes what you are buying is a hallway – now I wonder if the lease allows for me to fit a toll booth and maybe I could charge entry to the residents to access their flats?


The Town Centre Car Park For Sale

16 Mar

Today was an interesting “business” day. I had seen an auction lot for sale just down the road from me, in a sought after Hertfordshire town. Unlike most of my viewings – this didn’t require an appointment, I could just turn up – as it was an open car park!!

It wasn’t a very big car park – just 17 spaces. But it had a guide of 15k and I knew the area.

Here is the car park (currently used by all and sundry as it is not locked up)


As you can see it is in good condition, with a lovely tarmaced surface, spaces lined and ready to go!

Looking around, I reckoned that at one stage it had probably been the pub’s car park (as that was to the side) and they had sold it off to raise some money. Here is the pub (green fencing is their rear boundary)

It was also just a stone’s throw from a lot of new build flats which had been developed:

It was also within the town centre and easy walking distance for people who were working locally or for those commuting to London.

However, I had noticed there was a church at the top of the car park and that for them to access their small parking area (only enough room for 2 car park spaces) they would need access over my car park. I was pretty sure there was going to be a right of way in place and I would have to work out how to manage that.

And so I sat down and tried to figure out how I would run a car park!

I worked out who my customers would be, how much I could charge, I did market research on current spaces, looked into leasing and licensing agreements, worked out different barrier systems, charging systems – all in the name of car park research!

And so I figured out this could be an interesting little earner. OK I would need some set up costs, and some time to get this off the ground, but thereafter the car park could become a nice little passive income earner. I’d worked out that while the guide was just £15k I would be prepared to pay around £50k for the car park.

And so I got the legal pack. Yes I had been right about the Methodist church and the right of way for access..however I had figured out how I could work this.

But then I saw the legal wrangling that the council had going on…and then I learnt they were trying to purchase the site – what is known as a compulsory purchase order (CPO). A CPO is a legal function which allows certain bodies which need to obtain land or property to do so without the consent of the owner.  While CPO’s usually include compensation rights including the value of the property, costs of acquiring and moving to a new property, and sometimes additional payments – it is a drawn out and risky area to get into.

My plans for the little car park had not included being forced to sell it to the council and having to argue with solicitors over the next few years. This was meant to be passive income – wrangling with the council will be anything but that!

So for now my car park business is on hold – but at least I have learned about different parking barrier systems 🙂



Today I Sacked the Estate Agents

8 Mar

Today I am pretty annoyed with myself. After all my to-ing and fro-ing as to whether to use a traditional high street estate agent or online agent (this was my post Here which sparked massive debate). I have ended up sacking the useless estate agents who have not sold, nor seem in the slightest bit interested in selling my flat in London.

It all started well – I chose the agents who sold my last flat in London a few months ago and who did a great job. Anyway, pretty much after I signed the contract (sole agency for 6 weeks) I realised that this was a different branch to the last branch who sold for me. And to be honest, they may as well have been a different company.

I returned the forms and sent the keys by special delivery. I had requested confirmation from them when they had the keys…this was not forthcoming  – I had to chase them to check they had the keys.

Details were produced…but nobody ever asked me if I was happy with them – I just happened to see them as I was browsing Rightmove to see if they had uploaded them yet. Yes – from the offset communication was non-existent.

After the property had been on the market for 10 days I called them to check how things were going and what the interest level was like…I kept trying to call, but nobody could help me. It took several emails before I got a reply. Well – if that was their attitude towards a seller who is paying their bill what are they like towards the customers who may buy my property???

3 weeks later and no viewings! I was alarmed – but more concerned with regards the agents than the actual property.  So there I am in Fuerteventura and they call me.

“You have a problem with you door and we can’t get in” I am told

Instantly I feel sick – I remember what happened last time the estate agents told me this – I had squatters!! I was beside myself.

It then turned out the girl who had gone to show the property couldn’t open the door properly…I was gobsmacked. There was me thinking opening doors is part and parcel of an estate agent’s job description! When I asked whether they had re-arranged the failed viewing I felt their eyes glaze over…in that minute I realised there was no hope. This was a lost cause. I was furious with them and with myself.

Now I know, past performance is not an actual indicator of future performance BUT I did think it stood for something! The key lesson I have learnt – estate agents are only as good on a branch-by-branch basis – never ever expect the same company to be the same in each office. They are run by different people.

So here I am stuck – I can’t sell my flat because I chose a bunch of imbeciles who aren’t interested in selling my property. So I have given notice (14 days) and I am now having to endure their uselessness until the expiry date.

On a positive note – I’ve stuck to the high street estate agent. I will not be put off – my reasons for going this route still remain the same. The next agent has called 4 times in 2 days. He’s as hungry as a bear who’s not eaten for months – and will not let go. Hopefully this time will be different….

OMG a flat for 7k!!! Yes £7,000….

3 Mar

Today I was just flicking through the auction catalogues when I came across a repossessed flat – didn’t look anything special. BUT what got me was the guide price – just £7,000 – yes £7,000!

So what do you get for £7,000?

Well here is the external:

And the internal:

Amazingly for just £7,000 you have a kitchen, a bathroom, carpets…and windows!!!!

Now I have seen cheap properties in my time – but this is seriously cheap!  I mean this is not Bulgaria…although it is Washington, Tyne and Wear which is North East….but it’s still the UK!

So I’ve done some research on Rightmove, Zoopla and other property portals and I’ve discovered this flat was for sale with an estate agent before the auction with a price of £9,950.

So I deduce that it must be a festing ground of drug addicted crime ridden inbreds – and I check the Police Crime Website expecting to have my beliefs confirmed..BUT low and behold the level of crime and anti-social behaviour in this area is average for the UK! Although I note commentary on the site regarding the area:

“Washington Neighbourhood Policing Team has been running Operation Horizon for the past seven months which has provided extra police officers, community support officers and a dedicated anti social behaviour officer from Sunderland City Council…Overall crime in Washington continues to reduce and for the current year to date, we have achieved a reduction of almost 15% in reported crime.”

OK – so it would appear they have some issues…but they are tackling them and they are seeing a reduction in reported crime – that’s got to be a positive sign?

The ACORN classification for the neighbourhood profile says:

“Often, many of the people who live in this sort of postcode will be low income singles living in small rented flats….People have average educational qualifications. Their relatively routine jobs are in shops and offices, and there is some unemployment….Few people own a car, with those who do paying high insurance premiums. Most get about on foot, by bike, or public transport. The pub is a relatively popular place for eating, either at lunch-time or in the evening. Leisure interests tend to be football and betting on the horses. At home they might unwind by listening to music or reading a novel. There is a keen interest in self-improvement and education”

OK – so the type of people who live here may be single and poor – but at least they’re interested in improving themselves 🙂

Unbelievably I have also found a flat in the same block which has rented recently at £325pcm.

Now let’s just do the yield on this.

So if I buy this flat at £7,000 and I rent it for £325 pcm then the yield would be a mammoth: 55.7%!!!!

Maybe I should take a drive to Sunderland?