Dear Blue Bricks Magazine,
I was down In London doing a bit of networking (Knightsbridge PPN don’t ya know!) and researching co-living / co-working environments when the interest rate bomb dropped! 0.5%? In a ‘one-er’? WOW. I nearly spat my frappe-latte-mochachino with sprinkles all over my man-bag…
Now, I’m a seasoned, been round the block more times than ‘Jenny-from-the block’, 3 decades of land-lording type leather-faced ape so I knew this meant one thing. This was The Government moving towards an Economic Defcon-4. A kind of ‘siege mentality’ ensued, in my head at least. A couple of days before Lockdown came, one of my three SAs (serviced accommodation) had emptied of a six-month booking. I expected my other two SAs to empty of the Eastern European contractors but they turned out to be Amazon contractors, so all good. Amazon coming to town has done Darlington a huge favour. I had devised and posted on FaceyB about my new strategy SA 2 HMO expecting to repurpose them as Mini-Mos which I only had to do with one SA. Two brothers took my empty one for £200 per week. Costs easily covered. No servicing on any SAs. The missus was pleased!
I created Bandit-Boards for strategic places around The Hospital carpark offering accommodation to key workers. That was for a couple of single lets I had coming up. I had surprisingly little response but there was another turn of good luck with Amazon requiring more accommodation for ‘Key Workers’ so they are full for at least 5 months. These needed furnishing and the workers arrived after Lockdown so we pilfered our lockups and cobbled, begged, borrowed and stole enough furniture to purpose them as SA.
Just pre-Lockdown a few of my HMO rooms had started to empty of young professionals running for the hills, or rather a cushty lockdown with Mum & Dad, to add to the four empty rooms I already had. I set about hitting Spareroom.co.uk with added impetus to see what I could fill and yeah, with Amazon coming to town the demand was there and also other young professionals getting settled in time for a work placement, who paid, but never arrived! They had signed their ASTs online and are currently in a holding pattern but still paying rent.
I co-host The Property Thing networking extravaganza with Anthony Boyce and previous to all this we had not exactly ignored, but had been sceptical of warnings that Harpreet Badwal, The Health & Safety Industry guy had given us regarding ‘no public gatherings’ in the near future. Nah, surely, won’t happen? Oh yes it did! 100%. None of that networking malarkey!
I was massively driven and put in silly hours at work to sort all this out and my own lads were flying round sorting it all too. I messaged all my tenants single let and house-share group chats to say that no-one was to worry, we had their backs 100% in this. We had time on our side and to please contact us if anyone was worried about their jobs and subsequently their rent. I’m a massive believer that as long as no-one ignored the situation we could help them, and we would know where our cashflow would be. Thanks to Boris & Co doing a sterling job of the Sterling flow we received a grant and we just paid any outstanding invoices to all and sundry so we knew we were operating from a datum point. Very few suppliers’ bills to come in and just staff to pay and the usual mortgages etc. March month end was good with 100% Occupancy and 2% paying 50% rent.
I start work really early and finish late so I’ve been self isolating in my office while my dependants, home from uni and off school, bask in the April sun. I’ve had three investors go into the inevitable holding pattern on three big HMO/co-Living/apartment projects and one investor appeared wanting to do business albeit cautiously of course. I’m going ahead with the planning gain on my future projects anyway. They take two months to get and it’s a ‘Sprat to catch a Mackerel’ for when the dust hopefully settles. Surviving the last recession and building a more robust portfolio as a result certainly helped my mindset in this one. It helps being focused on solving problems. Massive thoughts going out to those who’ve suffered as a result of this pandemic.
Paul Million, Real Property People Ltd