´The Property Boyz´ - Digital Diary: December 2016
So here we are, fresh from another series of ´Britain´s Benefit Tenants´ and just because the camera´s aren´t on, doesn't mean we stop working! As well as filming commitments, property sales, investments, welfare guidance and refurbishments, we also have our personal brand with which we use to engage with and promote all aspects of our life - both inside and outside Yorkshire. December was a busy end to a busy year. As well as being broadcast on Channel 4, we made a lot of actions in the office, as your about to see; alongside learning some of Andrew´s ´Top Trade Tips´ on how to think like an experienced property professional!
TOP TIP – When chasing for rent on the phone, dial 1471 (to withhold your telephone number) you will have more chance of the tenant answering! December - Week 1 As usual, the week starts with a day in the office where plans are made for the week ahead - it is also the first day back after the weekend, which makes it quite often our busiest day (full of problems which have come about since close of business on Friday.) We travelled to a flat at Balfour Road Doncaster to find that the old tenants had left a real mess as usual. I emailed the landlord (who lives in New Zealand) with a quote of the work which was required before any re-let could be achieved. After this, Andrew travelled to Stavely Street in Doncaster to compile a schedule of works so that the workmen could undertake the repairs needed.
As we have just finished the end of November, we come into a very busy period of administration as there are lots of landlords who need paying right away (due to financial commitments and such). Because of this, we took some time preparing statements and invoices for landlords, then chasing what we could to maximise rents for the month end.
TOP TIP – For letting, ensure that the property is clean, tidy and has a modern, simple light fitting and basic curtains. Let the prospective tenant enter a room which gives the impression of space!
The end of this week saw us travel to Newcastle (by car this time), where we enjoyed a lovely stay at the Sandman Signature Hotel. During this time, we were able to attend the opening of the Grainger Christmas Market in the centre of Newcastle with our TV presenter and all round Creative star, Craig Wilde.
We were only initially supposed to stay one night, but this ran into two so we could meet our other lovely lady friend, Championship Body Builder and Pole Star, El Fegan; for a second mid-week night out of the week. During our times in Newcastle, we always feel relaxed as it gives us chances to visit some wonderful museums and do a little shopping as well as enjoy some seriously fine dining at Dacantus!
December - Week 2 With a new week starts with a new Monday - where as normal, all our plans are made for the week ahead, making it a busy day for admin, catch-up´s and problem resolving any issues that occurred over the weekend. After all this general administration is completed, we both went to a property at Straight Lane (Goldthorpe) to obtain electrical meter readings for the flats (these were outstanding and had to be submitted the same day). We received a visit from Sunni and Amanda (you may remember them from the last series of Britain´s Benefit Tenants) as Amanda had a domestic with Sunni and was now looking for her own flat.
We managed to take some time out on the evening to visit Andrew's father as he recently turned 72! This was a well-deserved and relaxing evening for us which ended with a country walk with the dogs. Thanks to our good friends at Always Wear Red, we were able to wrap up warm and look stylish in our cashmere red scarves and accessories. (Alan, always wanting to look different, updated his look with a dash of gold and silver for some seasonal glamour.)
The middle of the week became a little calmer which allowed us to shop on-line for a new registration plate; we were provisionally thinking (PR09 BOY) as we need a new car early next year and love our new found status as ´The Property Boyz´. The following few days were sadly not as glamorous as they saw us cleaning and repairing a property on Cobcar Lane (Barnsley). The property was a complete mess, so most of our time was spent preparing the interior for decorating and cleaning. This involved hard scrubbing and removing paint from sockets, switches and windows. Then, after this came an even more tedious job of cleaning the kitchen and removing all nails and screws from wall, filling holes to make good the surfaces for the painters, oh, and descaling the toilet.
¨When re-mortgaging, to remove an owner from a property is not an option. If the property has multiple owners then it can be signed over with a deed of trust - where the other owners relinquish their rights and responsibilities for the property. This is often used when a couple who own a property split and the remaining party cannot afford to re-mortgage to remove the partner, or the property is in negative equity.¨
We started to feel Christmas in the air, so we made some preparations to hang up our Christmas lights and decorations before we met our staff for our usual Wednesday afternoon food and drinks in the local pub. The rest of the week was general business in hand which involved cleaning and repairs at the property on Railway View (Goldthorpe). Our new tenant wanted to be in within a day or so and we were happy to oblige by cleaning and making minor repairs to our investment. Andrew has an official meeting with Mr Angelsea to sign over a house to himself (under the Deed of Trust) so legal matters in hand were all carefully observed.
Because Christmas was so close, we urgently needed a couple of cleaners to meet all our deadlines. Our current cleaner had other commitments which made it difficult for her to commit to more work. Alan and I mucked in to help alongside a couple of workmen and everything ended up completed in time. One thing is for sure though, we will be advertising for a couple of cleaners at the start of the New Year.
The weekend was the perfect way for us to wind down as we had arranged an evening out with friends who live close to Leeds. Lisa and Dylan are a couple we first met at the Whitby Goth Weekend around four years ago. Lisa is a professional and Dylan works and spends most of his weekends at gigs as he is drummer in a band!
December - Week 3 The week before Christmas brought many tasks and much responsibility. From chasing rent and setting out work schedules to visiting banks to pay in money for bills. (Why, in this day and age you cannot do this on-line is beyond me). Also, out of all the months, December is also the most difficult to collect rent from as many tenants dip into their budgets or, simply avoid us in the hope the debt will go away! In addition to this, there are also lots of bank holidays in the month, plus the fact that many contractors are reluctant to go out to properties for maintenance or emergencies over the festive season makes it a stressful month for us.
Towards the mid-week, we had no choice but to have a good old fashioned night in front of the fire with the dogs. However, always the businessman, Andrew took some time to search for investment and expansion opportunities online via Right Move and Property Auctions. When you have an active property portfolio, it is always important that you seize every opportunity to add value, find room to extend (vertically or horizontally) or ways to split larger properties into two. All these refurbishment factors can increase a yield significantly. Andrew normally spends a couple of evenings a week looking for investment opportunities for 2 Let 4 Sale and investors.
TOP TIP - we instructed one of our staff to pay each vacant property a visit and ensure the water was turned off, if the pipes freeze and crack the property would flood. We charge a small fee for this, but it´s money well spent.
The weekend is normally sacred for us ( as we really do work so hard during the week), but because of all the disruptions over the festive period, we normally spend a few hours answering emails, updating staff rotas and long term planning. It wasn´t all work and no play however as in the evening we attended a fancy dress party which was hosted by Mr Brian Michie, a friend of ours who runs a fire protection business in London (but lives in the gatehouse at Pontefract Castle!) The party was held at his home and was themed as ´Pop Idols´ - needless to say we had a ball drinking and dancing until the early morning!
The following day saw us both (without hangover) travel to North Yorkshire´s Whitby for a couple of days. We needed to arrange for the holiday property we own to be decorated and the premises also needed a new television. So, we travelled into Scarborough for a TV, with the intention of staying Sunday night and Monday night before returning to work bright and fresh on Tuesday. The rest of the week saw us make plans of going to visit Alan’s dad in Blackpool as Andrew had a funeral to attend which made it difficult to pinpoint a specific day. December - Week 4
It´s the final week of the final month of the year; this is the last week that people move and then the office will go quiet again for a few weeks over the festive period (which gives us time to get paperwork and admin duties done.) But, until then it´s mundane Monday and weekly planning, as I am sure by now. This week is a little more fuller than normal, thanks to four new tenants moving into our properties. This is not an uncommon thing - close to Christmas there is normally a flurry of activity, with some tenants choosing to move home, literally a few days before Christmas.
We were urgently contacted by Doncaster Council to help re-home two tenants who were living in “Tent City”. This is a sad sign of the times we live in. The city was a camp set up by the homeless and it certainly attracted a lot of media attention. Due to this, the council were keen to cover all costs to help re-home these individuals as fast as possible. The sad case about this story was that many were homeless by choice. Evictees, drug addicts and alcoholics. (We are keen to help the more genuine cases, but this is a lottery, so ultimately time will tell us if we made the right decision).
It also looks like there could be potential storms brewing within the buy to let market. Whilst making his usual research on property investments, Andrew noticed an article entitled “What to look out for in 2017 - The restriction of buy to let mortgage interest tax relief “. In April 2017 the way landlords can claim tax relief on buy to let mortgages begins, despite lobbying and a legal challenge the government made it clear it intends to go ahead with the new tax system. This is worrying as transferring the properties into a limited company is currently the only way around it, but this is expensive and complicated. This will be one of the nails in the coffin for property investment as we know and appreciate today.
TOP TIP - The easiest way of de-scaling toilets is with ´Brick acid´, which is available in most DIY stores. It instantly cleans and removes all stains and lime scale (but should be handled with care). This saves a lot of time when cleaning!
The last day in 2 Let 4 Sale saw us literally chasing rent all day. In addition to this, we were handed the keys to a local shop and asked for help to rent the unit out. The shop was a former betting office and then a second hand shop; it had certainly seen better days. However, the rent for the shop only is around £65 per week and the terms are flexible. It has a small flat above which is rented and the flat and shop is also available freehold for offers over £35,000 which is a complete bargain.
We closed the office early today at 1 pm and treated all the staff to couple of hours at the local pub ´The Picture House Tap´, a former Victorian cinema which was converted to a ´micro pub´. The pub has an impressive façade and was originally the ticket office for the main cinema which is now sadly demolished. The pub is sited just meters from our shop making it a really convenient way to celebrate Christmas cheer!
Goodbye Goldthorpe and good bye 2 Let 4 Sale; with a final glass raised to celebrate Christmas, we were packed and off to Whitby for a couple of days rest. Whitby is a Jewel of a place - we may not get the sun but the place attracts thousands of visitors; its history is haunting, its people are friendly and welcoming and its seafood is legendary! We are lucky to own a couple of properties here and plan to retire here in the future (well for the duration of the UK summer) and spend the rest of the year abroad! We spent our first evening there at the Abbey Wharf in Whitby with good friends such as Michelle Witter, Julian Hudson and their daughter Kiki (these lovelies are our biggest fans, exclaims Alan!) and, it’s a real pleasure to spend some quality time with them.
Christmas day saw us enjoy a brisk walk on the beach with the dogs before lunch with friends. An excellent meal was prepared at the flat by Michelle Witter and was followed by a few drinks at The Golden Lion in Whitby. The landlady is proud of our ´support of this venue´ and as such, we have a picture about two feet square taking pride of place in the pub! We took the opportunity to post a picture of us with it on social media, in front of the photo to capture such special memories of a great day enjoyed with many lovely people.
TOP TIP - For people with multiple properties, we advise that all standing orders and direct debits are set up for the first of the month. This way, you have a target figure to aim for. We also advise a safety net of 3 times that figure in reserve, in case you cannot reach that target.
After a very well deserved and very well enjoyed few days in Whitby, Boxing Day saw us return to Barnsley, but not to work. We packed and returned early from Whitby; Andrew had made arrangements to meet his sister and her partner with friends for drinks in Wombwell, which was quieter than expected so we were back home for 10pm with a takeaway! The good thing about the festive period is that the office is quiet between Christmas and New Year, so we run on minimum staff. But, we take advantage of this time to file, clear out the drawers and stock take. Any staff that do come in over this period don´t have a lot to do and are normally treated for a few drinks at the Boat Inn public house on more than one occasion.
The run up to the New Year saw the rest of our days spent relatively quietly; with the only real actions involving running around after a few late payers and keeping up the pressure on rent offenders. On Thursday we took some time out for a long lunch at the Rockingham Arms Wentworth as we did not want to cook! Friday saw the last day of 2016 for chasing outstanding rents and setting out work for the following week. We had a couple of properties which were “sticking” so we placed adverts which would appear in the January press. We also offered a rent free period and made sure the property was shown at its best so it would be gone in no time. And with that, we were into New Year’s Eve!
TOP TIPS - For winter a lot of vacant properties are not looking ´spring fresh´ so ensure as many of the following apply to the properties when undertaking viewings; the windows are cleaned, leaves are swept up, the property is sweetly scented, condensation is addressed, some heating is on and the curtains are open for viewings.
The last day of the year saw us travel to Bawtry and enjoy lunch at Zini´s Italian restaurant with Mr Nigel & Mrs Paula Griffiths. Later that evening, we attended a VIP private party at The Pilgrim Fathers before retiring in the early hours of New Year’s Day to The Crown at Bawtry. After a long day and longer evening we just relaxed and ´made plans´ for the New Year which was already several hours old. The first Sunday of the year saw us enjoy a full English breakfast at The Crown Bawtry, before returning home and picking up the dogs from Alan, our dog walker. We took the dogs out for a walk as most shops were closed due to public holidays. After this, Alan cooked lunch before we enjoyed an early evening of watching TV and wondering when we would next be on it. But that my friends, is another update for another day. Happy New Year everyone!
Best wishes for 2017, Andrew & Alan x