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Property Investment Case Studies:

Adam Greig

Adam Greig and his wife Louise (both 52) own and rent out two family homes, a 4 bed house in Virginia Water and a 6 bed house in Sunningdale. They have a clear idea of the type of tenants they want to target - they are all American families whose children attend local American schools. The Mail on Sunday quotes the Griegs as saying "All our clients are American...We know the sort of new-build, modern family homes they like. They don't want Victorian houses with rattling windows or damp. They want security, space and facilities such as gyms."

The average client stays with the Greives for 3-years and the rent is usually paid by the employers, so it's very secure.

The Greives say they maintain good relationships with relocation firms to get tenants and they have benefited a lot over the last few years through capital appreciation on these properties. Although yields have dropped from what they were Adam thinks he should have invested more in the student letting market if he'd known about the explosion in student numbers. He thinks the top end of the London market would also be a good place to invest now as rents are very strong. (Mail on Sunday 25 Feb 2007)

Jamie Carter

In around 10 years Jamie Carter has created a property portfolio consisting of residential and commercial property, which is currently valued at 40m, with a rent role of 1.8m. The 38-year-old former Barclays Bank employee from Burnley, Lancashire has purchased and refurbished 350 terraced houses and converted former mills, warehouses and churches into desirable homes to let.

As yields have declined a little in the residential sector he has more recently begun to acquire commercial units at auction including 50 office and retail units. All his properties are around the North West in the former East Lancashire mill towns of Burnley, Rawtenstall, Accrington, Darwen and the Rossendale Valley, close to where he lives.

Jamie was a management trainee with Barclays at 18 and did not go to university. He never imagined going into property despite his financial training until he saw the benefits when a friend rented out his house. Later he bought his first 2-bed cottage in Rawtenstall and just kept on re-mortgaging on a rolling basis. As the market at the time was just taking off he was purchasing properties for 30,000 which now fetch 100,000.

He purchased most of his properties from auctions or by private treaty from people who were distressed sellers, then added value by refurbishing and letting. Says Estates Gazette, quoting Jamie, "In the beginning I was just thinking in terms of half a dozen properties, but it became a bigger and different project and I suppose that was where my being driven kicked in. People ask me if I would have done anything differently and, yes, I would. I would have borrowed twice as much and achieved twice as much as I have." 

Trading under the name Aspire Homes, Jamie has a portfolio split between residential (85%) and Commercial (15%) and he is currently 60% geared.

He acknowledges that timing is very important and that he has been very fortunate, as many people with more years experience in the property market have experienced some real ups and downs he says. (E.G. 17 Feb 2007)

Lahrie Mohamed

Lahrie Mohamed, an accountant never imagined for one minute he would end up a professional landlord. He made his first property investment in 1998 after the company he worked for offered him a pension and he started to look at what was on offer. He decided to take the money and invest it himself.

He borrowed more and bought a flat in Walthemstow, north-east London, quite near where he lives. In the early days this venture went badly, until he decided to manage the letting himself. He made mistakes in the early days and was nervous about managing at first. But as he gained confidence and experience he realised that managing property within his means and wanted to learn as much as possible about it.

He's not looked by since says the Mail on Sunday. Between 1998 and 2004 he built up a portfolio of 100 to 120 properties, using a strategy of borrowing more as prices rose, then ploughing the money back into more properties. In 2004 he changed tack. He wanted every property to be self-financing, which mean his mortgage costs had to be covered by the rental income in each property, which was beginning to present a challenge as property bargains were now much less easy to find.

So, since 2004 he has started to renovate and develop properties and adding value by extending and creating more dwellings. He has also bought land with planning permission, applying again to the council to modify the plans to squeeze on more units.

Lahrie sees a change in the property market coming. Although the politicians say they want more home ownership, he thinks they won't be able to achieve it, so renting is going to become much more common. Lahrie thinks " Barring a rise in unemployment, the outlook is extremely positive for landlords. There is a shortage of housing. Migration to London from the regions and abroad will carry on. There is a seismic change in the market going on as more people rent. Nobody wants to hear it said, but it is a fact of life that the proportion of owner occupiers in the UK will decline" (Mail on Sunday 27 Feb 2007)

Chris Tzouvanni

A Dispossessed Cypriot at age 11, his family arrived in England in 1959 with almost nothing, he now owns a property portfolio worth 20m. Over the past 23 years he has invested in mixed-use commercial buildings in and around London and the Home Counties owned by his property company and has a portfolio of privately owned properties with his wife.

Tzouvanni's father provided the inspiration after buying two shops with vacant flats above in Stoke Newington for 11,000, letting them for 300pa and giving them to his son as a wedding present in 1976. He invested in property from then on, acquiring on average 1 building every year, purchased at auctions.

Working as a trainee accountant in the early years he kept his rents in a separate account to build-up deposits as he went along. He nearly lost it all in 1980 when a speculative investment sunk 25,000 to refurbish and had 55,000 borrowed. Had he not found a tenant immediately paying 8,000 per annum he would have gone bust.

In 1983 as property prices collapsed he purchased a parade of shops in Winchmore Hill. Estate Gazette quotes him as saying "The bank would not release all the money for them and I was 30,000 short of meeting the purchase cost (equivalent to 200,000 today). It was a real challenge, but fortunately the Bank of Cyprus agreed to lend at 4% above base rate."

Five tenants left the parade in 1989 when Sainsbury's opened a new store which gave him a very difficult time until he managed to get new tenants. Fortunately he held his nerve and came through it all - with six sons and a daughter to care for he had some sleepless nights at the time.

He started to buy regularly at auction and even began to trade his properties. He bought a fish & Chip shop in Kent for 72,000 in 1988 and sold it a month later for 80,000. He then bought a retail outlet in Bradford for 102,000, producing 5,000pa and sold six months later for 140,000.

Estate Gazette say, quoting Chris, "I do take risks and have bought properties unseen. I often work on instinct and in most cases they make me a lot of money. I bought a property in Romford from Comet in 1989 which had a planning restriction for retail of electrical goods only and people said I had made a mistake. But a few years later Comet sold the leases to Topps Tiles and had to apply to lift the planning restriction. The rents shot up to 110,000. I paid 750,000 for it and now it is worth around 2.6m and that was on gut instinct."

Tzouvanni says it is more difficult at the moment with prices high and yields as low as 3-4%. Its harder to buy at auction and very important to check that properties are worth the money because rents are being exaggerated in sale and lease back deals. (E.G. 17 Feb 2007)

Anthony Ellis and Tracy Wallbank

Partners Anthony aged 40 and Tracy 35 have built up a large portfolio of properties. They live in Milton Keynes and started investing seriously in 2003 when they made good profits buying and renovating properties. They adopted the aggressive approach of continually re-mortgaging to release money from their properties to plough back into new ones.

They now have 18 properties, most of which are near Milton Keynes town centre, though they now want to look further a field to places like Hull. Prices have risen considerably in Milton Keynes and it's getting difficult to make the rents cover mortgage payments says the Mail on Sunday. Refurbishing is the key they say, finding cheaper properties that need work to push up the yield.

At the moment they are mortgaged to 85% LTV and rental income is now around 20% above their monthly mortgage outgoings, not a massive margin. "Our mortgages are almost all fixed rates and we watch cash flow carefully." Most of the tenants are employed, though some are on benefits.

"We may have taken a risk by growing so quickly, but in some ways your reduce risk if you are not dependent on just one or two properties. Seeing where rents are strong is an important part of the equation., as well as checking that you're paying the right price relative to the rent at the time. I'm confident" (Mail on Sunday 27 Feb 2007)

The Wilsons

Fergus and Judith Wilson, both school teachers by training, and maths teachers at that, have worked wonders in property over their adult life time together. They are fearless investors expanding at a phenomenal rate to amass to date a portfolio of around 707 houses worth around 240million, all around the Kent area.

Fergus, still as optimistic about property as ever, says, "Anyone dithering about buying a second property to rent, my advice is this: Don't mess around, get stuck in and buy it."

Mrs Wilson concurs says the "You've got to say to yourself, what's the worst that can happen? The worst thing is you'll have to sell the second house,. But so what? You'll still have one to live in. The key is not to take it all too seriously. It's only a game. You have got to remember we're mathematicians, so a million is just a one with six noughts on the end. It takes more that a few noughts to frighten us."

The couple bought their first house in 1975 scraping together the deposit for a three-bedroom semi which cost 8,200. It was their good luck that it was in Maidstone, Kent in the M20 corridor and eventually, 20 years later near the Channel Tunnel Rail terminal at Ashford.

In 1986 they moved to a 6-bedroom house near Maidstone and as they say house prices rising the realised it made more sense to keep their first home and let it - the rewards buy-to-let struck them. Their research showed them that house prices had doubled every 7 years over the past 100 years, and various pointer lead them to believe this would continue indefinitely.

"The only way you can ever stop house prices from rising is by building too many houses" says Mr Wilson in the, and "For environmental reasons, the Government won't allow it to happen."

They don't like unfamiliar neighbourhoods and will never buy properties at a distance where they can't keep an eye on them. They have sourced a lot of their properties through auctions and in 2003 bought 180 properties in one year. Their extraordinary buying power means they can get favourable rates on their mortgages which apply to roughly 50% of their properties. They will sometimes buy job lots, off plan or directly from developers.

Their ideal buy-to-let is a smart 2-up, 2-down mid-terrace house around 180,000. Bigger properties they say, are more difficult to let and don't appreciate in value as quickly. All their properties are decorated in inoffensive magnolia and white and their perfect tenants are young working executives often living temporarily in the M20 corridor. ( 24 Jan 2007)

Information here is general only & believed to be correct, though we cannot guarantee it, nor do we accept any liability if you act or fail to act on this information. Always seek professional advice before making decisions. Investments can go down in value as well as up over  time.