The Avon Road purchase story continues……

As some of you may remember, I bought a property in February to develop into flats.

My previous blog took you to completion, this is the continuation of the project.

The property was a 5 bed detached house with a 1 bed single storey annex attached on a great corner plot.  We We able to negotiate a 2 week delay between exchange and completion so we could get a head start on the very sparse refurbishment on both parts of the property.

By the time we completed on 19th February the Annex was finished.  Some of the house was started, but would need another 2/3 weeks to get that ready for letting out.

The priority was to get tenants in as quick as possible.  We need to add funds to the pot to cover the mortgage as well as planning fees and associated costs.  We used Open Rent as 3 company Directors are local so we could manage the process ourselves.  We put the property on before completion to minimise the time the property would sit empty; it really worked as the annex tenants moved in on the Sunday after completion – we also rented them the garage, so £850 per month on a standard AST.

The main house was a problem though as the drive was in front of the garage so has no parking at all.  Again, we advertised on Open Rent, but although we had plenty of interest at both £1500 and £1750 pm none of them passed the references.  That causes problems for our insurance so we couldn’t proceed.

Then a lady whose house had burnt down a few weeks earlier approached us.  She was currently staying in a hotel with their 2 children and sick mother, which was not ideal.  She had been asked by her insurance company to fins somewhere for 3-6 months while her home was renovated.  We pursued this, and were particularly interested as under COVID rules tenants can be difficult to move on.  This could potentially cause delays when we are ready to start the development so a tenant with a clear exit route was a winner.

We got in contact with the insurance company and negotiated a fully furnished price BUT that obviously meant it needed to be fully furnished – we only had 4 days (including a weekend)! The rent offered was £3650 per month for a minimum of 3 months.  Ideally we need more than 3 months, but it was important not to lose sight of the development prize and we were aware of the clear benefits this provided.  Any income towards the costs and mortgage are a bonus.  We have a mortgage with no ERCs so as soon as planning is approved and the tenants have moved out we can get on with the next stage.

My vlog, previously published, gives a bit more excitement than the written word – that said it was a manic few days.  The tenant was a dream as she really wanted as much upcycled goods as possible. I gained a lot of trust from how she dealt with the situation; we gave her a £200 budget for all bedding, kitchen utensils and soft stuff – she came in at £235.  Total spend, including 4 new mattresses, was £2168.

They moved in on the Monday evening.  As the monthly amount was under a serviced standard price, we insisted on 3 months up front; as they are totally incompetent, they tenant moved out of their hotel by 10am and the payment came through at 5.30pm. I can’t think of anything so stressful for the family .  The whole process wouldn’t have been achieved without the 4 Directors working so well together, and this really has shown me that I am business with a great group of people.

Food for thought…. Loss adjustors are always in need of accommodation.  As long as your mortgage provider is happy, it can be a lucrative income.  It would be worth finding contacts in the areas you invest to see if the timing works.  It is important to check the figures though, they want fully furnished and bills included, so it may not be worth it over a year’s contract.

Your partnership, work ethic and values are key to a profitable and stress free working partnership.  Everyone will have something to bring to the party and it is important to be mindful of that.  All of us have busy full time jobs, so effective and smart working is paramount.

The last few days of this property were genuinely hard work. I was able to build up such an open relationship with the tenant and found out she was a very community based person.  My close friend had lost her Mum days before they were due to move and whilst helping her pack (on the Saturday before the tenant moved in), I noticed a lot of disability equipment that was no longer needed. I spoke with the tenant and she was able to give all of it to her local elderly charity, which they desperately needed.  So a really positive end to it all.

A bit of excitement for the closing straights of lockdown.  Now to get the planning in next week and I will update you on that as we progress.

Enjoy your weekend.

 

Cash Vs. investor or bridging borrowing  – which is king..??

Happy Friday everyone.   I hope you are all digging deep, it seems a lot tougher nearing the end.

As we work with so many property investors, the question of whether they should use cash or bridging to fund a project often comes up… so I thought this week’s blog would give both sides of the coin.

Your Own Cash

It’s easy to say it’s cheaper as you aren’t charged interest or fees – and at the moment when bank interest rates are so low it is tempting, but tying up cash stops it being used for something else, which will give a return. You could use your cash to fund two or three rather than just one project if you used bridging finance too.  It’s really important to always look at all options and what the net cost actually is. It all depends on how many projects you are planning on completing at once, and whether you have contingency funds if your project runs over time or cost. If you want to grow quickly then having cash available for the right project is important.

If you are buying solely with cash then another consideration should also be to use a solicitor that is used to working with lenders solicitors. If the legal work has only been looked at as a cash purchase then it can make it difficult when refinancing.  There is more work involved when someone is placing a charge on the property, and this can then cause delays at the refinance stage of its not been dealt with initially.

Using Other People’s funds

This really does keep your cash available for a profitable opportunity, and is the lowest cost borrowing option if you can access it at a reasonable rate given that there are no arrangement fees, exit fees and lender solicitor fees. Considerations would be:

  • Is there enough profit in the deal to ensure that your investors are repaid within the timescales you have agreed, and what’s your back up option?
  • You will usually need to borrow the full amount for the full time period, so your interest payment needs to be calculated ok this basis.
  • If you are using it with bridging, Lenders need to ensure the right people are on the application, so you need to have some experience to bring to the project before the lender will be happy for you to use investor funds.

Bridging Finance 

So after all that, why would you use bridging finance? The biggest advantage is the security; of having a mortgageable property that a bank will lend on, and a lender’s solicitor having seen the legals and being happy with the property. There is never a guaranteed exit to a term mortgage but it does help.

As we touched on before, it frees up your capital to look at multiple properties, or it can allow you to look at bigger projects with bigger profits. If your total spend becomes a 25% deposit (and maybe refurbishment costs) suddenly your budget is much bigger.

There are ways to mitigate costs too, especially when you’re looking at keeping the property:

  • If you are borrowing the refurb costs as well as the acquisition, then you will obtain the refurb costs in arrears as you spend them. This reduces the interest payable by about 40% and therefore can balance out the arrangement fees, exit fees and legal costs.
  • There are some bridge to term mortgage options, where there is a reduction in arrangement fees, valuation costs and/or legals when you use both products with the same lender. This can mean that you’re not paying out as much, and may therefore mean it’s a lower cost option to private investor funds for example.

As always, it does depend on your circumstances and the project you are looking at so please feel free to give us a call and chat it through.

Jackie is always talking the talk – now she’s walking the walk with her first development!

Happy Friday everyone.  I hope you are all digging deep; however we think everyone is better off than us… they probably aren’t.

This week the blog is on my live case.  As most of you will know, I have been a property investor for about 20 years, but only with vanilla properties with a small refurb thrown in.  I have always wanted to do a development and with so many of our clients going that route, it was really making me envious.

Although I had savings, I don’t have enough experience in this area, so needed someone to work with.

When you chat as much as I do, it doesn’t take long to find out who’s got the appetite for this. I teamed up with someone I have known and worked with for a number of years, as well as his business partners.   After talking about what we could do, we started looking for suitable properties.  It’s important to have a team that can cover all areas; so we were able to delegate the roles of sourcing, development, finance and renting, a solid skill group.

Having not done a lot of sourcing, I really did underestimate its importance; It was time consuming enough just to look at the properties John found.  We looked at all sorts, from converting churches all the way through to large HMOs. We finally decided on an ugly property in Upminster, Essex which had plenty of development opportunities.

The property is a 4 bed house with a 1 bed annex on a good sized plot.  It was originally on the market for £750k, which was too high.  We waited and it dropped to £650k, at which point we put in a cheeky offer of £550k. It was accepted, but they would not allow an option agreement so if we were to proceed we would have to take a chance on the planning.

We intend to build 5 or 6 flats, which will be COVID friendly and eco friendly.  We will try and keep an existing wall, to avoid CIL, which again, reduces costs.

As we couldn’t get the option subject to planning, it was important to see what has happened to the immediate area.  The road has a lot of new builds, both flats and houses, so we can see that the precedent has been set.

We will be getting planning after completion, so I sourced a no ERC product, which will allow us to rent it out for the short term.  Any cash in will help towards costs.  We also insisted on a 2 week gap between exchange and completion so we could start the works required before we rent it out.  The property is a 60s house that had very elderly owners; it was really dated.

It is so important to check exactly what is needed to do to get it rented out, it needed to make financial sense, as it would all be knocked down. Just the painting of a large house is time consuming; it also needed some work to the electrics as they were definitely not tenant safe. As the owner removed all white goods, we sourced good second hand ones off Facebook market place.  They will all be PAT tested to make sure they conform.

We chose this route to avoid bridging; due to the time scales involved in applying for planning. Bridging, as we know, is an important route in a lot of cases but during COVID, this can lengthen the timescales. When you don’t know your timescales it’s worth looking at a longer term and lower cost option.  It really does depend on the property, thankfully this property is tired, but very habitable.

In the 3 months it’s taken to exchange, we have not been idle.  We have instructed the Architect and progressing the drawings and planning.

We complete on the 19th February and it’s definitely given me something away from work and lack of social diary dates to get excited about.

We have benefitted from the maximum SDLT discount, but there are still plenty of deals to be done out there.

Case study: When your simple HMO refinance doesn’t go to plan

Happy New Year to your all! I know it feels like 2021 has been around for far longer than just 8 days.. but here we are on week one of the blog.

For January we are focusing on case studies; as we are often asked what sort of properties we look at and what the benefits are of a specialist broker.  So here are some examples which show the sorts of things we can help with.

This week we are looking at an HMO refinance. Might seem like an easy one on paper but this one wasn’t! The client called me up just before Christmas in a bit of a panic. She had bought a property in summer the of last year with the plan of converting it into an HMO from a commercial building.  Planning was granted and the conversion started all on target but by October she had completed the works and was starting to look for a refinance options.

The broker she was using at this point went back to the lender that was used for the bridge to arrange the refinance, but they gave the property a ‘nil value’.  Now this doesn’t mean the property is worth nothing, but that it doesn’t fit with the criteria of that lender,  therefore is not suitable security. App fee and val fee wasted! The broker then tried another lender and had exactly the same outcome. Both lenders are those which we could call the ‘vanilla side of specialist’ and although they do lend on HMOs, they are strict within this area.  So the client has paid for 2 app fees, 2 valuation fees and no end in sight for the bridge.

The client didn’t know what the problem was, but reading the reports it could be any one or a combination of the following:

  • insufficient demand for that sort of property in that area. For example a property designed for professionals in an area which typically doesn’t see that.
  • Rent which is significantly higher than the market rent you would expect. Even if you can fill the property quickly, and it still fits (for a mortgage stress test) on market rent
  • The property would struggle to be converted back into a family home if the lender did have to do this to sell it on. This can be where we have 5-6 bedroom HMOs with all en suites. It may also include kitchenettes or second kitchens.

The frustrating part is that we have no recourse to challenge the surveyor, or find out why it doesn’t fit with that lender as quite often the lender themselves don’t know!

So what did we do differently? 

After a long chat with the client to find out what she was looking for, we decided to try a more specialised lender. The rates are slightly higher, but we have so much more control over the process. We can choose from some available surveyors and we can speak to the underwriters if there are any issues. This particular property had a great yield even as a single let, so I knew that if a lender saw this they would be fine – as long as I could have that conversation!

The client was so frustrated, worried that her bridge would run out without a solution and frantically trying to find a cash buyer in case we couldn’t find a solution.

We spoke about how much she had spent on the property and some comparables to see what we would be looking at for a value. She had over estimated her original value, and the broker had not given her the original bridge valuation which was frustrating. We got three valuation quotes, as we are able to with this lender, and the client made a decision as to who to go with. Again we talked about the options, our previous experiences with these valuers and the balance between cost and availability.

The application was submitted and we waited cautiously for the valuation. It came in higher than we expected, roughly the total cost of the purchase and cost of works which is what we would normally see for a hybrid valuation. I wasn’t really expecting to see a hybrid valuation given the comments around a lack of demand for HMO room rentals on the previous valuations, so that was a pleasant surprise!

The client was over the moon, she had invested so much time and money into this project. It meant she can not only keep the property,  but also pull some money out to move to another project. She was able to borrow 75% of the open market value.

The offer came through on Xmas Eve – we don’t often get tears over a formal offer, but it really made her Xmas.

The important phrase that we keep mentioning is The Route of Least Resistance.  Investors are not charities, so unnecessarily spending, particularly on small properties, is painful and difficult to recover.  Be realistic about your investment and try to steer away from only focussing on the annual rate.