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Thanks Emma, Thanks Richard, Thanks Scott!  You've motivated me to do an update, and it's much appreciated :)


So, this is what happened next. It’s long, I got excited….


Feeling actually really relieved not to be taking on the house with multiple large issues to resolve when I’m so new to the whole thing, I thought I'd go back to viewing properties. However, a quick look on Zoopla reminded me that a flat I'd already viewed was still for sale.  For some reason, the agent selling this particular property hadn't listed it on Rightmove at all, and it didn't come up on Zoopla searches either, even though it was on the site.  I guess it was some kind of oversight when they listed it, but it meant that I only found it originally by chance, when it came up as an auto-suggestion of similar properties to one I’d been looking at online.  And I think a lot of people had probably missed it altogether.


Which was great news for me.  I noticed that it had been reduced by £5,000 since I'd first viewed it, probably as a result of Brexit at a guess (the agent, on the phone, helpfully told me that the 'market's completely crashed' which I’m thinking he shouldn't have told me because it gave me a perfect legitimisation for making a lower offer).  Legitimisation is a word I have never used before.  This property investing is changing me in such strange ways -  more on that later.


So when I called the agent he told me it wasn't really on the market any more; because it hadn't sold, the landlord had decided to let it out again, and new tenants had just moved in.  It had taken almost no time to find a new tenant once the previous one had moved out, which felt like a great sign.  I asked if the vendor would still be open to selling it, given that I would be happy to take it already tenanted.


The vendor was amenable, so I went to take a second look.  Unfortunately for me, I only managed to fit this viewing in because I'd taken an extraordinarily rare day off work to have major dental surgery.  Cos, apparently, you can’t model with a paralysed face.  My dentist is in Wolverhampton, which is where the flat is.  Wonderfully convenient.  So off I went to the dentist, had teeth removed, titanium rods drilled into my jaw, and generous amounts of anaesthetic pumped around my face.  Not in that order, obviously; they did me the courtesy of doing the anaesthetic first because they're civilised like that in Wolverhampton.


It was a bit of a rush to get to the viewing afterwards, and the agent was waiting for me when I arrived.  'Hello, and thank you for coming out again' I trilled brightly.  Except that it came out 'eooo, ah ahhhoooo or ohhhhin owwww ahhhin’, and a bit of drool escaped down my chin.  The agent looked puzzled. 'God, sorry, I've been anaesthetised' I explained.  It came out 'ohh ooorree...' well, you get the idea.


I really do try to put together a professional impression when I'm dealing with agents.  In order to make up for my lack of actual experience, I achieve this mainly by use of costume and styling.  All I have to fall back on, after all, is my entirely unrelated experience in the photographic industry. So I choose special, sensible-looking clothes to wear, avoid crazy eye make up ( so hard. SO hard), and try to talk like a sober, solvent, adult.  I was ruining the whole thing.


Anyway, having (possibly) understood my dental situation, the agent rang the doorbell, and the new tenant came to the door, dressed only in underpants.  Remarkable really, as he knew we were coming.  I can only assume this was his way of creating the impression he desired, just like me with the Property Investor costuming.  Extraordinary;  I felt an immediate affinity.  Upstairs (it's an upstairs flat, yay, I liked them the best when I was renting) I met the other tenant.  'Ahooooo!' I whinnied, affably.   She looked utterly confused.  It turns out that the tenants have recently arrived from Poland, and have limited English.  So asking them to understand a random horsey Brit with a rubbery anaesthetised face was too much really.  Both of them looked at me warily.  I smiled.  Or tried to.  What I actually did was expose my new titanium rods, bleeding gums and stitches.  So I expect the effect was pretty reassuring.


Anyway, the flat looked the way it did before;- modern, tidy and low-maintenance.   I wanted it.  It has a big driveway and a large garden (with worryingly ill-defined boundaries if I'm honest - I'll be looking into that).  It’s within walking distance of the city centre and although it’s certainly not it a posh part of town, I’d have been happy to live there, and it had an ASDA within an easy walk.  ‘AhhhhhOooooh!’ I announced in approbation, after taking a random photo of the boiler to try to make it look as though I had some kind of relevant knowledge.  And I left both the tenants and the agent looking profoundly relieved as I drove off, feeling hopeful and excited again.


The next day, I called the agent, apologised more coherently for being so weird the day before, and enquired as to the length of lease, service charge, and ground rent.  I’d actually had some of this information when I’d viewed the property the first time, but unfortunately I’d not bothered to keep it when I had an offer accepted on the first property I’d wanted.  So I’ve learned another valuable lesson - to keep any notes that I make, because they might become useful again later on.  This is hard, because I count Throwing Things Away as a favourite hobby on par with Doing Three Point Turns.


The lease is 118 years, which I’m happy with.  I’ll try to extend it once I’ve owned it for long enough, because I’d be happier if it never dropped below that magical 86 years (or 80, or 85, I can’t remember)  during my ownership/lifetime.  I’ve already gone through extending a shorter lease, and didn’t enjoy it - spending so much money on something that seems so entirely theoretical, and is so boringly invisible, feels dull.  The sum would have been enough for a deposit on a property, so paying it put my property investing trajectory back by a couple of years.


The service charge for this new prospect is £60 per annum.  I find this staggeringly low, and slightly worrying.  Granted that it’s just a maisonette in a small block, but even so, I simply have never heard of a charge of less than £900 a year.  I’m hoping that it’s right, and that this is normal for properties like this, but I’m remaining cautious about it.


The vendor couldn’t remember what the ground rent was.  I waited, and phoned repeatedly, and emailed, for about a week.  Having learned from my previous purchase attempt, I didn’t wait and hope that people would get back to me of their own accord.


And finally, the result came back.  It’s £10 per annum.  Now I’m worried that this flat is actually situated in some kind of time warp, and that I’m being quoted prices from 1700 or similar.  Because that just seems too weirdly low a price to make any sense for a modern apartment.  I’m so glad to have a solicitor, because I can’t be sure whether I’m just lucky to have found somewhere with cheap ground rent/service charges, or whether it’s actually a property made of Lego which I, unaware, am viewing through a giant magnifying glass, or that I’m in a dream.  I just DON’T KNOW.


Anyway, based on the information in front of me, the deal makes sense.


So I made an offer the following morning, by email because I just can’t cope with offering anything under the asking price by phone.  I feel too rude.


I offered roughly 10% under, and the agent got back to me almost immediately, by phone (Gah. Why? I love email!).  My offer was refused, and the agent advised me that the ‘absolute rock bottom price’ the vendor would accept was only £1000 under the full price.  I said I’d think about it.


The next day I offered an adjusted sum.  The agent phoned me back (!!) and said that now the ‘absolute, absolute rock bottom price’ was £2,000 under the asking price.  It was really tempting to accept that, because my first instinct is to believe what I’m told (I guess a lot of us are naturally inclined in that way?).  But I said I’d think about it again.


A couple of hours later, I made my third offer, £3,000 under the original asking price.   The agent, predictably, called me back and said the vendor wanted to know who my mortgage offer was with, and who my solicitor was.  Happily, I could give them that information, which made me feel like a proper investor again, even though I was dressed in a onesie.  Maybe costuming isn’t everything.


The next morning, my offer was accepted.  It sounds like an awful lot of to and fro for a £3,000 saving, but I regarded it as good negotiation practice for me, and the property’s under £70,000 anyway, so percentage wise it feels like a worthwhile saving.  Oh God, I can almost hear the laughter of proper experienced investors, reading this.  But anyway. It made me feel like Tom Cruise in The Firm.  


So, feeling hopeful again, I’m back to waiting for solicitors to tell me stuff.  the interest rate has dropped and I’ve been able to take advantage of a mortgage product that wasn’t available when I tried to buy my original choice.  And I’m buying a slightly cheaper property that’s currently being rented for the same amount that I’d expected the original house I wanted to rent at.  So if all goes perfectly to plan, I’ll be paying considerably less per month, and my ROI will be healthier, than if everything had gone ahead and I’d bought my first choice.


I’m sure lots will go wrong, and I’ll update as it does.  It’s so helpful to write all this down, so I’m really happy that it’s proving useful or interesting to some others.


Be happy!

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This all has a feel of 'meant to be'.  I hope the sale goes through without a hitch.  Your updates have been entertaining and helpful.  I'm at the 'first property, about to renovate' stage, and haven't actually purchased anything yet, so I'll be a few months behind you on the search for flats etc...

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Another fabulous update, and it sounds indeed like all this is meant to be as said earlier so go forth with confidence :) ..... I really hope this one works out for you.

Just out of interest is the previous owner wanting to sell for a specific reason? I know it's hard to find out but would be interesting x

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  • 2 months later...

Sorry for the long gap between my last post and this one.  It turns out that this is because the gap between choosing a property, instructing a solicitor and actually taking ownership is quite, um… long.

So let me fill you in.


First, everything went quiet. Then I got a bunch of papers from my solicitor, who had most of what they needed from me already, since my original sale had fallen through.  I got some papers signed, sent them back, and then there was a big long pause.


It lasted several months.


Every so often I checked in with the solicitors, who said things were progressing.  Every so often I also checked my bank account, in order to reassure myself that I really did have the deposit sitting there in an ISA, and that I hadn’t spent it by mistake on botox or similar.


Then, out of the blue one Monday, my solicitor said that the vendor’s representative wanted to complete by the end of the week.  God, I’d not got any buildings cover in place yet, I'd not sent my solicitor any money, and I’d not received a satisfactory response to my question about the boundaries in the garden (at present the garden looks absolutely huge, to the point that I was suspicious that it couldn’t possibly all belong to one flat).  The vendor’s solicitor took umbrage and appeared to suggest that we were just entertaining ourselves by creating problems when I asked for confirmation. I wondered if everything was about to fall through dramatically, with the discovery the the back garden was actually a Hell Mouth, nuclear reactor or something.


Then, on Thursday, they suddenly furnished us with a plan which showed the boundaries clearly.   And, newsflash, it related in precisely no way whatsoever to what you see if you go and look at the space in real, physical life. It turned out that only one quarter of the land I’d seen actually came with the flat after all.  I don’t care in the least, but golly, that could have been a deal-breaking disappointment for some buyers, if they had ambitions for spending much time outside.  The rest of the land belongs to the local council (who own the block) so it looks as though I’ll have to argue the issue out with them - at present the entire space has been left to become overgrown, and as a result it’s unusable as a garden.  I’d like to fence of the section that belongs to me and create a space that the tenants will, at the very least, be able to use for drying washing.  And I’d like to convince the local council to look after the rest of the space better, because I think fly-tipping could well become a problem if they don’t.


Nevertheless, I decided that I was happy to go ahead with the sale and figure that out later; this may be rather reckless of me, but since the tenants didn’t even realise there WAS a garden when they moved in, I don’t think it’s important enough to make into a big deal of it right now.


So in the end, we did, miraculously, both exchange and complete on Friday.  And we chilled on Sunday.   I don't know why I think that quoting Craig David is suddenly appropriate, I apologise.  I didn’t know that it was even possible to do both exchanging and completing on one day.  I was in another country, so I didn’t get to collect keys or anything; the entire thing felt rather dreamy and theoretical.  However, there are real people living in the property, which makes me feel very happy.


Which brings me on to the tenants; their tenancy is continuing, and I’m using the same letting agency that was already handling the property, which has made things simple (ha ha, for now, anyway).  It means that getting rental guarantee insurance would be complicated so I’ll wait until the next tenancy begins before worrying about it.  They’ve been good tenants up to this point so I’m hoping (of course) that they remain so.


Rent of £500 per month has started appearing in my account, and I have an interest only mortgage with payments that are currently fixed at £113 per month.  I’m going to have to tackle the garden as a matter of relative urgency, simply because I know it’d be so tempting to just leave it since the tenants aren’t bothered.  So before inertia sets in, I’m writing to the council to start figuring out what they’re prepared to take responsibility for.  But that’s the only immediate responsibility that I feel as though I’m really taking on for now.


So I took my husband out for a celebratory dinner, sent Christmas presents to my new lettings agent and tenants, and thought about how different I feel from the way I felt a year ago.


At the start of 2016, I was hoping to be able to invest in a buy-to-let property within the next 2-3 years.  I’d not looked at my numbers, and was expecting to get a repayment mortgage.  It hadn’t occurred to me that I might be able to buy more than one BTL, so I wasn’t expecting it to make a huge difference to my pension, but it vaguely felt like a good thing to do (since I was happy to have my London flat as an accidental BTL).


Then I did my numbers on a plane to Lanzarote in February, and by the time we landed I’d realised I’d be able to have a go at buying immediately.   Whilst on holiday I bought Rob Dix’s beginners’ book and immediately discounted his advice.  ‘Well, I won’t be buying with an interest only mortgage!’.  And ‘Goodness, I won’t be able to afford more than one more BTL’.


Then I realised that if I stopped believing the first idea, then the second one wasn't necessarily true either.


I went to see a mortgage advisor, found a property, had to withdraw an offer, found another property, and finally managed to complete the purchase before the end of 2016.


A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it possible, and I feel so much more financially secure because of it.


I know that this was a very small, pedestrian deal, and I know that I’ve really only increased my annual net income by about £2500 maximum.  However, the security I’ve found in having learned a bit out how this system works makes me feel so optimistic and hopeful about my future.  


I’ve been terrified of having to retire from modelling ever since I started doing it - it’s a business with a built-in shelf life, and an accident, illness or injury could obliterate my career in a moment.  It’s been scary to live with this, so having another avenue to pursue (whilst hoping, of course, that I keep getting booked as a model, because I love it) makes me feel a great deal safer.

As it happens, a combination of ending up with surplus capital after this purchase, and having done a relatively good job of saving funds this year, I think I might be able to purchase again in 2017.  This would be fantastic, because it would move me closer to achieving my end goal, and it’d also be entertaining - I’ve had such fun, and the idea of having to leave Rightmove alone until 2018 or beyond had been bothering me.


I also see how tempting it’d be to buy another property in Wolverhampton and use the small amount of local knowledge that I’ve gained.  But I don’t think that’d be the smartest choice because I’d like to spread my geographical risk.  So I’ve kept my eye on a couple of other areas that I’d be interested in investing in, and I’ll be doing my best to DO THIS ALL AGAIN as soon as possible, but in a slightly calmer, more knowledgable way.


And my little, happy success story is all because of Rob & Rob, The Property Hub community, Lee (who helped me out when I began searching for properties), & my husband, who took pity on me and helped me with spreadsheets so that I could assess deals.  So Happy Christmas and THANK YOU to all of those people, and I do hope that 2017 will be a lovely successful one for everyone.  Property investment is a joyful hobby and I’m looking forward to one day being able to refer to ‘my portfolio’.  I can’t imagine what sort of grandiose nonsense will be going through my head if I ever get that far.  But you can be assured that I’ll be quite giddy with the excitement.

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I'm so glad you persevered and got to this stage.  It's been fascinating reading all the ups and downs.


I'm still awaiting the start of my refurbishment, having had a bit of a hellish go-around with various contractors who seem to think I was born yesterday and have bottomless pockets!  I've found one now I'm happy to work with, so fingers crossed, I should have tenants in by March-ish.



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  • 1 month later...

Hi Joceline,


I stumbled across your thread and couldn't resist reading the whole thing. I work as a copywriter and although others have said this, I can't resist chiming in too - you've got a real flair for writing!


I'm looking to invest this year and it's really inspiring to read about your story. Just reading through this thread has given me so many ideas and pointers for things to consider; I hope I get the opportunity to read more of your posts in future!





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