Property investing can look daunting and complex to those without experience. The rules are constantly being rewritten, the goalposts are regularly shifted and the market looks like an unpredictable beast. Property Entrepreneur will challenge your preconceptions, and help you navigate the path to real, lasting wealth.
Introduction: My Property Journey
The first flat I bought was a beautiful Victorian conversion. It was a one-bedroom garden flat in Clapham, in south London, and I paid Pds. 73,000 for it in early 1998. At that time I was working as a pharmacist and earning around Pds. 32,000 a year, so the flat cost just over twice my annual salary. To put this into context, a similar flat in Clapham now, at the time of writing (February 2016), would cost you upwards of Pds. 500,000 and the top pay rate for a pharmacist is around Pds. 55,000; so, while the top pay for a pharmacist probably hasn't even doubled, property prices have more than quadrupled; the price of that Clapham flat is almost ten times what a pharmacist can earn today. This is a staggering gulf and does make you wonder who on earth can afford to buy property in London these days!
Of course, I bought my flat at the bottom of the market and we were about to watch prices soar like never before. Indeed, when I decided to sell the flat in 1999 in order to finance a business idea I'd had, I made a total profit of Pds. 36,000. The impact of making so much money in such a short space of time stayed with me and resonated with me for a long time.
For a while my life was full of ups and downs. I trained and worked as a pharmacist and, while I enjoyed the contact with customers and felt I had a good "bedside manner", I'd become frustrated with the glass ceiling in terms of pay. I had decided to study for an MBA, believing it would be my ticket into a fancy high-paid city job. However, I'd failed to get so much as a second interview for a single job. "Over-qualified and under-experienced" was how I was described over and over again. My next move was to set up a website. This was during the height of the dot-com boom and I seriously believed I was going to make millions from it. The idea was great; it was a dating website for Asian people. I thought I'd have a huge market considering the population of China and how difficult I assumed it must be for men and women to meet. However, I'd failed to take into consideration the fact that China was way behind the Western world in terms of the Internet and, in reality, my potential customers had no way of using my service. I had to close it down with losses of over Pds. 300,000, and to make matters worse, I'd raised all that money through my parents and parents' friends, i.e. within a very close-knit Chinese community - not the most forgiving of people when it comes to losing face!
Finally I sat down and looked at everything I'd experienced. It was like seeing the pieces of a jigsaw finally come together in the right order. I merged the results of all my experiences together and finally made sense of them. First of all I noted that the most money I'd ever made was not by working a set number of hours for anyone (myself or an employer); it was by buying and selling property at the right time. Secondly, although my website had failed because I didn't have the customers to populate it, I knew it had been a good site and I'd gained a great deal of experience in developing it; given the right product and audience, I was sure I could still have a successful Internet-based business. Finally I thought about what a good "people person" I had learnt to be, after all my days working in the pharmacy business. What if, I thought to myself, I could build a website to help people sell their houses quickly and without hassle by connecting them to investors. And thus my business idea for NetworkPropertyBuyers.co.uk was born. I later went on to build NetworkPropertyInvestments.co.uk to attract investors for the sellers.
My website was a database of property leads. I basically "match-made" investors and sellers who were particularly motivated to sell their properties. People were able to make direct deals, cutting out the estate agent middleman. Of course, these deals were struck at a lower price than the seller m