About Us – How we did it!
Hi, we are Julie and Alec Hanson, the husband and wife team who run the justdoproperty.co.uk property website. We launched the website in 2010 for people just like us who wanted to get started in property.
We wanted to share our story about how we built our portfolio and the ups and the downs!
I come from a corporate background as I worked at Hewlett-Packard for 20 years. But I always knew that I wanted to have a flexible working environment to work around my 2 lovely daughters. So, I decided to give up corporate life and start my own business.
Alec works full time for himself as an IT consultant. We both decided that we wanted to build a property portfolio to allow us to have a residual income and to build up an additional pension pot.
Why we started investing in property
Previously I had moved down south with my corporate job, and I had a flat in Manchester that I let out. The cashflow was really good and I thought that it was working really well. At the time, I was watching all the property programmes on TV and I loved them. The catalyst happened when we realised that we could make some good money and it was almost all passive income. It was the realisation that we had to get into action and do something about that.
Why we didn’t do it sooner
A combination of fear and lack of knowledge had been holding us back from getting involved in property sooner. It was a scary thing to do because it’s a lot of money that you need to invest. We were definitely thinking about it too much and over analysing. We wanted to have all the knowledge to invest in property and to really understand what we were doing before we started. So, both of those aspects were holding us back.
Our first steps to move forward involved looking at the local Manchester market. We started doing our due diligence. Looking at how much rent a typical property achieves that you can buy for X amount of money? It all came down to the ROI and yield.
We also worked with a property mentor for a couple of months, and that experience gave us a little bit of confidence and helped us to understand what we were doing. He also helped us to negotiate a good deal on the property. So, the two main steps we took were doing the research and due diligence and getting a property mentor.
As a result of this we have decided to offer a hand holding service at Just Do Property. If you are struggling to get started we’ll take you by the hand and help you step by step.
Building a portfolio
We jumped in and purchased our next property. With the advice from our mentor we managed to negotiate a good deal. It required a full refurbishment; so, we designed a project plan and got started. We managed to do it within 4 weeks and on the last day of the refurb our new tenant moved in. The timing worked well, and we didn’t have any void period.
The tenant and her family are still in there, many years later, which is fantastic.
We have a lot of tenants who want to stay long term in our properties, they want to make it their home.
We are so pleased that our tenants say that we are great landlords. I think that’s because we really look after them. If something goes wrong; we get it sorted for them quickly. We send them a Christmas card and a gift token very year. We feel that if we keep our tenants happy; they will stay in our properties. Void periods are bad, they cost you a lot of money so, you want to avoid that at all costs.
Most of the properties we have bought have been fantastic. We’ve got some great deals. These have happened through networking and connecting with other property professionals. We found the key to finding the right property is to understand your goals. We made sure we knew our exit strategy for each house, even though we weren’t planning to sell. You make money when you buy the property and not when you sell. So, we always made sure we bought at the right price.
Recovering from buying something you wished you hadn’t bought can be hard.
We bought a hot deal from a company – lots of investors were excited about it – so we thought we’d grab it. We bought it and we were told it was a two-bedroom property.
Then when we went to see it, it was a one-bedroom property. It wasn’t worth what they said it was worth, but fortunately it still worked out because it was a great deal. The moral of the story is to always go and view the property or send a trusted advisor.
We also acquired a lease option in the North East which we had for 5 years. That one was very promising; and it looked like a fantastic deal. However, the market didn’t move in the North East; so, we didn’t actually make much money. The good news was that we didn’t lose money and we learned a lot from the experience.
It hasn’t been completely smooth and easy along the way. The biggest challenge was trying to balance everything around our two daughters and actually buying the first property. There was a lot to do and having that work-life balance was quite difficult. In the beginning, it was pretty hard. There were many times when I felt like giving up and getting a job. Building a property portfolio, as many people know, is not easy.
Other challenges to building our property portfolio have been the new government regulations which have made it very difficult. We have to change the way we do things now, and we need to understand everything. You can’t really be an accidental landlord any more. Getting financed is a struggle as well.
When we first started, it was fairly easy to get finance but that all changed after the property downturn in 2007 and it can still be a challenge We’ve also had challenges with tenants. We’ve had horrendous nightmares with some tenants who just will not get out of the property. In those situations, we were not being paid and we had to go through that whole long process of getting them evicted. That’s just awful because we were paying our mortgage—we were paying everything—and they’re sitting in your property rent-free.
The big light bulb moment for us over the years was when we got that consistent income from the properties, and we understood how to do due diligence on a property in the right way. Understanding the research process was quite an ‘aha’ moment for us.
Advice for getting started
We have a lots of advice to share with someone who’s just getting started. We would say that if you want to invest in property, just do it. As we said before, we always wish we’d done it sooner. However, make sure that you do your research and due diligence on the property and the market. Do the groundwork. Call the letting agents and call the sales agents in that area.
Find out everything you can about that property and the local market. Go and see the property as well. But don’t over-analyse all the information. Remember that you make the money when you buy the property, so make sure you do the research. Make sure it’s a good deal and that you buy at the right price. The top tip is just to get going with the right information.
Make sure you get educated so you know what you are doing. Go to the networking events and the property shows and build up a network of contacts. Learn from people who have done it all before.
Good luck with your property journey, we look forward to hearing all about it!