Gardener who joined Samuel Leeds Academy rakes in £4k a month from just one deal

From being a gardener and coping with social anxiety Max Baker is now a property entrepreneur reaping rich rewards from his new career. The father-of-two is earning around £4,000 a month from just one deal and is about to take control of a £2m mansion. Max is raking in money without owning a single brick and barely having to work, with his income projected to shoot through the roof in the year ahead.

‘I don’t work much at all now’

Max has come a long way since attending a Samuel Leeds crash course and then joining the academy. The biggest challenge for him to get into business was his social anxiety. 

He struggled to socialise, and crowds fazed him. So, the thought of being in a roomful of aspiring property investors made him nervous.

“That first £1 event for me was really pushing the boat. I went there thinking I’m not going to pay for any courses. I’m going to sit at the back, just be quiet and see what I can learn. If I learn something, I learn something. I’m not too fussed about it and then, when I was there, I just thought I need the training,” remembers Max.

First, he had to convince his mother to let him sign up for the academy, even though he would be paying for it. Max had previously lost a lot of money from selling a house when he was ‘young and stupid.’ So, she was holding on to his funds for him to stop him frittering it away.

Another student spoke to her on the telephone about the advantages of being on the academy and she let Max join.

“She was trying to look out for me and make sure I was not spending it stupidly like I was before. It was the one-on-one mentorship where she saw that would help with my anxiety and benefit me. Even if I didn’t become financially free, at least I was getting that boost in confidence.”

It had the desired effect. “I’m more confident. I can speak to people,” says Max. “All I ever want to speak to people about is property. Any excuse to talk about that I’m there.”

Pushing himself out of his comfort zone has made him more assured over the past year, as well as seeing the money streaming into his bank account.

Max needed all the self-belief he could muster when his first deal fell through. He took on a two-bedroom apartment in Brighton which went on to make £2,000 to £2,500 per month. 

As it was performing well, Max gave up his job, only to find out about three months later there was a head lease restriction which prevented it from being rented out for short stays. Threatened with legal action from the freeholder, Max had no choice but to return the keys.

He lost time, rather than being out of pocket, but learnt to always check the lease.

Worried at suddenly having no money coming in, the academy student ‘hit the phone’ and stumbled across another deal just as he was starting to become depressed.

“I was thinking I’ll just go back to work. I can’t do it.”

Then the novice entrepreneur got a break. He messaged the owners of a house being advertised on the online OpenRent letting agency and was invited to a viewing the next day.

The house, which was again in Brighton, turned out to be a Spanish style villa with a hot tub in the back garden and an annexe.

“I was there for about three hours at the viewing and probably looked around the house for five minutes. The rest of it was sitting down talking.”

In his message, Max explained that he rented out houses and filled them with people for short stays. He also pointed out that he had cleaners and maintenance teams to look after the place. This was true, thanks to his connections on the academy.

After the viewing they agreed a rent-to-rent deal which benefits them both. He pays the owners £3,500 a month in rent and then rents it out at a higher rate. In the four months since he took on the property the average monthly income has been £4,000.

“That’s winter and we’re not even fully booking it out yet. In the summer it’s going to be a lot more because it’s near the beach.”

The annexe is being used as a fifth bedroom and he goes there himself when it’s not booked up. Having set it up, the income is virtually passive.

“I don’t really work much at all now to be honest. It’s more just chilling out at home. I probably look at my phone a few times and check how the place is going.”

The benefit for the owners, who moved abroad, is that they get rent each month and know the house is being cleaned and looked after. If there are any problems, Max deals with them.

The landlords also have no management fees to pay under the agreement. If they are not paid, Max can be turfed out in a fortnight. There are other bonuses. The people who hire the accommodation are guests, rather than tenants. If the property was occupied by a tenant who failed to pay the rent, court proceedings could be required to evict them – whereas a guest could be asked to leave immediately.

Max takes payments in advance so that there is no risk of non-payment. However, if someone did overstay their welcome, they could find themselves locked out.

“We’ve got an electric gate at the front. So, if they go out, we can lock it and change the code and they can’t come back in,” he says.

One guest booked the accommodation, but then more people turned up against his expectations. 

“I just made them pay the extra guest fee. I had their card details and ID.”

Regular cleaning also means the house is being inspected frequently and an inventory is taken of the items in it. If it was a tenanted property, checks might only be done every six months. There is also the possibility that the tenant could throw a party without the landlord’s knowledge and cause damage.

‘’The academy is the best thing I’ve ever done’

Max cannot wait to spend time in his next property when there are no bookings. It is on the seafront and has a swimming pool. He is due to pick up the keys to the £2m mansion in March (2024) after pulling off another rent-to-rent deal.

The owners of this and his other serviced accommodation house are best friends and passed on his name.

The rent will be a hefty £7,000 a month but Max is confident he can still make money through renting it out on platforms like Airbnb. “It’s a lot. But we’re charging about £1,000 a night for that.”

It is ‘high-risk, high reward,’ he concedes, but believes it is worth it if the property pays you.

“We’re going to do some charity work with it as well because it’s got disabled access like lifts. So, we’re going to try to do giveaways to someone disabled and their family.”

A lot of the furniture is being left in the house, which also happened with his other one – and there is no deposit to pay. 

“We’re going to pay three months upfront rent instead. It’s a lot of money but you’re paying that money anyway. It gives you time to chill out when you’re getting it ready and not thinking we’ve got to get people in here now to pay for the rent next month. We did that with the first one.

“We’ve already got bookings of over £1,000.”

Combined with his other property, which is worth £700,000 to £800,000, he will be controlling close on £3m of real estate in his first year in property.

Looking to the future Max plans to branch out into other strategies. The lease with his current landlords is for a year. After that he will be trying to negotiate a lease option agreement on it which would allow him to buy the property in future at an agreed price.

“A lease option is kind of what you do with a car where you buy it in a few years’ time for the price now and then pay later,” he says.

In the meantime, the landlord continues to be paid his rent, knowing that the renter has an incentive to keep the property in good condition because they may buy it down the line. It means Max can save up for a deposit on the house when the term of the existing rental agreement ends.

His partner loves what he is doing and together they are planning to acquire their own properties next year and tackle buy, refurbish, refinance projects.

His goal when going into property was to give himself more time. Although his gardening job was seasonal, which meant he didn’t work from November to February, it was exhausting. The upside was that he got to spend time with his children then, but the pay was low.

“I was probably making between £1,000 and £2,000 a month profit. It wasn’t worth it. You get home and you’re knackered. All you want to do is go to bed.”

He has not yet ‘upgraded’ his life by buying things, but he can now be around his children more while they are young. And he has loved every minute of the academy.

“I say to everyone, just do it, sign up for the academy because it is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

There were obstacles to be overcome along the way. He found it hard to structure his business and ensure everything was in place to keep it running smoothly. 

Appearing on Winners on a Wednesday was another hurdle to get over because of his anxiety. “This was a big thing for me to do but you’ve got to do it. I’m an introvert. I like to stay quiet, just observe the room and keep to myself. 

“The academy has definitely changed that a bit. I do try to socialise a lot more now.”

Max’s tips

  • Check the head lease for any restrictions if you’re taking on an apartment.
  • Push yourself and go out there and do it.
  • Put everything into it

Samuel Leeds’ verdict

“I had to drag Max to come on Winners on a Wednesday because his anxiety was spiking. But he’s pushed himself out of his comfort zone and done so well, especially after his initial setback. I can’t wait to see his next property.”


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