Lockdown couldn’t stop Property Investors Academy student becoming financially free
Property Investors Academy student Nicola Black gave up a six-figure corporate job to concentrate on her rent-to-rent business, only to see it grind to a halt because of lockdown. One of three furnished properties she was managing went live the day Boris Johnson announced the restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus. But she refused to be defeated and is now financially free.
Samuel Leeds’ best-selling property bible Buy Low Rent High inspires Nicola
Nicola Black’s journey to becoming a full-time property investor began when she read Buy Low Rent High by Property Investors’ founder Samuel Leeds.
At the time she was working as a director with BT. It was a secure job which she enjoyed. But something ‘clicked,’ inside her, she says, when she finished the book.
“I had a very good job, but something changed that made me question whether or not that was the future I wanted to continue to follow. It just gave me a different way of thinking.”
Nicola had always had an interest in property, doing up her own houses as a hobby, but had never previously considered that she could make a full-time living from it.
“I only knew the traditional ways of making money from property, like you buy a property, renovate it and sell it on. Reading that book was the catalyst for me. It just opened my eyes up to lots of different strategies, like no money down deals, serviced accommodation and HMOs.
“At that point, I’d actually moved nine times and I thought unless I channel this interest somewhere else, I'll keep moving house for the rest of my life just to fulfil that creative side.
“I thought maybe I can make some money while enjoying what I do and make a passive income which would give me the freedom to be doing other things, such as volunteering and travelling more.”
Nicola read Buy Low Rent High just before Christmas 2018 and also watched Samuel’s YouTube videos. Then the following April she took a sabbatical for a couple of months, touring Cambodia on her own.
“It was quite a brave move, but it just gave me a lot of time to think and reflect out there. I did some volunteering in a school in Cambodia and spent a lot of time with families. It just massively opened my eyes up to different ways of living.
“I really questioned where true happiness comes from. I came back with just a different outlook and a realisation of what was important in life.”
The people she encountered again made her question whether she wanted to continue in her corporate role.
This is something Samuel Leeds says he can relate to strongly as he undertook a similar journey to Africa when he was starting out in business as a teenager. Samuel vowed then to return to the continent when he was rich to help improve the lives of poor villagers. It was a promise he has been able to fulfil, recently setting up the Samuel Leeds Foundation.
“I think that’s probably why, when Nicola and I first met on the Property Investors Crash Course, there was a connection between us from the beginning.”
Nicola attended the crash course about a month after returning from Cambodia and says Samuel’s values came through strongly.
“I remember he handed out a yellow sheet of paper with all his values written down on it. That's stuck with me ever since. I’ve changed some of them to suit me but there's a couple that I still recite every day.
“I also thought he’s not in it just purely for the money. There's a lot more to him beneath the surface and I could definitely see I would get a lot from his training.”
‘I could have been financially free sooner if I had listened to Samuel’s advice’
Samuel and Nicola still argue over her first deal which he opposed. She had saved up to buy a property in Spain. Her long-term plan was to build up a passive income so that one day she could spend a couple of months of the year there, lapping up the sun.
By now Nicola had joined the Property Investors Academy and Samuel advised her during a one-to-one consultation that it was not a good investment. However, because she had already put down a large deposit and forked out more money in fees, the purchase went ahead.
She admits now it was probably not the most sensible financial decision she ever made, and it hasn’t paid for itself yet, although she only started renting it out towards the end of summer 2019.
“Had I listened to Samuel’s advice I could have been financially free probably a lot quicker with that money.”
Nicola points out to Samuel, when they debate the subject, that he bought his Range Rover which will depreciate. He accepts this is true but counters with the argument that not every single investment has to be ‘commercially savvy.’
“I did say to Nicola if you really want to do it, if it’s really going to make you happy, then do it.”
Nicola loses money on her first rent to SA deal
With only a few thousand pounds of her savings left, Nicola opted to make money from a rent to serviced accommodation agreement – having learned more about the strategy two months into her training on the Property Investors Academy.
She secured her first deal on an apartment in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne, having negotiated to pay the landlord a fixed monthly rent. In return, she would be allowed to let it out to short stay visitors and make a profit.
However, the management company decided suddenly not to allow such contracts any longer, scuppering her arrangement.
“I did lose money and I questioned at that point whether it was right to carry on, but I did and learned a lot from it.”
The next step of her journey was very different, says Nicola. She partnered up with someone who already owned a few properties. Together they bought a one-bedroom flat with the intention of renting it out as furnished accommodation.
It was their first Buy, Renovate, Rent, Refinance (BRRR) project and they decided to convert the bathroom into another bedroom.
“It had the most humungous bathroom you've ever seen, so it was just obvious for a two-bed conversion,” recalls Nicola.
They got a good deal on the property, paying £45,000, and spent another £18,000 on the refurbishment which included damp proofing and furnishing it to a high standard.
In February 2020, after the renovation work was completed, it was revalued at £90,000, allowing them to pull all their money back out.
The interest-only mortgage payments amount to just over £300 and they expected to make an average profit of £700 to £800 a month.
It was the dream property case study, but Nicola’s best laid plans were against disrupted – this time by the nationwide lockdown which came into force the following month.
‘I was losing money during lockdown but refused to get into a negative spiral’
Nicola followed up her BRRR venture by securing another two rent-to-rent deals, giving her a total of three coastal properties to rent out to tourists.
All of them are within a 15-minute drive of her home on the outskirts of Durham which makes it easier for her to manage them.
By now she was confident she could make a full-time living from property, through all that she had learned and the support she was getting from the academy, so quit her job.
The flat went live a few weeks before the lockdown, and she had an exit plan if it didn’t work. It was in a good rental area, so a standard buy-to-let would probably make them about £200 month.
Even so, the former BT executive has been hit hard by the restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. She managed to rent out one of the properties, which had good reviews, to key workers, but the other two were empty for three months.
One of them went on the market the very day the Government ordered people to stay in their homes.
“With all my eggs in a serviced accommodation/tourist market basket, things just ground to a big halt overnight. Thankfully, I had had some savings, but it was an oh sh*t type of moment, what do I do now? All the bills still had to be paid.
“It didn’t take me long, though, to pull myself out of that situation. There’s no point in being in a negative spiral. It was out of anyone's control, so I just looked ahead to what the future would hold, knowing fairly confidently it would bounce back and thankfully it has.
That positivity is now starting to pay off as the limits on movement are eased. After a slow start, July ended really strongly, says Nicola, with 90 per cent occupancy rates for all three properties over August.
“In the best-case scenario, if it carries on like this, I expect to make a profit of £3,000 to £5,000 per month, taking into account the high and low season.”
- Spend time meeting letting agents face to face when you’re going for rent-to-rents. If you can find someone you’ve got a good rapport with, they’ll do a lot of the groundwork for you.
- Get a clear strategy and have confidence in following your own path. Don’t try to copy someone else’s.
- Put the effort in and be patient. It could maybe have happened faster for me, but it was at a pace that was right for me which took the pressure off.
- Keep your mindset in the right place. I'll get up really early to meditate and read an inspiring book to set the day off in the right way.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. Just hearing their stories makes you believe even more that you can do it.
- Understand why you want to do it. Make sure you've got some clear visions and goals because it will get tough at times. That’s what kept me going.
- If your desire is strong enough and you invest in yourself through training, networks and mentorship, then it will happen. I wouldn’t be where I am now without that.
- Watch the Wednesday Winners videos and all the other Property Investors podcasts. Every time I do that, I pick up another nugget of wisdom.
Samuel Leeds’ verdict
“No one could have known corona was going to come into this country so badly. It just wasn’t part of anyone’s plan at all. However, Nicola remained calm and positive. She’s worked really hard and now it’s paying off because she’s living life on her own terms.”