How I Made Millions from Property Investment | Winners on a Wednesday #111
Entrepreneur Tony Crook has made millions of pounds in business and property. But it took Samuel Leeds to teach him about creative ways of making money in the housing market. Now the 56-year-old is using other strategies, such as HMOs and lease option agreements, to expand his portfolio. He is also helping to coach Property Investors Academy students in the essential skills needed to run a company.
‘Samuel Leeds’ training is infectious’
Tony Crook attended a Property Investors Crash Course after being employed by Samuel Leeds to coach his academy students about staff management, business plans and goal setting.
It soon dawned on Tony that he could learn a lot himself about property – even though he had been an investor for many years – and so he decided to enrol on the academy.
Now, having completed the training, he is about to buy a 10-bed HMO in Lincoln and has also recently secured a rent-to-rent deal in Birmingham with some fellow academy members.
Both strategies were new to him when he came to the Property Investors Crash Course.
“I’d done a few buy and refurbish projects, but I didn’t know about any of the other strategies, like rent-to-rent and lease option agreements,” Tony admits. “I didn’t even know what an HMO was before I met Samuel. The crash course was mind-blowing.”
The rent-to-rent strategy, in particular, fascinated him because it was a way of using other people’s money to make money.
“With investing in property, sooner or later you may run out of money. Rent-to-rent is a great strategy because you can keep on increasing your cashflow, so I was really interested in doing that.”
Tony was also drawn by the training itself to go out and try new methods of profiting from property.
“I’ve always found property exciting and interesting. When I went to the crash course, it opened my eyes and ears. I went on other mentors’ courses, but they weren’t quite the same.
“Samuel Leeds’ training is infectious. It makes you get out there and do things. It’s not just textbook training. I loved it on the crash course when Samuel said, ‘I’m going to phone an estate agent now,’ and he did it live in front of about 1,000 people. That showed me that it’s not just textbook – this is how you do it. That’s the big difference in the Samuel Leeds training I find.”
Samuel acknowledges the help Tony has given him since they first met through Doug D’Aubrey, Samuel’s business mentor since the age of 17. Doug also happens to be Tony’s cousin and has enlisted him as a professional business coach for his consultancy firm.
Tony emigrated from the USA to England in 1983, after serving for three years in the US Navy. He went on to set up a successful printing firm and other businesses which have enabled him to invest in property.
“I started in business at a very young age,” he explains. “I enjoyed working for myself. I understood how to leverage other people and other ways of making money through business. It came naturally to me. I was good at it and I still am good at it.
“I’ve run businesses for over 30 years now and my businesses have made over £100m of turnover in those years. Not only that, I’ve employed over 100 people in my time in business – people who have been with me for a long time. They’ve got partners and have bought houses and had children all under my watch. That makes me feel really good.”
Tony now targets more creative property deals
For Tony business has always been his driving force, while property was a ‘pleasure thing,’ although now he is a lot wiser, he says.
His family lent him the money to buy his first property when he was 20, shortly after he moved to England. At the time house prices were going up every month and he made around £40,000 when he subsequently sold it. This allowed him to repay his relatives and he went travelling around the world on the profits for two years.
On his return, he bought his next house for £90,000 when the prices had reached a ceiling. Within six months it was worth £55,000. He could have handed the keys back to the mortgage company, as many homeowners were doing, but instead rented it out as a single let. Despite interest rates running at 23 per cent, it still made him money.
“It paid my mortgage and actually made me a small profit every month which was great. It was like an awakening – I thought wow. Eventually the house prices went up. I sold it 10 years later at £180,000, so I doubled my money.”
His printing company flourished on the back of switching to a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation to provide much faster turnarounds on orders than his competitors could offer.
By being proactive in business and working ‘smart,’ he continued to prosper and invest the profits in property. Until he met Samuel, however, he was unaware that he could derive an income from a house without actually owning it.
“When I went on holiday with my family, I was the sort of person who said wouldn’t it be lovely to have a house here, so we bought one. But then we thought there’s no point having a house in a place where you don’t see it, so we rented it out as holiday let. Any time we had voids between lets we would go and have a free holiday.”
These days Tony is targeting more creative deals. The purchase price of the HMO in Lincoln is £240,000. After spending £60,000 on doing up the bedrooms, he expects to pull most of his money out by refinancing the house on a commercial valuation of £380,000 to £400,000.
“With a 10-bed HMO it has to be a commercial valuation because it is a business which has a turnover and makes a profit. By valuing it on a commercial basis, rather than bricks and mortar, the lenders will value it at a much higher rate because it is worth more in business. It’s like me buying another print company. It is a bona fide business.”
The rent-to-rent agreement in Birmingham came about as a result of two Property Investors Academy members asking him for his input. He accompanied them on some viewings over a weekend and together they put forward an offer which was accepted.
‘Training and mentorship are key to success
In business you need someone to reach out to, says Tony.
“It can be a lonely place at the top, so to have training and mentorship is really important. It’s something I’ve learned over the years.
“When I was young, I didn’t think I needed help. I just thought this is something I’m going to do myself. I’ll work really hard and I’m savvy. I was wrong in that.
“The art of business is making quick decisions. If you’ve got nobody to soundboard off, or share ideas with, then how do you know it’s the right decision? Even if they don’t know exactly what your business is, verbalising it and talking to somebody helps you judge whether you’re making the right decision or not.
“I lost a lot of money a few years back. I didn’t have anybody to warn me about some of the pitfalls when I over-extended myself. I paid for it big time. Luckily, I had my properties which I could bounce back on and I was able to recover, but if I’d reached out earlier and set my business up slightly differently, I wouldn’t have been in that trouble in the first place.
“That’s why, when I learned that, I decided to dedicate my life to trying to help others and stop them from making mistakes.”
He spends hours on Zoom calls talking to academy members and encouraging them. “I like helping other people and I like success. It doesn’t have to be my success. To feed off other people’s success is really fulfilling.
“Another great thing about Samuel Leeds’s company is that it attracts people from all sorts of backgrounds. I love dealing and working with them and helping them at their certain levels and just moving them along that step further.”
He adds: “If I’d known what I did about property 30 years ago it would have been a completely different world for me but no regrets. I’m still very young now and I’m learning. I’ve got a big future ahead of me and I’ve now decided a major part of my life is going to be property.”
- I would say education is the main thing you need to be a successful property investor. You need to know what’s available to you and then you can decide what’s best for you. I didn’t know HMOs existed or rent-to-rents. If I’d known that years ago, I’d been in a different position now. Go out there and get as much knowledge as you can and then follow a process that you know works.
- Have mentorship and coaching. Reach out and don’t just stay in your shell.
- I believe in having multiple income streams and not just relying on one strategy. Pre-Covid one of my properties was mainly serviced accommodation which hit a cliff. If all my property had been in that situation then I would be struggling.
Samuel Leeds’ verdict
“People’s biggest fear in property is that it is going to crash or that interest rates are going to rocket. Tony had both of those things happen to him but still made money. His passive income from his properties also baled him out when his business money stopped.
“It’s fabulous to have him on board with Property Investors too. The great thing about having people like Tony involved in coaching our students is that it gives them the best of the best. He’s also helped me personally and in my business. I’m really grateful for that and I’m so glad to see him winning in property.”
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