In just over a year Gavin Wakefield has gone from working 16-hour shifts as a carer to becoming a full-time real estate entrepreneur with his wife Ana. They achieved financial freedom with their first deal and now control eight rent-to-serviced accommodation properties making a monthly profit of £8,000 to £10,000. On top of that, they are about to embark on a joint venture to provide affordable housing in Scotland.
‘We bought the cheapest two-bed in town and made £60,000’
Ana and Gavin first made money from property more by chance than design. When the pair got married, they bought a rundown, ex-council home in Hertfordshire.
Gavin recalls that it was ‘the cheapest two-bed in the whole of the town where we live.’
They took his mother to the viewing, and it was clear she didn’t like the property. But both Ana and Gavin saw the potential to improve it. So, they went ahead with the purchase and did it up, including putting in new floors and carpets.
The couple lived there for about five years, raising their two children there, until they sold it for £200,000, which was £60,000 more than what they paid for it.
“We were laughing. That opened our eyes and helped us buy the house we live in now,” says Gavin.
Ana explains: “The area where we live is a very expensive area, and we didn’t have much money. So, again we used the same strategy. We bought a rundown property in a very nice road in a very nice area, and we repeated the process.
“We did an extension and a loft conversion and pushed the value up without realising what we were doing. Then we refinanced the property and took a big chunk of money from that.”
Having banked £100,000 from remortgaging their house, the intention was to reinvest it into another similar project. At the time Gavin and Ana were looking to reset their lives in the wake of the pandemic. Gavin worked with his mother in their care business. She was the manager with Gavin deputising, while Ana managed the office side of it.
“I was dealing with the staff, the clients and the service users. It got very difficult being on the frontline dealing with families in Covid. We decided shortly after that we wanted to close the company down and move on to something else. But we didn’t really know what to move on to,” recalls Gavin.
Then Ana and her mother-in-law, who also owns property and had always encouraged them to buy houses, discovered Samuel Leeds. Together they came along to one of his £1 crash courses.
Afterwards Ana enrolled on Property Investors’ Buy, Refurbish, Refinance course to find out how to implement the strategy which she and Gavin had used before without any training.
One aspect that puzzled them was how investors recycled their money into acquiring more properties. “We were thinking we’re going to have to put 25 per cent down. Then the money’s sitting there. How do we move on to the next one? Obviously, we understand now,” says Gavin.
At the course, Samuel taught students about the ‘fast pound’ and the ‘slow pound,’ and how certain investment methods could quickly generate revenue, while others took longer.
Ana realised then that the strategy they were about to pursue was the wrong one because it took time to make money from buying and doing up houses.
“I thought we can’t do BRR straight away. We have to somehow get the cash flow. If we are going to close our business, we need to replace a monthly income.”
So, at the end of the course she decided to register for the Samuel Leeds Academy.
‘I trusted my wife and it changed our lives’
Ana and Gavin have slightly different accounts of how she came to join the year-long advanced training programme offered by Samuel Leeds. Ana says she rang Gavin and asking him to ‘bring some cards’ as she was going to ‘sign for something called the academy.’
She added that he should come prepared to go out to dinner later.
Gavin’s version is that she called him just as he was about to pick up their children from school and told him to drive to a hotel at Heathrow where the event was being held.
[She said] “Bring the cards (the credit cards) with all our savings and everything in it and put on a shirt because we’re also going to have a dinner.
“I’m sweating down the other end. I’m saying hang on what… ‘No, I can’t explain now. Trust me,’ and puts the phone down!”
With little option other than to do as instructed, Gavin hastily put on a shirt and jumped in his car, after asking a relative to look after the children. On his arrival he was met with the sight of hundreds of people standing around in the car park, talking to each other.
“Everyone’s excited. They’ve all got these badges on – gold badges, black badges. I didn’t know what was happening.”
Then Gavin found his wife inside the hotel who again urged him to trust her and hand over the cards.
“Basically, I trusted my wife. It was the best thing we ever did. It really has changed our lives.”
They became members of the academy and Ana immediately booked herself on to a boot camp to learn about serviced accommodation and HMOs.
The course finished on a Friday. The next day she and Gavin went to one of his mother’s properties to help her clean and tidy it up for a tenant to move in. While there, Ana suggested they rent the house from her instead and then they would let it out.
“I was thinking fantastic. My first rent-to-rent serviced accommodation. Perfect.”
Gavin was sweeping the garden when he heard his wife say that they would take on the property and pay his mum £1,400 per month.
“I literally dropped the broom. I was like what’s happening. Then again, she said, ‘No, trust me. My mum’s looking at her and me and saying, ‘I can rent this place out. It’s not a problem. You don’t have to do this.’
Anna, however, was insistent and was ‘buzzing’ with confidence in what she had just learnt on the week-long course. So, once more Gavin placed his faith in her.
“Over a year later that three-bedroom property in Hertfordshire, with a nice big drive and a nice garden, has been our best rent-to-SA,” he says.
They followed Samuel’s step-by-step plan, giving the house a fresh lick of paint and staging it to make it look ‘lovely.’ Then Ana took on the management and cleaning of it and the bookings started to flood in.
That was when the ‘penny dropped’ for Gavin that his wife had been right to sign them up to the Property Investors Academy.
“People just started booking and booking and they seemed to love it. We had holidaymakers. We had people from abroad. We had contractors who wanted to be close to London.”
They had enquiries from people wanting to know if there was a fast train into the capital. Gavin and Ana were able to reply that there was a link that could get them into Kings Cross station in 20 minutes.
One contractor asked if they had a drive because he didn’t want to leave his van on the street, while another guest was attending a wedding in Hertfordshire. Over a year later, the bookings are still coming in.
Gavin says: “After the first couple of bookings I was like, wow, this is actually working. This is bringing in money.”
Ana adds: “With our first property we became financially free!”
With a nightly charge of £150 to £180, and an occupancy rate of 95 per cent, that one property alone makes them £2,500 to £3,000 per month.
Gavin points out his mum is happy because they give her the rent she wanted. They also keep the house in pristine condition and fix any maintenance issues which gives her peace of mind.
The care business was wound up in December (2022) and Gavin and Ana became full-time property entrepreneurs the following month.
From a £1 crash course to turning over £18,000 a month
Gavin has been amazed by the rewards to be gained from property, particularly with the minimal effort involved compared to the care sector.
“To get any decent money as a carer you’ve got to put hours in. You can’t just do a nine to five. Some months I was doing 200 to 300 hours. [It was] ridiculous. I was doing 16-hour shifts.
“Now I’m not doing half the stuff I was doing and the money from one serviced accommodation is similar to what I was getting for the last ten years.
“To make that from one property, which wasn’t even ours, within months while I had slogged away for years just blew my mind.”
Gavin and Ana continued to look for more serviced accommodation units. They listened to Samuel’s advice and contacted landlords and estate agents, using a script which they had been given on their training, until they had eight rent-to-rents.
The husband-and-wife entrepreneurs are still seeking to expand their portfolio now and have two more in the pipeline which they expect to take on soon.
With their property business, Rehoboth Homes, turning over about £18,000 a month, they are at the stage of either keeping them or packaging them up to sell to an investor. “We haven’t done deal selling before but now we’ve got the SAs we’ve got a choice,” Gavin says.
Ana credits the academy mentors for helping them to progress so quickly. “The environment has helped me to just go so much faster. The mentors are pushing us and telling us which direction to go and what to do.”
Gavin agrees: “You go to these courses and dinners, and everyone is on the same page. Everyone’s excited about the future and putting in the hard work. You can’t help but be swept up in that.”
Before Ana and Gavin went into property, they were approached by one of Gavin’s childhood friends about investing in his scheme to provide affordable housing for a council in Scotland. At the time they knew nothing about the subject and so turned him down.
Then, when the friend asked them again after they had joined the academy whether they wanted to become involved, it made sense to them.
For Gavin, who grew up in a council house in London, it was particularly appealing, and he could see the vision.
“That’s one of the things we’re really excited about. It’s developing four affordable houses for the council. That’s good for the UK because people need properties.”
Although the plan is still on the drawing board, it promises to be good for them too, with a projected end value of £4.6m which would give them a healthy return on investment.
Ana has also been surprised by how much money there is to be made from investing in bricks and mortar. She sums it up when she says: “From a £1 crash course to where we are now in just over a year making £8,000 to £10,000 a month is incredible.”
Gavin and Ana’s tips
- It’s a buyer’s market right now. You can find some fantastic deals.
- Your confidence grows from knowledge.
Samuel Leeds’ verdict
“Ana and Gavin have diversified well and are making great money. Having a multi-faceted property business is smart. They are an amazing power couple and I look forward to seeing their future developments.”