I am the director of Your Lettings Peterborough Ltd and co-owner of Parker Jones Estates Ltd. We are a multi-award-winning property management company / Serviced Accommodation provider in Peterborough. 

People often say to me “Wow, you’re doing great!” but I don’t think so – there’s a lot more I would like to achieve. As with any business venture, there are many ups and downs and  you never stop learning. Keeping a positive mind set and being around like-minded people really has helped me climb the ladder of success and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’d just like to share my property business journey up to 2020 with you.

How I got into the property business

Back in 2015, I went to a three-day Multiple Streams of Property Income course run by Progressive Property with my brother-in-law, Swapnil. The course was held in Hampton, Peterborough, so it was just around the corner from where we live. There were so many people from all over the UK who wanted to learn about the property business and the classroom was full of energy and excitement. The three-day course made us innocently say to ourselves….

“Oh yes, this is the business we need to start! It’ll make a lot of money….!”

 

We didn’t have any money to start with and we didn’t know where to begin, but our hopes were extremely high. Using my personal credit card, I decided to send my business partner and brother-in-law Swapnil to the one-year VIP course run by Progressive Property. It was a big gamble for me, but I thought it was worth it because it would ultimately bring great returns on the investment of time and money. I thought it would be wiser to send Swapnil to the course rather than myself as he is a much more outgoing person and finds it easier to connect with people. Also, my English isn’t perfect, so I thought he would learn a lot more than I would.

 

My First Mentor

Many months passed without any improvement in the business. At that time, I was working full time in a concierge company, so I didn’t have much pressure or worries about the progress of our property business. 

One day, Swapnil came to me saying excitedly that he had met Jamie Madill at Progressive Property and he had offered him a one-to-one session to learn about HMO strategy. Swapnil and I went to a Costa cafe in Bedford to meet Jamie and his business partner, Steve Mitchell. Jamie and Steve gave us lots of great tips and they even showed us their HMO properties. As we were the very first people they had mentored, they shared their experience and advice with us at a very reasonable cost. 

My confidence got a boost thanks to Jamie and Steve and I was ready to take the plunge to really progress our “business”.  A few weeks after our mentoring process, we secured our first R2HMO (Rent to HMO) in Peterborough and set up our business, Your Lettings Peterborough Ltd.

Our first NIGHTMARE

Our first HMO was a five-bedroom furnished house. We were really excited to be able to implement what we had learnt. I told myself,

“Time is Money!”

so we rushed to set it up. I spent a few thousand pounds on my personal credit cards for painting, decorating, handymen etc. Before seeing any income, we had to pay up for so many things which was a real eye-opener. 

Then after a few weeks, we managed to find our first tenant. 

Reference check – OK!
Rent received – OK!
Tenant moved in! 

Yipeeee!

Then a few days later, we received a text from the tenant. 

“There are bed bugs in this flat… my legs are all bitten. Please sort it out”

OMG… Bed bugs? What are those?! Nobody taught us about bed bugs….!!!!

We sorted it out straight away and the bed bugs disappeared.
But so did our first tenant….!

Loss of Job

Swapnil was working in his car body shop while I was working a strange night-shift rota. Progress with our property business slowed right down to a snail’s pace. Then, in December 2016, the company where I had been working for 14 years decided to move their office to Redhill. This was just too far from Peterborough to commute every day and relocating was not an option… so I took redundancy. I was then left with one option – focus on the property and make the business grow.

Start of Serviced Accommodation

We didn’t have much money to invest and we had learned that even a R2R strategy costs a lot initially. So we decided to change direction and manage properties on behalf of landlords instead. 

We started managing some HMOs and single lets. 

Then out of the blue, we learnt about Serviced Accommodation and realised this could be a more profitable strategy. We had no experience of running Serviced Accommodation, but I knew we could do it. I knew that Serviced Accommodation is a type of hospitality business and having gained 14 years of delivering excellent customer service to high profile customers all over the world, I thought,

Why wouldn’t it work?

We started to look for a flat or house where we could open our first Serviced Accommodation. We visited loads of letting agencies and many turned us down, but one agent said they could offer us a nice flat in Peterborough city centre.

We signed the contract, decorated and furnished the flat, put our ads up on Booking.com and Airbnb. We waited excitedly for our first booking to arrive.

A few days later, we received shocking news from the letting agency.

“Your Lettings, you cannot advertise your accommodation on any booking portals”

At first, we thought this was some kind of bad joke. After all, without advertising we would not be able to get any customers. 

It was clearly a misunderstanding between us and the agent – they didn’t think that we were going to use Airbnb and Booking.com for advertising. They were under the impression that we rented flats out privately to companies who we work with, which was not the case. So, to cut a long story short, after long negotiations and a lot of frustration, we had to vacate the flat without welcoming a single guest.

Opportunity is everywhere

We were left with a load of brand-new furniture… 

“What do we do with all this furniture, where do we put it….?” 

My husband then arranged for all the furniture to be removed and stored at a kind friend’s garage. 

In the meantime, a London based landlord contacted us asking if we could manage his property as Serviced Accommodation. It was beautifully renovated six-bedroom house with six shower rooms. We really liked it and after some number crunching, we felt that we could make it work. On the plus side, the landlord even agreed to buy our furniture which had to come out of our previous Serviced Accommodation. 

Gradually guests started booking with us and checking in to our new Serviced Accommodation. It was at this stage that I started to enjoy the business – it’s so nice to host people from all over the world and see smiles on their faces. It’s the combination of a good property and great hospitality which has made it work and I truly enjoy it. 

We then started to manage our second Serviced Accommodation. These two properties helped me gain confidence, knowledge and experience. We finally started to make some income from our property business. 

Building on our confidence in Serviced Accommodation, in 2018 we took on another R2SA. It was a beautiful penthouse flat. All the guests who stayed there loved it and left great reviews. I loved the flat too, but we had to unfortunately vacate the flat after ten months due to an unexpected lease issue. I learnt a very important lesson about leaseholds and the importance of getting paper work thoroughly checked after a similar incident with our first Serviced Accommodation which also happened to be a studio in a block of flats. We decided then to steer clear of thet sort of property. 

I was disheartened. But with the support of family, especially my husband and brother-in-law, I decided to push forward and keep on going.

Property Journey Now and Next

We have taken on three more Serviced Accommodation properties since then and they have been doing well. Covid-19 and lockdown in March 2020 hit us hard, but adapted to suit the current market climate and catered to keyworkers and other trades who were permitted to carry on working during lockdown.

In 2018, I met my mentor Sukhi Wahiwala. He has since become our business partner and we have created Parker Jones Estates with him. 

As you can see, my property journey so far hasn’t been all plain sailing. However, I have learnt a lot and I still am learning which will hopefully help me to avoid mistakes and grasp opportunities now and in the future. 

Gaining in-depth knowledge and experience and creating a great team are things which cannot be achieved overnight. 

It has been great working with Swapnil and Sukhi. We haven’t done as much expansion as planned due to Covid-19, but I really look forward to going full steam ahead once things start to return to normal. 


*** February 2021 ***