Shona Davison, NLA Property Women award winner
My Notable Property Person this week is Shona Davison, winner of the National Landlords Association Property Women Awards in 2009.
1. Please introduce yourself. Say a bit about yourself and your company
I’m Shona Davison, NLA property woman of the year 2009. As well as being a Sheffield landlady, I work as an analytical consultant building statistical models for credit risk or marketing departments.
2. How did you first become involved in property?
Nine years ago, I was a first time buyer, looking for a flat to buy in Wokingham, the area where I was living. After a long time of searching and one purchase falling through, I realised that my dream of home ownership was becoming increasingly unobtainable. The property market was booming so waiting and saving wasn’t an option. Prices were rising faster than my salary or savings.
I compromised by buying a buy to let in my home town of Sheffield, where prices were lower. The intention was to sell in a few years and use any profits to fund a property to live in. In the end, my boyfriend and I bought a house together so I never needed to sell my buy to let and that was the start of my career as a landlady.
3. What do you think is your greatest achievement so far?
I sold the relatively safe investment of my first buy to let flat and with the cash I released, I bought a much more risky property that needed a lot of work doing. I was stretching myself financially and had to work very long hours fitting the project around my full time job and planning my wedding. I felt a great sense of achievement once this project was finished, it was satisfying to bring a tired old property back to life and see three sets of tenants living there comfortably. The best part of being a landlady is when you go back to the properties once tenants have moved in and see them looking lived in and homely.
4. Do you or your company have any exciting plans for the future?
Currently no big property projects can be planned as I’m doing lots of hospital treatment to try and have a second baby. It took years of travelling up and down the motorway to have Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) in London to get my first baby, who is now 1 year old. We are now starting the whole process again to try and get a second child. We have chosen to do PGD as I have a type of Muscular Dystrophy called Myotonic Dystrophy so having a baby naturally would mean there would be a 50% chance of the baby being born severely disabled.
As soon as PGD is successful (or we decide to give up) I will start thinking about the next property project. My husband and I would love to build ourselves a house to live in. I also want to expand my buy to let portfolio and would choose properties that need some work doing as I enjoy development projects.
5. What do you think are the greatest problems facing the private rented sector today?
Difficulty of obtaining credit is a big issue as it limits the possibility of expansion for many landlords. It is a more serious problem for those who need to remortgage but can’t because of lower amounts of equity or lower rents.
The amount of legislation has increased so much since I first became a landlady. It is essential to keep on top of it. I do this by being a member of the NLA, reading landlord websites and magazines and going to landlord meetings and conferences. The meetings are a good way of meeting other property investors, so you can learn from them.
6. What do you think are the greatest opportunities?
There are so many opportunities, that is why I love investing in property. Not only can you benefit from capital gains in the long run, you get the short term profit from the rent. I see my portfolio as my future pension, yet other than my first ever deposit, I have never paid any cash into it, only time and lots of hard work.
7. We have a general election coming up – what would you like to see in the winning parties manifesto as regards the private rented sector?
I’d like to see the idea of having a national landlord register scrapped. From my personal perspective a landlord register is an extra bit of legislation that may discourage new landlords from entering the market. Therefore as an established landlord who already does everything by the book it may be good for my business.
However, I can’t see how reduced competition and higher costs for landlords is good for the market as a whole, it will have a negative effect on tenant choice and that may feed into higher rents. I don’t believe it will help remove the bad landlords from the market as they already flout many laws so who is to say they won’t ignore this one too. If the register is going to be introduced as seems likely, then it needs to be enforced.
The use of planning laws for restricting HMOs is a bad idea. It will only lead to fewer landlords investing in HMOs which will push up rents for those people who use them.
8. Do you use social media (blogs, twitter, LinkedIn etc)? What place do you think it has in the future of the property industry?
Social media is a useful tool for marketing your business. I am a member of LinkedIn but don’t blog or use twitter. I use LinkedIn for my consultancy work.
9. What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time in property?
Property is not an easy investment. You have to be organised and flexible. It requires a lot of your time, which can be difficult to manage alongside a career and family, especially with the fluctuating volume of work it creates. Things such as tenants vacating and maintenance issues may all happen at once.
10. What advice would you have to someone thinking of entering the property industry today?
I would say “do it”! Be prepared for a lot of hard work and make sure you research all the legislation. I can’t stress enough how much you need the backing of an organisation such as the NLA if you are a novice, as you can then use their advice helpline.
You need to have a fairly laid back personality. If you are the kind of person who gets stressed when furniture gets scratched then you will not have an easy life as a landlord.
Don’t invest everything you have in property, it’s essential to have some savings set aside. They are necessary not only for unexpected repairs, but also for if a tenant stops paying their rent or other unexpected costs arise. Having cash in the bank gives you time to respond to the crisis.
Thanks Shona, and good luck with the PGD. You are an inspriation to us all.
The NLA Property Women awards are a great idea and I hope lots of people apply for the 2010 awards – there is still time, but nominations close at 12 noon on Monday 12 April 2010. Anyone interested will find more information and the forms here.