I am delighted to have Susanne Chambers of HomeXperts as my NPP this week. I first met Sussanne when she was with the National Landlords Association, but she recently left to develop her own franchise company. Here is her story.
1. Please introduce yourself. Say a bit about yourself and your company
Hello my name is Sussanne Chambers, I am a portfolio landlord, Non Executive Director and Managing Director of HomeXperts, www.home-xperts.co.uk the UK’s fastest growing property franchise. HomeXperts is creating a national network of personal agents working from home providing a great level of service to vendors, purchasers, landlords and tenants.
2. How did you first become involved in property?
I brought my first property in the late 1980’s right at the top of the market, however when I got married the value of the property had dropped so much that I could not sell the house. I rented it out and it became my first buy to let property, I still have it in my portfolio! In 2000 when I was a director of a FTSE 250 company I was advised to invest in property to help me to achieve the lifestyle I wanted in retirement. I took the advice and started buying property with my husband as a hobby. I really loved it and found being a property investor and landlord exciting! In 2007 my hobby became my career as our property portfolio expanded.
I became involved in HomeXperts when I first heard of the concept of personal estate and letting agents. I felt that the timing was right and the market was perfect to roll out an innovative model of estate agency in the UK which is widely used in USA, Australia and South Africa. HomeXperts personal agents work from home, using the Internet to advertise properties for sale and for rent; they work with vendors and landlords to offer a superb level of service not just selling or renting property, but really helping people move home.
3. What do you think is your greatest achievement so far?
On a personal note having my children, I have a son aged 13 and daughter aged 6, who bring me great joy every day of my life.
On an academic scale, studying for not only the final year of a business and finance degree, but also a post graduate Chartered Institute of Marketing diploma at the same time. I was a mature student with a young baby, I achieved great grades in both.
Professionally I was really delighted recently when the HomeXperts franchise was named by one of the UK’s top Franchise magazines as the best franchise in the UK for a franchise costing less than £10,000. It made me feel all the hard work and effort designing our franchise has been worthwhile!
4. Do you or your company have any exciting plans for the future?
HomeXperts is growing at a fast pace with new franchisees joining us every month. We are building a network of HomeXperts personal agents dedicated to offering the highest level of service. With my background in marketing, building HomeXperts into a national brand is so exciting for me I am enjoying watching how it develops. We are constantly challenging ourselves and we continually look for ways to improve our franchise and what we offer to our franchisees. Many of our franchisees are landlords who see joining HomeXperts as a natural expansion of their landlord business. We really want to our HomeXperts franchisees to improve the experience people have when they move home.
5. What do you think are the greatest problems facing the private rented sector today?
Increased legislation! The recent hurried legislation for houses in multiple occupation will have a long-term negative effect on housing for students, nurses and professionals all who rely on shared accommodation to satisfy their housing needs. Luckily other poorly conceived proposed legislation such as landlord licensing has been shelved. Often the legislation proves costly and time consuming for landlords. I am in huge favour of driving up standards in the PRS, but feel legislation can be too heavy handed.
6. What do you think are the greatest opportunities?
I think the whole way we buy or rent property is changing, 85% of people now start their search for their new home online, the days of looking in estate and letting agents windows on a Saturday have passed as footfall in estate and letting agents has declined. Many landlords have experienced bad levels of service from letting agents who do not look after their properties as well as they can. The new personal agents model enables landlords to set up their own lettings and sales business with very low initial capital investment. It is a great way for landlords to expand their business.
7. We have a new government. What would you like them to do for the private rented sector?
I would love them to listen to the concerns for landlords about proposed capital gains tax increases! They should provide roll over relief for when a landlord sells a property and purchases a new investment. I would also like them to rethink the legislation on planning consent for new homes in multiple occupation. This has had a really negative effect on my own strategy for my landlord business.
Looking at the housing sector as a whole, the new coalition is clearly concerned over the housing market and removing HIPS alone will not get the market moving. Low mortgage rates need to be accompanied by relaxing of lending criteria by mortgage providers. The government could really help first time buyers by offering low interest rate schemes to enable them to borrow a deposit for their first property.
I think the whole buying process needs to be examined and this government have a chance to do this. It still does not seem right to me that someone can pull out of a property purchase or sale right up to exchange of contracts. It would be great if the new government got this right this time.
8. Do you use social media (blogs, twitter, LinkedIn etc)? What place do you think it has in the future of the property industry?
I most certainly do, I love Linkedin for HomeXperts, we have http://twitter.com/homexpertsfc for potential franchisees, and our Facebook fan page http://www.facebook.com/HomeXperts for people selling, buying or renting property. I get several enquiries about the franchise through Linkedin a week and the HomeXperts Facebook fan page is growing all the time.
9. What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time in property?
In my portfolio, I buy quality in every property. A poor property or a property in a poor area will always be a poor property and the returns you get will always be less. I only buy a property that if I was at an appropriate lifestyle stage I would be happy to live in. I apply this rule to all my properties in all sectors from students, single family homes to HMO professional lets.
In business always do what you say you will and be honest in your business dealings, treat people with respect and courtesy. Do a job you love with a passion, then work is never a chore and always work with people you respect and like.
10. What advice would you have to someone thinking of entering the property industry today?
Property is not a get rich quick scheme, plan for long term investment. Be passionate about providing great service and make sure you have an edge in the market. Present your properties well, clean carpets, change locks and ensure every property is perfectly presented, this makes them easy to let and avoids void periods.
Thanks Sussanne. That franchise scheme sounds interesting – we may have to get you back to do a guest post on that! I am sure many people will be interested. Good luck with all your ventures.
Anyone interested in knowing more should visit the web-site www.home-xperts.co.uk.