Talking Heads: Investing in property

'Don't do it alone' seems to be the overriding consensus...

A selection of top buying, selling and letting agents serve up some snappy thoughts on finding – and protecting – an investment property…

On finding an investment 

  • Charles Curran of Chelsea-based estate agency Maskells 

Check with the local agent what types of properties attract the most number of applicants.

Check your gearing (mortgage debt) given new legislation and talk to your bank so that they understand what you are doing.

Make sure you incorporate refurbishment and redecoration into your returns (if your unit is not clean/tidy and looks modern it will not rent).

Make sure you that your agent does not hide ‘commissions’ in property management charges or that they source from multiple suppliers so they can get you the best prices

Not all letting agents are the same

Listen to your lettings agent – there is no point marketing a property which is too expensive given the demand they are getting.

Not all letting agents are the same – choose one that you enjoy working with and who takes the time to understand you.

Make sure you understand the service charge and sinking fund if you are buying in a block (so that you know how much of your rental income to allocate to these costs).

We recommend using an ARLA registered agent as they will abide by the ARLA code of conduct.

Ensure that your agent uses the same inventory clerk for check in and check out so that there is consistency in the inventory – something tenants can point to when arguing return of deposits.

Always make sure you have funds in the account for unforeseen dilapidations and months when the property is not rented out – you will be responsible for covering the outgoings.

  • Tom Hudson of Middleton Advisors (Country)

Don’t compromise on location in the country. This remains the main factor that affects value and saleability.

If you are looking to buy within a couple of hours of London, think about good stations and prep schools – buying where these are within a 20 minute drive should help long term holds.

If you are looking further out, prioritise on views, peace and quiet and adjacency to pretty market towns or villages.

  • Mark Parkinson of buying agency Middleton Advisors (London) 

If you are looking at it from an investment point of view don’t do it alone. When it is your money it is very difficult to look at a house or flat objectively.

Concentrate on the position/location of the property – it is the one thing you cannot change!

  • Simon Barnes of property consultancy H.Barnes&Co 

Firstly, have a plan – is it a long or short term investment? You will seldom make money investing in property if you have to sell quickly or are forced to sell, so be sure to allow an adequate period – ideally minimum of 12 months, depending on the type of property as certain markets are busier at different times of the year.

You will seldom make money investing in property if you have to sell quickly or are forced to sell

Regardless of whether you have an expert/agent advising you, do your own homework as well and research what is happening in the area and what might affect prices in the long and short term.

A good example of this is Crossrail which has ultimately increased local values but for a prolonged period actually dissuaded buyers because of the building work. Good long term investment, bad short term investment.

On protecting an investment

  • Brendan Roberts of estate agency Aylesford International 

Make sure you have someone trustworthy (not necessarily a managing agent) to keep an eye on your home – especially if you live overseas, so that any problems can be dealt with speedily and efficiently.

  • Alex Newall of Hanover Private Office 

Add value: There are plenty of ways to add value to your property investments through good asset management. Whether this be extending a lease, increasing rental income, getting a better quality of tenant, getting planning permission for an extension, or adjusting the layout – all these things can add value to your property. Often you can achieve a two or three fold return on investing relatively small sums in adding value to your property.

Maintain: Always keep on top of gutters, pointing, the chimneys and the garden. Whilst these costly and sometimes dull jobs can be seen at the time as throwing money down the drain, it is vital you keep your property in good condition, no matter what the market conditions. If you let it go, it is more expensive in the end to bring it back into a good state of repair.

There are plenty of ways to add value to your property investments through good asset management

Dress for sale/letting: If you are considering selling or letting your property, the marketing material and the property itself must be as perfect as possible. If you have planning – include the plans and mood boards, concept images or computer generated images in your marketing material. As ever, a good declutter and de-personalise always helps makes your property appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

Consider re-financing: Look at your mortgage deal and compare it to what is available in the market place. In ever-changing market conditions, your ability to hold with lower monthly re-payments, and not be a forced seller is key.

Improve the area immediately around your property: First impressions count – and often before a buyer sees your property. There are plenty of neighbourhood schemes for litter picking, tree and flower planting and lobbying your local council. Make the street around your property as pretty as possible. Buyers often look at how tidy a street is, what cars are parked on it etc. to make an initial judgement on the location and your neighbours.

  • Mark Parkinson

Keep it as ‘liquid’ as  possible so that there are no delays when you come to sell.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the exterior of your house. Keep it smart.

Don’t overspend on interiors.

Don’t skimp on maintenance – it is essential to keep your house in good working order.

Views of Contributors are not necessarily those of PrimeResi or its Publishers

N.B. Always seek professional, specialist guidance before embarking on any investment decisions