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Assembling a Support Team

In this blog, we will look at assembling a key support team to help in matters regarding your HMO. There are many aspects to this and your team will build and grow along with your business, so I have just focussed on the basic ones below.

 

Mortgage Advisor   

It is important to use an advisor who has specific experience of lending to HMOs. If you are setting up a fairly standard HMO (effectively a converted house for a up to six people) there are plenty of people out there that can help, in fact they will be vying for your business. Most will access the same lenders and the same products, and so for me, there are three factors that you should consider:

  • Rapport – This will hopefully be a long-term relationship. Speak to at least five advisors and select the one that you feel you have a good rapport with, as you will need to speak and liaise with them for several years to come.                                               
  • Added value – If you are building a portfolio of HMOs there will without question be times where some creative thinking is required, or an unexpected challenge that needs to be overcome – it’s the nature of property finance. Try to select a broker who you feel will add value to the process and be creative in solving problems as and when they come about.                                     
  • Reactive – Slow-coaches are a hindrance where property is concerned! Have you heard the expression “If you want something done, ask a busy person”? Well, a good mortgage broker will always be busy, but they should appreciate that speed is of the essence where mortgage applications are concerned, so don’t work with anyone who is slow – it could end up being very costly in the long run.

Don’t be afraid to change! - I tried three or four mortgage brokers when I started out before I settled with the one that I have now used for several years.

 

Accountant

You should not require anything too specialised for your first HMO, so it is likely that whichever accountant you use should be able to continue to support you. The important thing is how you set your properties up in the first place, for example as a personal or limited company.

It's important that your accountant is able to advise you correctly in terms of the structure you choose, and the pros and cons of both personal and company options. More and more people these days are opting to purchase properties via a Ltd company vehicle to mitigate against the relatively new Section 24 Mortgage Relief clause. However there are many other considerations that need to be taken into account, and so it's important your accountant understands and, just as importantly, is able to explain these considerations to you.

Maintenance

For me, maintenance is up there as one of the most important areas to get right. The last thing you want is a tenant reporting a fault when you have no immediate contact available that you can lean on to support the issue out, particularly when it is out of hours. It is important to have a general maintenance person.

Build relationships – The better relationship you have with your maintenance person, the more likely they are to be reactive for you when you need them. You want to be in a situation where if an issue is reported on a Saturday afternoon that your maintenance person will take an “as it’s you” approach and make the effort to get there quickly.

So, how do you build those relationships:

  • Pay promptly! It costs nothing to pay promptly and your contractor will always appreciate it.
  • Get to know them – If you live close-by, ask them to come and do some work at your house. Talk to them, have a cup of tea with them, ask about their family etc to build a positive relationship.
  • Pay fairly –What’s important is not what you pay, but getting the service you need at the time you need it. Be willing to pay fair market rates.
  • Recommend them – If they are on sites like Checkatrade, Ratedpeople, Google etc, always write a detailed recommendation. It costs you nothing and they will appreciate it and it will mean they are more likely to want to help you out at those difficult times when you need them.
  • Christmas bonus – always! Just Something to show them how much you have appreciated their support over the year.

Cleaning Team

Good cleaners are hard to find. We normally use local Facebook groups and source recommendations . Always insist on references and try to talk to referees rather then relying on written references.

Rapport and relationships are just as important with your cleaning team as they  are with your maintenance team and so the same principles of building relationships and rapport are the same.

We find with cleaners that typically they start well, but over time the reality is the quality of the clean can quickly deteriorate, leaving you in a position where you have to often disengage and find someone else, which can be very time consuming. For this reason its important to have regular contact with your cleaners. Encourage them to engage with you and to report issues within the property or issues with tenant bahaviour (for example tenants leaving washing up etc). Try to meet with them at the property occasionally so you can guage the quality of their work, but also its an opportunity for them to engage with you. We find that this type of engagement helps as the person has a feeling of involvement and fulfilment which is condusive to maintaining high standards.

Viewings

When I started out, I was keen to do all viewings myself, and this is definitely the right way to go for a myriad of reasons that could almost be an article in itself. However, as you grow, your time will become more precious and you will soon need to rely on other people.

You don’t need a letting agent to do your viewings. You will find there are plenty of people who live very close to your HMO who would bite your hand off for some extra money. Drop some messages on local buy and sale groups – you will be inundated by people – often mothers with young children who want very part-time flexible work, particularly in the evenings, which is often when the viewings need to take place.

We normally pay £10 per viewing. It takes a bit of time and effort to tune someone into the process, but once you have someone good who is able to help you it will be an invaluable resource. Particularly at times when you are simply unable to do the viewings yourself due to other commitments.