How I rekindled my joy for buy to let

How I rekindled my joy for buy to let

The way I’ve been talking about paint the last couple of weeks, you would’ve thought it’d just been invented. 

Poring over colour charts, oohing and ahhing on the merits of Dulux’s light and space range (it has light reflective particles don’t you know), you’d think I was a novice.

Take a look at my Twitter feed and you’ll see my euphoria about the original Minton floor I’ve discovered and am restoring at considerable expense on a building I’ve owned for 18 years. 

I’ve been here before; this isn’t my first rodeo. 

And yet… and yet, I am like a small child at Christmas.

So, what’s all this about?

I’ve been asking myself the same question.

I think the shift happened sometime in the summer. I can’t put an exact date on it, but I know that’s when I booked in for the communal hallway to be renovated and was told I had to wait four months. There wasn’t much wrong with the communal areas, they just needed a tart and tidy, but I decided this time I was going at it with gusto.

Now, the funny thing is, prior to this, in the preceding months, I’d overseen the redesign and replacement of two kitchens, one bathroom and redecorated an entire flat. It was business as usual. There was no tingle, there was no specialness, there was no feeling like the night before Christmas. It was work, you choose a kitchen and a colour scheme and that’s it, that’s the job.

But then something inexplicable happened, and I can only pinpoint it to: I remembered the joy of buy to let.

Back in the day I used to have so much fun doing up my properties. I’ve got a thing for taps (yes, taps) and so many of my places at the time would’ve had the latest fancy design that’d caught my eye. But, over the years I learned style over substance is a losing battle. Most of those fancy taps failed and have now been replaced with functional models with designs so boring they make me yawn.

I’ve now realised, over the years, ‘practicality’ beat the creative spark out of me.

Whenever I wanted to do something a little different, I was reminded: ‘a tenant will be living there, not you’. And so, my choice reduced down, no longer did my places have the personality I so relished putting into them. I realised my colourful feature walls were ‘too personal’, my lurid glass splashbacks were ‘not to everyone’s taste’ and any attempt at doing anything different and crazy got crushed out of me.

I bowed to the gods of functionality.

But functionality is not fun, even if it shares the same first three letters.

There’s a reason why so many landlords paint their place’s magnolia – it’s a neutral colour choice which blends with anything a tenant happens to bring along. It’s available in big contractor tubs at cheap price tags and it’s easy to touch up when the inevitable scuffs and dents appear.

There’s a very good reason why you don’t choose Honey Mustard (aka yellow) from a particular brand and paint your walls in a vivid shade of sunshine.

But I don’t care.

It’s a bright, bold, brave choice. It won’t suit everyone, and again, I don’t care.

For the last few years, we’ve been living in a very, very grey hue. Sophisticated is what we’re told. Muted is what it means.

Which is what I think us landlords have been.

Curbed at every corner, we’ve had the lifeblood strangled out of us with every passing errant piece of legislation the government chose to pursue that day.

Treated as dirt on the bottom of ministers’ shoes, many landlords have exited the fold looking for less hassle returns. And I get that. Who wants this insane level of crap for providing homes for people to live in?

Well, let me give you a clue: there’s still a few of us, and for those who are left, it’s now a Choice.

I’m still being a landlord because I want to be one. Me painting my hallway yellow and restoring my Minton floor is, perhaps, an allegory: it’s me taking back control. It’s me putting my personal stamp back on my property and saying to the world: like it or lump it.

And it’s funny how putting some colour – real colour – on the walls can bring such joy to your life. I know it doesn’t solve all the rest of the problems, but it reminds me of this: In the last 18 years since I’ve owned my building there have been seven prime ministers and 22 housing ministers; there’s only been one me.