My Love / Hate Relationship with Property

My Love / Hate Relationship with Property

After twenty years doing the same job, the yearning for change sometimes gets overwhelming. Especially after a bad day, that’s when you want to say: I quit.

So, I’ve been down this path before, and I soon learned a key fact many seasoned buy-to-let investors know: property is addictive. Once you’re in, it’s hard to get out.

The returns from property investment, despite continued government interference, are hard to match in many other asset classes. Of course, many people will wax about crypto, NFTs and a host of other stuff I don’t understand, and so I don’t buy. I get the gumpf about index trackers so I’ll invest in those, but, property, well… it’s still my favourite child I love to hate.

So, let’s get to why I hate it:

  • It’s not passive
  • It goes wrong
  • There’s ever growing regulation

For context, my Vanguard index tracker has NEVER called me to complain about anything. It just sits there quietly like a cat next to a fireplace.

Cats next to fireplaces are all very well. They are relaxing and sedate and you want to curl up next to them.

But then there comes a point in the day when you want to get up and go for a walk. You want to get some fresh air, get some blood bouncing, and the cat, well, it wants to stay by the fireplace.

And that’s the thing (if you’re following my analogy), property gets your juices going. It fires you up for solutions to the multitude of problems it throws at you.

I’ve sold two properties in the last couple of weeks and I was talking with a fellow landlord friend about what I was going to do with the money. As I outlined my ambitious renovation of a property I’ve owned for the last fourteen years, he turned to me and said:

‘What a funny love/hate relationship you have with your portfolio. On the one hand you’re selling because you don’t want the hassle, and on the other, you’re creating even more hassle with these big projects.’

I didn’t know how to reply so I just said:


He continued:

Your eyes are shining, and I can see how passionate you are. And it’s funny because you’ve told me how you can’t wait to sell a different property next month and yet you’ve just signed off for this major refurb and are planning more!’

Well, dear reader, I felt a bit stumped. I’d gone out for a drink, not a therapy session. But my friend was right: I have a funny love/hate relationship with property.

I’ve thought about it more over the last few days and I’ve come to realise how much I really enjoy doing what I do. I’ve loved creating plans, seeing the new fire doors that are available on the market(!), learning more about insulation (one of my favourite topics), moaning about the price of everything and the lack of supply, and all those things you do when you plan a major refurbishment.

Because in my little world, this is fun.

And I came to realise, as a landlord you can get bogged down in the paperwork paraphernalia, the tick boxing of smoke alarms, the lodging of deposits, the this and the that of every bloody piece of regulation, that you forget the fun part. The part where you get to decide what a property looks like. The bit where you can take control and say: what can I do next? How can I exceed the market? How can I stand out?

And that to me is the joy of property.

I’m really excited with where I’m taking my business. I’m delighted to be selling and I’m delighted to be renovating. And I know there will continue to be bad days when you wonder why you do what you do, but now I’m putting more of the bits of the job I love back, I can achieve more of a balance.

And I plan to have more fun, good days – and I can’t wait!

How I Changed My Mind About Being A Landlord (And Learned To Embrace Landlord Life)

As a landlord, I’ve got used to being the baddie.

To many, I am a scourge on society, a parasite, scum of the earth. To others, a role model.

It’s a strange position to be in, and one, which until the last few years, I don’t think I was fully aware of.

The vitriolic hatred, I mean. And the job shaming.

In my mind, I do good for society: I provide homes for people to live in.

I make no apologies for the fact I make a profit from what I do, because that means I can improve properties. For those who don’t own property, I can tell you they go wrong very often, and they’re expensive to maintain.

As a landlord, I also have to contend with a lot of regulation, and I have to be up-to-date on the constant changes. The government like to tinker, a lot.

In the last few years, they’ve made it a lot more challenging to be a landlord, and a lot less financially lucrative. One could argue it’s part of the ‘levelling up’, but I’m unsure who’s the winner.

You see, landlords have been leaving the sector. Fed up with the hiked taxes, increased costs and pared down ability to run their business, they’ve said ‘Enough!’.

I get that, I started selling earlier this year as well. I got fed up, frustrated, annoyed how everything is always against me.

And I don’t want to sound like a whiny victim, because I’m certainly not, but I don’t like being forced to run my business with one hand tied behind my back, which is sometimes how it feels.

Covid was an important test.

We all learned how vital our homes were. We got locked down in them. Stared at the same four walls for months on end.

The government, in their misguided wisdom, decided tenants could have breathing space, that landlords were the bully boys and snatched away any rights we had. That meant landlords were not allowed to evict tenants even if they weren’t paying rent, even if they were anti-social and causing issues.

Within this maelstrom, the position of a landlord became pretty precarious. Media headlines claimed (still do) the tsunami of evictions about to hit our shores. They speak little of the financial catastrophe many landlords have faced. How some landlords risk losing even their own home because they own a rental property.

The landlord’s voice has been pretty silent in all of this. The media don’t want to know, it’s not good for business, doesn’t make news.

What does make news is rising house prices, increasing rents.

When landlords exit the business and the property falls into non-landlord hands, that property is taken out of circulation. It’s no longer a resource of the rental market. Who cares, you may say.

Tenants, I reply.

Post-covid, rents have risen stratospherically. There is little supply and huge demand. Even for somebody like me (cynical, keen to sell up and get out), I’ve been astonished by the rent hikes.

And maybe I’m being mercenary, but I’ve changed my plans. I’ve managed to sell some (nowhere near as many as I’d hoped), but it was enough to loosen the noose, so to speak. That money has been earmarked for exciting stuff: chimney pointing, roof repairs, new kitchens and bathrooms, heck I’ve even thought about a mansard roof balcony, that’s how *fun* I am.

But the craziest thing?

I am genuinely excited.

I’ve been in this business way too long to feel such thrills and I was looking to exit. To do such a turnabout can either mean I’ve completely lost the plot, or I’ve found the wood in the trees.

And its uncanny how life works, because it was within this turbulent time The Telegraph approached me to write about life as a landlord.

I hope you enjoy it.