In the first instalment of a series, Natalie Windsor, Platinum’s head of partnerships, lays out how she became a franchisee with her husband John and auntie Sue
“I’ll admit the gin and tonic bottles came out for one night – and, unfortunately, not in celebration. I’ve worked for Platinum Property Partners for five years and I’ve always had massive belief in what we do and why we do it. I also know successful property investment, even with the support of a proven franchise like Platinum, is hard work and that there will always be bumps in the road. But at that moment, the only thing I could think of was getting that top of the bottle of Bombay Sapphire.
“I’m Natalie Windsor, Platinum’s head of partnerships – and now a fully-fledged franchise partner, investing in my first House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). I say ‘my’… I’m setting off on this journey with my auntie Sue and husband John and with our children Evie and Oliver very much in mind.
“Investing in HMOs with Platinum is always something I’ve wanted to do but was something I didn’t think I’d be able to do right now because of the investment capital needed. I’d always thought we would do it in the future once we had enough equity in our home that we could release – because I really do believe in what Platinum does.
“Then, around 18 months ago, my auntie Sue relocated back to the UK from California after a pretty major life change. That kind of scenario is something I’ve seen with so many Platinum franchise partners down the years and that’s the beauty of Platinum – it can be whatever you want and need it to be.
“Sue had a pot of cash and was unsure of the best way to invest it.”
AN IDEA THAT BECAME REALITY
“We were out walking the dogs one day and chatting about the various options she had, like stocks and shares. I really believe in bricks and mortar as an investment, so that was really the only piece of advice I had for her.
“Property is safe and secure and at her age – she won’t mind me saying she’s in her 60s, I’m sure – she didn’t really want to be putting her money into risky investments.
“We hadn’t even spoken about Platinum at this point, but naturally, it came up in conversation once she was looking at property as an investment. I ran through some numbers with her and we looked at some of the houses our franchise partners have produced over the past 12 years. We pondered the potential for buying a property in Poole, near where I live, and thought about how we could develop one to work as a high quality six or seven-bedroom HMO for professional workers.
“She loves the renovation, lettings and development side of the Platinum business model and we felt that would also give her some purpose, too, as she loves the idea of creating great homes for people. She moved back to the UK after a pretty significant change in circumstances and really needed something to get her teeth into as much as she was keen to make her money work harder for her.
“For me, it was a conversation where I could actually see myself doing what I’ve been telling people to do as Head of Partnerships at Platinum for the past five years – so it was a significant moment for both of us, but for very different reasons.
“I then had a meeting with Sue’s accountant, as he was a little cautious about what we were proposing. That level of caution is something we often face at Platinum, so it was interesting to be on the other side of that fence as a potential franchisee.
“Her accountant didn’t understand why we would invest in a franchise when we could simply go out and purchase a standard buy-to-let property. I sat with him and told him about Platinum’s track record and ran through the numbers with him, too. By the end of our conversation, he was totally on board with the financial business model and could see the franchise was a great solution for Sue personally and from an investment perspective.
“In fact, he was wondering why he hadn’t become a franchise partner himself, which I guess is a tick in the box for my sales technique as much as it is for what Platinum does and how well it does it!
“After that, it was really was an easy decision to join because of how much we believe in the business.”
ALL SYSTEMS GO
“We signed on the dotted line at the beginning of October and started our mentoring programme at the end of November. Those first two days of mentoring were solid from 8 am to 8 pm, proving, as if I needed proof, that getting started with HMO investment is certainly hard work.
“But it was an amazing couple of days viewing properties that could potentially work for us. Once we’d viewed each property, it wasn’t a case of going off for a cup of coffee to discuss things either – we were on site, analysing the property and the returns it could potentially generate with our buying mentor.
“Then it was on to the next one. And the next one. And the next one. It was full-on but really exciting. By the end of day two, we had an offer in on a property that we all felt was the right one for a first HMO – it was accepted, and we were off and running. However, it was a weird time being just a couple of weeks before the General Election in December and there was still a lot of uncertainty in the market that we could all feel.
“I was apprehensive myself about how things might turn out after the polling and the noises coming from the Labour Party when it came to the Private Rented Sector (PRS) and corporation tax were making me a little nervous. I think the election result was a relief for us as much as it was for those people at the end of the Platinum sales pipeline, as after the election we completed one of our best years for franchise partner recruitment and had a raft of new joiners sign up.
“Christmas and New Year were quiet, and the vendor didn’t want any interruptions, understandably, during the break.
“We’d lined up our refurbishment mentoring session for January 7 and I’d had conversations with more than a dozen builders and an architect, and we were all primed to go and look at the house again with a fresh pair of eyes alongside our refurb mentor.”
THEN, THAT BUMP IN THE ROAD…
“The day before the session, the vendor pulled out of the deal. It was frustrating and only the gin took the edge off the disappointment that night. But that’s the best thing about doing property investment with PPP – there’s no time to slump down and feel sorry for yourself. The very next day our buying mentor was on the phone to us saying, ‘Come on, what’s the plan?’.
“That’s the accountability that you don’t get when you do property investment on your own – I always think of it like a personal trainer who pushes you to complete that one final deadlift that you really don’t feel you can do. From Sue’s perspective, she was reassured by our buying mentor that losing properties is as normal in the HMO investment world as it is when buying a home to live in – it happens.
“It’s about how you respond, and the best response is to get back on the horse and start looking again. That accountability is crucial and for me, as a new franchisee, it’s is really nice to see first-hand how well our partners are looked after. It’s onwards and upwards – as I write this, we’re all set to view nine houses at the weekend and we have another mentoring session booked in for February 17.
“Our goal is to get this first HMO up and running and fully tenanted this year and we won’t deviate from that. Everyone at Platinum is here to help, inspire and pick us up when we need it. It’s that that will help keep us on track.
“For myself and my husband, it’s about creating a legacy for our two children, Evie and Oliver, as well as a pension provision for our retirement.
“For Sue, it’s about that legacy for Evie and Oliver, too, which could help them get on the property ladders themselves in the future. But for her, it’s also about purpose and maybe even a sense of belonging after a tough past 18 months.
“I look forward to updating you on my Platinum journey as we move through 2020.”