For the better part of 20 years, Alex Thompson was an estate agent in Notting Hill. Needless to say, he knows a thing or two about property. Yet if it hadn’t been for PPP, he says his foray into the world of HMOs would have been a risky experiment.
“I wanted a change of scenery,” he explains. “I wanted to go in a different direction, but I wasn’t sure what I would do. I can’t even recall where I came across PPP – I think it was just looking at ideas and opportunities online.”
Speaking to Franchise Partners at a Discovery Day, “it almost felt like a bit of a cult, because everyone was so positive”. He assumed he’d just met Platinum’s biggest cheerleaders, “but it’s like that all the way through. Everybody really wants to help one another and that’s great.”
After convincing his business partner to buy him out, Alex signed up with PPP in September 2018 and left his job the following January. Now settled in Witney, Oxfordshire, he has two HMOs up and running and a third in the process of conversion.
In the agency environment, his focus was on sales. “Personally, I hadn’t been a landlord, although we looked after 300-400 properties,” he says. As a consequence, the decision to invest in HMOs felt like a wrench “because it was an unknown quantity and I wasn’t quite sure how it would work out. In retrospect, I’m glad I made the decision to go into HMOs but I’m far gladder I did it in conjunction with PPP.”
Understandably, people are curious about why he’s paying for PPP’s expertise. “In retrospect, there’s no way that I could have done what I’ve done, at the speed that I’ve done it, had I done it alone,” he says.
“There are many pitfalls that I could have fallen into, which would have been costly both in terms of expense and time. Knowing that you can follow a route map or model, your first one isn’t an experiment. Speed-wise, I wouldn’t have got to two or three houses in a year – and if you look at the income from just one, that takes a chunk out of the cost of joining in the first place.”
The way Alex sees it, HMOs principally differ from regular properties with respect to their overall set-up (“I’ve got six-bedroom houses where five bedrooms are ensuite”) and the regulations involved. But away from the builders and bureaucrats, he sees other advantages to joining PPP, such as access to sympathetic lenders. Financial advisers, he notes, “can turn around to the bank and say, ‘Listen, this is another of the Platinum guys – he’s using the same model, he’s using the same template, it’s going to be the same situation.’”
Regular get-togethers – made up of quarterly regional events and biannual national training – keep everyone focused and up to speed. “We’ve just had a Christmas lunch,” says Alex, “where we all had a sit down and they brought people in to give talks. It could be about social media, it could be anything to do with the running of the houses.
“You have a chat, you go off on your merry way and it’s really helpful to have those, to check in on things. The regulations are always changing, you need to keep on top of that and the regionals are a great opportunity for them to educate us.”
He’s most effusive, however, about “being part of a group of Partners who are incredibly mutually supportive. We’re all forty and fifty-something people who haven’t got time to mess around and be silly. We all want the same things out of life.
“I’m already making connections with people I could potentially do joint ventures with, perhaps not in the HMO world, but in other areas. I’m doing a course in commercial property with PPP, which has opened my eyes to opportunities beyond this model.”
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