“We were working too hard,” says Kelly Merry, explaining how she and her husband came to be PPP Franchise Partners. “You just go in, don’t you, every morning at seven? Come home, feed the kids, put them to bed and then later, go to bed yourself. It’s like Groundhog Day and you’re exhausted all the time.”
Previously, she and Simon worked in a school: she as a teacher, he as a systems manager. “We had some savings, a bit of equity in our home. We’d also become accidental landlords with some single lets. We weren’t happy in our jobs and wanted to be our own boss. In the end, we said, ‘We don’t mind working hard, but we need to know that there’s going to be a change.’”
Having discovered Platinum at a franchise show, they paid a visit to the Bournemouth head office to meet founder Steve Bolton and his team. “It sounds like a cliché, but their energy and their ethos matched our values. It was something we just wanted to be a part of,” says Kelly. A year and a half later, the couple have just put the finishing touches to their second HMO in Rugby, Warwickshire.
Kelly’s a dab hand at social media, particularly Instagram, the photo-sharing website. “It’s a massive tool for businesses and the younger generation especially use it as a search engine now, as opposed to Google. They will type in ‘houses for rent’,” she explains.
She’s doing her bit for the planet, too, by recycling and upcycling – that is, creating higher-value items from discarded objects. “I’m a big fan of mid-century furniture and art deco, so when it came to fitting out our HMOs, I thought, ‘I’m going to put a little bit of my personality into this.’”
To give each property an edge, Kelly’s brainwave was to use second-hand, mid-century furniture. Besides being cheaper, it’s more eco-friendly. “Some of the wooden furniture I’ve sanded down and re-oiled, so we’ve got some really nice pieces in good condition. Then I wanted an old, battered-looking sofa, which cost me £100 and is genuine leather – it’s probably a grand’s worth. People on Instagram have cottoned on to that kind of thing.”
She’s installed a wormery in the garden. (“About 70% of household waste is compostable, so you can actually decompose it yourself.”) And to save her tenants driving to work, she’s put three fully serviced, second-hand bikes, complete with cycling helmets, in the shed. “Every single person I showed round said, ‘Oh, wow.’ Even if it wasn’t a selling point, it made us stand out.”
To ensure her tenants’ wellbeing, Kelly has also studied the philosophy of architect Ben Channon, who “in a nutshell, says you need to surround yourself with things that make you feel good” for the sake of your mental health. Plants are a soothing influence; and when a front door needed restoring, “we sanded it all down, and then my dad had a pot of yellow paint left over. When you see yellow, it releases serotonin in your brain.”
For the moment, the Merrys are “super-busy and constantly on the go, but flexible with it. We know we’ve got to work hard for the first few years, but then the income will be a lot more passive. I’ve given up work completely and Simon has gone part-time. He’s barely doing two days a week now.”
They can see a financial end in sight, says Kelly. “We know that once we get our third HMO up and running and fully tenanted, that will replace my income that I used to earn, plus Simon’s full-time income, and hopefully by then it will be a lot more passive as well.” A fourth HMO is in the pipeline.
“The longer we’ve been with PPP, the more we appreciate being with them,” she adds. “The people are amazing. They’re so ambitious, positive, highly motivated – you just want to be a part of that.”
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