Today I have moved to a new “home” www.WhatSamSawToday.com

14 Aug

Today I have moved my blog to www.WhatSamsawToday.com so follow my Confessions of a Property Developer here!

http://www.whatsamsawtoday.com/

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Today I got rid of Squatters from my London Flat!!!

13 Aug

Today was meant to be a quiet day as I had paperwork to catch up on…it ended up being far more exciting!!

 11am the phone rings and it’s the estate agent who are selling our flat in London. She had been round the flat this morning with the buyer to measure up for his furniture and stuff as we are due to complete next month. 

“Sam”, she says “I couldn’t get into the flat – have you changed the locks?”

 Me: “No, why would I do that you have all the keys and you need access”

“Well” She says “I just wondered if you had a friend staying or had let it for a short while as there was a bed in there and some groceries on the kitchen worktop” 

“WHAT????” I reply

“OH” she is clearly taken aback “So you haven’t got a friend staying?”

“OH MY GOD”  I reply. “Right, I’ll get down there now”

I put down the phone and think SHIT!!!! What am i going to do?? In that moment I realised I had squatters!  I called a couple of friends who are in property to get their thoughts – no-one had dealt with squatters, but they were all clearly concerned at my situation.

I decided that I would go to the property and get rid of them! 

I called a locksmith and a security company so that I could shutter the property once I had access. I explained the situation to all of them and I could tell from their tone of voice they were not hopeful at my chances of success – all of them told me the cancellation charges if the job didn’t go ahead  – that is – if I couldn’t get rid of the squatters.

I made the 2 hour trip to the flat (London traffic being what it is!). En route I got a friend to google about squatters rights and what could be done. In the meantime I had another one of my friends calling me begging me not to go:

“Sam, what if they’re all high on drugs and they try and stab you – no property is worth that”

She was right, but I chose not to listen and I told her as much.

I arrived at the property at 2pm. From the front I saw the kitchen windows were open…SHIT!

I didn’t have the security fob to get in the front, so I went round the back and let myself in the garden. All the windows were open…DOUBLE SHIT!

I looked through the windows (I could see the lounge and the bedroom from the back garden) I could see a sleeping bag and stuff in one room and loads of furniture in another…then I saw the outline of a person. I knocked on the window.

“Let me in” I said and motioned to the door.

The person (a girl) looked out of the window at me and went to the door. She opened the door. I grabbed the key off her.

“What are you doing in my house? Get your stuff and get OUT”

She was shocked and walked to the bedroom away from me. “Me not speak English” She said

“Don’t try and play that with me” I replied. “Get your stuff and get out now – this is MY house”  She got her phone and started calling – in that moment I looked down and I saw 5 pairs of shoes all orderly lined up….

“OH MY GOD” I thought. How many people are here….who is she calling…how many people are about to arrive with just me here on my own!!!

I called 999…I needed police back up!

“Please come and help me, someone has broken into my flat, the person’s here now, she claims she doesn’t speak English and there are 5 pairs of shoes here. I am scared she is calling more people – I don’t know how many people are here or are coming and I am here on my own”

Within seconds of putting down the phone 5 men arrive in the back garden.

TRIPLE SHIT!

I don’t know where I found my nerve…

“What the hell do you think you are doing” I shout at them. “You do not live here, this is MY house, you have broken in, you are trespassing, you are illegal and you are LEAVING. Get your stuff and get out”

They stand and look at me (they are all tall, big men and I am 5 foot 2 but I am FURIOUS)

They talk amongst themselves in a foreign language.

I am having none of it:

“There’s no point you standing there talking and pretending you don’t understand me. Get your stuff and get out of MY house”

They realise I am not kidding, they start collecting their things.

The police are on their way” I shout

3 minutes later a riot van turns up, sirens blasting and 6 police men run to the flat.

The squatters are collecting their belongings and the police are wonderful. They start asking the squatters what they’re doing, how they got in and for their passports etc. The squatters say they are leaving.

I hand the squatters their belongings – it was surreal. They thank me as I pass them their blow up mattress, blankets, bags of foods and their hoover!!

The police ask them to leave one-by-one and search them on their way out to make sure they have nothing belonging to the property.

The head policeman takes me to one side:

“Look” he says “You are very lucky, they are leaving. Yes we can see they have broken into the property, but as you didn’t see it and nor did we and because none of them are admitting to it, it is very difficult for us to arrest them”

“Yes I understand” I reply

At least they have gone…you are very lucky. People who know the system will put up a notice and then we can’t even enter the property. Think yourself lucky” He says

“I do” I agree

The policemen start squirting antibacterial handwash over their hands and offer me some…then they get a call on the radio – there is a women screaming from their radios

“We’ve got to go” they shout, then run from the flat into their riot van

I am left in the flat with the locksmith who has now changed all the locks

“You are so lucky” he says “I have been to a few of these and the squatters don’t leave. You handled that really well. I cannot believe that she opened the door to you!”

I agree again – I realise I am very lucky indeed.

And to make sure I don’t get any future problems I secured the property with huge metal shutters just 30 minutes later 🙂  

Feel the Fear (and don’t do it anyway) in Hackney!

8 Aug

Today I went to see an EX-LEA flat in Homerton. I was keen to take a look as the numbers were enticing (£125k guide against a value of c. £170k).  I had already looked on google streetview and knew the area was a large council estate area – but it was close to the tube.  So I convinced myself to go take a look.

As soon as I arrived and parked I felt uncomfortable – anywhere where you have so many bars over the windows and doors just doesn’t feel right….

Inside the flat was great – it was split level and spacious. The kitchen and bathroom needed some work, but it was just cosmetic:

Next door to the flat there was a group of guys smoking drugs

(No image here – didn’t think they’d appreciate it!)

And as I looked around I just got a sense of bars everywhere…it felt like I was in jail!

And I thought – I just don’t feel safe here – so no matter the money – I’m not going to buy it!

I Sacked Yet Another Letting Agent and Laboured in Liverpool!

6 Aug

Today I have been labouring in Liverpool – yes really. I may not have any photos to prove it (we were all hard at work).

But suffice to say the property is looking better than when the agents gave it back to us. They have duly been sacked! 

I admit the property is dated but we have not refurbished yet because we have planning to convert to flats so until the market recovers we are letting as one BIG family house (6 double bedrooms no less!) at a greatly reduced market rent – so basically one lucky family gets to live in a very large house for very cheap rent 🙂 

Here is the property as the agents gave it back to us (if you had smellovision you would smell the dog urine which permeated the entire house and the reason why I had to rip up all the downstairs carpets). They thought it was acceptable for the tenants to leave all their rubbish there for me to clear up. Not quite. They now have the bill!

24 hours later and a lot of elbow grease – here is what we look like. And we have tenants lined up – Happy Days 🙂

The Squat in North London with Great Graffiti!

4 Aug

Today I went to see a big house in North London which has been squatted and the auctioneer had only just managed to gain entry.

I may buy it…I am currently deliberating

In the meantime here’s a picture of some great graffiti which I loved 🙂

The Illegal Flat In Streatham!

3 Aug

Today I went to see a 2 bed flat in Streatham which was just a few minutes walk from the common. It was a lovely road – well more like an avenue – it was wide and tree lined. Residential and felt good. The flat was a victorian conversion and I saw the house from the road. It looked in OK condition – a bit tired around the edges.

I let myself in the back gate so that I could check out the rear and work out which flat was for sale (it wasn’t a viewing day but as I was in the area thought I would do a rece). Having just let myself in I was confronted by a young lady holding a baby who was just a few days old. I apologised profusely that I had let myself in the back garden and explained that I had seen the flat up for auction and that I was coming to take a look. Well she was lovely – she told me all about the area, the building and the reasons for sale…the extension which the flat had been built in had been built illegally and now the owner had been served an enforcement notice!

Turns out the flat was actually a 3 bed (though it had been listed as a 2 bed) and the enforcement officers had said it had to be part demolished as it contravened planning and building regs. As the extension was also built on the neighbouring property (where that flat was also for sale) I knew then that I would have to buy both to make the project viable…but I didn’t have the money for both. So I called my friend Nick who’s a fellow property developer.

Nick came along 20 mins later surveyed the building and agreed with me that we had to buy both – and there may be an opportunity.

So we agreed that we would read the legal pack the next day and bash heads…well 60 pages of legal and council jargon later I realised the project was a non starter. Basically the only way of making the project viable was to demolish the lot (which was only about 5 years old) and to start again! Which means all you were buying was a plot with planning issues – and at the guide price made no sense!

Oh well it was a nice day out in sunny Streatham all the same!

Today I had a lucky escape – read the legals!

30 Jul

Today I was again reminded of the importance  of doing your homework. I have been umming and arrhing about what to buy at auction and having viewed loads of properties in London and checking the values I finally decided I didn’t like the London flats that much and decided on a cheapie flat in Shrewsbury.

It wasn’t really an area I knew much about, but the figures made sense – guide of 33k against an end value of c. 60k and a rent of £300-325pcm meaning double digit yields.  I decided at the last minute to go to auction and buy it – but just before I left I thought I better take a quick look through the legals. All looked in order apart from a paragraph in the lease which I didn’t fully understand…not wanting to take a chance I emailed it to my solicitors to get them to explain it to me.

The auction was about to start so I raced to the train station. 5 mins into my train journey my solicitor called and told me what the paragraph meant “If you buy that flat you have to live in it – you can’t rent it out”. Shit – I was about to buy it for the double digit yield! Not only would it impact me, but it would also have an impact on the resale as I thought it may appeal to another investor when the time came to sell – but this would cut out a huge part of the market.

Bugger I was now on the train but with nothing to buy…and I didn’t trust myself to go to auction and not buy anything! Then I remembered there was a viewing for a property that I liked in an auction next week – so I jumped off the train at the next station, raced home got the car and made it into North London just in time to see a lovely flat – now on my hit list!

Having just checked the results for the flat in Shrewsbury it sold for just £32k…great price as long as the buyer intends to live there!

Today I am kicking myself!

28 Jul

Today I am still kicking myself for not attending an auction last Thursday…basically I have been considering opening another agency branch in Cheshire for a while now. Then I was flicking through the catalogues and I came across a cute little shop in a town just 10 miles from where we are based for just a £50k guide!

Had a chat with Karen my office manager and she LOVED the idea and convinced me to do a drive by…so I went and I FELL IN LOVE

It was central in the town centre, had great road visability – and was in pretty good condition…I could just hang a sign and open up!

And so I went back and told Karen all about it….and then I admitted I would have to postpone our refurbishment plans of the current office so that I could fund the set up of this.

“NO WAY” she replied. “I’m not supporting a new venture without you finishing this building first”  She made some sensible points and we agreed that I would leave it and if it did not sell at auction make a cheeky offer after…

On the day of auction I was still desperate to go, but Dimi my partner was not keen until I had finished the major refurb of our current offices…I sensed a theme and decided to heed their advice

My “what-was-not-meant-to-be-lovely-new-shop-in-Cheshire” sold for just £40k

I am SO totally gutted :..(

The Missed Opportunity In East Ham

26 Jul

Today I saw a property in East Ham – it was a ground floor purpose built flat with about 74 years left on the lease and a guide of 100-110k. I thought the end value was about 140-150k so there was something in it.

I went along to view and it the block was well maintained externally and internally:

The inside of the flat was a good size – there was some damp in the bedrooms, but that could be sorted

The kitchen was dated:

The bathroom could be sorted for minimal cost

The lounge was a nice size and just needed cosmetics

I had it down on my list to bid for…

Then I got busy and had another property I was trying to bid for…so I didn’t attend the auction as I decided with it being a big auction house it would go well over guide anyway. So I chose to go for the other project…

How WRONG was I

It sold for 99k! DOH!!!!

My Kettering Quandry!

23 Jul

Today I was driving back from North to South and while on the A14 remembered there was a place going to auction in Kettering. As it was just a quick diversion I thought I would do a drive by. 

The property was a 2 bed terrace which was listed as a sale by mortgagees NOT in possession. That means they have the power of sale (as the person hasn’t paid the mortgage) but they have not actually evicted the owner or changed the locks…which means they don’t know if the property is occupied or not! Importantly, it also means there will be NO internal viewings as they do not have access.

It was a street close to town and looked in good condition.

I decided that I should check out the back. In retrospect, me on my own at 8 o’ clock at night going down a back alley and climbing over the garden wall may not have been the best idea….I managed to get some pics through the window of the kitchen. It looked pretty new…

Then I was looking through the dining room indow and suddenly I saw what appeared to be a sleeping bag S***!  Was the property lived in??!!

I made a sharp exit – bearing in mind I didn’t know if the property was occupied and I was currently in the back yard.

I still needed to know if the property was occupied so I knocked on the neighbours door and got chatting. She was lovely and invited me in to see the layout of her property. She was very helpful and made my mind up that I would bid for the property…

But I got outbid 😦