When Andrea Savvidou, 27, stood back and looked at her life, she decided she wanted to do something else with it beyond her day job in the city as an actuary. So she took a property course, and took a chance on her first property.
Four years later and she now has 17 rental units, mostly in HMOs, and a supplemental income that’s going to give her lots of choices in years to come.
Andrea says: “I really fell in love with the idea of taking a house, doing it up, making it into a home for someone - and making some money in the process.
“I still do my day job, but it’s more of a choice. It’s not full time, and it gives me the income I need for investment.
“It’s in the beginning phase that I’m most hands on – finding the property, designing the property with the architect, having that vision and submitting it to the council for planning approval. By the time my trusted development team comes in, I can let that process happen with regular checkpoints rather than constant supervision.
“Once development is finished, I have a management company that takes cares of the management side of things for me, so I’m hands off from there on. They advertise my properties, find my tenants, do the checks and inspections and organise all the cleaning and maintenance. That leaves me free to start researching the next property.”
Andrea specialises in commercial to residential refurbishments, and looks for big spaces which can be converted with en-suites and large communal areas into successful Houses of Multiple Occupation.
She says: “To get the right tenants in your HMO in the right area, your spec needs to be good. The market is very competitive right now, and the details can really matter in terms of your occupation levels.
“I target professional working tenants on a long term basis – 6 months upwards, and most of my properties are in South Yorkshire and Manchester. They’re very different areas, but I’ve found formulas that seem to work for both.
“I have now built a professional relationship with a commercial agent, but at the beginning I was just sourcing properties from online platforms. My latest project was an office conversion, and it’s now an 8 bedroom HMO.
“With commercial to residential, you have to be aware of the planning permissions you’ll need and who to talk to in different councils. Don’t underestimate how much time that can take, and build it into your schedule! The budget is also very different from your average build – every project is different and in some cases you might end up with works involving the removal of asbestos, sound proofing, installation of new electric and gas meters, re-wiring, replacing windows etc. Everything is so much bigger with a commercial property.
“The good news is that it can also include bigger rewards. One big development can end up creating more units to rent and therefore more return for less initial outlay – and in less time – than lots and lots of smaller developments end to end.
“Going into property you really need to have your eyes open, and know what you’re doing. If you’re not from a trades background, you might have a steep learning curve. You’ve also got to get your head round the financing, mortgages and insurance. My background is in numbers so that’s the bit that came most easily to me – and the practicalities of building and development I’ve had to learn along the way. Getting the right team to help you is absolutely key.
“I would describe myself as an investor rather than a landlord. I love what I do. In 10 years time I just see myself doing more of what I do now – more properties, bigger projects, more joint ventures.
“Working in property gives me freedom to do what I want to do both now and in the future, and that’s very important to me.”