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Lendlord Investor Interviews series: John Howard

In the first of a series of investor interviews, Lendlord was delighted to speak to John Howard, a property developer with over 4 decades experience. John has also authored several books about property and speaks at events all over the UK, sharing his immense knowledge.


1. Tell us about your own property journey, how you went from assisting your father in his estate agency business to undertaking a development of 150 flats in Ipswich.

Goodness me that’s a massive question!

I suppose my first break was that my father had a small estate agency my second break was that my mother lent me a small amount of money so I could buy my first two properties on my 18th birthday with help of my bank manager.

The third break really was my first financial backer when I was 24 so I could go into a different league in terms of being able to buy property.

By the time I was 26, we were developing large blocks of flats across the UK which really I’ve been doing ever since.

2. What are your top golden rules for investing in property?

I think my three golden rules are what I stick to and what I try and get people who I meet and want to work with me to also abide by.

The first is to be able to sell a property you’ve just bought at profit without doing anything to it.

The second is to be able to buy, refurbish it, and sell it at a good profit and the third is to be able to buy it, refurbish it, rent it, refinance it and move onto the next deal having got most your capital back.

I started a discussion on propertytribes on this topic which generated some interesting debate!

3. Which property strategy is the most effective in the current market conditions?

That’s a very good question. I think last year it was definitely best to be cautious. This coming year I think we can all be a bit more ambitious and I really think it depends what you’re good at.

If you’re good at refurbishing property, you should do that. If you’re good at buying and selling then you should do that if you’re good at investing you should invest.

4. What advice would you give to a newcomer starting out in property today?

My advice to newcomer would be you need to look to be making a profit of at least 20% net of all costs including interest, estate agents fees, and everything else.

Even if you’re looking to keep the property and rent it out, you need to know you could sell it for 20% more than you paid for it. If you can’t you shouldn’t be doing it!

5. What has been your greatest property challenge and how did you overcome it?

Funnily enough my greatest challenge I think has been the development I’ve just finished at Christmas which was the Winerack in Ipswich - 150 flats. A skeleton structure stood empty for 10 years and was a real eye-sore on Ipswich water front. I struggled to fund it which is unusual for me and in the end the government came to my rescue and I funded it through them via the Homes England initiative. Hopefully this year coming we will sell all the flats and pay the government back!

6. How important is it to keep control over your portfolio in terms of tracking its performance and metrics, and do you think landlords should use digital tools for this task?

It’s essential to know what your property portfolio is doing at all times. For instance, I know that my own property portfolio currently has a 96.8% occupation. I don’t do that through any new data system although all these digital tools have their place and I can see landlords increasingly using them to manage their portfolio and monitor the performance.

7. Why did you decide to become a property trainer and author and tell us a bit about your activities in these areas.

I decided to become a property trainer if that’s the right word and author because I was very disturbed at listening to some advice that was given by some of the so-called property experts who when you ask them how much they’ve actually achieved in the property industry is very little.

8. What will you be doing in property in 2020 and do you still feel optimistic about property investment?

Well I’ve got an incredibly busy year coming up and the first and most important thing is I’ve got over £40 million worth of property for sale through my developments that needs to be sold during the year . The second is that I’ve got over 30 odd seminars that are taking place across the UK from April onwards and the third is I need to keep finding deals and doing deals , oh and I’ve got another book coming out on buying and selling at auction in March and a new TV series!!

Thank you very much to John for taking part in our interview.

You can follow him on twitter at @john_howardprop

You can view hints, tips, and project/development case studies on his youtube channel.

You can find out more about his seminars, mentoring, books, and developer life at his website John Howard Property Expert.

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