INVESTOR TALK: An interview with Mark Homer: ‘How buying ex-council houses changed my life’

Mark Homer - Property Investor, Developer and Entrepreneur

- Co-Founder of Progressive Property, Progressive Lets and Progressive Property Assets
- Bought his first investment property at the age of 23
- Now 38 years of age and one of Peterborough’s biggest buy to let landlords

When did you first invest in property - what was it, where was it located and how old were you when you purchased it?

I bought an apartment in Bulgaria in 2003 and multiple villas off plan in Florida hoping they would go up in the boom. I was 23. 

I quickly realised that the rents didn’t cover the mortgages and that had paid too much for them. They were the worst investments I ever made, but I learnt a lot from the experience and it didn’t put me off investing in property. It actually gave me the drive and determination to want to learn how to be a successful property investor - I was adamant I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes again! Then in 2015 I started purchasing ex local authority houses, which turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.

Why did you decide to start investing in property?
I saw my friends making lots of money from it and it didn’t appear that they had much knowledge or experience, it looked like a relatively easy way to make money so I thought it was something I could do too.

What made you decide to focus on ex local authority properties?

The capital values of these properties were much lower due to their unappealing appearance. However, compared to similar sized properties located close by, which had a lot more kerb appeal but cost more to purchase, the rents worked to be out the same, so it was a no brainer for me! The yield/income of these ex local authority properties was much higher and tenant demand was also very good - still is now! After buying a few and analysing the results, I knew I had to buy more.

How many properties do you have today, what types of property are they and what geographical range do they cover?
Many of our properties are ex local authority single lets, but we have several HMOs, super HMOs and serviced accommodation units too. The majority are located in Peterborough, Wellingborough and Corby. Including properties in development at the moment, our buildings can house around 350 tenants. Our tenants are cared for by our letting agency, Progressive Lets which is run by Wayne Beecham who is one of my business partners and also a co-founder of the company. 

We own commercial units as well, mainly retail spaces and offices - some of which we use to run our national property training business from.

What’s been the best thing about pursuing a career as a landlord?

Satisfaction from creating better spaces that people love to live in, ability to choose what I do with my day, and the profit which it provides me and my family. 

What’s been your hardest challenge so far regarding property?

Managing 110 investors when creating a property portfolio for each of them - during this time my business partner and I bought around 400 properties for them. 

Almost 15 years on, where has your property journey taken you?
It’s taken me from small time buy to let investor, to property entrepreneur and business owner, trainer, mentor and now property developer.

What are you doing in property at the moment?
Just this week I’ve obtained planning permission for 98 apartments in the middle of Peterborough city centre - it’s the ex-Marks and Spencer building on the High Street. I’ve recently bought another commercial unit opposite this one too. These developments, alongside running our property training company, will occupy most of my time for the next couple of years.

What was your most rewarding property purchase and where is it?
In 2013 my wife and I bought a commercial property (a grade II listed Georgian office) in the centre of Stamford. We converted it to a family home, striped it out which involved knocking down walls, exposing and restoring old features, creating an open plan kitchen-living area, refurbishing and decorating it to a high standard. We sold it three years later and made a profit of around £200k.

More recently, it has to be the commercial building I completed on in December 2017 - it’s over 80,000sqft and will be converted into residential.

What's motivating you at the moment?

Finding bigger sites with more profit per deal to enable greater returns from reduced time input.

What's your next big property goal and how do you intend to achieve it?

To create a large scale co-living block in Peterborough city centre that houses 250 tenants or more.

What 5 things do you feel are essential when investing in property?    

- Resilience
- Tenacity
- Perseverance
- Good head for numbers
- Delayed gratification (play the long game!)

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start investing in property?

Surround yourself with interesting, experienced and knowledgeable people who are already doing what you want to do and who you can trust.

Watch, listen, learn, network, trial, test and refine - but most of all, stick at it.