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Commercial Finance

When Together met... Your Space Property Solutions

Your Space Property Solutions isn't like most property investment companies.

Set up 18 months ago by Katie Bloore and her partner, Donna Chadwick, it's an entirely female-fronted team. When the venture was a few short months old, they invited a friend, Sammie Smith – whom Katie knew through their shared love of football – to be their business partner.

Katie explained how things got started: "Donna and I had built up a useful chunk of equity after renovating and moving a few times. We wanted to get into property investment for a few reasons, and, as we had cash in the bank after our last move, decided to invest £25,000 in a training course that would teach us how to make a success of it."

Having seen our visibly shocked reaction to this revelation, she was quick to clarify. "It's a lot of money, but no more expensive than going to university, and you can lose £25,000 on a single bad deal. When you put it in those terms, you realise it's a really worthwhile investment.

"It's about learning a mindset. Of course we've learned how to invest our money, but also our time, our energy, and our emotions. It's taught us to surround ourselves with likeminded people who share our positivity, and we now have a 'Power Team' that includes local tradespeople, legal teams and Together. Most of them are women, including our contact at Together."

The team met a member of our team at an Asset Academy network event and then again at an East Midlands construction network. They have since grown a close working relationship with Katie Roberts – our Regional Development Director for the East Midlands.

 

"Having a single point of contact is invaluable, because we've been able to build up a relationship. You don't have this tiresome back-and-forth with call centres whenever we need to borrow again or ask for something out-of-the-ordinary", explains Sammie.

A tried-and-test business model – with a twist

Your Space hunt down distressed properties and look to buy them below market value. Knowing what it'll be worth when developed, and how much development will cost, they work backwards and calculate the purchase price.

As you might expect, they browse estate agents' property listings. But also keep an eye on auctions, and invite vendors who are seeking a quick sale to sell directly to them, thereby cutting out the costs and delays associated with putting the property on the open market.

Typically, they purchase using a combination of cash and a Together Bridging loan, then refurbish. So far, so normal.

But the cost of refurbishment is covered by investors, whom Katie names 'angels'. She explained: "When the renovations are complete, we re-finance with a long-term mortgage and rent the property out. We repay the bridging loan and reimburse our investors, with returns agreed in advance.

"Our investors can be anyone – they're just normal people who want to boost their pension pot, or help pay for their wedding. Some do it just the once, and we've had a few ask us to reinvest."

Katie now works on the venture full-time as Your Space's project manager, while Donna splits her time between Your Space and her work in the care sector. Sport-mad Sammie is responsible for sourcing properties, and also works as a personal trainer.

Changing perceptions

While the business is going well, it hasn't all been plain sailing. Some family and friends were unenthusiastic about them going into business, they say, but fortunately most seem to have come around after seeing their early successes.

Perhaps more predictably, they've had some old-fashioned reactions from suppliers and tradespeople.

Donna revealed more: "It's such a male-dominated industry, there's a sort of shock when they realise we're all women. I remember once that we were speaking to someone and mentioned Sammie, and he just assumed that Sammie was a guy!

"We've had builders try to pull a fast one on costs too. It's frustrating when they think they can inflate prices and that we don't know what we're doing, but we have an ace up our sleeves – Katie."

Katie's professional background is in project management for retail construction, having worked on big-budget building projects for national supermarket chains. Armed with the knowledge of what things should cost, and how long they should take, she's not afraid to drive a hard bargain.

Feet on the ground

The demands of Donna's work mean it often falls to Katie and Sammie to hunt out their next investment, and they travel the country in search of the right property. "People think it's easy and sometimes a get-rich-quick scheme, but it's hard work and it takes 100% dedication and motivation to make it work– our record is 14 viewings in a single day", Sammie says.

The properties they select are based on detailed research of local demand. In Derby, where they're based, there's lots of professionals in the engineering sector – often employed on a contract basis – at Rolls-Royce and Bombardier. So they provide high-quality HMOs, always ensuring there's a communal lounge area.

"We're especially proud of the Baker Street property", Katie says. "We've managed to create four en suite bedrooms by reconfiguring the downstairs. What was once a small galley kitchen is now an airy living room that looks onto the garden, and the old dining room is now a huge kitchen-diner that's really the heart of the home."

"Setting up an HMO isn’t as simple as it may seem, it takes a lot of planning and research to get the right layout and finish, where people will feel comfortable and at home."

Each is beautifully decorated and dressed with show home attention-to-detail, with more than a helping hand from Katie's mum, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth has a keen eye for design, and has since started receiving commissions for her own work off the back of her work with Your Space. "She spends hours hunting down the perfect mirror, for instance. The downside is that, occasionally, she finds something she likes so much that she decides to buy it for herself", Katie laughs.

'Reasons why'

During the course of our chat, Katie, Donna and Sammie each describes what they term a 'Reason Why'. And it's at this point you realise that they're all motivated – at least in part – by wanting to fund other passions. Donna, who's clearly passionate about her work in the care industry, talks about generating sufficient income from property to subsidise the cost of care for people with early-onset dementia.

Sammie, similarly, explains how she is concerned with the rise in childhood obesity. "I want to create a sort of residential centre where both children and families can stay, to help them develop a positive relationship with food and exercise. There's lots of these centres in the US but only two in the UK", she says.

They’ve also made a commitment to give 1% of their profits to Sight Support Derbyshire, and fund-raise wherever possible. Donna explained further: "I've worked with national charities for a long time, but there are so many local charities that need help. Sight Support Derbyshire make a real difference, but have to raise a large percentage of their funds themselves. So for us to have given them around £1,500 already in 2020 feels really special."

That said, they're honest that their motivations aren't entirely altruistic. "Of course we want to have nice homes, drive nice cars and go on amazing holidays, but we don’t want to stop there. Those are the kind of things everyone wants. We wanted to think bigger - we were once told that if people don't laugh when you tell them your goals, your goals aren't big enough", Katie says matter-of-factly.

Now that is a philosophy we can get on board with.

 

Any property used as security, including your home, may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage or any other debt secured on it.

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