Darryl Cullerton leaning against a kitchen island.

‘I bought my first buy-to-let property at 18 years old now my portfolio is worth £6million’.

01 Feb 2024 | 3 min

Property professional Darryl Cullerton was still a teenager when he invested in his first rental home in 2008.

The UK was in the grip of the worst financial crisis since the Second World War, debt and home repossessions were and opportunities for investment were not at forefront of the minds of many 18 year-olds across the country.

But for Darryl knew he wanted to start growing a buy-to-let empire, buying his first property in the North East. He’s since seen his portfolio flourish, despite times of adversity.

He said: “I bought my first property in 2008 when I was just 18. I knew I wanted to buy a buy-to-let property, but because of the size of the deposit that was needed, I couldn’t afford it.

“I ended up getting a loan from a high street bank to use as my deposit because I worked out that the money I’d make from the rent would cover both the mortgage and loan repayments. So I did that up, rented it out and it just grew from there.

“I’d refinance my properties to pull money out and buy another. I went from having a handful of buy-to-let properties to a portfolio which is now about £6million.”

Darryl, now 36, is one of a bullish cohort of buy-to-let investors who still see bricks and mortar as the best way of saving a nest egg for the future, despite the challenges of the past 12 months.

A volatile property market, uncertainty about forthcoming legislation and soaring interest rates have pushed many landlords to exit with one in 10 planning to leave the market all together, according to new research by property lender Together.

But for Darryl, even with rising costs, everything looks the same as it was post-pandemic.

He said: “There’s been an increase in mortgage costs and insurance but rents have risen to cover those, so I think I’m still in the same position I was in three years ago.

“Investing in buy-to-let is for the long term. There will be peaks and troughs but to make a success of it, you need to be in for the long haul, carefully consider your investments and make sure you’re on top of all your costs.”

Darryl’s portfolio now contains a mix of residential and commercial properties in the North East, which is where he bought his first property, and is an area he describes as “an untapped market.”

He said: “You can buy a property in the Northeast for as little £50,000 which is something you simply can’t do down south. The prices of property here make it easy to diversify and act on opportunities which may not be possible elsewhere in the country.”

As well as investing in property, Darryl is a director of John Cullerton & Sons Limited, his family’s electrical & mechanical contracting firm. He has financed the growth of his portfolio with buy-to-let mortgages from Manchester-based Together.

The property lender, which has a loan book of £6.6billion, has helped Darryl to secure nine of the properties. Darryl plans to continue expanding his portfolio with three new-build properties, four boutique apartments and four commercial units in Sunderland City Centre.

He said: “There's very few lenders who will deal in that market, but Together seems to always be at the forefront. They’ll take a proper look at you and your circumstances and the property you want to buy and they’ll get a deal done for you.”

Elliot Vure, Together’s Director of Corporate Sales said Darryl’s journey to property success shows the importance of determination in a challenging market, and making the most of unexpected opportunities.

He said: “It is an incredible achievement to go from buying one buy-to-let property at 18 years old in the height of the financial crash to owning a portfolio worth £6 million. The determination, market knowledge and financial shrewdness Darryl has shown is the perfect example of how to navigate the ever changing and volatile property market. The diversity of his current portfolio has allowed him to continue to grow and expand, alongside his full time job.

“At Together, we are passionate about helping our customers find success, so to have supported Darryl on his journey is a point of pride for us. We hope that many more existing and aspiring property landlords take inspiration from what he has done and look towards achieving their own property ambitions.”