Welcome to the next in our series of interviews showcasing the views of property experts. Today, our spotlight falls on industry commentator and analyst, Kate Faulkner, who can be seen across social media, TV, and in person, speaking at events around the country. Kate is also founder of Property Checklists, which is an educational resource for those looking to buy, sell, and rent property.
1. Tell us about your property and business journey.
I got into the property market originally as I was terrified of going into negative equity – as my brother and sister had in the 90s. I worked out how to buy a property at less than it was worth with a bit of work applied to it.
Originally I just did up properties while having a full time job in retailing, but then I jacked it all in to do an MBA as my dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness and I wanted to spend more time with him.
I ended up setting up one of the first property portals (before Rightmove) and took this to the relocation market, then worked in part exchange with a company that bought and sold 100 properties a year and finally set up the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon.
Post these jobs, I set up my property consultancy to help companies work better and grow their consumer base, through driving consumer education.
2. What has surprised you most about how the private rented sector has developed over the past 5 years?
That despite the ‘kicking ‘ the industry has got, how far many lovely landlords and amazing agents will go to look after their tenants and how much they genuinely care. It’s very easy to criticise the private sector, but I have to say, through experience, the social sector needs to be doing a lot more to ‘lead’ the letting industry than it does. The recent story of a man committing suicide because he couldn’t take his pets into social housing is appalling.
3. What is your top piece of advice to anyone starting out as a landlord?
Know what you are getting yourself into. Far too many landlords are ‘accidental’ from a business perspective and especially when it comes to the reality of letting. This is partly due some appalling salesmanship of so called ‘property deals’ and ‘mentoring’.
Sit and read a book about the reality of being a landlord, go onto forums like Property Tribes and watch our Buy to Let Show. Think more than you are setting up a business which happens to be in property.
4. How important is research and due diligence to landlords when assessing a property area and deal and what are some of the resources available to them?
Not just important, but essential. I spend weeks researching an area to understand what’s the best type of investment and don’t just look at what will work now, but also what will work in the future.
As far as resources available, there is nothing better than walking the streets, getting to know the area yourself, doing the commutes tenants are likely to do and then finding local agents that really know their stuff who are ARLA or RICs members.
We look at population change, household demand forecasts versus numbers and many other factors, all to find the deals that will be short in supply now and in the future. We cover a lot of this in our regional property reports..
When it comes to a deal, surveyors are essential, especially ones that get buy to let and do a different survey, plus talking to the local authority housing office to find out about licensing and their ‘pet hates’ about landlords. This can help you avoid one if not more £30,000 fines they can now impose.
5. How important do you think it is to work with a letting agent and how can landlords find their way to reputable ones?
As a minimum a landlord needs to join an accredited landlord scheme or a landlord association. My honest view is that if you work full time in another job, use an agent to manage. You will not be able to keep up with the legal changes or your tenants demands in the timeframes required so can quickly end up on the wrong side of the law. Never use an agent that is not ARLA/RICs/UKARLA/NALS registered.
Best way to test them? Go on a viewing and ask lots of questions about the health and safety aspect of the property, EPC and ask for a tenancy agreement, the deposit info. Check their fees too – some either charge a higher commission but lower fees for services eg EPCs (some with no ‘add on’) while others charge a lower commission, but charge a fortune for services – and some try to get away with both!.
6. How do you view the private rented sector in 2018?
Tough if you are landlord/agent and confusing if you are tenant. There is so much misreporting of the sector that it is difficult for tenants to know what is ‘acceptable’. For example, renting a property that has damp or mould isn’t, however, tenant fees haven’t been banned yet!
From a landlord/agent perspective, the legal and tax changes are a minefield. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get professional help. Many landlords have been working on a ‘DIY’ model - I think this is a recipe for disaster in this day and age.
7. How important will landlord education be going forwards and what do you recommend as the best resources that landlords can tap in to?
It’s very sad that there are so many resources out there for both landlords and tenants, but few use them. Property Tribes is great for knowing the issues of today and asking questions you don’t know the answer to but should.
I have been running Propertychecklists.co.uk for four years and we provide huge amounts of market information as well as checklists which are invaluable and easy to use. We do this via TV programmes, eBooks and our checklists.
We even run a free Q&A service. Even .gov provides a terrific amount of information to landlords, but it’s not always easy to navigate or understand, but the ‘how to rent guide’ is pretty good.
Finally there is the weekly LBC Property Hour, this is a great programme or podcast to listen to other people’s questions or ask yourself.
8. Tell us a bit about your property consultancy work, TV work, and Property Checklists …
We do a huge variety of work, but only ever for one reason: to improve the way people buy, sell, rent, invest, build and renovate property. Consultancy wise we work with companies to retain or grow their client base through improved communication with consumers producing videos, eBooks, calculators, indices and surveys as well as checklists.
We also help establish new products and services in the market which will improve how consumers carry out a property project, so help with launch and PR strategies. Propertychecklists.co.uk is our consumer site, completely free of charge to them, or we charge £299+ VAT to support a checklist each year. TV wise, it’s all about educating the consumer and ensuring they get the information they need which is not always explained properly through the media, rents and prices being the key ones, but also things like ‘hidden fees’ or how to solve property problems.
It’s great to do, I have to say I never thought I’d be on telly and it’s still weird watching myself!
Thanks very much to Kate for taking part in this interview. She is a great advocate of the private rented sector and also a great educator.
Here she is at the Residential Property Surveyors Association talking about the property market in 2018: