Industry Interview: Henri Sant-Cassia, Co-founder of One and Only Pro
Welcome along to the next in our interview series where we capture insights from notable property people.
Today, we meet property prop-tech entrepreneur, Henri Sant-Cassia, co-founder of One and Only Pro, a new platform that helps property investors identify properties with high yield and/or high capital growth potential.
1. Tell us about the history of One and Only Pro?
We began doing private client work for foreign investors who wanted facts not opinions about potential deals.
Our analysis used to be done manually, a time-consuming business, and as we grew we started to develop software modules to make the job faster and more accurate.
Eventually, we developed algorithms to do predictions of price rises, and from this foundation One & Only Pro was born.
Not only do we use the same analytics for our own investments, but we are also on a mission to help the general public invest smarter.
So many people are losing money to “get rich quick gurus” or overpriced and unregulated deal sources that just don’t perform.
We believe everyone should have the chance to pick great deals.
2. Do you think for those starting out, that BTL is still viable in 2019?
It has never been a better time if you buy the right deal. Take a look at the properties rated as “10s” on our website - the highest ranking - and you’d need to be seriously talented to lose based on the fundamentals.
Fear, uncertainty and ultra low-interest rates compared to high rental returns mean the numbers are heavily stacked in favour of BTL.
For newbies, it is actually even better because they are not so affected by the Prudential Regulation Authority other than by slightly higher rent to mortgage coverage, which is actually healthy.
For portfolio landlords it’s a little tougher as they usually fall within the remit of this new rule as they are typical “borrowers with four or more distinct mortgaged buy-to-let properties, either together or separately, in aggregate.” This makes it harder for these landlords to get finance, but new BTL investors will find an ever-increasing number of lending products on the market.
Portfolio landlords just need to work a little harder on finding finance.
For those unduly worried by mortgage tax relief changes, advice from a specialist tax advisor should be sought, as there are ways to mitigate the impact, but it is highly personal to each individual as to what that can look like.
High rate taxpayers should also spend a little more time on their legal setup, and not be put off by small changes while there are still massive profits to be made.
3. What is your top piece of advice to anyone starting out in property investment today?
Money is made or margin of safety is made when you buy a property. The better you buy the less you have to worry about. It is probably half the battle. If you can purchase 20% below market value you really have no way you can lose.
Take action and get stuck in. I have never heard from anyone who purchased a non-new build property in the United Kingdom that has ever said 5 years after purchasing “you know what I wish I didn’t buy that property all those years ago.
4. How important are research and due diligence when engaging with any part of the property sector such as assessing a property deal, referencing a tenant, checking out a mentor, researching a prospective commercial partner?
When assessing a property deal all you know need to do is verify the figures and then get a RICS surveyor for a professional check.
I think the analysis part was where a lot of people messed up. They were maybe sold a dream about capital appreciation and forgot about all the other fundamentals when buying a property deal.
They were probably a little lazy in doing their own research. We make the first part of the process easy by making it simple to compare potential investments.
When referencing a tenant we cannot really comment as we use professionals to manage our properties.
To be fair with the number of checks our lettings agents do I doubt I could rent one of my own properties. They check to deposit money, collect one month’s rent up front, perform credit checks, look at references and guarantors…The margin for error here is really slim.
I am not sure if it is any good as I have never used it personally, but you can also buy rental guarantee insurance. We tend not to use this as our debt to income ratio is so low it is not necessary.
When checking a mentor, I think by now we all know who the good mentors are. Simon Zutshi at PIN network stands out along with Progressive Property as being reputable, with a good history behind them.
We are lucky we are living in the era of Google so do basic searches and compare the similarities between the failings of the bad mentors with your prospective mentor.
One of the big topics these teach is property basics and how to find deals. Our website provides a short cut, so we hope we can be a kind of benchmark so that the real mentors continue to succeed and the underperforming ones disappear. Our users can find deals in seconds.
To check a prospective commercial partner use the same kind of approach as a letting agency. Do the aforementioned mentioned Google checks and trust your gut instinct.
Never buy on emotion or on a dream that is being sold. Do not delude yourself into believing in the person.
5. How important do you think it is to work with a letting agent and how can landlords find their way to reputable ones?
We prefer working with letting agents as they can keep us informed and in line with regulations. Also, the cost is fully tax deductible, so the real cost is lower than the 7-10% fee.
Most importantly, using a lettings agent frees us up to get on with the more exciting things!
Landlords can find a reputable letting agent by using a common sense approach. Follow word of mouth recommendations.
Go and speak to 3 letting agents to get a good feel about how competent they are. Do not go with the one that promises you the highest rents. Keep your own greed in check and go with what seems sustainable.
It’s important to keep your agents on their toes, and that is down to clear and professional communication and letting them know your expectations from the beginning of the relationship.
6. What do you see as the biggest threat facing landlords?
Further regulation and taxation from the government. Increasing national debt will force the government to find areas they can tax more, and property investors will be targeted.
Also, if there is a further wealth divide between property owners and renters this will cause political pressure to give more rights to tenants. If landlords are more intensively regulated this will drive up compliance costs.
7. What do you see as the biggest opportunity for landlords?
The biggest opportunity for landlords is the fact that property is and will always be the best investment long term. The historic trend of rising prices will always continue.
We are a small, crowded island, and space is finite.
Landlords are very fortunate to be property owners and part of the game. If someone is not in the game they need to get in.
8. What do you see as the main benefits for property investors to adopt smart technology like One and Only Pro?
We show potential profit and potential capital gains. These two things are the name of the game.
We can predict which properties are more likely to rise in price and can show the most profitable deals in seconds.
It saves a lot of time for investors, as all the comparables and calculations are done automatically. Traditional portals like Rightmove and Zoopla list properties from high to low. One&Only can list them by capital appreciation potential, true yield and return on cash invested which are more relevant to property owners’ needs and ambitions.
9. Do you have any predictions for the property sector in 2019?
We do, and in fact we have predictions for specific properties rather than useless general crystal ball gazing. That’s the beauty of the One & Only system.
We are also long term. We know that in 5 years 10 years time we will happy we bought property and continued to purchase property. Inflation alone means property prices will always increase. The market could go down 1% or up 1% but we are not phased by this.
We will still buy 20% below market value and earn returns of 25-100% on cash invested. So the minimal differences of 2019 will not affect our long term investment decisions. If we are referring to the dreaded “B” word just having a quick look on our website we cannot see how it will make much difference.
Brexit is not going to affect the fundamental investment numbers considering the margin of safety on the properties like the attached example.
We would take a 29% ROI for 2019 no matter what happens in the wider market.__________________
Thank you very much to Henri for taking part in our interview.
Catch up on our previous industry interviews: