Is Doomsday Coming?

Posted by Toby Russell on May 17, 2012

Hi there

Blimey its all doom and gloom out there currently. Clintons Cards , the largest greetings card retailer here in the UK have gone to the wall, Greece can’t form a proper government, the Euro is in even more crisis. Spain and Italy appear on the brink of near financial collapse and a headline I just read “Millions of over 50s to retire on half of the minimum wage” - you’d have been forgiven to think the end of the world is here!!

Its Just Bad News after bad News

But the bottom line is that bad news sells newspapers and pulls in traffic for  online news sites. Its veryt much a case of reading between the lines in my book. Yes we all know there’s economic issues out there that are far from great but it comes back to having and creating self relience. By that I mean actually sitting down and focusing on what you as an individial can do about your own and your families situation.

Forget The “Head In The Sand” Syndrome

That way of thinking will simply not work. I’ll give you an example I’m over 50 nearly 55, my pension pot is small made worse by one of the companies I invested having gone into adminstration and being investigated for  the serious fraud squad. But bottom line is you have to deal with  situations and make the most of it. I’m all for having plans and structure much to my wife’s annoyance – but for me its the only way I can work.

Have a Plan

Its all about having a plan. Ok whatever plan you have may not actually deliver what you want or need but its a starting point.

For me I sat down and worked out what I think my wife and I will need to have a good standard of living in retirement, ie: what it costs to run the house, what do we do about reducing our interest only mortgage, what kind of car and therefore cost we might want and then on the flipside what we have in savings and therefore what we need to do over the coming years to fit the plan.

We Got a Shock

Well yes we did, its amazing just what you’ll need to enjoy retirement. And the plan we came up with is a very tall order. But if nothing else it focuses the mind on what you need to do, or at least try and then if you don’t achieve it all at least then you can see how you will need to scale back your expectations and possibly how to do that – does this all make sense?

What Am I Telling You All of This?

Well its about forgetting  (but being aware of) all the doom and gloom and being proactive with yourself and not relying on State Governments to control your very existance. Take control back for yourself, do something positive with your own life and future. For me its creating an online business and therefore income, property investing, writing ebooks and publishing on Kindle etc. Ok some of it may not work but at least I’ve had a go and some will work I know it.

Till the next time

Toby Russell  

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17May

Why You Shouldn’t Listen To The Media!

Posted by Toby Russell on May 6, 2012

Hi there

Now for all of us into property investing its very difficult to not read reports in the media about property prices going up, coming down etc. After all for many of us its our pension, livelihood and a subject very close to our hearts. You have to be passionate about property otherwise its unlikely you’d get into it in the first place let alone stay in it.

So yes its only natural that newspaper reports will catch our eye and you’ll be drawn to read them, I know I am. But here’s my point, read them impassionately and then forget them and here’s why:

Property investing is a long term investment, for most of us short term gains are rare and unexpected like regeneration projects coming along and your property gets CPO’d. Ok that’s happened to us twice and we’ve made good profits on them both but immediately sunk those profits back in to buy more.

So whats my point?

Well be aware of the reports, because you should know whats going on but remember the data is very mixed and how often do we get a report from one lender saying they have gone up only to find another lender 3 days later totally contridicting the previous one.

Remember this fact

A property is like any other commodity its only worth what someone is prepared and can afford to pay for it. Market conditions prevail and in our game of property investing its all about reading the market close to your desired exit time and hitting a peak. So my point is be aware but don’t be influenced because 5 to 10 years in property is a very long time.

Hope this helps

Till next time

Toby Russell

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6May

The Diaries of a Serial Property Investor-My Ebook is Live!

Posted by Toby Russell on May 5, 2012

Hi there

As I’ve been mentioning in some of my blogposts, Tweets and on Facebook I decided some months ago to combine 2 of my interests, namely publishing and property investing,  by writing and self publishing an ebook about our passion for property investing and our experiences over the last 12 years of buy to let investing here in the UK.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster as the book’s description indicates, but what’s been really interesting is that when I decided to write it, I started in my lunch hour in the office and you’d be surprised just how many words you can crash through once you get started.

Well here it is:

The downside of course is you tend when writing like that to not construct it in the best of English and sometimes it doesn’t make a load of sense. Any way here’s what I learnt from the exercise

Its gratifying utilising your spare time to do something productive.

 The sense of satisfaction is enormous, once you’ve done it, mine ended up at over 30,000 words

It’s absolutely essential that you get others to proof read it; I had my wife and my daughter do it. My daughter was great being at uni and writing essays all the time her perspective on my English and punctuation was interesting to say the least!!

 Do take the time to edit it fully, don’t skimp on it.

Continue reading “The Diaries of a Serial Property Investor-My Ebook is Live!” »

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5May

The Property market & The Media

Posted by Toby Russell on April 4, 2012

Hi there now I don’t know about you but I try and switch myself off from the continuous reports in the media  here in the UK about the property market – are prices going up, coming down, moving sideways etc etc.

On top of that many of the search engines frequently have stories about the areas again here in theUKwhere prices have dropped or gone up and the problem is these reports are just so subjective. Naturally they take the current statistics but the old adage- you can prove anything with figures is totally true.

Here’s a Live Example

Let me give you an example. Where I live there’s a road not that far from me, were several friends live where the average price is over £650,000 (some are upto a million!!) but 8 miles down the road there’s a very depressed area where the average house price  is  £75,000.

In fact another example the first road @ £650k is within 5 minutes walk of my house, but the average in my street would be under £400,000 – huge difference within 5 minutes walk.

So when the media badge postcode areas together it ends up being really meaningless

What I’m trying to illustrate here is as a property investor you need to take media coverage with a big pinch of salt at worst, at best ignore it all together because it’s only a snapshot in time.

Time Changes everything – Good & Bad

I’ve got houses where the agent has told me the area is absolutely terrible but then the council decide to rejuvenate and a developer moves in with some new build housing and the whole area and street scene can be transformed rapidly – believe me I’ve see it happen time and time again.

My advice forget  media coverage, be aware of it but don’t let it dictate your strategy, occasionally check out sold prices from the land registry for properties in your street just to benchmark their value but then move on.

To your success, until next time

 Toby Russell

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4Apr

The Ups & Downs Of Property Investing

Posted by Toby Russell on March 28, 2012

Hi there

Now I know I’ve covered some instances of my passion for property investing and its great when everything is going to plan but unfortunately thats not always the case. Take a call I received from one of my managing agents a week or so ago.  A property had fallen empty and they had been trying to find new tenants but he’d already flagged to me that there was a problem with the living room floor.

Problems & More Problems.

Initially he felt we could get away with it so carried on taking viewings but several viewsings then fell by the wayside because of this flooring issue. So he then advised we should bit the bullet and investigate and put right. Said he reckoned it would be around £1,500 including laminate flooring. Enough i thought but needs to be done.

Then The Call Came

A couple of days later he called me – conversation started “hi are you alright?” – alaways a concern. Then the punchline he’d never seen a floor so rotton, wet rot, dry rot you name it, it was there and not just in the lounge but basicially had spread across the entire ground floor. Apparantly the previous owners had built a ramp for wheelchair access and in doing so had blocked up all the airvents in the external wall. So when water seeped in, it stayed and slowly but surely rotted away the complete ground floor.

What To Do?

Well he said he’d get quotes and call me  – fearful of his next call, the cheapest was £9,500 because that included having to take out both the entire kitchen and bathroom as well, do the floor and then re-fit. Well you can imagine i nearly fell off my chair.

But these things happen – its no one’s fault ( apart from the previous owners) but this is why you must keep monies to one side for the problems that crop up out of the blue. Hopefully not as major as this one but still be prepared.

Let me know your nightmare story about property, leave a comment

To your success

Toby Russell

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28Mar

Digital Book sales Start Coming!!

Posted by Toby Russell on March 21, 2012

Hi there as many of you know who follow my blog I have started utilising the growth in digital publishing by launching my first digital e-book on both Kindle and the Smashwords self publishing platforms.

Here’s Number One

Click to See It on Kindle

So for my first project it was an e-book cover the age-old problem of alcohol abuse and dependency. Not a very sexy subject I admit but none the less there’s many people out there suffering from it and everyone tells you that “How To & Self Help” books sell. Well I had some early glitches over formatting and using a 3 dimensional cover and then with Smashwords it takes a bit of time for them to review it and get onto their premium catalogue which offers far wider and greater coverage.

Nothing Like Sales To Get You Motivated

Anyway I’m now on that and on Kindle. Now on Smashwords people can download a sample before buying, well to date 19 people have done that, but on Kindle I have actually sold 2 books!!!!

Ok I know its not earth shattering and I’m not about to retire a millionaire but it’s a start and it also gives me the confidence to get a few more under my belt as soon as I can. But guys the bottom line is that it just shows it can be done by a complete newbie with a little bit of help. Now for me I needed some editing, re-writing and a few other bits and pieces which I outsourced through Elance.com.

What’s next?

Now I have a number of other projects I plan to do, several of which are in the health and wellbeing related markets. But I also plan for a book covering the property market.

My wife Sam & I are serial property investors here in the UK and have been for about 12 years now. So I thought why not write a diary if you like of our experiences, the good, bad and absolutely dreadful. So with that as a plan I have spent the last few weeks putting it together and I’m pleased to say its 90% finished. So I guess that will be book number 2.

Working Title – The Diaries of a Serial Property Investor

So there you have it that where my digital activity is right now – if you click on the tab at the top that says “My Digital Publishing” you’ll see what other digital & audio downloads I have on my other sites so please do take a look and remember to check them out  – here’s the links to both my kindle book and where its available on Smashwords – let me know what you think

Breaking Free From Alcohol  Smashwords

 

Breaking Free From Alcohol  Kindle

Toby Russell

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21Mar

It’s All About Marketing!

Posted by Toby Russell on March 11, 2012

Hi there as you know some few weeks ago I launched myself on Kindle with my digital book  “Breaking Free From Alcohol”. I have also launched it on another digital publishing platform called Smashwords – it’s totally free and once your title is accepted you can then get selected for their Premium Catalog

What is the Smashwords Premium Catalog? Continue reading “It’s All About Marketing!” »

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11Mar

My Kindle & Smashwords Self Publishing Adventure

Posted by Toby Russell on February 25, 2012

Hi there and welcome back, sorry I haven’t posted for a few days but times have been a bit hectic and the days appear to flash by.

 

Check Out My New Book Please!

Its now nearly 3 weeks since my book went live on Kindle but I also released it on another platform called Smashwords.com, which is basically a publishing platform that will then circulate your book to other reader platforms like Apple, Sony etc. Here’s just one of the problems though getting the formatting right is absolutely key to getting your product live and being distributed.

 Outsourcing Pays Off

Now I’m no internet/website specialist so I out sourced this part of it. And as usual no 2 sites follow the same style of formatting so that mean 2 lots of formatting & there two costs involved. But it needs to be done right otherwise they will not accept it. It’s fair enough because unless your book looks good you’ll not get any orders anyway. The other thing with Smashwords is that for them to promote to their Premium Distribution list it has to be ‘approved’ by their team.

 Attention to Detail is Vital

This takes time and if you’ve not followed their style guide you’ll then have to make changes and resubmit, all of which is loosing you time. For me they rejected my cover because its 3D and they only accept 2D and I’d inadvertently used too many keywords- only little thing but you don’t want to continue going through that learning curve time & time again do you?

 

There’s also a wealth of publishing and marketing ‘how to’ information on their site as there is on Kindle and that my friends is where your masterpiece will either fly or dive –if you just leave it up there, do not market it, there’s little chance certainly initially you’ll sell many, in 2 weeks the 20% taster on |Smashwords has been downloaded 10 times but no sales yet – it’s a crowded market out there guys.

My marketing Plans

Next week I’ll be doing a Press release campaign and I’m pushing it on my social media activity as well. As I’ve said before this is a trial run, I’ve picked a subject that’s high profile for our times alcohol Abuse, its unfortunately pretty topical and my believe is that ‘how to’ books sell and are therefore well received – only time will tell but I want to give its best opportunity and lean the marketing skills required as I progress along my journey.

Do please go take a look and let me know what you think

Here’s the Kindle link: 

Breaking Free From Alcohol

 

And here’s the Smashwords link as well:

Breaking Free From Alcohol

 

To your success

Toby Russell

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Categories: Property Investing
25Feb

The Pitfalls of Property Investing

Posted by Toby Russell on February 12, 2012

Hi there and welcome back. This time of the year is fraught with problems for most property investors especially here in the UK because this kind of sub zero weather conditions we are experiencing means only one thing burst pipes, water floods and broken down boilers.

Then you get the heating engineers saying, “Oh it’s not worth repairing you need a new one”. Now I hate that because you’re then reliant on assessing whether they are being truthful or just after a bigger job and therefore more work and more profit. That’s where for us it comes down to knowing and trusting your letting or managing agent to make the right call After all I cant drive up to Newcastle and find out whether I’m being fleeced.

Relationships Are Everything

So the moral of the day is – build a relationship with you managing agents – it needs to be on trust and mutual respect. And believe me you’ll know when the relationship is turning sour and unfortunately it does happen.

Go With Your Gut

For us it’s only happened twice and on both occasions I was very patient (too patient in hindsight) and it cost me dearly. Listen to your gut instincts and react. I had one agent who just simply stopped communicating that’s always a bad sign, eventually he passed me on to one of his colleagues who tried her best but was certainly not capable of the job and a latterly discovered she was only part time. Kicked myself when I found that out and kicked them into touch – but it was an extremely painful and costly experience costing me thousands.

Be realistic

However well your managing agent knows the area, understands & is on top of the benefit schemes, tenants come and go and although we would all like them to look after our properties as if it was their own – that’s simply naive and not going to happen.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

We have had several up & leave recently, no warning, normally its when the benefit payments stop or you get a letter from the council saying it been suspended, that’s when you need to move fast and establish what’s gone on and most importantly what state they have left your property in. And believe me its always bad news it all about the degree of damage, rubbish left, soiled carpets that means you either breathe a sigh of relief or know you’ll need to dig deep to get it back into a lettable condition.

Here’s your reality check – we all get annoyed when tenants leave owing rent and necissating a refurbishment and therefore cost but you can’t let it get to you – if you do then either don’t get into property investing or if you’re already in get out, sell up and fast – because its not going to change and it’s the downside of what we do, believe me.

Here’s a live example

Property I own in Scotland, tenant been in there for about 4 years. Couple with 2 young Children. Had historically been slow on rent but I managed to get housing benefit mandated direct to me, so fine ran like clockwork – suddenly no payment, agent tries unsuccessfully to contact tenant – finally find out, boyfriends left her, she’s lost the plot & gone back to her mum.

So we gain access and I just know this will not be cheap.

This is what it looked like

Getting shot of rubbish is expensive these days and there’s loads of it, funny how all these tenants who leave just do so leaving most of the possessions behind, weird.

Anyway so rubbish clearance,

Now Fresh & Clean!

complete redecoration, some new internal doors, kitchen and bathroom repairs, electrical socket repairs, new carpets and flooring throughout and get rid and treat damp and mould where they have been living with little or no heat on – amazing!

Kitchen looks great!

So £2,500 later it back in a lettable condition.

So that property will stand me in at a substantial loss this year – tenant was in arrears for 2 months, 1 month to refurb, 1 month for new tenant – so 5 months no rental income and a bill of £2,500 total loss over £4,500

But hey that’s property investing  – so my final motto is cash flow is king and always keep a stash of cash in your back pocket for the unexpected.

Till next time

Toby

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Categories: Property Investing
12Feb

I’m Live on Kindle

Posted by Toby Russell on February 5, 2012

Hi there well its arrived!

My first book on Kindle has just gone live last night.  I’m really excited by this and hopefully it will start a whole new venture for me with my online business activity broadening into digital download “How To” ebooks.

Here it is:

 

Here's The Cover, Simple & Direct!

Breaking Free From Alcohol

 Priced at only $4.99, (or £3.27 if you prefer) here’s a quick intro to what its all about

 ”This book covers the tell tale signs of alcohol addiction whether it be in yourself or others and outlines how by seeking the correct help & support, sufferers can combat the addiction. Alcoholism is excessive, uncontrollable consumption of alcohol, accompanied by physical and psychological dependence, the earlier symptoms are recognised, and the easier a return to a normal and un- addicted life can be.”

Here’s My Outline Plan

Now I know its early days but I’m really keen to get heavily involved in Kindle and I have a number of “How To” niche health related products that I’ll be adapting for the Kindle platform and other ebook reader platforms that are out there so I’ll try and keep you posted on my progress which I’m sure will be a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows over the coming months.

Please do go take a look at my new ‘creation’ click on the title above and you’ll go straight there, let me know what you think, all comments both good and bad greatly received.

Till the next time

 Toby Russell

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5Feb