LISA HULYER EXPLAINS WHY WOMEN ARE PARTICULARLY SUITED TO PROPERTY INVESTMENT AND WHY PROPERTY IS UNIQUELY SUITABLE FOR WOMEN.

As an investment opportunity, property is ideal for just about anyone, but it is particularly suited to women who want more from their lives. The thousands of different opportunities that the property market offers means that those of us who need to work around the demands of family and other commitments can do so.

People often ask me why I’m focused on helping women particularly to get involved in the property market. The simple answer is that I would like to see much more financial empowerment of women, greater financial independence and less reliance on joint decisions about their and their families’ future.

Statistics from Harvard Business School indicate that 75% of women will, at some point in their lives, need to make their own (often complicated) financial decisions and planning. However, less than half of us would be prepared if this were the case. I’m not saying we’re complete idiots where money is concerned, but that we don’t generally have the same interest or background in these things as men are automatically expected to have. We usually have to ask for information and explanations, whereas men are more likely to be given them as a matter of course.

So why is property such a great idea for women who want financial independence? One of the most obvious reasons is kids. Statistically, we are still the primary carers of our children and the ones most likely to play a more time-consuming role in bringing them up.

Let’s face it, we would all like to be ‘supermums’ and have it all: babies, career, happy stress-free family lives and enough money to enjoy it with! But in the real world, unless you run yourself into the ground, put your health and probably your relationship at risk, not to mention your sanity, this simply can’t be achieved. Except, that is, in the case of property. Property presents a unique opportunity for women who want it all!

Property is not a nine to five job. Neither is it 45 hours a week or 20 days holiday a year. It’s not having to justify how much better you’ve done this year to earn a miserable 3% salary increase. It’s not office politics and it’s not being stuck on the M25 for at least two hours (if you’re lucky) every day. It’s not about having to choose between your career and your children, between your hobbies and your partner. It’s not about doing something day-in, day-out that’s OK some of the time, but not really what you enjoy spending so much time doing. It’s not about being too young, too old, being made redundant or working as a team player.

Property is about choice. It’s about flexibility and quality of life.

Property is a uniquely flexible career. You can get started part-time, from home, with very little money. You can dip in and out and work it around all those other things you love. This is why property is so great for women. We’re the ones who need a great career that fulfils all these criteria. Here’s an example. To get started on the investment property ladder there are several stages you need to go through. At first these stages are research based, so you can take care of this over a couple of hours a week at pretty much any time of the day. You’ll be doing your homework and using home friendly tools such as the telephone and the Internet. The next bit involves sorting out your finances and once again, you don’t really have to go anywhere these days to do this. You’ll need to go and see some properties, but this can be done over as long a period of time as you wish. You then need to make your first purchase, find yourself some tenants, or do it up and sell it on. Hey presto! You’re a landlord or a property developer! If you want to, you can have as much or as little to do with your flat as you like. If you don’t want any contact with tenants, you can have it managed for you, then just sit back and collect the rent and watch your first capital growth begin.

Of course, if you have less commitments at the moment, you can get going faster. That way you’ll put yourself into a position so that when you do have these commitments, you’re ready to slow it down again. Meanwhile, if you’re buying to rent, you’re thinking about what it’s going to be like to collect pure rent in 25 years time, when the mortgage on your investment flat is paid off (by your tenants) and you’re earning more than you were in a normal job, all for doing practically nothing. If you’re developing, you’re building up capital as you go along and buying bigger and better properties. How many of us really still believe that we’re going to be living ‘the lifestyles we’ve become accustomed to’ with a pension? I’m certainly not relying on a pension. My property investments are both my career and my future and they can so easily be yours too.

Now, let’s think about what happens when you’ve got your next flat. That’s another whole income you’ll be receiving in 25 years time. This goes on and on as your portfolio expands. Not only that, you then own the entire property or properties outright. Believe it or not, this is the worst case scenario. We haven’t touched on actually making money as you go along, but if you’re getting started part-time and have one or two flats, the worst you’ll do, if you’ve bought well, is cover your outgoings on the property (the mortgage, maintenance, professional fees etc). This may be because the property market is in a slump. Usually this is hyped-up melodramatically by the media, but it is very much part of a normal property cycle. It shouldn’t frighten you because there are lots of opportunities to be had from a down property market, in both buy-to-let and developing.

So if you break even in a bad market, what happens in a boom? Basically you make money on a monthly basis. Depending on what and where you’ve bought, you could easily be making an extra £300-£400 pocket money per month per flat in rental, or huge increases when you sell on your developments. When you’ve got more flats, you’re heading for a proper income and can give up the day job! If you want to, you can stop there, have them all managed by an agent, or just sit on your latest development; do nothing and spend your days being at home with your kids, lunching with friends or playing golf while the money and the growth keeps on happening.

We talked about why property is so great for women, now let’s look at why women are great in property. It is widely recognised that women are well suited to multi- tasking; that is, doing lots of different things at once in an efficient and organised manner. This is a great skill for achieving anything in life, but is particularly handy when it comes to property. Property incorporates a wide and varied range of skills, including budgeting and minor number crunching, research and data analysis, co- ordinating teams of contractors, organising timescales and schedules. Refurbishing is generally one of the fun parts of property, especially if you’ve always fancied having a go at interior design. This can require an eye for detail and style, practicality and a healthy dose of common sense. The ability to switch easily between facts and figures (left brain stuff) and style and appearance (right brain stuff) is inherent in most women. After all, it is this ability which generally makes us adept at bringing up a family, organising the household budget and creating a beautiful and harmonious environment at the same time. Multi-tasking began when caveman went out every day to hunt for food, whilst the women were at home being the parent, counsellor, healer, peacemaker, teacher, basket weaver, food preparer, clothes maker, etc, etc…

In some cultures today, it is the ability of the women to take control of absolutely everything that keeps the entire community working, while the men just sit round all day doing absolutely nothing except smoke drugs! That’s obviously an extreme and I’m not suggesting that you offer your partners early retirement, but, as women, we are and always have been designed to multi-task efficiently. Nowadays there are a lot more women involved on the property services and agency side of things than there used to be. Women have been in property management for a long time, (ie. the people you pay to look after every single aspect of your property and tenants), because it’s a prime example of a multitasking profession. This is nicer for us women for two reasons. It is, in my experience, very intimidating to walk into an estate agency and be confronted by a wall of blokes.

By no means am I a shy and retiring wallflower. I’m heavily involved in the property industry and have run an estate agency office. However, I still have to adopt an ‘attitude’ when I walk through the door, for fear of not being taken seriously. When there’s a women present I feel quite relieved. Rightly or wrongly, I expect her to be friendly, to listen and to understand my needs better than the men. The second reason is that I generally find that women in this industry are much more interested in helping people find the right home, rather than wasting your time looking at things that clearly aren’t for you or your budget. There are of course exceptions to this (and if you find one hang on to him!), but in general I feel that female agents have a great deal more integrity than a lot of the males. I hope this situation will improve the industry’s reputation as a whole. Either way, just make sure that you are dealing with an agent that you feel comfortable with through the whole process.

There’s also a great deal of fun to be had from getting involved with other women who are interested in property. I recommend you do this from the outset, as it’ll help you remain motivated and allow you to bounce ideas and experiences off like-minded people. It can be a great source of free information. You may meet people with complimentary skills to your own, or that you can partner up with if you don’t want to go it alone. So, find some property networking groups for women or start your own!

A great way of dipping your toes into property is to get involved in a property syndicate. There are two kinds. The first is run on a large scale and involves you buying into the syndicate. Amounts for entry vary, but could start from as low as £3000. Your money – and that of the other people who subscribe – is then pooled into a fund and used by an experienced team who invest the lump sum into several properties, refurbishing if necessary, or renting out and/ or selling on for a profit. You are kept informed of progress and given details of the properties involved. You are given legally binding documentation outlining your commitment to the group and you can usually remove your money at any time you wish. You stand to gain a good profit for your initial investment, without actually having to do any of the work involved.

The second kind involves a smaller, more localised syndicate, that meets up usually once a month and is similar to the share groups you may have heard about. Once again each member commits a sum of money which is pooled to make a property fund. The difference here is that you all need to commit a certain amount of time to researching areas and properties, to the purchase, refurb- ing, finding of tenants and general maintenance. These can be a lot of fun and very social, but they involve more work and obviously the risk is greater.

There are many people out there making an awful lot of money and getting a great deal of satisfaction from property. Some of them may be smarter than you; most of them won’t be. What you’re currently doing with your time is almost guaranteed to be more complicated than property investment and, if you already have kids, you’ll almost certainly have the organisational and planning skills to beat most developers I know. The biggest problem most of you will encounter is motivating yourself to get going and actually take the first steps. I can tell you how fabulous this is for women and how quickly you can have a better life and you’ll even agree with me. The facts speak for themselves, but there are lots of you who’ll still be thinking it’s a good idea in 20 years time, but still haven’t done it yet.

Lisa Hulyer

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