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10 posts from February 2009

February 28, 2009

Personal branding in the age of Google

I've just got this from Seth Godin. I think in the land of Twitter this would be called a "re-tweet", but I had to share it with you as it is very poignant.

Thank you Seth for being a constant source of inspiration.


His post.

"A friend advertised on Craigslist for a housekeeper.

Three interesting resumes came to the top. She googled each person's name.

The first search turned up a MySpace page. There was a picture of the applicant, drinking beer from a funnel. Under hobbies, the first entry was, "binge drinking."

The second search turned up a personal blog (a good one, actually). The most recent entry said something like, "I am applying for some menial jobs that are below me, and I'm annoyed by it. I'll certainly quit the minute I sell a few paintings."

And the third? There were only six matches, and the sixth was from the local police department, indicating that the applicant had been arrested for shoplifting two years earlier.

Three for three.

Google never forgets.

Of course, you don't have to be a drunk, a thief or a bitter failure for this to backfire. Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you're on Candid Camera, because you are."

I urge you to read Seths blogs on a regular basis.


Last Landlord Standing ...

Here at 4 Walls, we have always been of the opinion that, as professional Landlords, we should offer a superior product and a superior service. As a Landlord, you are a "service provider" and therefore your success will be determined by the level of service you offer your clients. This has never been more true than in the challenging and competitive market conditions we are currently all experiencing.

Clients (tenants) have a great deal of choice, and they KNOW it.

last man standing

We believe it will be the professional Landlords who survive and prosper in these challenging times.

Here are some of our tips to be a winner in the lettings game:

In areas of over-supply of rental stock, ensure your property stands out from the crowd. Give it a unique selling point. The days of identi-kit, "me too", magnolia boxes are over. Add a few upgrades and finishing touches to ensure your property is elevated above its competitors. An example of this is a friend of ours who has a lot of student lets. He fits all his houses with jacuzzi baths and students always pick his houses for obvious reasons! Look to see where you can create "lifestyle" touches i.e. garden furniture for the garden, plasma screen TV, etc.

Ensure "kerb appeal" from the outside, with a well kept garden and house name/no., with outside security light. We passed a property today where the Landlord hadn't bothered to put a house number on the door, and the developer's sign for the Plot Number was the only identification. There was also a large pile of old carpet in the front garden. This does not give the appearance of a "home" that the owner cares about.

Ensure your property is "staged" for marketing photographs and ensure that these are of high quality. Tenants "buy" from the photos far more than the marketing spiel, so ensure that the house is immaculately clean, the lights are on, there are some thoughtful finishing touches.

Make your property work on a practical level by putting in some finishing touches like mirrors, hooks on the back of doors, some nice handwash next to the basins, shelves, and storage solutions.

Ensure that the property is immaculately clean and maintained.

Offer incentives to get prospective tenants to commit. This could be anything from a crate of beer in the fridge, to six months free broadband, to six months gym membership included. (The Gym offers membership for £14.99 per month and is 24 hours per day. New gyms being added all the time. Have a look at www.thegymgroup.com for details).

It's worth paying a bit extra for decent mattresses. If your tenants can't get a good night's sleep, they will soon leave. Ensure that blinds/curtains block out all the light so tenants working on shifts can sleep during the day.

The days of "that I'll do 'em" are well and truly over. Treat a tenant like that, and you will turn your tenants over a lot faster and suffer more voids as a result.

If a maintenance problem arises, sort it within 24 hours. Use local trusted workmen or post your job on www.myhammer.co.uk to get a keen quote.

Keep an open and friendly dialogue with your tenants yourself (or through an approved agent) to ensure the continued enjoyment of their stay at your property. Treat even small problems or niggles seriously so that they feel valued as a tenant.

Tenants are increasingly worried that the Landlord may be planning on selling the property as soon as the market recovers, and they will then lose their home. Reassure your tenants that you are in this for the long-term and that the property will be available as long as they want it.

It is our advice not to rock the boat with an increase in rent at the moment. Tenants are worried about the economic down-turn and fearful about losing their jobs, so an increase in the rent might be enough to tip them over the edge to hand in their notice. This could lead to a void period, which should be avoided at all costs.

See where you can add value and give value at ever opportunity. A recent example from our portfolio: a tenant reported that the fridge had stopped working and that they had lost all their week's food supply. We got the fridge fixed straight away, but we also sent the tenant some vouchers towards replacing the lost food. This again makes the tenant feel valued.

Security is increasingly important to tenants. You should ensure that there is a security light outside and you could also consider a burglar alarm.

Budget for a face-lift for your property approx. every five years to keep it up to standard. Tenants respect a pleasant environment and are more likely to keep up standards if high standards have been set from the start of the tenancy.

In the current market conditions, be price sensitive with your rents. Remember: it is better to have 80% of something, rather than 100% of nothing! Even one month's void will eat into your profit, so endeavour to let your property out as quickly as possible, even if that means taking a hit on the rent.
You can offer an "introductory" special offer rent to be reviewed after six months.

Worth noting: With the new survery from the Halifax reporting massive outward migration from city centres, houses in the suburbs are less likely to suffer from over-saturation, and can be let on a single occupancy or multi-let basis.

Please add your tips below so that we can build up a wiki on how to be a professional and successful Landlord. It might sound obvious, but you will only be successful if tenants want to rent from you, and want to stay in your properties as long as possible!.

Those that treat tenants with respect and give value and add value at every turn will be the last Landlord standing!

You can read our Investor Blueprint here.

4walls property tribes forum

February 27, 2009

Whilst I was chatting on the radio ...

OK so it's a gratuitous plug, however, a conversation came out of it that was worth noting.


One of the other guests on the show worked with the Citizens Advice Bureau and dealt with "debt" management.

He had a case where a "Lorry driver" had got webbed up with a "property club" and bought 8 BTL's. All were bought using "sub-prime" mortgages and clearly he was in a pickle.

Firstly, my back gets straight up that he was allowed, by some salesmen masquerading as a property expert, to re-mortgage his home to purchase. However, it was something the CAB chap said that struck a chord with me.

He came to him as a Lorry driver with some BTL's but the CAB chap told him he, actually, was a professional landlord and a part time lorry driver.

Big difference.

If he had been taught this in the first place, the outcome might have been different.

Let me know your thoughts.

If he had been taught this in the first place, things might have been different.

Let me know your thoughts on our forum 4walls Property Tribes - click here -

P.S I rant on the radio quite a lot, so stay tuned.


4walls logo new

February 26, 2009

Wish you were here! Ward Homes Investors Holiday Let Showcase

camber sands

When it comes to generating cash-flow, U.K. holiday lets are definitely a strategy worth considering in the current economic climate:

* Renaissance of great British seaside holiday thanks to magazines like "Coast" and TV programmes like "Coast", "A Place By the Sea", and "Seaside Rescue".

* Credit crunch turning people's thoughts to holiday-ing at home.

* Strength of the Euro making Euro zone expensive.

* Regeneration of seaside resorts creating a better holiday experience

* Inward migration to seaside towns creating supply/demand imbalance therefore promoting price stability

* Increasingly popular with families due to ease of transfer and also due to peace of mind with children

* Better quality of accommodation improving the image of the typical seaside holiday home, yet still providing good value for money.


Click on the above picture to have a look at ours.

Come and see us speak at an event dedicated to understanding how to get the best out of a holiday let.

Ward Homes are having a Holiday Let Showcase



Ward Homes - Investors Holiday Let Showcase

Saturday 7th March

White Sand, Camber Sands, Rye, East Sussex MAP

ward homes

Join us on Saturday 7th March for champagne and canapés and learn why White Sand is a fantastic investment opportunity. Guest speaker, Nick Tadd, from 4wallsandaceiling.com will be holding presentations at 11am and 3pm. Nick will show you how you can get the best out of your holiday rental property, using his own holiday let "SeaBreeze" as a case study. As well as explaining how to research a holiday let with year round appeal, Nick will also be discussing marketing strategies to help you get the best possible occupancy levels.

View our show home and speak to independent advisors: Nick Tadd and Vanessa Warwick from 4wallsandaceiling.com; Hurst Independent financial advisors; Crabtree and Crabtree specialists in holiday rental; David Phillips Furniture; Agents Phillips and Stubbs.

Free flooring and integrated appliances with any reservation when you present your invitation and there will be 5% off any furniture packs purchased over £5,000 from David Phillips.

Limited places available - call now to book your place.

register here



Phone: Hannah Marsh, Event Organiser on 01959 568406

email: hannah.marsh@barratthomes.co.uk

White Sand, White Sands Drive, Camber, East Sussex, TN31 7SJ MAP


welcome aboard





February 20, 2009

ego venit, ego saw, ego spammed: why property marketeers need to step up-to the plate.

Morning, just a quick note: I went to London yesterday (17th Feb 2009) to see Seth Godin. (I'm a big fan and have been following and using his wise words for a number of years now).

I thought I would share with you one important aspect of what he had to say yesterday and that was "leadership, authenticity and consistency". Now that the age of the "TV industrial complex" method of marketing is dead (2000 years since its inauguration), we have been, and are, moving into the new age of "business exposure".

Let me explain TV industrial complex. First of all, the action of the complex is this: company buys advertising space, puts an advert out to a mass market who he knows tunes in at the same time, makes money, buys more adverts …. And so the cycle continues.

However, this is what it means to you and me a.k.a. the consumer. Halfway through “Coronation Street”, we get some bloke running in our room shouting “CILIT BANG! BANG AND THE DIRT IS GONE!” and then he’s gone again. Moreover, you and I as the consumers have no choice but to watch it unless we want to go for a pee or put the kettle on. This has been going on for centuries, but on the internet we call it SPAM!


TV/Radio advertising is SPAM, we have no choice on the TV or radio … but we do on the internet (lets face it Vanessa put up a post a few weeks ago “what’s happening to loveproperty” and look at the replies she had!) … if sites or marketeers continually spam we just go to another site. Moreover, if marketeers continually spam or are inconsistent and unauthentic with their message we will go to another site or just won’t do business with them.

From what I can see most marketing treats clients as if they are dense, and more importantly the client has very little chance of learning about the product or person they are buying. They were just “battered” by advertising and then “battered” by the kicking they got afterward because they bought a bad product, or trusted someone who did not have the right qualifications in the first place!

The Church understood this (the biggest blue-chip in the world is the Catholic Church). When books were first introduced to the populace, they were written by Monks, therefore, from day one the ad break did not feature Barry Scott and “Cillit Bang” but some chap with a pious nature. The rest is history.

The Church made a following out of advertising knowing that the people who they were advertising to had very little other choice.

Then came radio. Then came TV. The method was always the same: get a bunch of people together en-mass and subscribe to their fear and greed

Even now the method is the same: $2.6m for a 30 second advert during the Super Bowl !!! But the power of that is dying… I would argue is dead, but no one wants to let it go!

Why? Because you cannot apply that method to the internet.

How do you know what web-sites people are on at any one time? If you did know, how do you know to keep them watching your ad’ … it’s not like “if they didn’t they would miss the end of “Coronation St” … is it?

Now consumers have a choice and, just as importantly, they know it.

They do want to be “sold to”. They are consumers, but now they will dictate who they buy from … because you can’t hide on the internet.

1. No longer will clients follow a leader down a dead end;
2. No longer will clients put up with "inauthentic" messages;
3. No longer will clients put up with inconsistent messages.

They don’t need to, for the first time the Client will choose which advertising he/she will be exposed to … they will decide based on what they see or find on the internet.

The internet dictates that anyone who does not measure up will fall by the wayside. Darwin was right there, evolution is taking place as I write.

So it would appear to me that, whilst we still seem to have “marketeers” using an out-dated method of marketing, we can sit happily in the knowledge that they will become extinct. Not by our hand, you understand, but by their own.

You can spot who they are by applying the three points above. It’s obvious who does not fit anymore.

My point is this: long live sites like loveproperty.org and many of the qualified forums that don't allow spam. These forums give the future consumers a chance to “weed out” the dinosaurs and choose to work with the ones that count, the ones who have delivered real results, been authentic, consistent and more importantly, have led from the front.

Thanks to Loveproperty and thanks to Seth Godin.

Nick and Seth ...
nick and seth

February 16, 2009

"Who's the fool? The fool that leads or the fool that follows?"

obi wan


Obi Wan Kenobi:

"Who's the fool? The fool that leads or the fool that follows?"






In our humble opinion, the property industry has always been focused on the ‘industry’ part and not so much on the ‘property’ part. This is the greatest moment in the history of property if your dream is to distribute as much information as possible to as many people as possible, to learn as much as you can about property, or if your goal is to become heard as an expert on property. There’s never been a time like this before. So if your focus and passion is on property, it’s great.

However, if your focus is on the “industry” part and the big house, flash car, building a huge mailing list to sell to, running a big networking/sales/seminar event to front sales and affiliate commissions ... it’s horrible. The shift that is happening right now is that the people who insist on keeping the world as it was are going to get more and more frustrated until they lose their business. Their business is based on people paying them to find out how to invest in property because the “guru” claims to know the “secret” to massive wealth. That worked in the old days when information wasn’t freely available and there was an element of only the wealthy and privileged being involved in property. It accelerated further with the advent of the BTL mortgage and easier credit, so property was opened up to pretty much anyone.

However, all this “secret” information is now freely available on-line, so why should people pay for it anymore?

As a result, there are promoters who probably won’t be around this time next year. They are very high-profile and visible and are only too keen to take your money upfront so they can tell you their secrets. You have to pay them each time you are “up-sold” to a new product or service. However, thanks to the wealth of information on the internet and the ease of accessing it, there is almost nothing that is a true secret in property investing. There are just a lot of naive people who think there are secrets worth paying large sums to learn. Education is important - that will never change. However, you must question how any business can be sustainable if it depends on secrets and someone else is selling the secret. Sooner or later the secret is filtered into the public domain and the secret become de-valued as a result. Taking it a stage further, with the change in lending criteria, and mortgage products, many of these “secrets” are no longer relevant or workable in the rapidly changing conditions we are experiencing. That is why these businesses are doomed to failure as people start adopting and adapting to Web 2/3 or 4 mentality.

Conversely, people who want to invent a whole new set of rules, a new paradigm, can’t believe their good fortune and how lucky they are that the people in the “industry” aren’t noticing an opportunity...

The American marketeer, Seth Godin defines a "tribe" as a group of people sharing a common culture, a goal, a mission, probably a leader. There are tribes of people – like the ones who actively invest in property, go to networking events and contribute value to others on-line – who are connected because they want to remake the property industry. The important distinction here is that, as previously stated, property clubs, gurus, seminars etc. used to be in the business of charging exorbitant fees for education – nothing was ever given away for free other than a “taster” session to up-sell to a more expensive product. Now, the property industry needs to realign and be in the business of giving massive value, finding and connecting and leading groups of people who want to follow a strategy or philosophy, and connect with other people, whose values they share, who want to do the same...

On-line information is in the process of surpassing seminars and events, and once it starts to happen it’s going to happen faster and faster. The more interesting thing to consider is who is going to control the information. If there is an infinite amount of information available – and it could be argued that as soon as the amount of information available exceeds the amount of time you have in your life, that’s infinite – somebody will have the leverage-able spot of deciding what should be read next. And it’s unclear whether someone will charge to tell me that or will pay to tell me that! It’s still up for grabs in every one of these "herds" where people define who they are by who they “follow” – whether it be a musician, a band, a fashion, a newspaper, a celebrity, a property guru etc. Who are the taste-makers and how do these ideas spread?

The analogy I like to give is if you’re an author and Richard and Judy call, you don’t say, “How much are you going to pay me to go on your show and give away all the ideas in my book?” In fact, if you could you would pay to be on Richard and Judy. For a really long time the music industry was also in two minds: On the one hand, they would pay money to be on Clear Channel or MTV; on the other hand, they would charge you money to hear their music in concert or out of your stereo. The internet has decided the outcome for them.

When it comes to the property arena, the outcome is in the process of being decided - hence the massive change taking place in many areas and processes of our business.

Consider an alternative view: Just by giving consistent and massive value and “contribution currency”, will a tribe of followers be built who all share the same goal and each of whom will further support the cause and bring further success to all of through the momentum of the group? There is indeed strength in numbers. However, how is it that some wildebeest, on a great migration, take a completely different path? Are they forging ahead and embracing change, and thereby ensuring their survival? Following the “herd” in property won’t achieve you anything, other than being “sold to”.

Don’t get me wrong - business is business - and I’m not trying to take the bread out of anyone’s mouth, however, who’s the fool? … the fool that leads or the fool that follows?

Darwin once said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”. This is no doubt true in business.

So perhaps the new cult in property should be to “give” rather than to “take”? It can’t be “monetarised” on a spread-sheet, but we believe it is the businesses (and that includes Landlords) who adopt this attitude and philosophy who will be the survivors and the winners in the years to come.

So, if you’re in property, start by seeing where you can give value and add value at every opportunity, whether that be to tenants, clients, the properties themselves, property forums, the list goes on.

An simple example from our own business: A tenant contacted me recently to let me know that the fridge had broken and that they had lost their week’s shopping as a result. I sent an engineer out to fix it immediately. I then sent the tenant some M & S gift vouchers to replace the food they had lost. This hopefully made my tenant feel valued and that I was a decent Landlord. They may think twice about moving on as a result. In these challenging and highly competitive market conditions, the outlay of a few £’s seems a small price to maintain a good tenant’s satisfaction. A void period on that property would cost me £800.00 not to mention a possible decrease in the rent I was achieving.

The greedy days of property are, most likely, over. We’re in a new era of sharing and reciprocity. We can all do our bit to make the property industry a better and more ethical place to grow.

P.S. Top Tip: If you have a good tenant, our advice, in the current sensitive market conditions, is not to think about a rent increase. Let sleeping dogs lie. Tenants may be nervous of losing their job in the current uncertain economic climate, so a rent increase might be enough to tip them over the edge to hand in their notice. Our advice is to keep the status quo. If you lose a tenant in the current market conditions, you may end up achieving less rent than the previous tenant, not to mention the possibility of a void period. Good tenants are like gold dust so hang on to them and keep them sweet!

February 12, 2009

Seth’s coming to London...Next Week !

Picture 1

I'm going, get your tickets and I'll see you there ...

Seth’s coming to London...Next Week !


We thought you might have a few questions to ask about next weeks event.  Hopefully we've answered them here !

What time does the venue open ?

12:30 Foyer -  ( Not Before )To get you out of the cold. Brrr !

13:00 Auditorium- To get your seat !

Remind me what time The London Session Starts.

13:30 sharp ! It finishes at 16:30 on the dot.

I've forgotten where the venue is.

It's the Church House Conference Centre, Deans Yard, Westminster, London SW1P 3NZ . Their website with lots of directions is HERE.

HINT :  Deans Yard is accessed via a small archway with a security cabin and a gate. This is located on Victoria St.  When looking at the archway Westminster Abbey should be on your left !

Go through the archway into Dean's Yard and head towards the large building facing you at the end of the yard - this is Church House.

What's the nearest Tube ?

Westminster or St James Park ( District, Circle and Jubilee Lines )

I want to meet other people who are going to the event.

There is a Facebook group called Seth Godin - The London Session - There is a Linkein Group - Seth Godin Triiibes.com - There is a Twitter hash code - #Sethldn ( That lot should keep you busy till Tuesday ! )

The Evil Genius Media + Events team didn't answer my question here.

Then either send us an e mail by clicking on the link below or if it's too late for that then call the event organiser -  Mark Muggeridge on 07792 66 11 36. 

February 07, 2009

The correct spelling of "Potato"!

If GH can stand for P in Hiccough
If OUGH can stand for O in Dough
If PHTH can stand for T in Phthisis
If EIGH can stand for A in Neighbour
If TTE can stand for T in Gazette
and EAU can stand for O in Plateau

Then the way you spell POTATO is ...

Isn't it?

By TwitterButtons.com
(Compliments to The Times for this one)

February 05, 2009

Change is inevitable growth is optional ...

charles darwinCharles Darwin: 1809 - 1882

I was tinkering on the computer last night, when, thanks to the joys of Facebook, an old friend from the music industry, who I hadn’t spoken to for ages, popped up on the instant messaging asking how I was doing.

It was great to catch up with her after so long, but it quickly became apparent that her life had changed dramatically. She told me that she had recently taken voluntary redundancy from her long-term job in the record industry. Her partner was also about to be made redundant from the computer games industry.

Far from being depressed, my friend saw this as a wonderful opportunity to welcome this change with open arms, and to challenge herself and reinvent herself. “I’m finally writing that novel that I’ve had trapped inside me all these years” she told me. I can see the smile on her face as she wrote that.

It takes a lot of courage to let go of the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer relevant. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, and, in embracing change, there is tremendous power.

When you have real passion for something, and your drive to learn is ignited, there is no limit to what you can achieve either on a personal level or in business.

Your creativity sparks.

Attending various networking events and via Ecademy, we are constantly meeting corporate refugees who are struggling to come to terms with this grave new world.

It seems people, society, technology, economies, business and even the weather are all changing rapidly making these exciting times! If you can embrace these changes and implement them, anything is possible.

As Eric Hoffer once said, “In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists”.

When it comes to dealing with change, unleashing your creativity is one of your greatest weapons, but it has to have a receptive audience.

If everyone around you is sure the economy is failing, that the end is near, that time is up and the country is headed for the tubes, it's almost impossible to find a way forwards.

Creativity changes the game, whatever game is being played. "We're going to run out of cash by the end of the year," is accurate unless you count creativity into the equation. Then the accurate statement is, "Under the current rules and assumptions, we're going to run out of cash..." Big difference.

In describing today's accelerating changes, the media fire blips of unrelated information at us. Experts bury us under mountains of narrowly specialized and often contradictory statistics. Popular forecasters present lists of unrelated trends, without any model to show us their interconnections or the forces likely to reverse them. As a result, change itself comes to be seen as anarchic, even lunatic, something to be frightened of. Like the “rabbit in the headlights” mechanism, people freeze in fear and do nothing.

In these challenging times, change is inevitable, growth is optional.

Hence the importance of networking to get the truth. Connect with the people at the forefront of change in your industry or arena. Learn from them.

You might think “now is not a good time to get involved in property” until you count creativity into the equation and change your strategies accordingly.

Creativity demands exposure to market needs, and insulation from market fears. Give it some time to work, some support, some breathing room. That's when creativity has a chance to change the game.

As it is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, it seems appropriate to end with one of his famous and enduring quotations:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.

Are you going to be a dinosaur in this grave new world, or are you going to adapt and evolve to survive?

Register here for this weekends networking event ...


By TwitterButtons.com

4walls logo new

February 01, 2009

Branson: Fortunes to be made in downturn

richard branson

Click the above video to be taken to the BBC site.

Sir Richard Branson has said the recession will provide "massive" opportunities for entrepreneurs.

The businessman is in Davos to encourage companies to give money to charity, despite the downturn.

He told the BBC's business editor, Robert Peston, that there was money to be made amid the gloom.