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4 posts from September 2009

September 28, 2009

The journey so far - property and the web ...

Today we have had the honour of being featured in "The Community Challenge" blog/club on ecademy. Penny Power asked us to write about our business journey over the last 6 years and how we have come to embrace "social media" and the web, illustrating how we use it with our businesses.

We thought we would share it with you here.

So what are we all about, now there hangs a question!

Well there's two of us: Nick Tadd and Vanessa Warwick ... ahem, G'day.

We met late in life so I suppose it's only right that we have a paragraph each to explain the story before we met - bring you "up to speed" so to speak. You might note that we have a fairly musical back ground, Vanessa being a VJ on MTV and me being appreciator of melody, not only that but film buffs to boot. Therefore, we thought it would be quite appropriate to interject lyrics and quotes throughout this piece to give a flavour to who and what we are ... let alone the reason behind it.

So without further ado ... enter stage right Mr Nick Tadd.

In the immortal words of The House of Pain  "Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin ..."

Quick potted history: After school and becoming a qualified fashion designer and an Art history buff I immediately dropped out and picked up a surf board. This was in the latter end of the 80's/ early 90's and I'm sure you recall a recession at that time. This did not bother me as I was too busy enjoying my 20's and living the beach life and, to afford it, I started designing surfboards (graphic/logo's etc), then windsurf boards which evolved into jet ski racing teams ... cool.  Living on a beach and being creative….

"Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." Dead Poets Society, 1989

I had no idea what a recession was, so I just carried on! With designing jet-ski racing teams came Motorsport, and between the early 90's and the early 2000's that's what I did, design racing cars ... not the engineering you understand but the graphic/s.

Ford motorsport (Rally cars), Janspeed (Nissan touring cars), Toms (Toyota touring cars, F3 and LeMans Gt1 cars) even a 2.5 litre Harley Davidson drag bike – jeez that was fast!

What fun, and it was not only did I have to make the cars look good but make them look good under different situations ... and that had to translate to all other aspects of the team’s branding as well as being complimentary to the sponsor’s branding (as in the holding company).

This is something that now, in this "web world" we live in has been, un-questionably, the most valuable skill, and that I will explain later. (Knowing how a Ducati takes a corner and where the cameras are on a particular corner dictates a lot to me as the designer in application, placement and timing.)

What a decade.

"Gentlemen start your engines ..." ... stall!

I got made redundant!  Suddenly I knew what it was to have the wind knocked out of your sails.

"I try to laugh about it, Cover it all up with lies, I try and laugh about it, Hiding the tears in my eyes, Because boys don't cry, Boys don't cry" The Cure 1979

Now as it happens, that's when I met Vanessa.

Penny says that "ecademy is a place where you can be social and business happens" and she's right, it does.  Nick says that "by being social, gracious and a hopeless dancer at weddings" you'll meet the love of your life! I did ... (I was sooo drunk, I won the disco dancing competition walking to the toilet!)

She must have taken pity on me ... over to Vanessa.

... enter stage left Ms Vanessa Warwick (Mrs Tadd)

Before I met Nick in 2002, I had been involved in the TV industry for many years.  From 1989 to 1998, I was a Presenter/VJ on MTV Networks Europe where I produced and hosted my own programme about rock music.  To this day, I believe that I hold the title of the longest-serving VJ in MTV history!  I was privileged to fly all over the world and interview many artists, including Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Metallica, Kiss, AC/DC, Nirvana, Marilyn Manson, Whitesnake, and Motorhead to name but a few (plus The Dalai Lama of all people).   My life was like “Spinal Tap” on steroids, but I loved it!

"You see, most blokes will be playing at 10. You’re on 10, all the way up, all the way up...Where can you go from there? Nowhere. What we do, is if we need that extra push over the cliff...Eleven. One louder." Nigel (Spinal Tap) 1984

I think one of the funniest ones was at Monsters of Rock one year.  I was interviewing Paul Stanley of Kiss.  He was in full make-up and wearing a studded costume and massive platform heels so he towered above me.  I was wearing a lace dress.  Unfortunately, during the interview, my dress got badly caught up on his costume so that I was literally stuck to him!  He was late for the stage, so he started to walk to the stage, and I was completely attached to him and had to go too.  It was hugely embarrassing and it took me a few minutes to get my dress untangled from his studs.
When I left MTV in 1989, I reinvented myself and started my own production company in London, specialising in music programming.  One of my first clients was a little known Latino artist by the name of Ricky Martin.  I worked with Ricky on short films and documentaries to introduce him to the European market.  This included filming him live in concert in Spain, which was an incredible experience due to hysteria of the audience!  I also conceived, produced, and directed a Channel 4 documentary titled “Latino Loco” which showcased hot new Latin artists like Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, and Christina Aguilera.
I later amalgamated my production company into North One TV, and became their Head of Music Programming.  I continued to work with major artists and had some great assignments all over the world, but the long hours were grinding me down and I felt that the time was right to change direction again.
That was when I met Nick and my life has never been the same since!

"We made our connection, A full on chemical reaction, Brought by dark divine intervention, Yeah, you are a shining light". Ash, "Shining Light" 2001

So there you have "the early days" if you like. Now onto the good stuff.

"Sheeeit, Negro! That's all you had to say!". Jules, Pulp Fiction 1994

Track back 7 years to 2002 and Nick comes out with the immortal words "we're going to kick the a**e out of the world ... but I don't know how ... yet”. But all was to unfold.

Nick:  At the time Vanessa suggested that I should become a cameraman, so I did and for the next 2.5 years I worked as a documentary/fly on the wall cameraman.  I worked with Pavarotti, Whitesnake, Evanesance, Dido, Babyshambles (that was a laugh) etc. I say 2.5 years because, at the same time, we discovered that we had a talent for buying property and renting it out, so things changed … and camera work just faded out.

We became "full time" landlords, which suited us no end.

For me it was great I could spend time on my passion for houses and I got to work with my wonderful new husband, Nick.  No more rush-hour commuting.  My daily commute was 10 seconds to our home office!

Nick: For me it paid me to spend time on my passion: The Web. (What a Geek eh?)

So we carried on buying houses.

We now have over 20 houses and multiple avenues that we let them, but don't let anyone tell you it's easy - it's not.  BUT it has given us invaluable skills with business.

Our first company, 4wallsandaceiling.com, was built to create a network of "like-minded" people who wish to secure their financial future through property investment.  It did not set out to make huge amounts of money teaching the virtues of property. Moreover, it was there to share the different ways of doing such - by default we had stumbled upon this thing they call "social media" - the act of sharing information, knowledge, and contacts using a media, which in this instance is the web.  Our aim was to provide free resources to investors and foster positive change within property.   Our website offers a huge amount of information to support investors on their property journey, and we also have our very own TV station (streaming) where we post educational video-blogs! 

Our company was designed to spear-head a changing movement within property investment and the way people interact and contribute value to others on-line. It exists to spread specific ideas and ethical and transparent investing practices. The more people we can spread these ideas to, the more success we all achieve.

We very much believe in reciprocity.

Our business model was/is highly unique.  Through leveraging our network, we were able to broker small-scale bulk deals with significant discounts direct from developers.  We benefitted from brokering a deal on several units, and our group benefitted from us finding the deals and bringing them in on it.  Our clients took great comfort that we were committing our own money to the property deals that they got involved with, through us. But we will not deal in “wholesale”.  We soon found that he who shares, wins.

Our intention with 4 Walls was not to build a list of subscribers to sell to – we are building a tribe of supporters, each of whom will further support the cause and bring further success to all of us through the momentum of the group.  

"None of us is as smart as all of us" ~ Kevin Kelly.

When it comes to perception within the property arena, 4Walls wishes to remain a ball bearing – small, hard and continually in the state of being polished. Our goal is to provide our clients with massive value at every interaction, and with a deep impression when they get hit with it. Conversely, we do not aim to be a beach ball – big, colourful and yet leaving very little impression when it hits. A beach ball is very fragile indeed and must avoid challenging environments, because it requires so much air to keep it afloat. A weighty ball bearing can withstand both challenging environments along with the pinpricks of adversity. So can a well-constructed, cash-flow rich portfolio which is what we have constructed for ourselves and our clients.

As we became more high-profile in property, we started speaking at events all over the U.K.  Between us we have spoken at over 1,000 seminars, events, and workshops, posted thousands of blogs, and contributed over 2000 posts to various property forums.  We believed early on that sharing information and building “contribution currency” on-line was the way to build a successful business and personal brand.  But just like property is not “get rich quick”, this is not a “get rich quick” approach to business and it took several years before we really began to reap the rewards of our efforts.  However, it felt really comfortable as we wanted to do something ethical and sustainable that we could be proud of …..

It hasn’t always been easy and we have had many challenging times but what we both have tattooed on our backs, our belief that – “True strength comes from within” – has ensured that our commitment never wavered and that we continued to take massive action on an almost daily basis.

Never has something meant so much and has been so true.

Remember we are landlords first and that is the way we make our living! What we needed to assist that was like-minded people who wanted to do the same – that’s where networking came in and we took that to another level when we met you lot!

Things have moved on a bit since then.

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." A Streetcar Named Desire 1951

Now is the time, the time where all the disciplines over the years that we can draw on come together.

The web demands talent in business and content, both literal and of a graphical nature.  This, in turn, enables your "find-ability" of which IOHO is one of the most dominant forces to control – Find-ability.

"Unforgettable, that's what you are.  Unforgettable though near or far.  Like a song of love that clings to me. How the thought of you does things to me. Never before has someone been more ..." Nat King Cole "Unforgettable" 1951

Nick: ... and this is where my passion for the web and graphics comes in.

For me (Nick) I am utterly fascinated by the web and its effect on society - it's changing us. But don't get confused with all the twitters and facebooks etc  -they’re only platforms and they'll all come and go, but the web is an organism that’s evolving at exponential speed. And it's this that fascinates me, not only it's evolution but how to "harness" it as a businessman.

Ecademy has been one of the pivotal points of find-ability in our world and the statement above, of which was and is endorsed, helped, encouraged, and mentored (of which we are deeply indebted) by Thomas and Penny.

"Know me, like me, follow me" has never been so true - I bet if we track forward some years that phrase or those words will still be resonating.

Through their tenacity and drive we have seen our way through this "thing" they call the web and "social media". None of us are in the mind that it is the only thing we do but, we are aware that it is something we have to pay attention to - and without their guidance it would have been a lot harder.

We thank you.

But not only them but you lot reading this -  "the ecademy faithful" (as much as the ecademy un-faithful) - without your input and guidance we could not write this with the passion that we hope it expresses.  Special mentions to dear friends who have become mentors and so much more: Marieme Jamme and Tom Evans to name but a few.

I doff my cap.

"Oh, knees up Mother Brown Knees up Mother Brown Knees up, knees up, never let the breeze up, Knees up Mother Brown"  Harris Weston and Bert Lee 1938

So now, at this part of the journey, we have our portfolio of property and our portfolio of ''find-ability" on the web. We have friends that we never thought we would have, as well as mentors. We have found a new line of business in the web and its latest evolution - and all of it has come from the journey stated above.

Earlier this year, we had enough ground-swell to launch our very own property forum, Property Tribes, which is fast becoming one of the most active and engaging property forums in the U.K.  We have just reached 500 members, got the forum sponsored, and introduced two levels of paid membership.  Not bad going for monetizing what is a free platform!

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one". ~ Jane Howard

Just two weeks ago, we launched our new custom-built social media forum, Social Media Tribes, dedicated to social media innovation and excellence.
The two forums are where we share our knowledge and contacts, and are the focal points for our community.  We love the word “Tribe”, because it sums up perfectly how there is strength in numbers, and we can all add value to each other’s lives, just like a tribe does.  The tribal camp fires burns ever more brightly as it is stoked by new knowledge and experience.  Gather round and warm yourself!

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." Alexander Graham Bell

It has been a pleasure for us to be part of ecademy and long may it continue. The learning we have had surpasses all costs encountered both in time and finance. We both hope we have been as much help to you all as you have been to us.

Thank you.

While we have come a long way over the past 6 years, we have never considered ourselves “gurus”, “experts”, or, perish the thought, “property millionaires”.  We are just a husband and wife couple devoted to each other, and to building an ethical business.  We believe that you can “never learn less” and we make it our business to learn something new every day.  What has given us the most pleasure along the way is to share our knowledge with others and see them become successful, and share our success with our family and friends.  We’ve been able to provide them with holidays at our holiday homes in Dorset and Cyprus and it has given us great pleasure to share happy times with them there.  We do not have any children of our own, so our nephew, Rees (6) and our niece, Alicia, (8) (let alone the God Children), are the younger generation of our family tribe and an important part of our lives. Emotional wealth is far more rewarding than financial wealth.

It has been an interesting journey writing this to see how far we have come.  It has given some perspective on the last six years.

"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." ~ Ferris Bueller 1986

... for us,  the glass has always been half full.

September 24, 2009

U.K. hotspots for theft and burglary - is your property safe and secure ...?

When doing due diligence on a property, one of the things we always check is the level of crime in the area.

Crime has a serious impact on house prices and tenant demand, so it's important to understand what goes on in an area you are considering buying in. A female tenant is not going to rent your property if she feels afraid to walk home alone at night.

Areas with high levels of drug and alcohol-related crime are not going to attract good quality tenants, and house prices may be negatively impacted.

This article suggests that, because of the economic woes of this country, crime is on the increase, and will become increasingly an issue in society.

This recent article is worth noting.

U.K. hotspots for theft and burglary

Homes in London and Nottingham are the most likely in the UK to make a claim for theft or burglary on their home insurance, according to research from moneysupermarket.com.

Moneysupermarket analysed 2.6 million home insurance enquiries on the site last year and found London held five of the top 20 postcode districts most at risk of theft or burglary, followed closely by Nottingham which has four.

Beware citizens of Clapham and Hornsey

The research revealed SW11 in Clapham and N8 in Hornsey are the most risky postcode districts in London, and NG5 in Arnold and NG2 in West Bridgford claim the top spots for Nottingham - NG5 also takes the top spot overall, ranking it as the riskiest place to live.

Other postcode districts at high risk of theft and burglary include LE3 in Leicester as well as Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.

Julie Owens, head of home insurance at moneysupermarket.com commented "The research highlights a broad mix of areas across the North and South of the UK so it is clear that no matter where you live, there is always a risk you could become a victim of theft or burglary".

"With the UK in the midst of recession, and recent ABI statistics reporting that in the first quarter of 2009, the cost of burglary insurance claims topped £100 million, making it the most expensive quarter for five years."

Here are the percentage of home insurance policies claimed on over 12 months by area:

Arnold, Notts, 0.42%
Leicester, Leicestershire, 0.35%
West Bridgford, Notts, 0.33%
Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, 0.32%
Rounday, Leeds, 0.31%
Clapham, London, 0.31%
Sheffield, South Yorks, 0.29%
Hornsey, London, 0.28%
Croydon, Surrey, 0.28%
Hove, East Sussex, 0.28%
Sherwood, Notts, 0.27%
Bilborough, Notts, 0.26%
Beckenham, Kent, 0.25%
Manchester, Greater Manchester, 0.21%
Grossgates, Leeds, 0.25%
Walthamstow, London, 0.24%
Bristol, Avon, 0.24%
Fulham, London, 0.24%
Forest Hill, London, 0.24%
Maidenhead, Berks, 0.24%

Article ends.

We have a really healthy discussion on this topic going on over our our Property Tribes forum.

Richard Francis contributed the following invaluable advice:

1) Remove most of the concealing (above head height) shrubbery and hedging from the front of houses and ground-floor flats close to the road. Dark thick screens are a burglar's dream.

2) Don't leave your HD 50" TV / £10k hifi and home cinema etc in full view through a ground-floor window.

3) Get obviously good quality locks that are VISIBLE.

4) If you have a gate - make sure it closes behind you on a spring - you'd be amazed how many casual thieves are deterred by a shut gate - it's simple psychology - but works.

5) If you have a side passage get a gate and a light with an infra-red sensor (though try and avoid those 500W floods that you could play 5-a-side under - it really hacks off your neighbours not to mention running up a huge electricity bill.

6) If you really must have 'bling' on display - use bamboo blinds or similar to reduce visibility into rooms.

7) Encourage tenants not to do that really stupid thing when away for a holiday - leaving half-drawn curtains. Get a timer or two from IKEA and attach small lamps with low energy saving bulbs to them.

If you own a holiday let and have an on-line availability calendar, note that thieves are using these to work out when a property might be empty!

If you would like to connect with other serious and committed investors who share valuable insights like these, please join our Property Tribes forum and our off-line networking event in Guildford, Surrey.

Our next event is on Monday 26th October, and we have Chartered Surveyor Nick Dare coming to talk to us with a presentation entitled "Prospects for London and South East property markets". Nick is a real numbers man, so expect expert analysis!

Full details for our event can be found here.

September 18, 2009

Marketing holiday lets using social media ....


I have just created a twitter identity for one of our holiday lets, SeaBreeze at Camber Sands, E. Sussex. You can view/follow at SeaBreezeCamber

With holiday lets you can appeal to a global audience, which is why the web, being unrestricted by geography, is such an effective market place for these types of lettings.

Here are some other strategies that we have implemented for harnessing the power of the web for holiday let marketing, whether in the U.K. or abroad:

Create a Twitter identity and build up a following.

Create a blog about your holiday let, things to do in the area, days out, events, fine dining in the area, children's activities. Ask your guests to contribute stories to the blog. Interview your guests about their holiday (for content).

Finding guests (using Twitter, blogging, leveraging other people’s networks and marketplaces)

Marketing (make a video tour of your property and upload it to YouTube. Link from your blog, website, Twitter).

Testimonials – get people to write testimonials on your blog or website. Note:  Only 14% of people trust adverts, but 78% trust peer or community recommendations.

Create a Facebook identity.

Sell last minute availability on ebay.

Tweet late availability offers on Twitter.

Collect guests Twitter handles to keep connected with them.

Create a badge (widget) that other people can place on their social networking profiles to link back to your site.

Put "Follow Me on Twitter" , "Follow Me on Facebook" buttons on your website and blog.

There is some great information here which is applicable to setting up and running successful holiday lets that stand out from the crowd.

Join the discussion on this marketing topic on our Property Tribes forum here.

If you would like to have a better understanding of the power of social networking to help connect with a global audience, please watch an incredible video here.

September 08, 2009

He who shares wins ....

My wife, Vanessa Warwick, wrote this blog for our new Social Media Tribes forum and I thought it worth sharing here.

Vanessa wrote:

For those of you still struggling to understand the benefits of social media engagement, I thought I would share with you a few stories of where sharing and networking led to unexpected results.

It seems to me that sharing inevitably creates a "win/win" situation for both parties!

Sharing # 1:

I have contributed over 1,000 posts to various property forums over the past few years, sharing my experience and knowledge, answering questions, and supporting new investors. A few weeks ago, I got a call from a man and the conversation went like this:

"Vanessa, I am so grateful to you. You have helped me more than you could ever know. I came across one of your posts on the Singing Pig forum about how to get money back from unscrupulous property clubs. I followed your advice to the letter, and today I received £30K back in deposits! I now want to spend that money with someone I trust, and I have read so much of your advice and experience on line, that I feel that person is you".

So, something that took me ten minutes to write three years ago has delivered me a client! Don't you just love the longeivity of the web and the law of increasing returns! Traditional marketing adheres to the law of diminishing returns.

Sharing # 2:

On our Twitter walk a few weeks ago, @surreylets met up with @jonniejensen. They have now collaborated together, and @jonniejensen has used @surreylets as a case study for an article about successful social media engagement. They have published this article in their respective networks, so now have enhanced visibility through those new networks. You can read the article here.

Sharing #3:

Speaking of Sally Asling of @surreylets, she very kindly wrote an unsolicited testimonial on our Property Tribes forum. In her testimonial, she described how we helped her generate £7K of business out of Twitter in four months. That testimonial has resulted in at least 10 people picking up the phone and asking us to help them with their social media and twitter strategies. Note that Sally attended one of our events for free and the information we shared at that event set her on the path to success. (Our next property/social media/business networking event is on 20th September in Guildford and you can find details and register here.

Sharing #4:

One of the contributors to our forum, property tax expert, Stephen Fay, got in touch with us to say that, by posting advice on our forum, he was getting a lot of referrals and business. His exact words were "Sharing and advising about tax information on property forums has generated me more business than any form of traditional marketing". I also advocated him to a lot of people in our network who need tax advice. He now wants to take social media to the next level, and has employed Nick on his one day on-site social media business consultancy. Stephen said "I am using my marketing budget to invest in understanding social media as this is where business is happening". We agree. The marketing dept. is now closed, and you should be investing in your "findability on the web" department!

Sharing #5

A few years ago, we were offered an amazing property deal to purchase four luxury apartments in North London at a massive discount as the developer had made a mistake with his cash flow and got into a lot of financial bother. We were only able to get the deal if we purchased all four apartments. However, that was too risky for our taste, so we asked the developer if he would still consider the deal if we bought in three other people. He said "yes". We then went to our close network of investors and invited them in on the deal. As a result, all four of us were able to acquire properties worth £450,000 for £350,000 (and remember, this was when the property market was healthy!). So everyone was a winner, us, our network, and the developer.

Sharing people and valuable information always leads to a win/win situation.

When people share, serendipity is ignited and great things happen - probably in ways you could never imagine.

What or who are you going to share today?

If you would like to join a new community of people sharing social media ideas and innovation, please join our new Social Media Tribes forum.