“You’ve got to basically know your market – rising, falling or staying the same.” It sounds deceptively simple but according to Nottingham-based Kate Faulkner, who’s become Britain’s best-known observer of the country’s residential property investment market, that knowledge is absolutely key to making a sound decision with every housing-related move.
And Kate’s bringing her years of experience in the UK housing market to iNVEZZ.com’s readers, in a series of commentaries which coincide with the launch of her latest initiative – www.propertychecklists.co.uk. In a first of its kind in Britain, Property Checklists provides freely-downloadable checklists on every conceivable aspect of buying and selling – and renting – residential property across the United Kingdom. In Kate’s words, propertychecklists.co.uk is “the only place that exists where, if [consumers] have got a property question, problem or query, or they’re going to do a property project, they just need to come to us first, free of charge – just sign up, that’s all you’ve got to do”.
“People carry out property projects very badly”
The project’s been a year in the planning and implementation and it has no peer in the UK. Indeed, according to Kate, “the worst competition that we have is people taking advice from friends and family”, advice which is well-intended but very often horribly awry or out of date. “The whole point behind the checklists”, explains Kate, “is that people carry out property projects very badly in this country”. She instances cowboy builders producing shoddy work which often has to be rectified, people buying the wrong property, misreading the market, and so on, and with property programmes on television and other media coverage full of ‘horrendous mistakes’ in property investment. Mistakes which, according to estimates compiled from a range of sources, are costing Britons a staggering £4 billion a year in botched property projects.
Guru Status - “It puts you on a pedestal”
So, how does Kate Faulkner feel about the appellation ‘property guru’ – bestowed on her by The Telegraph, for which august newspaper she regularly responds to readers’ property investment questions? She’s modest to a fault: “It’s taken me about 12 years to get my head around it, that that’s ok, because to some extent it’s a horrible title – it puts you on a pedestal.” And, Kate reveals, creates the expectation amongst some of her followers that she has answers to the unanswerable. For example, the question – I have £300,000 to invest on a property in London. Should I do it? Kate explains that with such requests for advice, she guides the prospective investor back to where they need to be – in the position to themselves know the answer, by doing their own research in an organised way.
And now of course, with the help of propertychecklists.co.uk! It’s overall objective, says Kate, is “to educate the consumer on how to do things correctly”.
Musing further on that ‘guru’ label, Kate modestly concedes that, “It’s taken me a long time to accept that I know an awful lot about property, because all I can see is the things I don’t know yet”. Where she believes her strength lies is that, “I know a lot about different areas of property, whereas most people in the property expert arena, they have a specific detailed knowledge – of lettings, or of how to self-build”. Kate believes her forte is that she can use her overarching knowledge of the wider UK housing universe and its manifold participants to bring together people with such narrower foci for their mutual benefit in given market conditions. As, for example, with a marriage of buy-to-let investors and self-build providers in the post-2007 housing market slump.
And if she is a guru, Kate Faulkner must have devotees. She’s widely followed in the print and online media and on radio and television, but in her words “the nicest thing” is her frequent property show appearances “and having people that have been coming to listen to me year after year, for 10 years now – that is a real privilege”.
Property Investment Risk - “Do your homework”
So where does Kate Faulkner, property guru, stand on the UK’s property market investment-wise? She doesn’t beat round the bush: “Housing as an investment is extraordinarily risky”, is her opening observation on that question. But she’s quick to add that it’s a risk worth taking “as long as you do your homework”. And approach an investment in the right frame of mind: “I find that people invest in property more with emotion and through accidental circumstances rather than approaching it from a financial perspective.” She instances the typical property investor who will happily put £50,000 down on a residential property purchase but wouldn’t dream of investing that amount “in Boots’ shares”.
Change Management - “A completely different market over the next 20 years”
And along with the need to focus on financial rather than emotional returns from the investment, Kate stresses the importance of understanding that, “in the UK we’re going into a completely different property market over the next 20 years”. The buy-to-let investor can’t just focus on short-term returns in what ought to be seen as a long-term investment – he or she must as far as possible “make sure that those earnings are still available in 15 to 20 years’ time”.
But doesn’t that call for knowledge that only gurus can possess, we asked? Not at all, says Kate: “The future is all written!” She’s referring here to the wealth of information available today – and freely available for the most part from national and local government agencies – on future demographic profiles, housing needs, major infrastructural changes, and so on, which together paint a picture of Britain’s future housing profile. Kate stresses that the prospective investor has the means available now to do a “huge amount” of research into “what an area looks like in 15-20 years’ time”.
Spreading the word - “A really good reason for using Facebook”
And Kate’s aim is to augment those resources with Property Checklists, both via the website itself – where a wealth of accumulated knowledge is free for the taking – and the accompanying Facebook page which is about to be launched, conceived and created by young minds at the University of Nottingham, and which is titled ‘It Shouldn’t Happen To A House’. Kate freely confesses to not being a huge fan of Facebook – though she enthuses about other social media, notably Linked In and Twitter – but has been persuaded that the Facebook page will facilitate and stimulate discussion and ideas dissemination amongst a wide range of participants in the UK’s housing market. “It’s the first time”, she says, “that I’ve seen a really good reason for using Facebook”.
The Mission - “Changing for the better the way people carry out property projects”
As for the business case for Property Checklists, Kate is totally upfront. Giving free advice – and checklists - to consumers isn’t viable if it can’t be made attractive to commercial interests. Every checklist page is sponsored by either a commercial enterprise or a not-for-profit organisation in some way connected to the topic, whose investment in the project represents a happy union with, in Kate’s words, “the ethical objective of changing for the better the way people carry out property projects”. And, in bigger picture terms, trying to help as many people as possible “to make million-pound businesses” from property investment.
And standing behind Property Checklists is Kate’s established B2B operation, Designs On Property (www.designsonproperty.co.uk), which offers a wide range of consultancy services to product and services providers across the UK’s housing sector.
The Future - “I have to become a brand”
So with Property Checklists launching today with a special presentation on Grand Designs on ‘The Top 10 Things In Property Projects’, and Designs on Property already an established and thriving enterprise, what might the future hold for Kate Faulkner, property guru? That now-familiar modesty asserts itself again: “I’ve finally agreed that I have to become a brand.”
Whether it’s working with end-users or with providers, Kate sees her brand becoming a go-to resource for every conceivable facet of residential real estate across the UK, and by extension for British interests abroad. The business plan calls for a trebling of the current tight-knit workforce within three years’ time.
But that’s for the future. For now, iNVEZZ is delighted to welcome Kate to the site as a guest contributor on matters housing. Her perceptive insights and down-to-earth advice can only enhance the utility and enjoyment which iNVEZZ is constantly striving to provide its growing readership.