When I moved to London in winter 1997, I was determined to make my fortune. I didn’t know it at the time, but property was going to help me succeed.
At the very beginning, even having a place to live seemed a distant daydream. I didn’t have any money, any qualifications or any business experience to speak of. I didn’t have a flat and I didn’t have a job. All I had was my old Ford Fiesta, which became my home for six months.
I fell into the vicious cycle familiar to many homeless people – without a home, I couldn’t get a job; without a job, I couldn’t get an address. But I never stopped trying. One day, finally, my luck changed. A kind landlord took a chance on me and within days of moving in I had three jobs. Over the next few years I experienced mixed levels of success in jobs as a retail assistant, tour guide, steward for Arsenal and with my own nightclub promotions business.
In my spare time, I engrossed myself in business books. I couldn’t afford to buy anything. So after work I would sit in the bookshop, reading as much as possible until they closed up for the night. Then I would come back day after day to finish the book. I was determined that whatever I did, I would do it as well as possible.
Make your dreams a reality
As a child, my favourite board game was Monopoly. I saw property value going up year on year in London. But without a deposit or any possibility of a mortgage, it wasn’t easy to get on the property ladder. When I proposed deals to property owners, it wasn’t surprising when they turned me down.
I kept trying, and was able to make my dreams become reality.
When you want to get to know someone, or do business with someone, I have found that by giving them something they want for free, they will feel the need to return the favour.
Through persistence, determination and some knowledge of the individual I was doing business with, I was able to buy three London properties for a football ticket!
Helping others is helping yourself
Does the seller value speed? Do they have a difficult tenant? Is there an outstanding loan they are struggling to pay? If they have a problem, chances are you can help them. If you go into a deal with the attitude that you can create a win-win situation, then everybody stands to come out on top.
One of my earliest clients was a property owner who was losing money hand over fist. The bank was about to foreclose on the mortgage; he had debts he couldn’t pay and a tenant refusing to pay rent. He’d been trying to sell, was utterly fed up and couldn’t be bothered with the hassle. My solution was simple: turn the apartments into holiday lets and serviced apartments. This doubled, even tripled, the income of the property and prevented any further eviction nightmares. I increased my income, minimised risk and helped the seller get the price they wanted!
My ticket to property
I met a guy who had three properties in East London that had been on the market for over a year. He wanted £100,000 over market value. Unsurprisingly, he had been unable to sell them.
I offered the full asking price. All he had to do was let me come up with a solution to give him exactly what he wanted. My offer was very straightforward: I would ‘babysit’ his mortgage payments for him, paying them every month on all three properties. I had no money, so I explained that I would need a few years to be able to complete the purchase. He told me that he wasn’t interested.
The next month, I called him back to see if he had been able to sell his property. He hadn’t, so I told him that my offer still stood. Once again, he declined, telling me that he wanted a cash buyer. Three months in, I called again and got the same answer. I did the same thing the next month, and the month after that.
The sixth month, I called early in the week and asked about his weekend. He told me it was fine, but he was disappointed that Arsenal had lost. We got talking. I told him I would buy a ticket to go and see Arsenal at any game of his choice if he went ahead with my proposition. The response was “That sounds great. Where do I sign?”
*Laurence Lameche is an entrepreneur and author of new book, How I Bought 3 London Properties for a Football Ticket.