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A Love Affair with Property

HMO specialist Ash Zuberi talks with Kelly Lemon

For many HMO landlords the prospect of Brexit, increased costs as some councils charge council tax by the room and a saturated market is making this once attractive strategy less appealing. However, not all landlords feel the same. In fact Ash Zuberi is rather upbeat about the sector, and for him, that’s the only attitude to have.

“You have to love what you do. I love building and managing HMOs. I love how they bring people from all walks of life together. How they help young people achieve success in their jobs and also how they help young people save money for a deposit for their first home. This is something that has been overlooked by the mainstream media for years and has got to change. HMOs are a backbone of this country’s housing stock. They are the stepping-stones to success for many young people. They also help the vulnerable and the homeless. What other property investing strategy does that?”

I am keen to tackle the strategy as a whole and how Ash is protecting his portfolio from the risks outlined above. However, I am also keen to know where Ash’s love of property came from. “I think it all started on those train journeys to work into London. Wimbledon to Knightsbridge everyday on the District line in those days was a long journey. I would always get myself a copy of the Evening Standard and read through it. I looked out for the property section and for some reason I would find that part of the paper very fascinating. As a kid I recall being attentive when I heard stories of my uncles who had hotels in Kilburn and shops on Kings Road in Chelsea. The whole property industry was something I loved, I just didn’t know how much back then.”

It was during one of those train journeys Ash came across an off-plan penthouse for sale; he was in love. “I wanted that penthouse so bad it was untrue. However, at 21 where would I get the money? I had no idea about mortgages or deposits or a credit file. I tried to speak to my father at the time and in those days £80,000 was a lot of money. I spoke to my cousin who was a financial advisor working for Royal Life and we put together a proposal for my dad. In short that plan was rejected. I then took the lessons I learned from that experience and found an 1881 Anglo American laundry that was being converted into American style loft apartments in Earlsfield. This property was worth £69,995. Again, we put a proposal together and again this was rejected. It was at this point that I gave up. These two deals were big deals. The penthouse in 2005 was worth £1.6m and the loft apartments were worth £605,000. I knew then they would be something special and when I couldn’t get them my love for it went out of the window. In the end my old man and I settled for a one bedroom flat in Kingston Upon Thames opposite the hospital for £59,000.”

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