As anyone who has run a family business will testify, working closely with your husband/wife or life partner on a daily basis is not always a recipe for a stable, stress-free existence. Add in to the mix the daily trials and tribulations of property development and the outcome could lead to some ‘awkward’ moments once the day’s work is done and the front door closes at home.
Given the above, I was looking forward to meeting up with Berkshire-based Manni Chopra and her husband Romey to learn more about the progress of their first major property development project in Reading. It’s a new-build block of eight apartments in a leafy part of the town. Unlike some new-build schemes, this smallish development feels quite ‘spacious’ externally and gives an impression of light and space as you open the front door into the communal hallway.
How did you get into property was my initial question and Manni replied in her straight talking, no nonsense manner. “We started out together in 2001 when we bought our first buy to let property. We had some savings and so using mortgage finance bought two properties. We were both working full-time in corporate jobs so that was that and for a while there were no additional property purchases in the UK until 2010 as children and family life were my main priority as a full-time mum. The two UK rental properties were both apartments, one in London’s Mile End and we paid £150,000 for a two-bed unit, nothing exciting, while the other was a studio in Edgware, north London.
“In 2010, I started to think more seriously about property investment and that it was something I really wanted to get into and so like many people I started to attend property education courses and go along to some of the property networking evening events. Some people might even have described me at that time as a ‘course junkie’ as I took a one-year sabbatical and really immersed myself in learning as much as I could by attending a variety of property courses and seminars. At the end of that year I was convinced that I could replace my income through property investment and the strategy back then to achieve this was through shared accommodation (HMOs).
“Thankfully we had some starter capital to get going with to acquire our first HMOs, partly derived from - in hindsight – a wise decision in 2004 to buy a property in Mumbai for £50,000 cash, which then rocketed in value to quadruple the purchase price. We sold that property and then used some of the proceeds to acquire two HMO properties, the first one in Bracknell, which was a large 5-bedroom semi-detached house. It was in good condition, did not need much work and was easily converted into six bedrooms.