Can social media save my day?

By Martin Skinner

Putting on events is H.A.R.D.!

Admittedly I’m a newbie at it and I often try to do too much in too short a period of time but seriously I have a new found respect for those that manage to get regular events running – let alone running smoothly.

To give you, the reader, a bit of background on me I’m basically a residential property investor and advisor in London.  On the one hand I specialise in ‘supercharging’ yields for investors and on the other hand I specialise in developing accommodation for student and graduate occupiers.  The aim has always been to profit through raising the bar for:

  • quality
  • flexibility
  • community
Bedroom in a student/graduate houseshare

Bedroom in a student/graduate houseshare

Having been successful at this in the past I’ve been working hard to get back in the saddle after stumbling in 2008/9.

Most people in London can’t afford much more than £500 a month and it has always been clear to me that making life easier for sharers adds significant value to both investors and occupiers.

The government has managed to consistently interfere with misguided policies on Houses in Multiple Occupation and is about to make matters worse (in a populist attempt to combat NIMBY complaints of ‘studentification’) and in doing so will only force more landlords to withdraw from the marketplace.   Many major institutional investors either don’t understand the broader residential market (let alone students/HMO’s/graduate’s) or can’t be bothered with it instead preferring fire and forget commercial property investment.

Anyway, what’s that got to do with events you say?  Well, I see bringing interested parties together for great events, regularly, as key to building momentum behind a movement to solve what I believe to be a very serious problem – housing and enabling the next generation upon whose endeavours our retirement depends.

Getting people to spend some of their hard earned cash is very, very, difficult these days though and getting people to take time out of their busy schedules to attend an event or two is also very, very, difficult.

I’m sold on their value to an individual or a business (here I represent both) once established and I’m committed to both attending and promoting our own Inspired Events and other people’s events.  Because regular face-to-face interaction builds both:

  • breadth – expanding & connecting networks and
  • depth – strengthening relationships within networks

And here are some other reasons for perseverance that I was attracted to online:

  • Entertaining clients
  • Brand differentiation
  • Increasing brand loyalty
  • Highlighting community responsibility, or corporate social responsibility

But and it’s a big but, and contrary to the famous song I don’t like big but’s, I cannot, lie I’m really struggling to get people to book tickets to come along.

Expensive direct marketing (c1,000 personal contacts and c9,000 purchased) has failed to yield meaningful results and despite pumping in expert assistance, promotions, considerable sums of money and an unbelievable amount of time I’m struggling to gain traction.

The best results so far have come from kind friends – in particular Nick Tadd, Vanessa Warwick and Tony Chads – who have endorsed the event and spread the word.

The May Fair Hotel, W1

The venue - The May Fair Hotel, W1

If we don’t get a lot more people along we’ll still have a great event (and a lot more pre-paid drinks per head) but the message from the students and the investors and managers that are getting involved will be muted.

So I’m asking you for your help to get the message out for me.  I am not as smart as all of you and I’m certainly not as effective as all of you (no matter how many hours I put in).

If you are interested in coming along please book online at by the 7th February and/or if you know any investors, accountants, lawyers, developers or fund managers please encourage them to come along on the 11th February.

This could be you (or me)

This could be you (or me)

Thanks !

🙂 Martin

07968 790 611 or


Location, Location, Yield !

By Martin Skinner

Right the snow’s over everybody and it’s time to get this show back on the road!

Unfortunately it’s likely to be quite a long and bumpy road so I thought I’d kick the years blog off with a priority Top 3.  Hopefully it’ll help keep things focussed on the journey towards financial stability.

The road ahead

The road ahead

Priority numbers 1 & 2 are “Location, Location …”
I did have a bunch of great articles with lots of lovely tables and charts demonstrating the likely future variances in house price inflation between key regions however partly as a result of being pleasantly distracted by all the new social networking sites and events (and of course the snow) I’ve managed to misplace them.  Still with traditional forecasting having been all but discredited perhaps we shouldn’t rely too much on them anyway.  Therefore I’ll just share my opinions with you and you can comment if you agree/disagree.  If you happen to have the tables/charts to hand then please feel free to post them too.

It seems certain to me that the North/South divide is going to widen in the years ahead as 1) investors prioritise properties in the safest, scarcest locations and 2) the [new] government  is forced to reign in its spending.

Northern regions are more reliant on the state than southern regions and they will suffer more as a result.  Demographics were forgotten somewhat during the boom and financial engineering was often prioritised over fundamental property investment criteria like location and future supply & demand.  Sadly many investors found that agents, property clubs and developers forecasts for rental income and re-sale values evaporated and have been left sitting on flats that in some cases could take a decade or more to get back to where they were estimated to be at their peak.  And that’s assuming the local populace doesn’t move to the south in search of better pay (or just any old job).  The same can of course be said for many foreign destinations – let’s not get into Spain or Dubai here.

The good news for those that have holdings there is that Prime West London is pretty much back where it was in 2007.  Cash rich investors have continued to fight over flats and houses in Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Notting Hill throughout the turmoil.  Once again the old adage Location, Location, Location has rung true and I believe it will keep ringing loudly for at least 5 years.  Investing in the best location you can afford will continue to pay dividends.

Central London

Central London

Priority number 3 is Yield
Many buy-to-let investors (and others) have managed to hang on to their portfolios despite significant negative equity because interest rates have been reduced so dramatically.  In most cases residential property investors have in fact benefitted from significant improvements in their monthly margins as rents have only dipped about 15% overall – as compared with about 50% on commercial property – and they’re now beginning to drag themselves back up.

This means income arbitrage is back on the menu.  If you can only get 0.5% interest from the Bank of England or a c4% dividend yield on equities then property starts to interesting above that level.

But what about rising interest rates for those looking to use leverage or with debt already in place?  The debate will continue to rage on this in the months and years ahead I’m sure (hasn’t it always?) however it’s clear that they will have to rise at some point and it therefore makes sense to build in some margin for error on the yield.  This can be a little difficult if you’re borrowing 50% or more and following the golden location, location, rules because yields on Prime Central London properties can be as low as 3 or 4% gross.

So my tip, and I doubt the big fund managers will like this one, is to stay prime and consider more management intensive residential uses such as student accommodation, young professional accommodation and short-let hostels etc.  If you were offered the choice between a long lease on a bank in a regional city centre at a yield of 5% or a flat with a 9.5% gross yield (7% net) in Central London what would you choose?

Example Urban Share bedroom

Example Urban Share bedroom

If you fancy learning more about student & young professional accommodation why not come along to our event on the 11th February where we’ll reveal many of the secrets to successfully investing?

Andrew Goodwin senior economic advisor to the Ernst & Young Item Club wrote the best article I’ve read this week (in Property Week).

Overcoming Social Media Niggles

tennis niggle

tennis niggle?

Overcoming My Social Media Niggles

By Martin Skinner

The Christmas & New Year break this year gave me the opportunity to play with a lot of the sites and settings I’ve struggled to clear from my to-do list.

Two things in particular had been really frustrating me and I’ve now solved them so I thought I’d share the solutions just in case anyone else found them helpful.

Tweets away … incoming !!!

Twitter has been a revelation to me and I’m confident its’ real-time nature will be a force for good.

have you been flooded by tweets?

flooded by tweets?

With the help of research and expert assistance I’ve built up a half decent following in the time I’ve been experimenting with it.

Finding the right balance of breadth and depth of relationships with ‘followers’ is an evolving challenge and occupies many a great mind online.

Speaking as a first year student of the system it’s clear to me that following people back helps grow a following and is generally considered to be polite but it can make it difficult to keep track of close friends.

Setting up a Twitter list and importing it into Hootsuite or similar enables me to filter AND follow people back most of the time.

Facebook sensitivities
In my attempts to link up all the online social networks that are proliferating I’ve used friendfeed as a hub so I only have to post status updates in one place for them to be shown on a number of different destination sites.

Facebook niggle

Facebook niggle

However friends on sites like Facebook are very sensitive to too many tweets being fed through so I’ve been looking to filter them and found an excellent solution using Twitter favourites and a friendfeed account here.

I suggest avoiding responses like the “stop tweeting… I beg you” comment I got yesterday (sorry Jamie) by using an account with friendfeed just for the favourite tweets link to Facebook and test it carefully.

Those were mine, how about yours?
What frustrating little to-do-list items did you manage to overcome during the holidays?

what niggles did you overcome?

niggles, what niggles?