By his own admission Paul Collins pulls no punches when it comes to the world of property management – even if telling it straight risks a prospective landlord having second thoughts…
In fact, his direct, “warts and all” approach has resulted in potential clients going elsewhere, discovering a few hard truths and returning to Paul a few months down the line, wishing they had been more receptive to his original warnings.
Renting out a second property, whether it’s an inherited pile, a property that’s suddenly become “surplus” because you and your partner have moved in together, or available while you try a taste of living abroad, can be an exciting time.
On the plus side, there’s the attractive prospect of earning a tidy income, but letting out your property can also be fraught with hassles. You need to do your homework and choose your management agency with care.
This feature interview was first published in issue 70 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine, now available to read at www.lincsbusiness.co. Subscribe to the email newsletter to receive the latest edition in your inbox this Friday.
After nearly 20 years at the helm of Belvoir! Lettings’ Lincoln area franchise, Paul knows the industry inside out. His experience means that he doesn’t shy away from telling would-be landlords that there’s more to renting out their property than handing a set of keys to their management agency and waiting for the cash to roll in.
For a start there’s the sticky matter of red tape, an area which has become increasingly complex with the need to protect landlords’ and tenants’ interests. Just as difficult is getting to grips with people’s individual perceptions and expectations.
And, irrespective of whether they are a prospective landlord or a tenant, who has been rigorously credit-checked, people’s personal standards never cease to surprise.
So why was Paul attracted to this industry in the first place? Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it wasn’t his original intention but, in common with people from all walks of life, he felt he could offer a better service than he had experienced himself.
“Belvoir was originally a cottage industry, which was started by entrepreneurial couple, retired Wing Commander Mike Goddard and his wife Stephanie, who got the business going by managing an initial 100 properties. Mike is still Belvoir’s Chairman,” said Paul.
“In December 1996, I was an army warrant officer based at RAF Digby and I was coming-up to finishing my military career. I had always wanted to be a policeman, so I decided to apply.
“Sadly, my spelling let me down back then, although I have to say that it’s improved greatly since!”
Spotting an opportunity
“One day I was sitting at my desk at RAF Digby, flicking through a copy of The Pathfinder, a magazine featuring adverts placed by non-military organisations and designed to attract the attention of soon-to-be ex-service people.
“I spotted a double page about Belvoir! Property Management and I thought ‘I can do that!’ I had let my own house whilst working in Africa and experienced terrible service.
“You could say that I had found myself on the wrong side of what I would deem to be good property management,” said Paul.
“I had no experience at all of running a business or managing property, but I rang Mike Goddard and said: ‘I’m interested in your Lincoln area franchise. Is it still free?’ I met him the following Tuesday, we had a chat and the rest is history.”
Paul, set up his business in early December 1996 and left the Army in February 1997 (he had leave due). After a week’s training with Mike – at Mr Goddard’s house – he started working from home.
Continue reading the full cover interview with Paul Collins in Issue 70.
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