Michelle began her career as a mortgage adviser and opened her own brokerage in 2005. After building her own successful property portfolio, she was inspired to do the same for her clients, and launched IMS Property Group in 2008, providing a bespoke property solution. The group of companies offers a complete property service from lettings to estate agency, property refurbishment, development, and finance. She is recognised as one of the UK’s leading property and finance specialists, providing regular commentary for The Telegraph, Financial Times, Guardian and Daily Mail. She also has her own columns in industry magazines, such as What Mortgage.
In 2016, she appeared on the popular BBC One show, The Apprentice. After wanting to take part in the show for a number of years, Michelle was lucky enough to be selected from over 100,000 applicants as a candidate for Series 12. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and although incredibly tough, she learnt so much from Lord Sugar and the rest of the candidates, which enabled her to grow the IMS Property Group.
Michelle’s unwavering confidence makes her an inspiring speaker, and one that’s in high demand. From boardrooms to conferences, theatres to ballrooms, Michelle is used to speaking to all sizes of audience, in any setting. Michelle’s sessions are guaranteed to leave delegates feeling more energised, and ready to tackle anything thrown at them.
Along with engagements at many women’s business and young enterprise events, Michelle often hosts talks for university students and school pupils . She also had the privilege of being keynote speaker at ‘Growing Your Own Business’ at the NEC in Birmingham, speaking about how she became a successful entrepreneur.
What made you start investing?
I have always been obsessed with property, I love everything about it, I’m a very homely person and I just always loved the thought of owning my own home to bring up my family.
Since I was 8 years old, I wanted to own and run my own business and property and finance suited my needs. So, at the age of 18, I bought my first home and started then investing in a buy to let portfolio.
What made you start as a mortgage adviser? And what lead you to open your own brokerage?
I really struggled to find somebody to finance my own property portfolio in the way I wanted, they just never met my expectations! I also wasn’t comfortable relying on others doing that job for me. So, it just seemed right to try and do it myself, that way I could have it managed to my standards.
I love pushing myself out of my comfort zone so wanted to master the art of mortgage advising, once I got started I found that that I really enjoyed it.
I didn’t find it at all stressful so my next thought was how can I combine this with my knowledge of property investment and share it with others? I wanted to help people through the whole process of the property journey, from start to finish, because I learned first-hand how frustrating it can be working with the wrong brokerage!
So, what are some of the biggest successes you’ve had?
I purchased a derelict building and completely renovated it as my family home, I went into the project thinking that I would lose money on it but I was happy with this because we had searched for 2 years for the perfect family home and I knew it would be a long term investment. When the property completed 12 months later, I was delighted that we had made £250,000 on the project!
We also find it useful to hear about mistakes you’ve learnt from, do you have any, in particular, you could share?
When I bought my very first house at 18, we didn’t check the deeds properly on the property, so the lovely big driveway we thought we had with the property, actually, next doors owned part of it, which meant we couldn’t build the garage we thought we were going too!
I am impatient and rush things sometimes but it can sting you if you don’t do enough research beforehand. I think it is so important not to leave any stone unturned when it comes to involving yourself in something you may not necessarily understand.
This mistake was a costly one and I learned my lessons from it! Every property I bought from that day forward, I checked every little detail.
As for learning from your mistakes, I work super hard on trying to turn every negative event or situation into a positive one. It is so easy to sit and dwell on something that didn’t go quite right and that can really hang over you! I make sure to take a level-headed approach and remember, you can’t change what has happened, but you can learn from it… and that’s what I do!
It’s all about minimising risk and investing smartly for cash flow. What do you think are the most common mistakes or oversights people make in property investing?
I can’t tell you how many people see it as a ‘get rich quick’ option and it most certainly isn’t! There is an unbelievable amount of work that goes into property investment that people overlook.
Understanding your figures is something not to overlook. Make sure you have accounted for every single factor and issue.
Don’t forget to factor in stamp duty and if you are already a homeowner it will then be additional stamp duty.
Many people don’t have a full structural survey done on the property they are buying, I think this is a mistake, I always have a full structural survey done, why spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a property and then not get a thorough report? That’s like buying a second hand very expensive car without a service and MOT history.
People then get complacent, just because you’ve shaken hands, that doesn’t mean the deals done. A property fall through is gutting but it isn’t uncommon so be prepared for the worst, expect the best.
Then once you’ve navigated the sale, that’s it, right? WRONG! To keep your property portfolio as a profitable investment you have to keep on top of various legislations and regular maintenance work.
How would you respond to people who view property investing as something that’s very risky or even consider it ‘unethical’. What’s your take on this?
This is definitely down to personal opinion.
There is a huge element of security when it comes to property investment and I believe that you can’t get any better than your money in bricks and mortar.
It’s ‘safe as houses’ as they say!
Of course, like everything, it comes with its risks. Issues like recession can have a huge impact on the property market but all you have to remember is what goes down has to come back up. As long as you have the confidence and financial security behind you to ride out any storms then you will be fine.
People will always need somewhere to live, so it’s not an industry that will ever run dry and there are so many avenues to venture down if you want to change things up!
The rental market is vast, not just because people can’t afford to buy their own homes too. People may rent to check out an area before they decide where to buy or to temporarily be near loved ones or even for work. It is a necessary service that can, and often does improve people’s lives and wellbeing, so that’s how I look at it, I don’t see this as unethical.
Don’t I need a lot of money for this?
I think there is a big misconception when it comes to property investment that you’ve got to have 7+ figures sitting in your bank account, Property investment has a plethora of levels to enter at.
Of course, there are the high-level investors working on projects with a huge return on investment but that shouldn’t deter you from doing it yourself. Everyone has to start somewhere!
You only need 25% deposit to invest, which doesn’t have to be a huge amount of money depending on where in the country you decide to purchase.
What is the first thing I should do if I want to invest in property?
That you have a good credit score and history! This is so important if you want to raise financing. Financing is harder to achieve on a commercial basis if you have adverse credit, so get this in check.
Many of our readers are looking to become financially free and property is often touted as a way to achieve this. Have you become financially free through property and if so, any advice for readers seeking to do the same?
Yes, I became financially free at the age of 25 but was very lucky with timing! I thought it would take me a lot longer. My advice would be that it’s a numbers game, the more that you have the quicker you will get there!
Can anyone really become a property investor?
It can’t just be a moneymaker for you, otherwise as soon as it gets tough, your heart won’t be in it to get yourself through the other side! You need to have a passion for property or work with someone who does!
What’s the one piece of advice you would offer to property investors?
It’s important to remember that property is a long-term investment. There are no quick and easy ways to make money in property, it’s a long game!
How does data help people make better investment decisions?
Research is so important when you’re looking to start investing in property. You have to put so much work into researching the area your looking at, so finding relevant data about the property market in that area, market forecasts and also the market history. It is important to be aware of everything that could and will impact your purchase.
Good schools and transport links will always improve the valuation of a property.
How does IMS Property Group work? It’s bespoke property investment?
The IMS Property group is a mortgage and insurance brokerage, lettings and estate agency and also a property portfolio building business. I wanted to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for any finance or property service needed and clients can choose to use us for one service or all of them.
We offer mortgage and insurance advice across the whole of the UK, then for the other businesses we offer those services in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire.
The property portfolio business is very bespoke, clients will come to me with a dream of owning their own property portfolio, but they don’t necessarily want the hassle of doing this themselves.
With my expertise and knowledge, I devise a business plan outlining how many properties they can buy depending on how much deposit they have. Once this is agreed, I then source the properties myself, negotiating huge discounts for my clients, also with my extensive knowledge of the lettings market, I know which properties would rent the best which is not always what you would buy for yourself if you were living in it.
Once the purchase is agreed, I then see this process all the way through to completion, handling the solicitor’s side of things.
We organise the refurbishment of the property and then line up tenants for completion so that the time the property is sat they’re empty and not returning an investment is minimal.
I absolutely love this part of my business! Most women love to go shopping for shoes and handbags, not me, I go house shopping!
Who is your role model in business and what have you learnt from them?
Oprah most definitely! Coming from adversity to help others and to be a strong independent and inspirational woman, she has definitely inspired me to be the best I can possibly be!
Can anyone do well in property or are there personality types it is not suited to?
You wouldn’t initially think it but it’s quite a stressful and emotional industry to be in! So I think if your not great at dealing with these two things then I would probably avoid property.
Clearly, you are passionate about property and education, but if you weren’t doing that what would you do?
I absolutely love any type of media work, especially TV, I really enjoy it so would probably take up a career in media.
If you could speak to one of your critics face-to-face who would it be and what would you say to them?
What I would say to anyone who thinks that being a successful business owner has just happened overnight or we have got ‘lucky’ is that it takes A LOT of hard work, dedication and sacrifices, so people shouldn’t criticise!
I absolutely love running businesses however sometimes its not easy and not everyone likes what you have to do or say! I think people need to put themselves in other people’s shoes before criticising!
What are your plans for the future of your business? Anything coming up that you haven’t yet spoken about?
I have got 2 new businesses launching just before Christmas, one dedicated to commercial finance and the other to protection insurances, things like life insurance, critical illness and business protection insurances. So that should keep be pretty busy on top of everything else!
My plans for next year are to take part in a lot more speaking events, I love it! I get invited to be a keynote speaker at lots of events, not just in property and finance but at women in business events.
I also absolutely love working in the media, especially TV, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the BBC One show the Apprentice and I am in talks with executive producers to do a lot more tv work which I am really excited about.