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We really feel the love from our customers; they seem to really dig what we do, which we very much appreciate. In return, we like to sing loud and clear about how awesome they are from time to time (we won't actually sing so you can uncover your ears).

We like to think that by encouraging them to share some of their experiences and knowledge with us, we could be answering some of the burning questions that someone out there might have. In our quest to celebrate our customers and give them a chance to tell their stories, Helen Turner at COHO had a chat with Ben Madden of South East HMO about how he offers property owners a sense of security with the service he provides.

When the room rental market began to expand at a rapid rate, approximately 8 years ago, Ben spotted an opportunity through his lettings agency to build a rent2rent portfolio. The market was changing; there appeared to be a decrease in the amount of friends who would rent a house together and an increase in people staying at home longer with parents or renting a single room. He was seeing properties come through his agency that he could offer to add value to and manage as HMOs, giving landlords the protection of guaranteed rent and longer term tenancies, whilst making a good profit margin himself. From these successful propositions South East HMO was born, and Ben exited his West London sales and lettings agency.

Ben's rent2rent strategy

Ben is able to offer landlords the added security of massively reducing their void periods; he will offer a contract of anywhere from 3-6 years depending on the needs of the landlord. Compared with the average tenancy period in London of about 22 months, that is really beneficial for landlords and reduces the headaches of having to find new tenants regularly.

HMOs require a lot more day to day management as you're dealing with multiple people within a property who are not familiar with each other… you're not just managing the portfolio, you're managing the emotional elements of housing.

Managing an HMO requires a lot more hands-on involvement than managing a traditional single let property.

Many of the landlords that Ben works with see the commercial benefits of marketing their property as an HMO but do not feel they have the time, skills or desire to invest in the more complex day to day management that an HMO property brings.

The term ‘HMO’ brings with it a lot of baggage.

Historically it has conjured up misconceptions of substandard living conditions and tyrant landlords for some people in the property industry. Property owners are sometimes apprehensive to take the step into the unknown. Ben’s strategy is to step in and alleviate some of these concerns by sharing his success stories. He demonstrates to potential clients that he can maximise the revenue of their property by adding value where they may not be able to afford to, therefore improving the living conditions for tenants - and ultimately offering the return of a property in a significantly better condition than it was received. Ben works hard to show that not everybody in the HMO industry is conducting their business poorly and he strives to show that the longevity of HMOs can be achieved with the desire to provide a good service.

Ben's experience with property management software

Ben's career in the property industry developed organically over time and with an ever-expanding rent2rent portfolio Ben was looking for an all-in-one software that would evolve with the growing needs of his business. He needed something that could be used by his whole team and help them to stream-line their administration as their portfolio of properties continued to grow.

It's not that we're anti-tech, we're just very specific about the tech we engage in. What we needed was a user-friendly, efficient and effective management system.

Ben is about hard work and tenacity and wanted to find tech that would support that attitude.

We wanted to find a product that partnered a good support function with exactly what we needed on a day to day basis…but also gave us some confidence that it was going to continue to grow and improve. COHO ticked a lot of boxes for us.

Ben explained that he had come across various proptech throughout his career that he felt did not help refine the skills that were applied on a day to day basis. He wanted to find a software package that would be synonymous with the existing excellent management service he offered his clients and had worked hard to hone. He also wanted a support function he could communicate with and he found COHO could offer him this.

Although Ben uses COHO for his 69 unit strong HMO portfolio, he is used to managing much larger numbers through the lettings agency he owned. The requirement to have a streamlined management system in place is bread and butter to Ben and he knows how to make this happen in the background so the day to day management is seamless.

He recognises however, that those conducting business on a smaller scale may still be relying on spreadsheets and inputting data manually. His advice to these people is to make your life easier and start using a comprehensive property management software, like COHO.

A lot of people are still using spreadsheets, and doing lots of things very manually. My advice for them would be to step into 2023 and think about a CRM (customer relationship management).

For HMO Landlord's looking for HMO Management Agency

Ben is wise to the ins and outs of managing HMO's and offered up some invaluable advice to property owners who may be looking to employ an HMO management company.

We like it when our clients are spiky, because it means they're pushing us, they're stretching us… and they are going to be comfortable with the way we communicate back.

1. Get on the phone.

Ben quite rightly pointed out that anyone can pay for a Google ad and put themselves at the top of the search list. If you want to pinpoint the right HMO operator for you, narrow the list down to your top five in your area and get on the phone and talk to them.

2. Be spiky.

Don't be afraid to ask the difficult questions. How many HMO licences have they processed? What are the areas of risk? What procedures were put in place during covid? Ben appreciates when his property owner clients ask him the tough questions because it encourages transparent communication, which should be a priority for any business. So don't be afraid to push for the answers you want.

3. Get evidence of their success.

He believes direct conversations are the way to weed out undesirable sales tactics from the nitty-gritty evidence that they are good at what they do. Ask for case studies and proof that they have achieved what they say they are going to. There will be letting agents that want to manage HMOs because it is a good revenue generator but they may not have the skills or resources in place to do so.

With Ben's years of experience in the property industry and his dedication to providing landlords with the security they are looking for with South East HMO, he has a wealth of knowledge to share.

If you want to find out more about how COHO can help you to get a handle on the management of your rent2rent portfolio, try an Instant demo or book a live demo to find out how we can help.