“Why should you have a landlord who can’t afford to put their hands in their pocket to maintain a property?”
Michelle Niziol, founder of IMS Property Group, explains how a love of numbers and a passion for property has helped her build a BTL empire founded on professionalism and customer service.
When she left school Michelle Niziol’s love of numbers made a career in accounting almost inevitable.
But Ms Niziol soon found hiding behind numbers a struggle, she wanted to bring them alive instead. “Accountancy suited my skills but not my personality. I wanted to add value to clients and for me there was no customer service experience or journey.”
And her personal passion for property led her in a different direction, she bought her first home age 18 and her first BTL property soon after. After taking her first accountancy qualifications she trained as a mortgage broker.
She then spent “10 years learning my trade. I wanted to be an expert in investing in property. Not enough people put their money in bricks and mortar.”
In 2008 Ms Niziol founded the IMS Property Group. True to her word, the companies in the group encompass all elements of residential property investment. They take clients on a journey, from lending to lettings agent to estate agency to property refurbishment, development and even a property search service.
The Bicester-based company is very much Michelle’s baby. “I want to offer my clients, many of whom run their own businesses, a complete solution.”
Her desire to keep growing her business led her to apply for the 2016 BBC1 series The Apprentice. The programme, which features Lord Sugar’s search for a business partner had a major selling point for Ms Niziol. “Lord Sugar invests £250,000 in the winner’s chosen business. Of course, that for me was the reason for entering, but I wanted to learn from the best.”
She did, by getting through to the last 18 contestants, and making it through to the first programme in the series. “It was the hardest thing I have ever been through, so many tens of thousands of people apply, and they whittle you down to 18.”
But it was there her journey ended. “I was project manager the first week and I was on the losing team, so I got fired. In the first week.
“But I got so much out of it,” she explained. “It was an amazing experience, and you get to learn from the best in the business. I don’t regret it. The selection process taught me a lot.”
For her it has been onwards and upwards. In June 2017 she took on the role of vice president of the Association of Residential Letting Agents. The three-year role means she will become ARLA president in 2020.
She hopes to use her role to champion the BTL market.
She sees many of the recent changes as largely positive. The majority of her BTL clients are professional investors with a portfolio, who are in it for the long term.
“I believe many of the changes that have been made are positive changes. They will raise standards. After all, why should you have a landlord who can’t afford to put their hands in their pocket to maintain a property?”
“As we see it the government is stopping reluctant landlords, those who only go into BTL because it is the only way to move to a new house.”
Ms Niziol says her clients care about offering amazing accommodation for tenants. “They invest, not on a growth basis but on an income basis. That is why I see BTL as growing not contracting.”
Lending is getting more sophisticated, to match this new breed of investors, she claimed. “Those entering the lending market now are ones who are interested in raising standards. They are not just money-making machines who will only lend if all the boxes are ticked.”
“The BTL lenders coming in now, like The Mortgage Lender, have a much more human approach.”
“It’s a return to the good old days of customer service and doing things face to face on an individual basis. That is the right way for the BTL market to go.”