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Property market gold mine for entrepreneur who bought house before finding work

His mother wasn’t impressed at the time, but James Davis’ purchase of a house, before finding a job after leaving university, has created him a property market gold mine.
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The property market has changed largely over the past few years, most notably with proptech, as Real Business previously explored.

But, before proptech had become commonplace, James Davis had been in the property market right back with the buy-to-let trend was taking off in the UK.

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At just 23, he bought his first home before he’d even secured a job – much to his mother’s horror. The property market entry paid off, however, and soon Davis was earning more from his properties than his salary in full-time employment.

And as the property market evolved, Davis kept abreast of such developments and ten years ago he launched Upad.co.uk, an online letting agent that offers a cost-effective service to landlords alongside advice. More than 43,000 properties have been rented through the business to date.

With the property market gamble resulting in a gold mine for Davis, he detailed his journey to success and the lifestyle it’s unlocked for him as part of Business Class.

(1) Were you born into wealth or has your success been self-made?

I bought my first property in 1998 after I left university. This was just before buy to lets had been launched in the UK and I did a business plan for my bank outlining how I would rent out four of the five rooms in this terraced house.

They lent me the money and that got me on the road to being a landlord at the age of 23. I remember my Mum being hysterical about the fact that I had applied for a mortgage when I didn’t even have a job yet! I was just so determined to get on the housing ladder.

(2) How much did your first job pay?

£11,000 but I was earning more from renting out properties by this point. I managed to hit my sales target quite quickly in a week, which allowed me to go to more property auctions and property viewings, than being in the office.

(3) You have achieved business success within the property market, proptech and marketing sectors. Which of these have been the most lucrative for you, and what excites you most about what you do?

Within proptech the most exciting part for me is the amount of feedback that we get from customers. We now have the most reviews of all agents on Trustpilot, currently over 800, and the highest score 9.6 out of 10.

The length of reviews that some people leave is an enormous pat on the back to the entire team and demonstrates that we exceed our customers’ expectations and clearly the lettings sector is on the cusp of transformation.

Upad property market

When it comes to luxury goods, my wife has found John Lewis to be as addictive as Apple is for me

(4) What has been the most extravagant property you’ve bought, and what has been the most significant return on investment you’ve achieved from a sale?

I haven’t sold a property to date as I take a long-term view like most landlords. That said, our current home probably ticks the box of being the most extravagant.

We have got a massive garden for the kids to kick a ball around in and enough space to house our rather large family!

(5) What has business ownership taught you about money management?

Cash is king. It is very easy when completing a funding round (as we are currently doing) not to worry about money management. Whereas I feel quite the opposite, in that we have an obligation to invest our shareholder’s money wisely.

The fact that so many have followed on in previous funding rounds is indicative of the way I run the business.

(6) Tell us about your smartest investments

The first property I bought was in 1998 for £203,000. Whilst it was a three-bed terraced house I have since extended its backwards, sideways and upwards and converted it into two flats. The property is worth over £1.5m today.

(7) Do you get more satisfaction from spending or saving your money?

I think that these are interlinked. It is very important to manage your businesses profitably and to review revenue streams on a cost basis all the time. This, then allows you to afford to spend additional cash flow elsewhere.

Upad property market

My kids go through shoes at a faster rate than tomato ketchup

(8) What are your most expensive hobbies?

I am frequently working 15-hour days, so I take several holidays a year to chill out as a reward. I have also found out that it is very important to have a clear mind in business and uncluttering allows you to achieve more.

(9) How about your most prized possession?

My laptop – without it I would be lost! There was one time on holiday my laptop was overheating and it spent more time in the freezer than at my fingertips – my heart rate went up that holiday!

(10) What are your favourite luxury brands?

I am addicted to Apple. The ease of use and great UX means I am continuously buying more of the latest tech products from them.

(11) Where has your most luxurious holiday take you?

The Seychelles in the Indian Ocean (it’s a million miles from reality and an awesome escape from the rat race).

(12) Excluding property, what has been your most expensive purchase?

My family! My kids go through shoes at a faster rate than tomato ketchup and my wife has found John Lewis to be as addictive as Apple is for me.

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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