The Long Distance Investor


How Billy did 45 property deals in a little over a year, all while working a demanding corporate job 6000km away in Dubai (and yes, he flew to the UK for all of the Mastermind workshops).
  • 45 deals that financed themselves
  • £4 million added to portfolio
  • £476,000 profit in pocket, six-figure annual cashflow
  • ​Includes a crowdsourced Grade I listed apartment conversion
  • ​Aggressive outsourcing strategies necessitated by working in Dubai
It is customary that at the final workshop of each Mastermind Programme, some of the departing Masterminders get up on stage and talk about their experiences and results. Here is Billy's contribution...




Good morning, everyone. I'm very privileged to have been asked to come on stage and share with you some of my highlights from the 12 months on Mastermind. For me, a key date in my journey was on the 2nd of January, 2015, last year. I found myself, I was in the lounge of Manchester Airport, and I was reflecting on where my life was at that time. 2014 hadn't been the best year for me. I'd had a marriage had broken down, I'd come out of a divorce, but on January the 1st, I had to drop Archie off at his mom's house and I wasn't sure when I would be back from Dubai to see him next, whether it would be in January, whether it would be in February. Also, my Dad had been down, and he'd been back up to Aberdeen, so it was a case of just where was my life going.

I was aware I was about to get on a flight to travel 6000km to go to the other part of the Middle East to do a job that I'd ultimately fallen out of love with. It was no longer my motivation. It was no longer the fire in my belly. What I realized was at that time I had started trading time for money, and that's a bit of a stupid trade to do, because the one thing in life that we can't get any more of is time. I'd realized I'd fallen into that trap in the corporate world.

Okay. I don't think it'll come to a surprise to a lot of you that property is actually quite a strong passion of mine. Mastermind was quite lucky for me in that it really gave me two different outcomes. One was I wanted to move from the corporate world to being full-time in property, but two, I wanted property to give me that option to have time away to do things with family, to do stuff personally, so I really saw it giving me two bites of the cherry.

I've been in property for a long time, since 2002. I bought my first house in Ireland. It's a garden apartment in that block there. Between 2002, 2015, I bought up a portfolio of about 10 houses, seven that were mine, three with a joint venture partner, Peter. It was a mixed portfolio. I had some stock that was underwater in Bulgaria and Ireland as well. I had some low-yielding stock in the outskirts of Liverpool, too, so it didn't give me enough money that would allow me to make the move from the corporate world to being a property investor, which is really what I wanted to do.

In January, I read a number of articles in Your Property Network magazine (YPN). There was a key thing that came out in those, was that at each point, certain people who'd built up portfolios had taken a step back to invest in themselves to go the extra mile. I thought, "Maybe that's what I should do." What I didn't want to do was wait another 12 years to hit my target, and the reality was, I knew with my current portfolio that if I could get this in one year, I could make the move from the corporate world to get my time back as Billy.
"Mastermind appealed to me because I saw it as equivalent to a Masters/PhD in business"
To cut a long story short, in January I looked at a lot of different courses and a lot of different programs out there, and Mastermind appealed to me mainly because I saw it as a master's in business or a PhD in business, but I was still concerned. I had a senior job with a good consulting company. I had the portfolio on the side. I was trying to be a Dad, and I was 6000km away. The question was, could I really do this, or would it just be more stress that I was putting on myself?

Anyway, I had a conversation with Simon Zutshi on 24th January to ask him what his views were. Should I come on Mastermind 19, or should I maybe wait until Mastermind 20 in 2016? The advice following that conversation was to come to the accelerator that was the next month, and then to make the decision whether I was going to join Mastermind 19 or whether I was going to wait 12 months until I was back in the UK.

The reality is, though, after that call with Simon, I made the decision that I was going to commit to doing Mastermind 19. The reason for that was, I was no longer prepared to trade my time for money for another 12 months. That really helped me, because it meant, to be honest, by the time I came here in March my mindset was really good. From talking to some of the previous top five people, from watching all the previous top five videos, the same thing is said up here each time on the stage. If you actually go deep into that and follow the process, a bit like what Fraser said earlier today, it can really help you. That really got me to hitting the ground quickly when the time came.

What have we actually done in Mastermind 19? It's certainly been a busy 12 months.
"I've used a bunch of different strategies, there quickly comes a point where the cashflow-generating deals fund bigger deals that you couldn't have done at the start."
  • SHORT-TERM LETTINGS:  these were key to me. I did a lot of refurbs, and I needed to get cash flow quickly, so I've rented stuff in Dubai, I've rented stuff short-term in Bulgaria, and also in Liverpool. When I was looking at the numbers for this presentation, it was about 100 short-term lends we've done in the last 12 months, so almost two a week.
  • SOURCING: Got involved in sourcing for the first time. You're going through that famous process flow we're giving you, deals that don't fit your strategy, look to trade them on, to sell them on. Created two companies. I never thought that would happen. I've got a development company. I've now got a buy to hold company, and I'll share some details with you about that later on as well.
  • LEASE OPTIONS: I knew what lease options were before Mastermind. I never knew how to execute them. I never knew how to source them. I've done lease option deals in Liverpool and Redditch and Pontypridd. I helped some people in Bulgaria who were struggling to rent their summer apartments, so basically did a rent to rent, a letting deal with them.
  • BRIDGING: One of the webinars we had, Simon talked it over. You can borrow money, which I could do cheap in Dubai from the bank. I could keep half that money for my refurbs, and I could spend the other half onto other investors and claim on that, and basically it ends up being free money for you.
  • RENT TO RENT: I've done rent to rents, again in Dubai, also with Masterminders in London. Set up a self-pension scheme. Again, that was from MMX. That's great, because that can manage your tax going forward but also enables you to basically create a vehicle where if you want to do bridging long-term, which I do, it's very tax-effective to do it. I was doing a lot of stuff. That also meant that I got a bit of coverage, so I got asked to write an article for YPN magazine about investing from overseas, did an interview with Michael Stenhouse, and did a couple of webinars with Simon Zutshi, too.
We'll go into some of the individual details now and touch base on them. This is one of the student houses. I love student houses because of the cash flow they give you. If you look at this deal, the profit's just over £10k. If you do that every year, you only need probably three or four of them to get close to that target. How they give you such good cash flow is really through momentum investing.
When you're doing momentum investing with these deals, we're doing two things. We're doing big refurbs to them. We're adding additional rooms, so we're going up to the attic. We're going out the back, as well, and doing large extensions, so we're going from two bedrooms to six-bedroom houses.
"It wasn't until I realized I should be looking for the seller, rather than the property, that we managed to be able to scale up a lot quicker."
The other opportunity you have for momentum investing is at the price that you buy. The reality was, before Mastermind, I'd spent all my time going against other investors, so being in auction rooms, being on Rightmove against other people. It wasn't until I realized I should be looking for the seller, rather than the property, that we managed to be able to scale up a lot quicker. A lot of my deals this year has been off market, stuff that has been sourced through landlord letters, through Facebook, through LinkedIn, through Gumtree, and what's really good when you get the stuff off market, particularly if they're a motivated seller or a tired landlord, you find a lot of the time they've actually got multiple properties. Again, you're getting no competition when you're in there, but you've also then got the opportunity to scale up a lot quicker.

Finally, what I really like about this model is my time is spent sourcing the deal and financing the deal. The whole process, then, of actually refurbing it, the furniture, the architects, the letting of it, is the same house from house. It's a really good model to rinse and repeat, and as I say, it can give you great cash flow as well.

The second deal I want to talk to you a little bit about is Hamilton Square, and I'm pretty sure this won't come as a surprise to you being up here. Hamilton Square was the conversion of four office blocks into 20 two-bedroom apartments. What I loved about this deal was the amount of different touch points that I actually had. When I went into doing the deal, I went in to push myself to the next level. I went in to make some cash. What I didn't realize was, though, how much I would enjoy the different touch points.
Ultimately, we've got 20 investors now who are going to own each of these apartments, and that'll give them a return for as long as they hold them. It can be kept for their kids, etc. we're going to have 20 tenants who are going to be in brand-new apartments in a Grade I listed building. We've got investors from CrowdProperty, who can invest from as little as £500, getting a return on that. Our refurb costs for that were £600k, so we've put work in terms of £600k into construction companies in the northwest of England, and that's something I'm hugely proud of, and I really never thought I would do during Mastermind.

The other big thing with that is, though, it takes responsibilities. When you've got builders to pay, when you've got bridgers to pay, when you've got CrowdProperty to pay, when you've got the buyers to pay, so you really need to manage your cash flow tight on deals like this. Again, that's a skill I've managed to develop as a result of Mastermind.

With Hamilton Square, what I'm really pleased to say is this week we issued our first notice to complete on the first 10 apartments, and next week we should be issuing notices to complete on the final 10 apartments. What that basically means is that during the period of Mastermind, we've gone out, we've managed to source a deal, we've managed to fund it, we've managed to build it, we've managed to sell out 20 apartments.

When I spoke to Simon in January last year, my next house purchase was a £40,000 terrace house that was a cannabis factory. We turned it into a great student house. We took out the cannabis, but that's where I thought my future was. That's what I was doing, standard terrace, buy to let houses. Never did I dream I would go from doing that 12 months ago to doing this in the last six months. Again, that's really the power of being in this environment and the power of this group to do stuff like that.
The figures, yep, it's certainly been a good deal. Totally surpassed anything that I thought that we'd do. Managed to put on about £4 million of assets during the Mastermind course. In terms of the actual profit before joint ventures are paid out, we're at £470,000. My share of that, post-joint venture funding, will be about £265,000. That's a hell of a lot of money. You don't need that money to live off a year. You need half of that. You need a quarter of it, but I'm now in the position, thankfully to Mastermind, and thankfully to the investment I've made this year, that I now have a choice what I want to do. A lot of that, the good stuff about that as well, is your annuity business stays with you. Your student houses, your lease options, stay with you year on year.

In terms of advice, I really look at it as two main components. You have your mindset perspective, and then you have the property perspective. The important thing I would say to anyone is to get your mindset right, and that, the first month, Simon says that it's not about property, and he's correct. If you can get this bit right, and you can get your focus, the property stuff will take care of itself. When you look at the property stuff, all the strategies work. Whether you want to do flips, whether you want to do HMOs, whether you want to do conversions, they work. Get something that's close to your heart, close to your values, and focus on it.
Then, what Simon said this morning, "Keep it simple". Too many times I think we complicate stuff. To do any of these deals, you have to source the property, and then you have to fund it, and you have to do it in that order. Again, before Mastermind, I actually thought money had the highest power, but I've realized without a doubt it's actually sourcing.

If you look at Hamilton Square, that's a good example of that. Hamilton Square, I had funds lined up from a bridger, then CrowdProperty underwrote it, and then they opened it to the crowd, so it was funded three times.
"There's enough money out there to fund deals."
What's actually harder is getting some of the deals together. All the other stuff then, your refurbishments, your technical stuff, you pay people for it, outsource it, but the stuff that will give you the strategic advantage is sourcing stuff and funding it. It's a really simple business once you just follow it.

Then, finally, you accept it's a journey. There isn't a straight line. One of the things I've got better of as a result of Mastermind is actually being aware of that journey, and realizing there's different curves around the corner, and enjoying it.

I'm wary now I'm running out of time. Dave's put up his card, but one of the key things is, to do this, the whole principle of Mastermind is that one plus one is greater than two. I never knew that. Again, before I came here, I thought it was a case of just work hard. You put your head down. That's your end result. The reality is, linking to a group like this, linking into an environment, will help everyone to move.

I'd really like to thank each one of you individually for making the last 12 months such a great year for myself. There's a lot of other people up there I'd like to thank, Simon Zutshi, Fraser, a number of other people in the peripherals of Mastermind, my coach Rob McPhun, Mark Dearing, Michael Dong, Jo Simpson, Andy Gwynn, all who helped me in terms of getting a clear steer on where I was going, and then also, the guys back in Liverpool have ultimately delivered a lot of this stuff, and finally, our tenants and also our investors and our house buyers. If you don't have them, this beautiful model of property doesn't necessarily work.
"I don't know what I've been doing, to be honest, for the last 15 years. It wasn't until I really tapped into this Mastermind group that I realized how far you could push yourself and what you can actually deliver if you put your mind to it."
Then finally, where are we? We're now 12, 13 months on from that time when I was sitting in that lounge in Manchester Airport worrying about trading my time for money. I'm glad to say, I am going back to Dubai next week, but I'm going back to Dubai for a two-week holiday, and I'm going back to Dubai to pack up my stuff and move back to the UK lock, stock, and barrel.

What that gives me is my time back, and that's what this year was really about for me. It was about getting my time back, because I just didn't have it. That allows me to be a Dad. It allows me to see my son every month, something you can't do from 6000km away. It allows me to do stuff that ... I'm not a materialistic person. I don't have a posh watch. I don't have a flash car, but what I do do, I enjoy experiences, whether that be sporting events, whether that would be time out with family, etc., and now I've got my time back, and that's all I really wanted.

I'm quite bullish about where the property will go, but I'm actually going to reflect on that for some time over the next couple of months before moving to the next level.

Then finally, I'm really glad I've tapped into this self-development circle. I don't know what I've been doing, to be honest, for the last 15, 16 years. It wasn't until I really tapped into this that I realized how far you could push yourself and what you can actually deliver if you put your mind to it. I'd just like to put up a big thank you to each of you for helping this to happen and make it such a good year. Thanks.


Billy's story is a stunning example of what can be achieved in 12 months. The fact that he did this from 6000km away in Dubai is especially noteworthy.

If you've ever talked yourself out of doing Mastermind because the workshops are a bit far away, remind yourself about Billy... to attend each monthly workshop he flew in from Dubai.

If you've ever talked yourself out of a deal because a property is outside of your geographical comfort zone, remind yourself about Billy... he did 45 deals while living in Dubai. If he can do this from the other side of the world, imagine what you can do!

Ready to begin the journey of a lifetime? Become my next success study by joining the Mastermind Programme.
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