Move over cute cats, video gamers and make-up experts: the next (and unlikely) stars of YouTube could be property landlords.
While investing in property might not be as hot a subject as the latest Fortnite hacks or how to clean your house, there is a growing audience of people who want to watch videos about buy-to-let mortgages, how to vet a lettings agent, landlord taxes and bridging finance.
The trend for ‘landlord influencers’ started – where else? – in the US where high-profile landlord YouTubers such as Kevin Paffrath and Graham Stephan are attracting hundreds of thousands of followers (known as subscribers) to their YouTube channels.
Hot property: Vanessa Warwick and Nick Tadd have 10,000 YouTube subscribers
While they are not in the same league as YouTube superstars PewDiePie or pop singer Justin Bieber, who have each racked up millions of views on the online media channel, they aren’t doing too badly.
Paffrath, a 27-year-old real estate broker and investor, has 210,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel that has had more than 18.8million views since he set it up nine years ago.
Paffrath says he’s been working in real estate and construction since he was 17 and uses YouTube as a way to promote his various business ventures – from being a professional landlord to buying and selling houses.
Thanks to an ever growing collection of videos with titles such as ‘The fastest way to become rich with real estate’ and ‘Exposing the scam that will crash the economy’, his channel is attracting thousands of new subscribers. It has also helped promote interest in his online courses about real estate investing, which can cost anything from $100 to well over $1,000.
Dwarfing Paffrath’s YouTube stats is fellow landlord vlogger and real estate agent Graham Stephan. He has 1.26million subscribers who watch his videos entitled ‘Real estate tricks: how to pay off your mortgage fast’ and ‘The fastest way to build wealth investing in real estate’.
In the UK, the landlord vlogging trend is still in its early stages but the online audience for everything property-related is a fast-growing one.
Trend: Sites with cute cat shots have new rivals
Vanessa Warwick, 57, and husband Nick Tadd, 53, run Property Tribes, one of the largest online forums for landlords. Their YouTube channel now attracts between 5,000 and 8,000 views every day.
The couple – who met when Vanessa was presenting MTV’s heavy rock show Headbangers Ball and Nick was a cameraman – started investing in property in 2004. ‘We were both working in the broadcast industry but we’re outdoors people,’ recalls Vanessa. ‘One day my husband turned to me and said, ‘We don’t want to be doing this forever. Why don’t we get involved in property?’ ‘
After immersing themselves in a weekend property course, the pair released equity from Vanessa’s flat in London’s Finsbury Park – ‘I’d lived there for 15 years and it had nearly doubled in value,’ she says. They bought a one-bed flat in North London for £147,000. After a quick refurbishment, they rented it out – and it is now worth around £340,000.
The couple now own more than 15 buy-to-let properties in London, the M5 corridor, Leeds and Manchester. They also own two holiday lets.
The decision to start a website, says Nick, was more about educating themselves than helping other landlords.
He adds: ‘We needed to learn and someone else’s hindsight could be our foresight. In the early days it was a small backwater of the internet where we could share things with like-minded people and our friends. It can be a lonely industry and this was a place where people could hang out and share information and where we wanted to hang out too.’
Word of mouth meant the website grew fast and before long the couple decided to set up a YouTube channel. ‘For us it was a perfect storm as we had the skills set to create videos and we knew YouTube was going to be huge,’ says Nick.
The Property Tribes channel now has 10,000 subscribers and its 1,000 videos have been watched more than one million times. One recent video about getting out of buy-to-let went viral.
Nick and Vanessa are now filming videos for after Christmas and into the New Year. Nick says: ‘On Boxing Day at 11 o’clock, our stats will go through the roof as people sit on the sofa and log on to their iPads.’
Having established the channel with regular videos and a growing subscriber base, the couple have just begun to monetise it. It can result in adverts before, during or after the videos, as well as sponsored posts, affiliate marketing and paid-for guest appearances.
The income from the website, before costs, is now running at £15,000 a month while the couple make around £350 from YouTube ads plus several thousand pounds per video sponsorship. ‘It’s scalable and the good thing is it’s growing every year,’ says Vanessa. Nick adds: ‘It’s quite a lean business – there’s only two of us.’
Nick and Vanessa’s channel, Property Tribes, now has 10,000 subscribers and its 1,000 videos have been watched more than one million times
The pair are keen motorhomers – they spend weeks travelling around the UK each year with their three adventurous Bengal Tiger cats – and work from wherever they take ‘Fillmore’ (their motorhome).
Nick says: ‘I once had a Skype conference call with my website developer in Pakistan and my technology guru in Germany while climbing a mountain in the Cairngorms when it was minus 10 degrees. We can work anywhere.’
Nick isn’t surprised there are currently few property vloggers in the UK. He says: ‘Some 97 per cent of UK landlords have full-time jobs, so they don’t see themselves as professional property experts. They’ll buy or inherit a property, give it to a lettings agent to manage and won’t give it a moment’s thought until the agent phones and says the boiler needs replacing.’
Veteran property investor John Howard is an exception. Next year, he plans to sell £40million of properties – he declines to say how big his property portfolio is.
John recently launched his own YouTube channel. He says: ‘I’ve been investing in property for more than 40 years and sold 3,500 properties. I just didn’t like the landlord advice people were getting online. People with barely any experience were acting like property gurus and promising that everyone can be millionaires by investing in property – it’s just not possible.’
The couple own more than 15 buy-to-let properties in London, the M5 corridor, Leeds and Manchester
As well as sharing his experiences online on his YouTube channel, John says that it’s been a great way of driving traffic to his website and one-to-one mentoring courses.
He adds: ‘I did wonder if I was missing a trick when I was charging a few hundred pounds when others with hardly any experience were charging thousands.’ He describes appearing in his YouTube videos as giving him ‘a new lease of life’.
A self-confessed deal junkie, John says he is totally honest with his advice. ‘There are so many people out there who are just con artists. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.’
Vanessa, of Property Tribes, has long cautioned against so-called ‘wealth creators’ and ‘property marketeers’ who charge thousands of pounds to vulnerable people lured by the promise of quick returns.
She emphasises that Property Tribes is a community to which thousands of people contribute.
‘We don’t want people to only come to Property Tribes,’ she says. ‘The healthiest way to learn is to take in lots of differences of opinion and form your own views and that also mitigates your risk.’
The National Landlords Association advises caution in trusting so-called landlord experts. Meera Chindooroy is its policy and public affairs manager. She says: ‘So-called ‘celebrity YouTube landlords’ isn’t a trend that’s really taken off in the UK, most likely because the rules and regulations that govern the private rented sector are complex and vary across four countries.
‘Landlords relying on how-to videos as a reference point for how to run their lettings business run the risk of receiving inaccurate information which could put them at risk of breaking the law. To be sure that the information you receive is correct and that you’re up to date on legislation, we recommend becoming a member of a reputable landlords’ organisation.’
Michael Stone, founder and chief executive of estate agency Stone Real Estate, says: ‘Most property- related social platforms seem to be full of ‘success stories’ showing an average looking person in a flash suit next to an even flashier car, but these should always be viewed with scepticism.
‘Anyone worth their salt in the industry wouldn’t indulge in such blatant self-gratification. While social media can be great for a lot of things, just ensure you are consuming facts rather than fiction when it comes to a topic as vast as property investment.’
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