‘My dodgy uni flat inspired me to become a property investor at 19 – now I own five houses,’ York man, 28, shares top tips

A property investor who bought his first home using his student loan and has gone on to buy five in total has shared his top tips for anyone looking to start their own portfolio.
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A property investor who bought his first home using his student loan and has gone on to buy five in total has shared his top tips for anyone looking to start their own portfolio.

James Coupland, 28, from York, has always been an “absolute saver” and has refused to spend on anything unnecessary – meaning he was able to make his first investment at just 19.

He had become inspired to get into property after living in “shocking” conditions in a shared flat while studying at the Open University in Leeds in 2014.

James Coupland. (Picture: Jam Press)

“My rent payments were £95 a week, having shared with three others who were also paying this amount each,” James, who shares his journey on Instagram (@jamesproperty_), told NeedToKnow.online.

“I’d quickly realised that the landlord, who was charging by the room for a house in multiple occupations, was now earning 4x the amount of rent for what would be charged for a standard buy-to-let property – and all he’d done was put beds and a wardrobe in the two living rooms downstairs and turned them into bedrooms.

“The standard of the refurb in the shared living sector when I was at uni was shocking.”

Knowing that, with the right investment, he could make strong profits while increasing the standard of living in shared accommodation, James saw a gap in the market.

While his degree required two days a week of physical attendance, James used his days off to work and save for a deposit on his first home.

After one year of saving, he had £6,000 – enough for a 10% deposit on a £53,000 house, plus solicitor and legal fees.

James Coupland. (Picture: Jam Press)

He snapped it up, moving in and living there for 12 months while renovating, and using his student loan to buy materials like paint, carpets, and tiles.

After working his DIY magic, he was able to sell it after the first year for £92,500 – and has continued to invest ever since, building a portfolio of five homes that he owns and manages, at a total value of £750,000.

Now, James has shared his five top tips for any newcomer to get started in the property investment market.

1. SET A GOOD FOUNDATION

James recommends ensuring you have a clean, financial slate before making any investments.

“I would advise prioritising paying off any expensive debt that you may have – like credit cards, overdrafts – and to calculate your monthly outgoings on essentials so that you can build up a cash reserve of 3-6 months,” he told NeedToKnow.online.

“Once you have this, you’ve built a good foundation to take the next steps into investment.”

2. SAVE SAVE SAVE

It may be obvious, but it’s important… have some savings behind you.

James said: “If you’re aged 18-39 then I recommend opening a Lifetime ISA. Every year you can save up to £4,000 (which can be paid as a monthly payment or lump sum).

“The government adds a 25% bonus on top of your savings, so if you manage to save £1,000, you’ll have £1,250 with the government bonus and if you reach the maximum of £4,000 this 25% bonus will mean you get £5,000.

“This money can be used as a deposit towards your first home, so it’s a pretty easy way to earn and save extra money. Plus, if you get into the habit of saving and sacrificing, knowing it’s going towards a bigger goal, then this will teach your mindset when it comes to investing.

“If you’re on a low income claiming universal credit or working tax credits, go check out the government’s ‘Help to Save’ scheme. It allows savers to earn a bonus from the government on their savings up to a maximum of £1,200 over 4 years.”

James Coupland. (Picture: Jam Press)

3. EDUCATE YOURSELF

James said: “The next thing to understand when looking to invest is to ensure you’re set up correctly. When relating this to property investment, understanding your end goal and a clear pathway is super important.

“This could be deciding on what strategy you will use – i.e., buy to sell, buy to let or Airbnb – in addition to knowing whether you should set up in your personal name or in a limited company for tax implications.

“If you go in blind, it can be expensive. So getting an education on how to set up and knowing your strategy to reach your end goal is key.”

4. PLAY THE LONG GAME

“The next step is to prepare for the long game and choose a stable asset class – and when I say stable, I’m not talking about crypto,” James added.

“Yes, people have made lots of money very quickly but it’s very volatile and I don’t recommend this for your first investment.

“I’m biased towards property, but you can also look at pension schemes, and stocks and shares. Better still, if you can spread your investments across multiple classes then you have security knowing that if one has a dip, you have your finances spread out (but not too thinly – find the balance!).”

5. STAY CALM

James recommends keeping a clear, calm head when considering property investing.

He explained: “It’s important not to get caught up in the media when terms like ‘property crash’ are being thrown around.

“The thing you have to realize with property is that prices go up and down, and it’s obvious that this has to happen.

“After Covid, we saw a huge increase in property prices due to various factors such as people spending less money at home coupled with the stamp duty holiday, so with any large spike in prices, there is naturally going to be a correction.

“The only thing I’m seriously interested in when it comes to property is the long-term gain, and over the course of history, property prices only ever go one way – up.

“That’s why I hold my properties as assets and never like to sell. Property investment is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme – it never has been.

“Yes, you can make very good money and you can increase your income by buying further properties to the point where I am now comfortable living on the passive income I have built up over time from rent. But it’s never going to be quick or easy.”

James is passionate about inspiring a new generation of property investors and has launched the James Property Academy, where he offers advice and support throughout the early stages of the journey.

He added: “Even though I started young, I wish I’d started earlier. My goal is to reach 50 properties, but I’m not sure if this will be the end.

“Property is the safest bet [for investments] in my opinion – the wealthiest people in the world own property because of this.

“I plan to continue raising the living standards of shared living; to support and provide our tenants with the best service; to continue building our brand on social media, and to hopefully provide value and inspire other young entrepreneurs looking to start their property journey.”