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09 Feb 2024

Our Director’s journey into property

It was two unrelated events…

…that inspired my journey into the world of financial advice and property.

Back in 2002, my then girlfriend - now wonderful wife Michelle - and I, came back from travelling after spending a year working and backpacking around the world together, all on the princely sum of the £2,000 we managed to save! 😊

Understandably, after returning, we wanted to move out of our mums and into a home together. We both secured jobs, mine in insurance and Michelle in education, but didn’t have any money.

I grew up in a council flat in Canning Town, East London, (loved it by the way, no ex-factor sob story here).
Having absolutely no idea about property, mortgages, or the house-buying process (seriously I didn’t know what a mortgage was!) we popped down to East Ham high street to the local estate agent and took a look in the window trying to understand the price of a property. Not knowing what we could afford or where to start, we went to the local bank (this is a building that used to exist on the high street where you could speak to people about money) to see a mortgage advisor.

The appointment didn’t go well. During the meeting, I struggled to understand the process, needed to ask many questions, and didn’t feel guided at all. Sadly, leaving that meeting, I was still confused and in no way ready to purchase a new home.

After going to another bank and having a better experience, we were told our borrowing potential, and discovered our mortgage options were very limited. Michelle’s mum saw an advert in the paper for Shared Ownership properties in which we could purchase a 40% share of a house and rent the remaining part from the housing association. We applied, and were fortunate enough to be accepted on the scheme with Notting Hill Home Ownership (not only selling properties in Notting Hill).

We spent a day viewing properties with NHHO. Now, to purchase one of their properties, the process was to view first, and if we liked one we saw, we were required to register our interest with them. We viewed a few but after viewing a particular two-bedroom Victorian terraced house in East Ham, we fell in love and quickly registered our interest and waited.

It was lunchtime and I was doing my usual challenge of filling up my plastic bowl at the salad counter in the Isle of Dogs ASDA store. The call came in, I can literally remember the elation, how happy I was to receive that call from Notting Hill letting us know our offer was accepted, I couldn’t believe it, we were going to own our own home! Madness! (If you are smiling, you’ve had that feeling.) 😉

The second event came a few weeks after having our offer accepted. I was working as a junior in an insurance company renewing policies for businesses. A colleague I was working with handed in her notice as she was offered a job with Barclays. They were training people to become mortgage advisors. I was excited about it straight away, recalling how disappointed I was with my own journey and confident that once I knew how, I would be able to offer the advice and guidance that we lacked during our purchasing journey.

I started as a mortgage advisor the week after we moved in, Jan 2003.

I loved it (and still do)!

Solving problems for clients and guiding people by making what can be a complicated process, clear, and therefore actionable, is what drives me.

Eighteen months into my career with the bank and I wanted to move on. Still loved what I was doing, but having to say: “Sorry. We can’t help with your particular situation.” wasn’t satisfying.

I joined the largest estate agency chain in the UK and was able to support clients in any situation as we could advise from the whole of the market.

It was a steep learning curve but with the support of the lenders and the more experienced advisors around me, I thrived in the role seeing scores of clients a week, finishing the following year top advisor in the country and enjoying every minute.

That was it, I knew I would be in the industry for many years to come, so I decided to start my own business in 2008. The day after I opened, the credit crunch kicked in with the collapse of Lehman Bros. I had no choice but to make a success of the business as we had just had the second of our three children. Fortunately, we setup an estate and letting agency at the same time. That business called Brookings Estates, is still running today and I have a fantastic team that runs it.

There’s been ups and downs along the way, and the mortgage and property market continues to throw curve balls. Anyone in business will tell you its never a straight path but overcoming challenges is what we thrive on.

Well, that’s how it started and the more I learned about the mortgage market, the more doors opened up in my mind about the options available to us.

My journey into property began and continues today.

I think it’s important for our clients to know I’ve been every type of customer.

  1. I started with a shared ownership purchase.
  2. I staircased to purchase the whole property (after discovering that it was possible and how to do it).
  3. Purchased a new home with a let-to-buy mortgage (didn’t know that was a thing).
  4. Remortgaged to release equity (felt rich, but was for investing not spending).
  5. Used the released funds for a deposit on a buy-to-let purchase and again for further buy-to-let’s building a property portfolio.
  6. Moving into property development, I used bridging finance to carry out small development and refurbishment projects.
  7. Setting up a Limited Company (SPV) to purchase and develop properties.
  8. Moved home a couple of times and now live in Leigh on Sea.
  9. Oh, and also helping my mum with purchasing our council flat under the right-to-buy scheme.

I think that pretty much ticks all the boxes!

I know the value of having the right information and advice. It can make a significant difference to you, your family, and/or your business when faced with making a decision.

Our why...

Home of Mortgages was set up to guide our clients in how to achieve their goals.

We invest in specialist training for all Home of Mortgages Brokers AND admin team, whilst also carrying out continual professional development every month.

We have a clear process to help you understand your transaction clearly, and you will always have someone to talk to, supporting you with your questions and enquiries.

Just as my own property journey evolved, our business has too.

Home of Specialist Finance launched in 2022 offering our clients and introducers advice on Bridging, Development finance, Commercial mortgages and portfolio/Limited company Buy-to-Let mortgages.

We will continue to provide advice in areas in which we feel is needed.

Reading the feedback we get, the team are receiving fantastic reviews so I’d say we are achieving our goal, which brings me a lot of joy.

Proud to say Home of Mortgages awarded Feefo Platinum Status 10 Years in a row, read our reviews. 💛🏡

Thank you for reading and thank you to all of you who have supported me, the team and the business along the way.

Michael O'Brien
Home of Mortgages & Home of Specialist Finance

Our Director’s journey into property

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