Co Londonderry woman Tanya McGeehan tells HELEN MCGURK why she is on a mission to become Ulster’s top female property entrepreneur.
Who hasn’t watched a TV show like Homes Under the Hammer and dreamt of buying a dilapidated property with a 1970s avocado bathroom suite and Artex ceilings, doing it with up swish new fittings, and selling it on for a cool profit?
Let’s face it, the idea of ditching the humdrum nine-to-five to make a quick buck doing up a horrible house is a seductive one. But, of course, TV programmes make property developing look like a cinch, when the gritty reality – as NI property entrepreneur Tanya McGeehan points out – is it takes strong foundations of “resilience, determination and passion”… and, one should point out, money.
The 43-year-old Magherafelt woman who has completed some 15 ‘flips’ (industry lingo for buying a property doing it up, then selling it on for a profit) developed her ‘love’ for property out of very tragic circumstances.
“My mother and father had their own property business, which my father started after taking early redundancy as a bank manager when he was 36. In the early 1990s he purchased his first buy-to-let property and went on from there to build up quite a successful property business.
“I have grown up with property from I was a very young age. I always say it’s in my DNA. I am also the eldest of four girls, so we were all very much familiar with property. All my dad’s portfolio was primarily in Belfast, so we spent many times when we were at university driving around collecting rent from students. Myself and my friends in my first year at the University of Ulster lived in one of my dad’s properties off the Lisburn Road.”
Tanya, however, did not go straight into the property business; instead after university she worked for her local council.
“During this time my dad started to get unwell and at the very tender age of 53 was diagnosed with early frontal dementia – he was literally struck down in the prime of his life
“None of us girls worked in the property business, it was something he ran himself along with my mum, a community nurse. In April, 2009 my mother reached out to me, being the eldest, and asked me to help her with it.
“So, due to the tragic circumstances of my father, I ended up going into the family business, not having had any real desire previous to that to work in it. But I ended up falling in love with the industry.”
Tanya’s father died nine years ago at the age of 57 and she still looks after his property portfolio.
“I was really loving the whole industry. I had a lot of experience working in the rental side of things at that point, as well as managing the properties, as you are constantly having to upgrade and maintain them, but I wanted to get into refurbishment, the ‘flipping’ side of the business.”
Tanya established her business, MCG Investments, and set about following her dream, working alongside a team of tradesmen her father had worked with to transform run-down properties into desirable homes.
“We are about to start project 16. The properties are all in Belfast, mainly around Ravenhill, Ormeau, Saintfield. We’ve just completed three units in South Parade and we’re just about to embark on one on the Malone Road and one in Rosetta.
“We tend to go for highly-sought after areas with high demand from professionals; the more affluent, higher income areas.”
With the ‘flips’ going well, she saw a niche in the market and decided to branch out.
“Primarily when I first set out it was just with a view to doing ‘flips’ for myself. I was fortunate enough to have a pot of capital that I was able to start off the business with, and then I simply worked for myself and nobody else was involved.
“Then at the start of last year I did a property training course in Glasgow. On the back of that training we pivoted the business and started opening up to investors to come on board with us and started promoting the business and talking about what we do and how we can help other people who have absolutely zero experience or knowledge of property, but are interested in getting a foot on the ladder.
“Also, we identified a real gap in the market for people that want to invest in property long-term, as a buy-to-let investment, whether it be for a pension or to hand over to their children, whatever their reasons, and are simply too busy with their own primary jobs or businesses.
“That is one of our main services, a consultancy service where people that are time-poor hire us as consultants to do all of the work for them – from sourcing and acquiring the properties, negotiating the price, doing all the searches and viewings and communicating on behalf of the client with their conveyancing solicitor, broker, surveyor, whatever professionals are required.
“We’ll also set up an appointment with a letting agent to find suitable tenants and also a management agent that once the tenants are placed they are managed by a local agent. The only involvement that the client has is collecting their rental income at the end of each month. It is a very seamless, one-stop shop service, which has proved very popular.”
As anyone who has ever bought a house knows, the process can be incredibly stressful, but Tanya believes the key to being a successful property entrepreneur is passion.
“It is stressful at times, but I absolutely love it, you must have a passion for it.”
The attributes she deems crucial are organisational and numerical skills.
“You have to be a numbers person, which I am. I can very quickly calculate the numbers of a deal.”
When she does up a house and it’s looking gorgeous, isn’t she ever tempted to move in?
“You need to eliminate any emotion from the job. You have to be extremely disciplined in that it’s a numbers game. You can’t get carried away and think you are going to be living in the property yourself – you have to remember it’s not your home.
“Resilience is also very important. There’s lots of times when you’ll be disappointed because something didn’t work out. I would be quite calm when it comes to that.”
When it comes to her own professional ambition, Tanya is determined to reach the top spot.
“When you think about Northern Ireland there’s not too many women that are big in property, but we can all name lots of males. I would love to be Northern Ireland’s number one female property entrepreneur. Of course, it’s not just me on my own – my team are all female too!”