Selling a dream: How shared ownership made mine and other's dreams come true.
After what was the most tremulous period of my life, I decided to take a short trip to Brussels on 5th September 2013 to visit my close friend Arlindo. This trip meant so much to me, as I was able to reflect on what lied ahead. Arlindo and his lovely mother were such great hosts, and that was one of the few holidays I've been on since.
The intense activity of working two jobs, doing a masters and resitting my GCSE maths was behind me. As much as all of the activities I mentioned were important, I always knew that getting a job in property development was the ultimate goal.
never visually credit check a person
After the storm, came the calm and another storm but then it went quiet again. It was now January 2014, and I was still working in Everything Everywhere ("EE"). I was relocated to their flagship branch in Westfield Shepherds Bush, and I was focused on trying to exceed my targets.
Take time to read the book as you never know what you might learn.
One of the critical lessons I learned whilst working for EE was to never visually credit check a person. What this meant was a person who had the means to take out nine phone contracts will not always walk in looking like a millionaire. However, we know that many look like they have much means but can not take out a phone contract. The motto of this lesson is not to judge a book by its cover. Take time to read the book as you never know what you might learn.
"eat the meat but spit out the bones and the fat; it is up to you to take what you want from what you have heard"
During my time in EE, my mind was laser-focused in getting into the property development game. Customers kindly gave me advice, and in my mind, I took it all on board. As my brother always taught me, I considered all guidance that is provided and I stand by his quote which says "eat the meat but spit out the bones and the fat; it is up to you to take what you want from what you have heard". This is one of the benefits of working in a customer-facing role; you get to meet all types of people from all walks of life.
One afternoon, a man named Mark walked into the store, and it happened that I was the one to serve him. We spoke about his upgrade options, and I remember him shaking my hand saying your time is coming. For a moment, it was like a magical moment of belief that my time to get into property development was to come.
It was now February 2014, and my Uncle C and mum suggested that I look on jobsgopublic for roles. In March 2014, I stumbled across an opportunity with Metropolitan Housing Association as they were looking for a Site Sales Officer. In my mind, I thought, I sold mobile phones for a living, so why not sell new build properties. It was better to be in the building in a small room than it was to not be in the building at all.
Surprisingly, I was called for an interview on the 30th April 2014 at 10:00 am. I was delighted to hear that I was offered the job soon after. This was effectively my foot into the door. Were my long time dreams finally coming true?
I remember the excitement I felt during this time, and I spoke to my managers in EE, and many of my colleagues were happy for me. I found that it can be challenging to put my mind in a place to transition from working in retail to an office environment, but I got my break.
Whilst basking in the joys of getting my foot into the property industry, I was asked by the HR department to explain the seven months between January and July 2012. I had removed the pharmaceutical role from my CV. I thought this is the end of this beautiful dream of working in property and it seemed very likely I would continue selling mobile phones for the foreseeable future.
Here is how I responded:
During January 2012 and July 2012, I was contracting for a pharmaceutical company as a Territory Manager. I was on a fixed-term contract, and my employment was terminated. Soon after my employment, I was able to secure a place at Greenwich University successfully, and I also secured a part-time role with Everything Everywhere.
The above message was sent in May 2014. There are so many implications of getting let go from a company which follows you for a short period of your life. I learned to own my disappointment and not use it to punish myself mentally. I have always felt it is better to be upfront with your shortcomings than it is to hide and continuously live in fear of the truth coming out. Tell the truth, and it will set you free. After I sent the above message, I was exhilarated and thought my truth is my truth. I cannot change what happened in my past, but I am in full control of how I use these experiences to dictate my future.
HR came back and asked for the references from the pharmaceutical company, and there was no problem on their end. This is a classic example of how a fear that you have made real in your mind turns out to be nothing. After all the checks, my start date was confirmed as 9th June 2014. I was relieved and reminded of the importance of not living in fear of past upsets.
With a start date in sight, I now had to tackle the requirement of buying a vehicle for travelling between property sites as part of my new job. My friend Omri and I searched far and wide with a £3,000 budget and came across a 2005 VW golf in Manchester. It was automatic and was my first and only car purchase to date.
A special gift from my older brother
This part of my life was so intense that the concept of enjoyment had escaped me completely. My mind was set on going forward and getting into the property game. My older brother remembered a childhood dream of mine, which was to become a pilot or astronaut. For my 25th Birthday, he bought me a ticket to do a 40-minute flight session where I will be the pilot. I was elated and thought I would not use this gift until a critical milestone was met. After now finishing my masters, getting a job in property, I thought this was a perfect time. I took to the skies on the 17th May 2014 @ 15:30.
My older brother truly made my dreams come true that day, and for that, I am eternally grateful for his thoughtfulness.
A trip down memory lane
Metropolitan Housing Trust has been transforming peoples lives well before I was born. My mother reminded me of this when she produced a sales brochure of a shared ownership home she wanted to by from MHT just before I was born (1987). This was very ironic as the company that my mum wanted to buy a home from was the same company that her son would one day be working at. Please see the below from 1987 (one year before I was born)
Selling a dream
My role involved me selling shared ownership homes and renting intermediate rented homes to clients. My first instruction was to sell a number of units in Bermondsey. I worked with the Sales Officers and marketing team to generate interest in the development. This involved newspaper advertising, website and attending homeownership expos. I had to process leads, send them onto the financial advisors for pre-qualification and arrange viewings.
I was in the business of making dreams come true.
The show homes in Bermondsey were spectacular, and in the first launch, I invited guests into the property, ask them to put on protective shoe covers and show them around the property. After the tour, I will sit them down and talk to them about what properties we have available. Those wanting to take matters forward, I had financial advisor on standby who confidentially talked them through their finances to see what they could afford. Once affordability is confirmed, the purchaser would provide Metropolitan with a cheque or postal note of £100 to reserve a home. If the demand was high, there a priority given to those who lived/ worked in the borough or had children. From the moment the client walked into the show home, handed over their reservation fees, I saw the excitement in their eyes. Being involved in that process is something I would never forget. I was in the business of making dreams come true.
My highlights of selling shared ownership
In my opinion, shared ownership is a fantastic product for those wanting an alternative to renting but can't afford to buy outright. Whilst selling newbuild homes in Bermondsey, I saw first-hand, how this was transforming people's lives. I sold homes to people my age wanting to start their lives with their partners, families wanting more space and people just keen to get on the housing ladder.
In my opinion, being involved in the development or selling properties is a business of making dreams come true.
I found it to be such an emotionally rewarding experience to be part of the story, which ultimately led to homeownership. I saw people reserve properties, and being the one to hand them the keys to their new home was thrilling. Seeing the joy in people's eyes reminded me of why I wanted to get into property development in the first place. Property development is a process of turning concepts (drawings) into a reality(fully built dwellings). In my opinion, being involved in the development or selling properties is a business of making dreams come true.
Wherever you go in the world new homes and shelter strokes unmeasurable emotions whether it be from reminiscing on the house you grew up in, dreaming of having your own place as a young adult to actually getting your first keys.
During a shared ownership expo event, I ran into an old friend of mine who I knew from my younger years. He was keen to purchase a shared ownership home, and I said I would keep his details and let him know if something comes up. I came across a resale apartment in the right area, which was within his budget. A resale is a shared ownership property which is being marketed for sale because the original owner wishes to sell their share in the property. To my amazement, he was selected to buy the property and completed on the purchase. He was so happy and thanked me so many times. In my mind, I was doing my job, but to him, I made his dreams come true. During my short time selling shared ownership, I have countless examples of how such a scheme benefits those who need it the most.
Like with most things, people change their mind, and with a property being the most significant expenditure most people make in their lives, things changed all the time. In some cases, some people see the property, like it and go all the way to purchase it. That's a perfect scenario, but we do not tend to get many of these. During my short time selling properties, I saw as much as two or five people put down deposits and get refunded as a result of not wanting to go forward with the property.
Imagine having to seal the deal 2-5 times for each property
This presented a challenge that we had to ensure that we marketed the homes to get traffic through the doors. Once the traffic is through the doors, it was my job to secure the deal. Imagine having to seal the deal 2-5 times for each property, its hard work. With all the excellent selling tactics in the world, buying a home is way beyond how good a salesman is. It is a personal decision of a home buyer and their family as they consider the area, crime statistics, nearby schools and affordability. To add, some people do not even monitor their credit score, which impacts them when they get further down the sales cycle. This experience taught me to do my best and to hope that the clients see the benefits for themselves.
My exit from selling shared ownership
During my short six months at Metropolitan, I was focused on my goal to get into Development management. I was able to strike up a good relationship with a man named Mr Hans, who gave me gems of wisdom whenever I interacted with him. He told me about the golden triangle of managing projects which was time, cost and quality. Straightforward stuff I know, but it sounded so good coming from him as he was doing what I wanted to do. He was the Development manager for my project and also requested the achieved sales values from me. I didn't know at the time why he was asking, but I now realise he was inputting this information into a development appraisal on a regular basis.
The pain, the struggles, the dreaming, the rejections all led up to that moment.
After 3-4 months, a job for a sales officer came up in my firm which would have been a promotion for me. I applied for the role as I thought I had the skillset, but the position was frozen. I then went for a Sales Officer role at another housing association where I was not successful. A person on the interview panel said that I was great and clearly of a high calibre, but she felt something more significant would come up for me in the future. I was disappointed but far from defeated.
It was now November 2014, and I found a Development Officer role with Gateway Housing Association on jobsgopublic. I thought I have to try and write what I felt would be my best personal statement. I received a phone call for an interview, and I was elated that this could finally be my debut into the world of housing development. The pain, the struggles, the dreaming, the rejections all led up to that moment.
Do not despise humble beginnings- All of the good and bad experiences built up a bulletproof character within me. Some people lament over their past whilst others learn from it. It is a question of whether you will slightly change your perspective to see the positives in everything.
Without focus, a person will likely remain stagnant. What keeps us fresh is to keep moving and obtaining our prizes
Keep your eye on the prize- the prize to me was getting my foot into property development, but in the space of six months, I was able to get an interview for a Development role at a Housing association. Without focus, a person will likely remain stagnant. What keeps us fresh is to keep moving and obtaining our prizes.
Do not be closed off to receiving encouragement from strangers. I met Mark whilst selling mobile phones in EE, and he was a complete stranger. However, his words of encouragement resonated with me and truly made all the difference in keeping me focused. The great thing is that I am still in contact with Mark, and he is doing tremendously well in his ventures.
Turn a lemon into lemonade
Turn a lemon into lemonade- See opportunity in everything. I was able to strike up a good relationship with Mr Hans, which was a massive help for me. I was able to get into the mind of a Development Manager in order to see things from their perspective; maybe then I will one day get my shot. Whatever stage you are in your career, be comfortable forging relationships with those doing what you want to do.
Please tune in to next week to learn what happened next.