Sandra has been a landlord in Selby for nine years and enjoys every minute of it.
She has a portfolio of 13 buyto-let properties and is the founder of the Jigsaw Letting agency and chair of the Selby and District Landlords’ Association.
She recently won the NLA Property Woman of the Year Award for Yorkshire and the Humber.
Judges said that despite the adversity of the market place, Sandra showed determination and a savvy business approach making her a cut above the rest. Here is her story: Concerned that she had no pension, Sandra bought her first buy-to-let in 2001.
It cost her £45,000 and is now worth £110,000.
“I started to get worried about having no pension and decided I’d better find an investment,” she says.
“I saw a terraced house in Selby and bought it with a 15 per cent deposit.
“My husband and I worked really hard cleaning it, painting, laying laminate floors, buying curtains, blinds and light fittings. When we had finished, I stood back and was so proud of how we had turned the property around.
“I was paying £300 a month in mortgage and got £400 a month in rent and that was it. I was hooked.”
Within six months, Sandra had bought six more properties in the Selby area using her husband’s redundancy money for the deposits. Although she was working full-time as a PA, she renovated and managed the rental properties herself.
“I’d be working in Bradford during the day and then at night I’d be at a house working.
“It’s important that they look good and I’d never let a house I wasn’t prepared to live in myself,” says Sandra.
Since then she has bought seven more properties and, using her hands-on experience as a landlady, she started her agency Jigsaw Letting in 2002.
After passing a raft of professional property exams, she is now a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents and she employs six members of staff.
She says: “I make it my policy to treat landlords and tenants alike with respect and listen to what they have to say.
“I have tenants in my own properties that have been there for eight years which gives me the satisfaction that I am doing a good job in looking after them.
“But while I am compassionate, just because I am a woman does not mean I am soft or fluffy, I do not suffer fools and I am straight talking.
“If a tenant is in breach of contract, I take the necessary action required. I also make sure landlords are aware of their responsibilities.“
Sandra has plans to expand her business and to buy more houses for her own portfolio, but she stresses that her success hasn’t been easy.
“The phone never stops ringing and that’s 24/7 and the lettings market is very competitive.
“You also have to deal with tenants who don’t pay their rent. I’ve heard every excuse in the book.
“For anyone interested in property investment I would say it can have its rewards if you buy property at the right price, but be prepared for a lot of hard work and a few knocks.
“Plus, it’s no use looking for a quick fix, property is a longterm investment.”
SANDRA WIDDRINGTON: Needed pension provision.