How to profit from property crowdfunding

How to Profit from Property Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding and crowdlending are opportunities I particularly wanted to discuss on Pounds and Sense, so I thought I would kick off by looking at the investment possibilities offered by property crowdfunding.

As ever, I have to start with a disclaimer that I am not a qualified financial adviser. I am simply talking about this topic as an interested individual who has invested this way himself. You should do your own ‘due diligence’ before investing, and never risk money you cannot afford to lose in a worst-case scenario.



Why Property Crowdfunding?

Investing in bricks and mortar has long been a favourite strategy of the wealthy. Property owners get a double benefit: rent from tenants for as long as they own the property, and – in most cases – a profit if they choose to sell.

Of course, property doesn’t come cheap. And even if you can stretch to buying a modest house or flat for investment purposes, you are taking the risk of putting all your eggs in one basket. As a result, many people of more modest means have concluded that property investment is not for them.

Crowdfunding is changing all that, however. A growing number of platforms now exist that allow ordinary folk the chance to buy a share in an investment property for as little as £50. Investors then receive a proportion of the rental income generated, and also get a share of the profit when and if the property is sold.

I now have investments via three different property crowdfunding platforms – a block of flats in Torquay in which I own a small share is pictured above – but in this post I want to focus on one platform in particular, the UK-based Property Partner. This was only launched in January 2015, and has swiftly become the UK’s largest property crowdfunding website. They have over 9,060 investors, who between them have invested over £44 million in properties across the UK. Non-UK investors are welcome to join Property Partner too, so long as the legal system in their country permits it. Unfortunately, US residents are not able to invest this way at the moment.

One big attraction of Property Partner is that they have an active secondary market. That means investors can offer part or all of their portfolio for sale at any time.

Obviously, to sell your shares in a property you will need a buyer, but Property Partner say that so long as they are priced reasonably (i.e. at or below the current official price) shares normally sell within 72 hours. By contrast, other property crowdfunding platforms such as The House Crowd and CrowdLords do not run formal secondary markets, though they say they will always help would-be sellers find a buyer if required.

Another attraction of Property Partner is that dividends are paid monthly, unlike other platforms which typically pay annually. Money from dividends builds up in your account, and you can either withdraw it or reinvest it in other properties. When you add that you can get started on Property Partner for as little as £50, it is not all that surprising to me that they have enjoyed such success.

Understanding the Risks

With all property crowdfunding platforms, it is important to understand that there is an element of risk. Clearly, your returns may be affected if occupancy falls or there is a major issue affecting the property (e.g. a fire). Your money is not as safe as with a UK bank savings account (although of course the potential returns are much better).

It is therefore important not to put all your eggs in one basket. As mentioned, I have investments with three different property crowdfunding platforms, and within each platform I am invested in several different properties as well. I have only had one investment fail – a highly speculative development venture – and fortunately I only had the minimum amount invested in that.

On the positive side, I have made several thousand pounds profit from my property crowdfunding investments to date, and have been pleased with the net rate of return. With Property Partner alone I have around £5000 invested and made £500 profit in the last year or about a 10% return (allowing for both rental income and capital appreciation).

Clearly, I’m not saying that everyone should invest in Property Partner – that depends on your personal circumstances and investment goals, and you should always take professional advice if you have any doubts before investing. But if you are looking for a property crowdfunding platform to invest with, in my view they should definitely be at or near the top of your list.

£50 Sign-up Bonus!

Finally, if you join Property Partner via any of the links in this article and invest at least £1,000, you will receive an extra £50 (and so will I!). This is a special promotion and may of course be withdrawn at any time. I am not aware of any plans to end this offer currently, but if that happens I will of course amend this post accordingly.

I do hope you have found this post on property crowdfunding of interest. As I mentioned earlier, this subject (and crowdfunding/lending in general) is one I intend to return to on Pounds and Sense regularly in future.

Good luck, and if you have any comments or questions about property crowdfunding and/or Property Partner, please do post them below.

Please note: This article is an extended version of one I posted last year on my Entrepreneur Writer blog.

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How to Buy and Sell Gift Vouchers on Zeek

How to Buy and Sell Gift Vouchers on Zeek

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Zeek. I wrote about their service a few weeks ago in this blog post.

As I said then, Zeek is a marketplace for gift vouchers from a wide range of retailers, including many well-known high-street and online stores.

You can buy vouchers at a discount and also sell any vouchers you may have that you don’t have a use for. Both regular vouchers and electronic ones can be traded.

The nice people at Zeek gave me a promotional credit so that I could show you how easy it is to use their service, so in this blog post that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

Buying a Gift Voucher on Zeek

When you arrive at the Zeek website you have a choice of ‘Buy Gift Cards’ or ‘Sell Gift Cards’. If you click on Buy Gift Cards, you will see something like this:

Zeek marketplace

There is a range of retailers listed, with many more if you scroll down. The best discounts available on that store’s vouchers are indicated in each case.

In the right-hand column you can filter your selection in various ways. For example, you can choose to see only stores for which physical gift cards are available, or vouchers specifically for restaurants or department stores.

As I am a gentleman of a certain age who does most of his clothes shopping at Marks and Spencer, I decided to use my promotional credit on a voucher from them. I therefore clicked on the Marks and Spencer Online logo and the following list of available vouchers appeared.

Marks and Spencer vouchers

Zeek lists vouchers in order of the discount available. In this case the best discount was 12%, which is pretty typical in my experience.

I decided to use my promotional credit on the £50 voucher with a 12% discount, so I clicked on the Buy Now button on the right and completed the transaction. As you will see, I was charged £44 for it, representing a £6 discount. On this occasion, as mentioned, I was using a promotional credit, but otherwise you can pay using a credit card, debit card or PayPal.

Once you have completed your order, electronic vouchers appear immediately in your wallet on the Zeek site, along with a serial number and CVV/PIN number enabling you to use them on the retailer’s website. If you buy a physical voucher, they are sent free of charge by registered post and should arrive within a day or two.

And that really is all there is to it. All I have to do now is to decide what jumper or pair of trousers to spend my voucher on!

Get a Free £5 Promotional Credit!

Here’s a special promotional bonus I can offer you as a valued reader. Just click through this link and use the code 2X2LW2AF when signing up. A £5 credit will then be added to your account. This must be used on a voucher purchase within ten days.

So you could, for the sake of example, buy the £100 M & S voucher shown above for £88 and get a further £5 knocked off, reducing the cost to £83 in total. In effect, that’s like someone handing you £17!

Of course, you need to choose a retailer where you would shop anyway. In that case, a voucher is as good as money to you.

How to Sell Vouchers on Zeek

I haven’t tried selling on Zeek yet, but the procedure appears simple. Just click on Sell Gift Cards at the top of the screen, and enter details of the card you want to sell. You will be asked to provide a photo of the voucher and some information, including its face value and expiry date. You also have to say how much of a discount you want to offer. In general, the bigger the discount, the faster your voucher will sell.

Zeek charge a £3 processing fee for selling a voucher, but before you put one on sale you will see exactly how much money you will be getting for it. Zeek say that 92% of all vouchers are sold within a day, with the money transferred to your PayPal or bank account. If you are sitting on vouchers received for Christmas or a birthday that you know you will never use, here’s your chance to turn them into cold, hard cash you can spend on anything!

Once again, don’t forget that you can get a £5 promotional credit just by clicking through this link and using the code 2X2LW2AF when signing up. And if you have any questions or comments about Zeek, please do post them below.

 

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Who Wants to Win a Shed-load of Money? How Win Big as a TV Show Contestant!

Who Wants to Make a Shedload of Money? How to Win Big as a TV Show Contestant!

Today I thought I would share something a bit different with you – a sideline opportunity you may not have considered before.

There is more demand than ever before for people to appear in TV shows. In recent years “reality television” featuring ordinary people in a range of scenarios, from dating to surviving in inhospitable places, has become extremely popular.

Talent shows are also massive right now. If you can sing, dance, tell jokes, do magic tricks, perform acrobatics, or have some other talent people might like to watch, there is almost certainly a show you can apply for.

Other shows offer the opportunity for successful – and talented – contestants to become celebrities in the field concerned. For example, many of the winners and runners-up in cookery shows such as Masterchef and The Great British Bake Off have gone on to obtain publishing contracts, and in some cases started their own restaurants. One example is the 2005 Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers, who now runs a chain of Mexican restaurants called Wahaca and has also presented several TV cooking series.

Another very popular option is quiz or game shows – from Pointless to The Price is Right. A steady stream of contestants is needed for these shows, which is many cases are broadcast daily. And the best news is that these shows are open to people of all ages and backgrounds, and you don’t need any special skill or talent to take part.

Some shows offer the possibility of winning life-changing sums (Who Wants to be a Millionaire is the classic example, although that particular show is no longer being made). In other cases the rewards are more modest – but even the chance of winning two or three thousand pounds spending a few enjoyable hours on a show such as The Chase is not to be sniffed at. And under UK law, cash and prizes won on TV shows are entirely tax-free.

Even aside from the chance of fame or fortune, being in a TV show can be an exciting and eye-opening experience. You will see what goes on behind the scenes at your favourite shows, and watch them with fresh appreciation in future. And, of course, you will have an experience to remember and tell friends about for years to come.

Researching and Applying

You can find out what shows are currently recruiting by contacting the production companies directly. See who makes a show that you would like to appear on and look them up online.

There are also websites that publish contestant calls. In the UK, BeOnScreen.com is a good place to start. Here is one opportunity that was being advertised there at the time of writing:

FUN, CHATTY FAMILY PAIRS WANTED FOR A NEW EXCITING COOKERY ENTERTAINMENT SHOW!

This is a cooking show with a twist!

We’re looking for Parent/Child pairs aged 18+ to apply for a fun new competitive cookery show pilot.

The parents should be good cooks and the younger half a disaster in the kitchen… Is your Mum/Dad a great cook but you don’t follow in their footsteps?

Can you cook a family favourite recipe against the clock to win a cash prize?

Parent/Child combinations aged 18+ need only apply. These can include Mum/Daughter Mum/Son Dad/Daughter Dad/Son. Filming dates W/C 13th February 2017.

 

Depending on when you read this, the opportunity above may have gone, but others will certainly have taken its place. Note that many shows are recorded in or around London, so if you live near the capital you will have a certain advantage. In the interests of diversity, however, many also film in other parts of the UK, so definitely don’t be put off if you live elsewhere.

  • As well as calls for contestants, BeOnScreen.com also advertises free tickets for TV shows, and occasionally calls for extras. If all or any of these things interest you, it’s well worth signing up on the website to receive email updates when new opportunities are posted.

There’s much to be said for applying for new shows such as those listed on BeOnScreen.com, as the competition for places isn’t as intense as established shows. But there are plenty of the latter that need a steady supply of contestants too, of course.

One top tip is to go for daytime shows, which typically have smaller audiences than prime-time shows, again resulting in less competition from other would-be contestants. But do ensure that the prizes are worth your while before sending in an application.

Another useful resource is UKGameShows.com. Among other things, this has a page listing current (and new) shows requiring contestants. Here is a current example listing from this site:

THE BUTTON

Take part in our new BBC game show pilot alongside your family and friends and win a CASH PRIZE from the comfort of your own home!

– Do you live in a London household of 2 or more people?
– Are you all up for a challenge and a good laugh?
– Fancy competing in a series of fun tasks together to win a cash prize without even having to leave your house?!
– Then we want to hear from you!

To register your interest in this exciting new show and find out more, please get in touch with the team ASAP, with your address and contact number as well as a bit about you and those who live in your household.

Source: http://www.ukgameshows.com/ukgs/Contestant_Calls

Before applying to be on any show, I recommend finding out as much as you can about it. If a particular physical or problem-solving skill is required, try to practise this as much as possible. And if it requires specialist knowledge, bury your head in some relevant books, and then get a friend or partner to test your knowledge.

It’s also a good idea to practise your public-speaking skills, especially if this is something that doesn’t come naturally to you. If possible, get a friend to assume the role of the show’s host and ask you some likely questions. This will help prepare you for the show itself, and will also assist you with the auditioning process (see below).



Auditioning for a Show

To be accepted as a contestant, you will normally need to go through some sort of audition. Big TV talent shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor typically hold open auditions in major cities across the country.

To get on a quiz or reality show you will probably have to perform an initial test/audition as well, though it will be lower key. These auditions are generally held by specialist companies who recruit contestants for the shows. They will assess such things as your personality and appearance, your general knowledge, and how well you communicate. They may also check your ability to cope in stressful circumstances.

One time I was auditioning for a quiz show, I was completing a pen-and-paper test in the company of half a dozen other applicants. Suddenly an alarm went off. We all looked at one another, unsure what was going on. The representative then returned to the room and assured us there was nothing to worry about. She revealed later that this was simply a standard test they used to ensure that potential contestants didn’t crumble under pressure!

As mentioned above, if you’re auditioning for a quiz show you may be given a series of questions to answer, either verbally or in writing, to test your general knowledge. If you find them all easy, it may nevertheless be a good strategy to deliberately get one or two wrong. As our American friends say, nobody likes a smartass! And the companies like to recruit contestants with all levels of knowledge and skill, so the watching audience can relate to them as ‘ordinary people’.

One other top tip for aspiring quiz show contestants is to try to stand out from everyone else. The researchers are looking for people who will come across on TV as outgoing and interesting, rather than dull and anonymous.

This needs to be judged carefully, of course. You don’t want to make yourself appear too weird, or the researchers may fear you will be a loose cannon. If (like me) you’re naturally somewhat introverted, though, it will help a lot if you can make an effort to present yourself as a bit more outgoing. If you can manage ‘bubbly’, so much the better!

A distinctive hairstyle or item of clothing may give you an extra edge as well.

At another audition, one of my fellow applicants was wearing a clerical dog collar. It turned out he was a university chaplain. You could tell immediately that the researchers loved him, and I saw him subsequently on the TV show in question and many others. He even turned up with a team of other university chaplains on a quiz show called Busman’s Holiday!

On the Day

If you’re selected for a show, try to arrive in good time at the studio and introduce yourself to the researchers. They are likely to ask a few questions about your family, job, hobbies, and so on. This is to give the host or hostess something to talk about.

Once the show starts, try not to be distracted by the cameras and audience. As far as possible, relax and concentrate on the task in hand. Do your best to succeed, but remember that not everyone can win every time. Smile and be courteous to the host and (especially) the other contestants. This will ensure the audience like you and get behind you, which can help a lot when you’re under pressure.

Good luck, and I hope you win a million pounds!

  • Have you been on a TV show yourself and won anything (or not)? I’d love to hear about your experiences! Please post your comments below as usual.

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How to cash in on free lottery websites

How to Cash in on Free Lottery Websites

If you’re looking for a fun and free way to boost your income, free lottery websites are definitely worth a look.

A growing number of sites offer the opportunity to enter free daily or (less often) weekly draws, with the prizes financed by advertising. You simply register for each site and enter the details required, whether it’s your postcode, your birthdate, your phone number, or whatever. Then all you have to do is check them every day to see if you have won.

Here are some of the top such websites:

Free Postcode Lottery

Lucky Phone

Freemoji Lottery

Ashleigh Money Saver

Date of Birth Lotto

The Selfie Lottery

Badger the Button

Free Emoji Lottery

Number Plate Lotto

Free Birthdate Lottery

Free Weekly Postcode Lottery

Free Lucky Lottery

Some of these lotteries offer incentives for introducing new players. These vary, but typically include extra bonuses if you win. In some cases if someone you introduced wins a prize, you get one as well, so it is definitely worth recruiting your friends and family. Disclosure: some of the links above are my personal referral links.

The first two in the list, Free Postcode Lottery and  Lucky Phone (pictured below), are my favourites, as they offer multiple chances to win each day. If you don’t join any of the others, at least do those two. I plan to publish more in-depth posts about both of them in future.

lucky phone

With most free lottery sites you have to go back to them daily to see whether you have won. Personally I use a Firefox add-on called TabAlarm, which opens them in separate tabs once a day. I can then quickly check them all. This takes five minutes at most, so it isn’t a big chunk out of my day.

Good luck with your free online lottery entries. If you have any comments or questions, please post them below. And if you have any big wins, I’d love to hear about them!



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Adventures With My New Soup Maker

Adventures With My New Soup Maker

For various reasons in the last few months (including being diagnosed prediabetic) I decided I needed to start eating more healthily.

Not that I had been on an especially unhealthy diet, but when you live on your own (as I do now) it’s easy to get into the habit of buying ready-made meals (probably full of salt, sugar and other unhealthy additives) and sticking them in the microwave.

I read about the benefits of making your own soup, but decided it sounded too much like hard work. Then, while browsing the internet, I learned about dedicated soup-making machines and how they claim to make soup-making a doddle. I decided this was clearly what I needed in my life.

Long story short, I bought myself a Morphy Richards 501014 saute and soup-maker (see below) from Amazon.

Morphy Richards Soup Maker

For the last few weeks I’ve been merrily trying this out. I thought you might be interested to hear about my first five soups, so here we go…

Soup 1 – Mushroom

This was the first soup I made, using a recipe that came in the booklet with the soup-maker. I can honestly say that it was disgusting. It came out a pale beige colour, and looked, smelled and tasted like waste water from the washing machine. It was also unappetizingly thin. I had one spoonful and all the rest went down the drain. At this point I was seriously thinking I might have made a mistake buying a soup-maker.

I haven’t tried making mushroom soup again, but if I do I will definitely add some other ingredients to improve its flavour and thicken it – cream or creme fraiche, possibly. And I will try using mushrooms with a bit more flavour than Waitrose Essentials. 1/10

Soup 2 – Tomato

I got the recipe for this off the internet. Thankfully it was a lot more successful. It involved chopping up some tomatoes and adding them to the soup maker along with a few other ingredients. The flavour of this one was good. The only problem with it was that there were little bits of tomato skin rolled up like tiny cigars in it. Next time I will skin the tomatoes before making the soup or maybe use tinned toms with their skins removed. 7/10

Soup 3 – French Onion

By this point I decided I needed a recipe book, and so I bought Soup Maker Recipe Book by Liana Green on the basis of the good reviews it had received on Amazon. It contains over 100 soup maker recipes, mainly vegetable but some including meat. As an added bonus the author uses the same soup-making machine as the one I bought.

For this recipe I bought some large, French-looking white onions. It also involved the addition of a large dollop of French mustard and some Parmesan cheese at the end. This was also the first (and so far only) soup I made using the Chunky setting on the machine (all the rest used Smooth).

This soup was pungent from the French mustard. Despite having been chopped and sauteed, however, it was still a bit ‘al dente’ for my palate. I did eat some of it (on two occasions) but got rather bored chewing undercooked onion in mustard. This was another one that mostly went down the drain. If I were to try this recipe again, I would be tempted to use the tinned and partly pre-cooked ‘easy onion’ you can sometimes get in supermarkets (I believe it was recommended by Delia at some point). I think this would make a much nicer soup. In any event, I would saute the onion for longer before starting the soup-making process. I’d be tempted to use the Smooth setting as well, although that’s not really in the spirit of a proper French onion soup, I know. 3/10

Soup 4 – Broccoli and Other Greens

This soup was based around a rather sad looking bag of prepared broccoli, courgettes and curly kale (I think) that I had bought for some other purpose from Morrisons but never used. I adapted a recipe from Liana Green’s book that also included green pesto. It was unexpectedly delicious and I ate it all and froze some for later. It was an eye-opener to discover how a bag of unexciting mixed veg that I bought more from a feeling that it would be “good for me” rather than any real enthusiasm could be turned into something so tasty. 9/10

Soup 5 – Courgette and Spinach

soup maker soupAnother recipe from the book. I had a left-over courgette in the fridge and the only other ingredient I had to buy was the spinach (the other ingredients I had already included onion, a potato and a few other odds and ends from the store cupboard). This was very tasty as well, and I have put a photo on the right. That bowl had a couple of croutons in it, but the next time I put a swirl of creme fraiche instead, which was even nicer. 8/10

Lessons Learned So Far

As you may gather, I wasn’t an instant convert to soup-makers. But now I’ve used mine a few times I am definitely a fan and can see I will be using it a lot in future. It’s quick and easy to prepare the ingredients, especially if you have a food processor for chopping up the vegetables. The actual soup-making process takes half an hour or just under, and you can leave the machine alone to do its work during this time.

Here are a few other conclusions I have drawn so far…

  • I bought a soup-maker with a built-in saute function. Based on what I know now, I don’t know if I would bother with this again. Yes, it simplifies matters a bit to do all the cooking in the soup-maker and there is one less item at the end to wash up. On the other hand, you can’t control the level of heat used in the soup-maker, whereas if you do your saute-ing on the stove you can set any temperature you want. It’s also easier to see what’s going on and stir the ingredients in a pan than in a tall, slim soup-making machine.
  • Definitely don’t rely on the recipes provided by the manufacturer. You can search for soup-maker recipes online, or even better buy a recipe book such as the one by Liana Green that I bought. You soon get a good general idea of how the process works and can experiment as much as you like.
  • A soup-maker is great for using up left-over odds and ends that would otherwise probably end up in the bin or the compost. By this means it can also save you quite a bit of money.
  • And of course it’s healthy as well, and a great way of getting one or two of your ‘five a day’. Plus in home-made soup you don’t need to include all the salt, sugar and other additives that go into many shop-bought soups.
  • In my opinion anyway most soups need something to thicken them and make them more palatable. That could be something like cream or creme fraiche, a spoonful of plain flour, or even a potato chopped up small.
  • The minimum quantity you can make in a soup-maker like mine is enough for four quite generous portions. If you live on your own (like me) you can keep some in the fridge for a day or two, or it should freeze without any problem.
  • The Morphy Richards soup-maker I bought also has a setting for making your own smoothies. I haven’t tried this yet, but probably will in the warmer weather.

Good luck if you decide to invest in a soup-maker yourself. You can check out the Morphy Richards 501014 I bought on Amazon here if you like. If you have any comments or questions, please do post them below and I will do my best to answer them!



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Happy New Year 2017 from Pounds and Sense

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy New Year from Pounds and Sense!

I do hope 2017 is a good year for you, and the year you achieve (or at least start to achieve) some of your financial and other ambitions.

Thank you also for visiting my blog. If you haven’t already, I do hope you will sign up to receive notifications when it is updated using the box in the right-hand column.

You can also follow Pounds and Sense on social media, including Facebook and Twitter. And I also recently added PAS to the popular Bloglovin platform. If you are a member of this free service you can get all my latest posts delivered to you with your updates (and updates on any other blogs you follow as well, of course). Just click through this link to sign up.

Finally, if your interests also extend to writing, you might also like to check out my Entrepreneur Writer blog. I regularly share tips, advice and market information for writers and aspiring writers here. It would be great to see you there as well 🙂

Once again, I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

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