Natasha Collins MRICS
Property Investor, Chartered Surveyor & University Lecturer
Hi. I’m Natasha
I don’t talk ‘financial freedom’ or ‘6-figure salaries’. I’m an Asset Manager and Strategist.
I’m all about smart tactics, building your investments wisely, caring for your tenants and having a lot of fun along the way. Your property, your colour scheme, right?
Where I Began
I have to be honest. I’m the worst liar. So here’s the FULL story of how I started in property, the highs the lows and how I’ve got where I am right now!
I got started in property by accident. Being a bankrupt student at 20 meant I had to get a job for my final year. I landed myself an admin role in a letting agent.
I’d hoped that my Geography and Computing degree would land me a job as a mapping specialist. However, 38 telephone interviews later with no call back, I’d lost hope this was my calling.
So, with the money I’d saved whilst working I booked myself 3 months in America to ‘figure out my life’.
As luck would have it, before I left, I met a surveyor in need of a rental property. Whilst, I couldn’t help with his ideal home, I could help with babysitting (I was cash strapped!!). He introduced me to what a surveyor was and suggested I give it a try… he got me an interview with a firm in London and whilst I was travelling, they contacted me to offer me a permanent position when I returned.
No, I didn’t figure out my life whilst travelling but I certainly found a life long love for long haul flights, hidden waterfalls, tops of mountains, southern BBQ food, outlet mall shopping and lazing on the beach when the humidity soared.
Also, just to confirm. I’m a people person, my Grandma taught me to always engage with people. I can get a job based on me being a conversationalist. I’ve never been an A* student
Moving to London was a culture shock. Long hours, huge responsibilities but equally huge pay packets meant I was living in an urban bubble of gym, work, play.
Within 3 months I’d been promoted to head of asset management, as my predecessor had left. It was sink or swim so I persevered.
I was learning A LOT!
* How to find finance to buy property investments * How to create a strategy that evaluates all possibilities and then go for it with confidence * How to make friends in a strange new city and navigate the tube network when drunk
It was this confidence that led me to create a business plan for my parents and persuade them to lend me the money to buy my first rental property in Notting Hill for £195,000.
I was riding my idea of success, I’d found an industry I was great at and wanted to continue doing my best.
So, I enrolled in Real Estate Masters at UCEM, so I could then get chartered once I’d finished and was now working, studying and still socialising. I felt invincible.
2012 was a long hot summer. London was partying around the Olympics and I was enjoying getting closer to Chris. I was having the perfect year and to top it off my fee earning was just increasing and increasing so my bonuses were getting bigger and bigger.
You can only do it all for so long…
In March 2013 My parents started the divorce process. This was a terrible time in my life. My family fell apart.
I went into overdrive and lost myself. I was getting up at 6am, going to the gym from 7am-8am. Being at my desk by 8:20am. Working until 7pm. Walking/running home then studying until 11pm and then doing it all again.
Going Into Overdrive…
I don’t do things by halves. A Natasha Collins meltdown is, apparently, the stuff of dreams to most people.
My drive to accomplish every single little thing, to hide the fact that something is going momentously wrong in my private life kicked in.
Side note, this is why I find it heart breaking when comments are made around mental health such as: ‘We have a workforce creaking at the seams, lacking the encouragement to perform effectively which cumulatively hinders the progress of business and the economy alike’.
When my mental health is out of whack I perform at my highest and it sucks so much because it physically hurts to be going at that level, but I can’t stop, otherwise I have to live with my actual feelings of a deep sadness.
Just to put this in context… I had my first cervical screening January 2014 which flagged up I had HPV. I had to go to the hospital for a colposcopy and a biopsy of my cells. Which feels like someone punching you hard in the belly with a needle attached to their fist. Rather than go home as the nurse recommended. I dragged myself back to my desk and finished my emails through tear-soaked eyes, clutching my belly, with my face resting on my desk. I was in agony. Oh, and because I didn’t learn the first-time round, I did the same thing 6 months later when I had to go through the process again.
Torturing myself didn’t stop there. I had my wisdom teeth removed one sunny Friday morning in June. Chris had to carry me home from the hospital because I couldn’t tell you what was going on in the world. I was high on painkillers… however 72 hours later I decided that I’d been out of the gym for long enough and was probably putting on weight so I cycled to the gym for 6am, did my workout, got back to the changing room and walked face first into a wall and ended up in heap on the floor… and then went to work with a bloody knee and black eyes from having my teeth removed.
So, bare this all in mind when I tell you what I accomplished.
Managed £500 Million Property Portfolio
I couldn’t say no to taking on more clients. I lived by the motto ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person’. And I was the busy person.
Being so busy managing this meant I had no time to think. I was also earning huge amounts of fees… I got a record bonus of £65k.
I became efficient at dealing with queries and being proactive rather than reactive. I honed my property management skills and became the go to expert for how to deal with running buildings.
Chris and I Purchased Our Property In Putney
I choose the area because I loved being on the river, the high street was improving and there were plenty of planning apps going through… which meant values were going to skyrocket.
Chris chose the building and decided to buy off plan which I thought was pure madness because it’s a complete risk as to whether it would get finished and let him know it on so many occasions.
However I was in the position to pay for half (thanks bonus!!) and so reluctantly followed his lead.
I Finished My Masters
Yeah I did!! Go me 😀
And I can’t remember how… I have no idea what my dissertation was on.
All I know is this. I would get home at 7:30pm, I would eat a bowl of Special K and I would sit at my desk and plough through modules.
I consistently did this every single night, apart from Fridays because i knew I would have the weekend.
Churning out reports until I reached the end.
I Studied For My APC
The APC is the assessment of professional competence to become a chartered surveyor.
Slowly my masters slipped into my APC and I just continued studying.
I had never met anyone who had failed the process so the pressure was on to pass… or what would I do with my career?
So I created a massive revision ‘bible’. I recorded revision guides so I could listen back and I carried these tools with me EVERYWHERE, so I could revise all the time, no breaks.
I Ran My First and Second Half Marathons
I would do a long run on a Saturday morning and then run home from work 2 nights a week (because what else would I be doing between 7-7:30pm?).
The first half was in Hackney and I had picked up a stress fracture in my left hip, from overdoing it. I mean, it is super sustainable to life weights in the mornig and run at night without sleeping properly and expect my body parts to tick over. I ran it in 2hrs 11mins and ot heat stroke so threw up all the way home. The second was in Bath and I beat my time (there was no let up in my training regime) at 1hr 58 mins.
This was when I found out I hated running, it actually made me angry when I crossed the finish line. So I stopped running and life has been rosier since.
I Travelled The World
With my revision in hand I travelled the world and I loved it.
Hell yes, I was on the road, seeing the sights, smelling the fresh air, completely on my own time.
It was all I wanted, my time to be my time.
America, Cambodia, Santorini, St Kitts, Italy.
I didn’t mind that I had to work, all I cared about was being somewhere away from everything I ‘must’ do to make sure I stopped thinking.
This was my happy place and I was addicted to booking more and more remote places, escapism at it’s very best
How I managed to keep all of that together for quite so long I don’t know. It was a blurry time of life.
The day I sat my APC I was nervous, stressed and exhausted. Slowly I started unravelling, I lost my purpose I just wanted to leave and not be interrogated anymore. I wanted a break.
Of course I didn’t pass. Burn out took hold. Tired, aching, brain fog, no motivation. I was done.
If it wasn’t for LionHeart jumping in and picking me up, I’d have left the industry.
I was introduced to LionHeart by the RICS. I was told they would help me feel OK again.
I had nothing to loose, I called the number and told them how I felt… I couldn’t cope with my own pressure.
Immediately they gave me a counsellor and over the next 6 months she gave me permission to take time out to ‘be kind to myself’.
It worked, I took my APC again and I’d passed. It was a good surveyor, I’d just lost myself along the way.
The Counselling was Revolutionary
Raising the voice for LionHeart
I graduated from my Masters and qualified as a chartered surveyor in July 2015. I’d had another bonus from work. And my parents’ divorce had finally come to an end.
After a whirlwind couple of years, I was back on my own time.
Through working so hard I had enough in my bank for a deposit on another flat. This time I decided to go back to my roots and buy something at home in Bath. That way I could be near my family if I ever needed to be in the West Country and I was creating my own place, now that our family home had been sold.
I still needed that safe place that was only mine, no one could take it for me, and if I was going to run that was where I was going to go. I turned it into a serviced apartment and to this day it’s still my backup.
When I first started at UCEM I’d signed an agreement with my employer that I’d stay until summer 2016, as they had paid for my Masters. For the following 12 months I focused on looking after myself, leaving work on time and being with my friends and family.
The start of NC Real Estate…
It hit me in August 2016, whilst transferring £33,225 quarterly profit to my client who owned a 19 unit residential block in Earls Court. And listening to Jeremy Vine hating on landlords offering sub-standard accommodation for huge rents.
This was my only purely residential client.
I’d used my commercial knowledge to negotiate landlord friendly tenancies, set-up a watertight maintenance and health and safety plan, and each room was always at hotel standard and getting a high rent.
Using the rental income, I redeveloped the ground and basement into three large 2 bedroom flats.
36 months later, after going through planning and development the profit rent was now £33,225 per quarter.
My client now had the money to go and buy more property whenever they liked.
I’d also used this strategy to build my own property portfolio.
I’d learnt to raise money through joint venturing with investors… exactly what my commercial clients were doing.
At 27, I was creating the same income from my property portfolio as I was being a surveyor.
So, I took those strategies and turned them into easy to digest information.
This forms part of the services you will see in NC Real Estate today!
15 Random Facts About Me
1. When I knew that we were going to be relocating to NYC I started wearing a silver beaded bracelet with a little cloud charm… it’s to remind myself that every cloud has a silver lining. Yes, it does if you look hard enough.
2. The night before I brought my property in Bath, was the first and only time I had ever sleep walked. I’d been dreaming that I was locked in a cage and so was trying to get out. It was the best investment I ever brought.
3.I’ve never got a first or a distinction at University. In my BSc I was 2 marks off a first and in my MSc I was recovering from burn out when I handed in a very unfinished dissertation, I finished with a merit. Neither has stopped me from accelerating my career. I’m just far more practical than theoretical.
4.If my client / student needs something, I’m committed to their success, so I’m going to make it happen. In January I flew myself to Hong Kong to give my students there a 1 hr face-to-face revision session. The 1954 Act is hard and they needed help! They all passed with 60 and above.
5.The last thing I ate was a peanut butter bagel – it’s my go to energy provider and I just love every single thing that has peanut butter in it.
6. Chris and I met playing tennis in 2011. He still plays, I rarely play. Occasionally I have the best backhand swing but apart from that I find it frustrating!! We have been to all four grand slams together and aim to do one a year. My favourite is Melbourne!
7. I’m 5ft 4
8. My go to mattress for every single rental property is Wayfair’s Comfort Sprung 3000 Mattress – I brought it for my SA because it was on sale for £155 (it was a brand new release in 2015). It’s super firm yet so soft, I can be asleep within 5 mins. I just checked the price is currently £289.99 for a double! #notanad
9. I carry a notebook everywhere I go – when inspiration hits, I write it down immediately!
10. I’m 30, I still have a bear (Harley) who’s been with me since I was 2 weeks old… you can’t leave your Day 1’s behind!!
11. My comedy is Trigger Happy TV meets Catherine Ryan
12. I love pink flowers… but I can never keep them alive. The flowers in my flat are from Fake Landscapes. They look beautiful all year round 😀 (That’s a great life hack, I also stage my rentals with them!)
13. I’ve worn Armani Code for Women since I was 15, it’s my scent, it’s actually a staple I could never be without
14. I’m always life long learning. Currently I’m going through the Copy Cure with Marie Forleo to improve my authentic writing skills, which is a change on my academic voice. And I’m also doing my Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (basically my lecturer qualification) with Oxford Brookes. I believe it’s essential to keep gaining new skills, which is why my Members’ Club is so vital, it’s lifelong learning and mentorship for Property Investors!
15. If I could no longer do property I’d go and be a meterologist as the weather facinates me! I loved studying it at University 😀
In July 2018 I won the teaching excellence award for innovation, voted for by my students because they loved my revision ‘printables’, bitesize seminars and dedication to their success.
In 2019 I won the teaching excellence award for innovation AGAIN!
In 2019 I also gained my PGCHE – Post Graduate Certiciate in Higher Education and became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, allowing to also add PGCHE FHEA after my name. Basically it means I’m a qualified lecturer!!
In April 2017 I started lecturing for UCEM.
I hit it off straight away with the head of the Real Estate Faculty. She loved my enthusiasm for property management and strategy (apparently, she was finding it hard to get anyone motivated to teach it).
She also loved that I was a young woman and hoped that I’d shake academia up and inspire my students. It didn’t matter whether I had a teaching degree or not. I just needed professional experience.
I love teaching. It’s my calling, providing I can teach in my own style. Which is, get excited, share some case studies and interact with my students to make sure they get what’s going on and throw some passion into the subject.
I teach on the property management modules for the undergraduate BSc (Hons) Real Estate Management and postgraduate MSc Real Estate courses.
If you want to find out more, either click the button below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2016 Chris and I rescued a 4 month old Jackaranian Puppy called Summer. She now travels with us around the world!
On the 13th July 2019 Chris and I got married in my hometown, Bath! We had the best celebration. We’ve been together since the 2012 London Olympics, when he took me on a couple of dates to see Volley Ball, Boxing and Hand Ball!
In November 2019 we rescued Oscar from a black bin bag outside our flat in New York, he was about 8 weeks old! He made himself part of the family immediately and also now travels with us!
eIn September 2018 Chris was given the opportunity to move to New York for work.
It was one of the most nerve wracking decisions I’ve made, to say yes!
I wasn’t going to have a working visa, I had just built my business and brand and also had a property portfolio to look after.
I had to fight MAJOR imposter syndrome. All the self-doubt around could I really pick everything up and put it online and still run everything from anywhere in the world?!
The answer was YES I can!
I moved my entire firm of surveyors online. Using my skill set I put together the Members Club, an online community to support my clients with their asset management and property investment strategy.
It was a success! The community thrives.
New York was a crash course in American culture. It’s not the glitz and glam the movies made it out to be. But, in our two years there, we made fabulous friends, ate in the most incredible restaurants and of course soaked up the atmosphere from every roof top bar we could find!
Brooklyn has a place in our hearts as our first home here. We lived in Prospect Lefferts Gardens in a 7th floor, two bed apartment with a massive terrace over looking the City!
I found my favourite spots to be Jacob Riis Beach which was only 7 miles away and of course morning dog walks in Prospect Park, for off leash time before 9am!
First USA Development: Jersey City Heights, New Jersey
In 2019 I teamed up with a good friend who owns a development company in New Jersey to renovate a 2 family, foreclosure property which was in desperate need of modernisation
It’s 20 minutes to Times Square on public transport and within 20 minutes of Newark Airport.
We created 2 condos. The ground and first floor a 4 bed, 3 bath duplex and on the second floor a 2 bed 2 bath apartment.
In November 2019 we rescued Oscar from a black bin bag outside our flat in New York, he was about 8 weeks old! He made himself part of the family immediately and also now travels with us!
2020 has been a chaotic year!
With Covid keeping New York City shut, our lease coming to an end on our apartment AND a cold harsh winter quickly approaching, it was time to move.
With neither of us having to be an office any time soon and the travel ban still ongoing (non-permanent visa holders can’t come back into the US right now if they leave and that’s us) we decided that we wanted to try somewhere that we wouldn’t be able to go to otherwise.
In my travel journal from 2010, I declared Charleston the prettiest city I’d been to.
So here we are. We put the contents of our New York apartment into storage, and with all we could fit in the Tesla plus Summer and Oscar we headed south.
The plan is to wait out 2020 and see what 2021 has to offer.
Covid has given us one thing… flexibility. We really are location independent!