RECENT STATISTICS have highlighted that, in the UK, black households are much less likely to be property owners than those headed by someone white or Asian and much more likely to be living in social housing.
Fewer than a third of black households are headed by owner-occupiers – either owning their home outright or with a mortgage, according to a House of Commons briefing paper published in June 2017.
This compares with two-thirds of white families and 58% of Asian households. One entrepreneur is out to change statistics like these.
Ayesha Ofori recently launched the Black Property Network, (BPN) which has a much bigger aim that just getting more African Caribbeans on the property ladder.
Through the network Ofori is aiming to encourage more people from the community to become property investors and achieve the kind of financial independence that comes from running a successful property portfolio, whether from having a stable second home, to saving returns made on property investments.
BPN enables members to access seminars, workshops networking opportunities and mentoring, to help them learn about property investment and development.
The aim is to support people to invest confidently at all levels whether by direct property investments, through crowdfunding, or by starting their own property portfolios or property related businesses.
She has held BPN presentations at the London Business School, Kings College London, the London Institute of Banking and Finance, KPMG, the Women in the City Afro-Caribbean Network, amongst others.
For Ofori, who recently appeared in Management Today’s ‘35 women under 35’ list of young female talent, the creation of the BPN, reflects a long held passion.
Born and raised in London, Ofori graduated from Imperial College London with an MSci in Physics.
Her mother held a number of jobs in order to support Ofori’s education and enable her to fulfil her potential.
After graduating she went on to work for Morgan Stanley in investment banking and the real estate investing team.
Later, she earned an MBA from London Business School before joining Goldman Sachs as an executive director where she worked for over six years as a wealth management advisor to ultra-high net worth individuals and was one of their most senior black women in a client-facing role in Europe.
But after over a decade of working in the financial services sector Ayesha resigned from her successful banking career to focus full-time on her passion sharing what she knows about property investing and mentoring others.
The entrepreneur left banking in 2018 to set up Axion Property Partners, a firm that works with individuals who want to make UK residential property investments, and the Axion Academy, focused on educating underrepresented groups about property investment.
This year, she launched the Black Property Network and PropElle, a network for women who want to invest in property with confidence.
A similar concept to BPN, PropElle enables members to access education, networking opportunities and mentoring, to learn about property investment and development, and invest in property through a crowdfunding platform.
As well as providing guidance on wealth enhancement and managing assets for her clients, Ofori also built her own personal property portfolio through direct investments and property development.
When she created BPN Ofori one of her key goals was empowering her community.
“As a young woman growing up in the black community in Brent and having family and people in the community round me I could see that things were tough financially” she told The Voice. “On the flipside, through the last day job I had before I set up the Black Property Network where I was a wealth adviser to ultra high net worth individuals I really got tom see the difference between what it’s like to live on one side of the coin and what it’s like to live on the other.
“A lot of my clients had made money in property. I’d made a significant amount of money in property myself and it was one of the reasons why I was able to give up my banking job.”
She continued: “I’d wanted to give something back to my community, to the people who grew up like me. I thought long and hard about what was the best way to do that.
Helping people to become property investors was the perfect vehicle. The thing about property is that the barriers to entry are quite low. You don’t need any special education or special skills. Pretty much anyone can get into it.”
Ofori was also determined to dispel some of the most persistent myths that prevent black people from becoming property investors.
“The reason why a lot of people in our community don’t is because of this perception that they can’t afford it or they don’t know what they’re doing. So I said to myself ‘if I can help people see that these things aren’t actually barriers then a lot of people can get into this. Property investing is something that can really change your life.
“Not everybody is going to leave their job and do it full time like me but even if you’re just getting a bit of extra income every month, or you have some extra money to help you pay some bills, take your kids on holiday or get them something at Christmas it can make a real difference.”
The property entrepreneur continued: “The thing about needing lots of money really depends on what property strategy you have. So if you want to go out and build a portfolio, then yes, it does help to have money because then you can get out and start buying properties.
“But money isn’t even essential for that. For example, you could partner with someone.
One of the things I do is mentor people. I recently told one of my mentees for example that she needed to work on building up her credibility as an investor. Although she didn’t have money, she had time and the drive to succeed. There are people out there that have money but don’t have the time to invest it.
“So if you can put forward a credible proposition to them, you can start to attract investment and build up your business that way.
“The other thing to bear in mind is that there are property strategies out there that don’t require much upfront capital but they require time and effort. For example, a rent to rent strategy which is where you would rent a property on a long term lease.
“You agree in your contract that you can sub-let and then you rent out the property but for a higher amount than you’re currently paying the landlord and you keep that incremental profit for yourself.
“On a single property the profit that you make through an arrangement like this isn’t overly large, you’re probably talking about a couple of hundred pounds a month. But when you have multiple properties like that in your portfolio it starts to add up.
“A lot of people I speak to have often never heard of a rent to rent strategy so for me that’s what the Black Property Network is about, giving people the education, giving them the access.”
As well as empowering people financially Ofori’s vision for the BPN has wider goals.
“Once we critical mass we can start to tap into different sub sectors within the community. For example, one thing my husband and I have often talked about is reaching young black men and boys who may sell drugs or don’t have mainstream jobs.
“Property investing is something that they can consider. You don’t have to necessarily go to an office, there isn’t someone giving you orders, you are still your own boss and you don’t need qualifications. For them, this could provide a credible alternative to making money.
“If we’re looking at issues and problems within the community that we can solve this is one of them.”