My father was a teacher and my mother was a nurse. They were one of the first lot of immigrants back in the 1960s to come over to plug the employment gap the UK was suffering. My father was from India and my mother was from Trinidad & Tobago. They had learnt that education literally takes you places! Because of their qualifications they were able to escape the poverty trap their own countries had and join the country they believed would be better for them and their future off spring.....and boy were they right!
My father met my mother in 1964 and let’s just say it was love at first sight and in 1969 my sister was born. I arrived 3 days after Christmas in 1971. When I was born we moved to a council house in Harlow, Essex where my father was offered the house at a discounted price of £4,000 if he taught in one of the secondary schools. My mother took a part time job as a nurse at one of the industrial areas but she always made sure she was there to pick us up from school at 3.30pm.
My internal struggle
Both my sister and I were encouraged to study and become graduates. This we both did. My sister went to Imperial College London and went on to do a PhD and now she is a journalist for the Times. I went to The London School Of Economics and then went on to train and qualify as a chartered accountant with Deloitte & Touche.
Now let me tell you my parents were very proud of us. We had pretty much gone beyond their expectations of what they wanted for us. My mother would sing to all her friends that her daughter wrote for the prestigious Times Newspaper (which is pretty much my sister's dream job) and her son worked for one of the world famous "big 6" accountancy firms. She was so pleased she gave me £500 to buy my first home back in 1996.
I couldn't share this feeling my mother had. As she would proudly state "my son is a chartered accountant" I would struggle to get up in the morning, dress up in my suit like everyone else, and push the entrance doors below the grand chrome "Deloitte & Touche" sign to get in to work. I think my heart sank every morning Monday to Friday.
I had been on a treadmill of exams after exams. First my GCSEs, then my A levels, then my degree and then my chartered accountancy exams. All which I had revised for and passed with flying colours. At age 25 I was considered a success. I had passed the institute of chartered accountants final exams which have a notoriously high failure rate and I now I was an elite member of the institute with the world at my feet. You would think I would be feeling on top of the world but the complete opposite was true.
I wish I had failed my exams.
At least then there would have been no expectation of me to progress further in the corporate world. But since I had qualified I had a real chance of rising up the ranks and becoming a senior manager or even partner. I started to really look at the corporate world as my future as I did not allow myself to see anything else. I was a chartered accountant for heaven's sake. I could really become the king of the corporates!
I certainly wasn't employee of the month!
I looked at how the corporate world worked. To rise up the first ranks you needed to be punctual, friendly with the right people and create the right perception of yourself to your seniors. I know this because I was told this from my direct bosses. "There is no room for mavericks Ajay" I was told. My performance would be judged on all the things that I thought were irrelevant. I was not going to be judged on how hard I worked, how much I made the company or how much effort I put in. I was going to be judged o wether I turned up to work at 9am, whether I stayed beyond 5.30pm with all the other managers and whether I socialised with the right crowd.
This I really struggled with. I just didn't fit in. I couldn't understand why it had to be so. So much so I turned to drink. I think having to appear to be this corporate guy took so much effort on my part I needed a release when I got home. This didn't help things! I would start turning up late for work, other staff members would talk about my lateness (it even became an office joke!) and I would want (and often did) to leave at 5.30pm on the dot.
It got to the stage where I was always looking for ways of getting off work early (like delivering files to another office round the corner at 4pm and not coming back) or taking sick days or unannounced holidays.
My poorly planned "escape"
Then the final blow was dealt. Another colleague of mine who was at the same level as me got promoted and I didn't. It was no surprise. He worked hard and I didn't. I felt embarrassed that I did not get promoted and to save further humiliation, at age 27, I handed in my resignation before they even needed to explain why I didn't get promotion.
It was funny, when I did hand in my resignation they said "we were expecting this!". They could see I was a maverick and there were no places for mavericks in accountancy as previously told. I'm sure if any of my superiors know of my success they will say "I always knew he would be an entrepreneur".
Now when I handed in my resignation I had no idea how I was going to provide for myself. All I knew was that I would NEVER work for anyone else ever again. I have to say I was close to depression when in the last year of my working career. Money can never be that important for it to take your mental health and wellbeing away from you.
My newly found freedom nearly crushed me
I arranged a £10,000 overdraft before I left work to remain solvent and got the hell out of there! The first 3 months after leaving work in October 1999 I partied. And I partied hard. I went to Ibiza twice, went out every night and did absolutely nothing to build any kind of future for myself. Looking back I think I gave myself this time as I felt I deserved it for putting myself through 5 years of corporate life.
Over my drinking days I had built up quite a few friendships but I started to notice something - I was different to them! I had slightly more intellect than them and I also used to have creative ideas and when presented to them it was dismissed quickly as nonsense. I would come up with ideas on how to make money or do something that would be different from drinking down the pub but they were quickly quashed.
It got to a point where I got fed up with my ideas being dismissed and I quickly saw that they were happy where they were. They didn't want change. I realised I was not happy where I was so I made the clear decision that I was going to start afresh. I cut ties with the group I was drinking with, rented a room in a completely new area and said to myself - "I'm going to make something of myself!".
This was the best thing I ever did. With hindsight I realised that the crowd I was hanging about with were preventing me to be who I really wanted to be. I now know the phrase "Show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are" is so true. This is why I no longer hang out with the corporate gang or the drinking gang but with the entrepreneur's gang! I often find myself discussing ideas with fellow entrepreneurs and we're always trying to change or do things differently. It’s never "No" but often "How". Not "No you can't do that" but "How can you do that?".
I'm in business!
So it’s now the year 2000 and I'm sitting in my room, while everyone else is at work, thinking - how can I make some money? My overdraft is sitting at around £5,000 with only £5,000 left, I'm burning £1,000 every month so at this rate I'll be bankrupt in 5 months and I'm going to have to go back to work! Going bankrupt I can deal with but going back to work.......NO WAY! The fear of going back to work I have to say was my biggest driver to do something NOT the money. I'm not a materialistic person. Even though I can afford better I live a lifestyle of most other people. I wear clothes from H&M, I drive an old car and I shop in Tescos!
Back then in 2000 I realised I was already rich. I was rich with time. I was waking up thinking "what can I do today". I realised that working 1 hour for you was like working 8 hours for somebody else. This was because I was interested in the work I was doing as I 100% directly benefited from it. Just think about it for one moment. 1 hour = 8 hours. 1 self-employed hour = 8 employed hours. I would work 12 hours a day which equated to 96 employed hours. It’s no surprise then that I became successful very quickly. This was because I loved what I was doing.
I started doing everything and anything to make money. Premium rate numbers, people's tax returns, the odd day of subcontracted work for a local accountant, trading cars but also investing in property.
Where it all changed....
At the time I didn't know my property investments would be as successful as they were. It was just one of those activities I was doing as well as the other stuff. I had 4 properties in the year 2000. You see where my work colleagues were renting flashy apartments and burning their salary on rent, I was living in a shared house, saving up my salary for deposits and buying properties back in my home town. I had my own house in Harlow which I bought and lived in briefly rented out and 3 other buy to lets in Harlow rented out.
One of the key tools I found important to me was the internet. I used it at work to collect emails and search for cars to buy! I got a dial up connection installed in my room and I would use this connection to research potential money making ideas. It was at this point I stumbled across a site called "rightmove.co.uk".
Rightmove was great. Instead of searching each estate agent's database for their properties Rightmove aggregated all the estate agents databases so you could perform one search. Now I was used to paying £35,000 for a 1 bed flat in Harlow back in 2000. So I would search for properties in Harlow for less than £50,000 and see what came up. I had this formula that if it would rent out on a month by month basis for 1% of the purchase price then I would buy it. So if it was for £50,000 and it would rent out for £500 or more I would buy it. Now I would see a deal like this once every other week. It was safe to say Harlow wasn't overflowing with these properties which I thought were great deals.
I then thought why don't I invest further afield. So when I searched on Rightmove I put the distance parameter at "40 miles radius" of Harlow and then pressed search. I have to say this was a changing point in my life. Now remember I had been used to paying £35,000 for a 1 bed flat and these were hard to come by.
The first property that came up was a 5 bedroom 3 storey house for £20,000!!!!!! I thought this must be a misprint but then I saw next on the list a 3 bed house for £23,500 in the same area. So I rang it up, spoke to someone about it and asked it if was for real and not a misprint. They confirmed that it was for real but the property had gone. I asked about rents and they all fitted my criteria of being greater than 1% of purchase price. I had to take a trip to this "hotspot". This hotspot was called Corby in Northamptonshire.
I went up there and met with the 3 estate agents there and I was treated like a king. They had actually found someone who wanted to buy these properties in these deprived areas. I would get shown around these properties all with price tags under £30,000. It really was a buyer's market. My problem was there were too many properties and I didn't have enough cash! I likened these days to a kid in a sweetie shop with only 50p in your pocket. I wanted every sweet but couldn't afford it.
What I did next makes me still wince when I think about it. From my bedroom I made literally thousands of applications for unsecured finance, credit cards, overdrafts and other sources of finance. Most said no but some actually said yes. I raised £100,000 of unsecured finance, £15,000 on credit cards and £40,000 by remortgaging my current portfolio of 4 properties and bought as much as I could.
I bought flats, houses and town houses. They all fitted the 1% rule (now known as a 12% yield) and some even fitted a 2% rule meaning that the properties yielded 24%.
I discover I have the golden touch
But then something even more strange started to happen. I thought I was the only person doing this in Corby, but others started emerging. The prices started to get pushed up. But it
didn't happen over months, it happened over weeks! So stuff that I had agreed to buy had gone up by 50% by the time I had completed. So I would go straight for a remortgage after I completed. You would then get the absurd happening. I would buy something for say £20,000, in 3 months I would complete on it and then get it remortgaged at £40,000 and get a further £15,000 out which I would use to buy 3 more properties.
I didn't stop at Corby. I bought everywhere that fitted my 1% criteria. The closer the better. But what I was finding I was getting priced out. So I would just travel further north to get the properties that yielded 12%. All the time growing in wealth as everything I was buying was rising rapidly.I used to manage my properties myself. I would go, all 5 ft 4" of me, to the roughest parts of town to collect rent of junkies, drug dealers and the unemployed! It still amazes me that I did that back then. But my mother was getting real worried. So I took on someone who handled it for me from then on. I was up to 20 properties by 2001.
I decided it was time to move out of my rented room and get myself a nice little pad. I bought a 3 bed detached house in Romford Essex for £132,000 and lived there while still buying up in and around the East Midlands and Essex. It was while living in this house that I had the idea to tell people about what I was doing. It was so easy I wanted to tell other people about what I was doing and say "hey - you can do this!".
I wrote my first book "The Buy To Let Bible" and is my bestseller. It has sold over 100,000 copies nationwide and is available in every book store including Tescos! I have since written 9 more books on property investment and escaping the rat race. I'd like to think I have helped people realise their financial dreams and given them back their precious time that you can never get back once its spent. All these books are available on this site to read…..for FREE!
My life now
Since 2007 I have moved to a seven bed house with 7,000 sqft. of space (soon to be 10,000 sqft. once the leisure extension is complete) with my wife Hana who really looks after me so I can further my pursuits in investing, writing and filmmaking. I have eight cars (including four Bentleys) and two holiday homes with another three holiday homes, a yacht and a helicopter in the pipeline. Hey, a guy has to relax sometime you know!
We have no children (yet!) but I have one niece, Rosa and one nephew Seth who I both adore, and I fit in to their lives - not the other way round.
My £10m fortune
My portfolio of 200 properties currently stands at £10m and has £0.5m worth of properties in the pipeline waiting to be added. I aim to buy 1 to 2 properties a week over the next few years or so. I'm currently investing in the north of England.
The national and local press have certainly kept up with me writing numerous articles about my success. I have occasionally hit the front pages over the years due to our nation’s obsession with property.
So why am I telling you all this? Well I suppose I want to let you know it is possible to be your own boss. I'm a regular guy that wants pretty much the same as anyone else. I want to be in control of my life and I want to have an okay life. I want to be rich with my time, to have material goods that make my life comfortable and I want to build positive relationships with the people around me.
I want you to know this: I do not possess any special characteristics compared to anyone else nor do I consider myself lucky. All I did was applied myself to do something that I wanted to do. This was to become financially free from an employer. I believe ANYONE can do this with the right attitude. Watch this video where I give one killer bit of advice on how to make it in property:
I think my grounding in chartered accountancy has enabled me to avoid the obvious mistakes that many new entrepreneurs make. I have been inside so many businesses and read so may business cases that it becomes kind of obvious what to avoid but more importantly what to chase.
I rode the property boom over the last 10 years and built a large property portfolio which now provide me with a profit of around £80,000 per month. I never earnt that as a qualified chartered accountant from a well known firm of accountants in a year!
I have 5 people working for me and they do particularly well as well! I always incentivise my staff. So if I do well they do well.
I hope you have got to know me a little bit better now. Please explore my site as there is tons of information available for free.
Click here for more about Ajay Ahuja.