Dear Barry

Ask Barry Image

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

I trust you had an enjoyable festive season and are returning to me refreshed and ready for another packed year of property advice and buy-to-let insights on The Belfast Property Blog.

I had a query a few weeks before Christmas, from a potential investor who reads the blog. They had recently received a lump sum of £20,000 and having a keen interest in property, their first thoughts of investment were towards the Belfast property market.

So they popped in to the office with a piping hot americano coffee (oh, you all know me so well!) to see if there were any options for turning a £20k windfall into a sound property investment.

Believe it or not, there are a handful of properties on the market currently for in and around the £20k mark. Now... you can rent a property in - how shall I put it - 'less than standard' condition. 

But should you? Personally, it wouldn't be my recommended approach. A person willing to live in a sub-standard property is likely to be vulnerable in some way and - perhaps through no fault of their own - could prove to be a difficult tenant, for a myriad of reasons.

Option B with cut-price property like this is to put your £20k towards the deposit, fees and refurb and obtain a mortgage for the purchase. Or you could use your cash buyer status to secure a better deal or a quicker sale, and use a loan to finance the necessary work.


74 Woodvale Avenue, Belfast, County Antrim, BT13 3EX

Asking price: £20,000

This is a classic two-up-two-down type terrace in North Belfast, clearly in need of a lot of work. Once refurbished, this property could potentially re-sell for £69,950 or rent at £400 per month (based on the most similar properties currently on the market in the nearby area).


There is also the little-known option of assisted sale by agreement. This would involve entering into a partnership of sorts with a property owner in need of a cash injection to get their property ready for market.

Maybe they own a run-down house or flat that would go for a decent price in a buoyant market - if only they could afford to replace the kitchen and bathroom. 

You agree to invest your £20,000 in the property in return for an agreed share of the profits once it's put on the market and sold. Project management is taken off your plate and you just sit back and wait for the cash - easy, right?

Call me cynical, but nothing is ever so simple - always look very closely at all angles when it comes to anything that sounds like passive income or a 'get rich quick' scheme. I'm not saying assisted sale by agreement is dodgy per se; but it's worthwhile asking the following questions:

  • What other avenues has the property owner explored for finance - and why have these been unsuccessful?
  • What are the projected market conditions? Remember that property projects almost always go over estimated time limits, and it may take longer to sell than anticipated.


Something you should also keep your eye on if you get a nice little lump sum like this, is commercial property.

Even if it's something basic that you let out for storage - people always need somewhere to keep their stuff. Rents won't be fantastic compared to residential lets, but it should be steady income.

Or you could buy a small garage unit - goodness knows this country is filled with bike and car enthusiasts and not all of them are able to live in properties with big garages or outhouses.

Somewhere to store or tinker away at their two- or four-wheeled pride and joy could be worth a few quid to them every week or every month. 


365 Woodstock Road, Smyth's Fish & Chips, Belfast, Antrim, BT6 8PU

Asking price: £20,000


I'd love to know your thoughts - have you ever used a lump sum to get started with a property investment? What decisions did you make? Any mistakes? Or are you in a similar position and in need of advice?

Feel free to drop me a line to or pop into the office at 197 Lisburn Road. (Mine's an americano...)