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Evolution of HMO Investments: A Journey Through Decades

Whitney Williams, Director of OAKhouse Living Spaces, featured in our blog, 'Evolution of HMO Investments: A Journey Through Decades.' A snapshot of leadership in the ever-changing landscape of HMO investments.

Investing in Houses in Multiple Occupations (HMOs) has undergone a significant transformation over the years. The landscape has evolved, shaped by changing demographics, market demands, and regulatory developments. In this blog, we'll delve into the historical context of HMO investments and explore the insights of a seasoned professional in the field, Withney Williams, the Director at HMO LETS.

The Historical Perspective

Decades ago, the concept of HMOs was primarily associated with student housing. Investors saw an opportunity to cater to the growing student population, creating shared living spaces that were more affordable than traditional housing options. As time progressed, the demand for affordable housing increased, leading to the expansion of HMOs into a broader market.

The 90s and early 2000s saw a surge in interest in HMO investments as property developers recognised the potential for higher rental yields. However, this period also brought about increased scrutiny and regulatory changes. Local authorities imposed stricter licensing requirements and safety standards to address concerns related to overcrowding and property maintenance.Fast forward to the present day, and the HMO landscape has continued to evolve. With changes in societal norms and an increased focus on communal living, HMOs have become a popular choice for professionals and those seeking a more affordable and flexible housing solution.

Introduce to The Featured Property Professional

Now, let's hear from our guest expert, Withney Williams, Director at HMO LETS, about his insights into how investing in HMOs has changed over the decades.

Thirty years ago, my entry into the HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) world began when my family's nursing agency, secured by our properties, faced challenges. Despite rapid growth, underhanded practices from the competition led to the business collapse, and the bank repossessed the properties. At that time, I was launching my first venture in the mobile phone industry.

Renting office space from someone who was already renting rooms, I shared my situation. He suggested buying back the property, a notion I hadn't considered. Daunted by the idea of a massive mortgage, I asked how would I pay the mortgage. His advice was simple: “advertise rooms for rent, no deposit, and DSS welcome”. Following his advice, I contacted the Woolwich building society, discreetly expressing interest in the property.

Upon making an offer and it being accepted, I furnished each room, added locks, and created my first HMO. Although the term wasn't current then, it was essentially a house with rooms for rent. Placing an ad as advised, my phone constantly rang, quickly filling the rooms, however, DSS tenants where very challenging to manage but it marked the beginning of my journey. Today, three decades later, I am a full-time HMO landlord and property investor managing scores of properties.

Navigating Regulatory Changes: A Conversation with Withney Williams

The landscape of HMO investments has seen its fair share of regulatory changes over the years. From licensing requirements to safety standards, the industry has adapted to various legal frameworks. Withney Williams, as a seasoned professional, provides his insights into how these regulatory changes have influenced the strategies employed by investors and developers.

The property industry faces the challenge of "rogue landlords," primarily focused on profits without considering tenant welfare. To address this, over 170 regulations for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) have been introduced over the past decade. However, some landlords argue that the regulations, especially for HMO, have become burdensome since the inception of buy-to-let mortgages in 1996 and later HMO specific mortgages.

Turning a property into an HMO requires the consideration of various factors beyond local demand. Article 4 directives, energy efficiency certificates (EPC), and minimum room sizes are among the considerations. Some councils have restricted permitted development rights, necessitating planning permission for small HMOs (6 tenants or less). The safety requirements and licenses further discourage landlords from entering this lucrative buy-to-let sector. While this deters rogue landlords, it benefits those who understand how to efficiently manage HMOs.

Sustainable Practices in HMO Developments: A Green Perspective

In recent years, sustainability has become a focal point across various industries, including real estate. How has the emphasis on green practices influenced the development and management of HMOs? Withney Williams shares his perspective on the integration of sustainable practices in HMO LETS' projects and the broader implications for the HMO investment sector.

Forward-thinking landlords should prioritise sustainability for long-term business success, even beyond environmental considerations. A higher EPC rating signifies greater energy efficiency, leading to reduced operational costs. In our HMO developments, we're soon implementing solar panels and battery packs, a strategic investment with promising long-term returns.

Tenant interest in property sustainability is growing, and I anticipate this trend to continue. Optimal HMOs in terms of efficiency will likely command higher rents. Lenders are already favouring properties with C or higher EPC ratings, a trend likely to extend to other services like insurers. Embracing sustainability not only benefits the environment but also positions your rental properties for financial gains and increased tenant demand.

Technological Advancements: Shaping the Future of HMOs

In an era driven by technological advancements, how has the HMO investment sector embraced innovation? Withney Williams discusses the role of technology in HMO LETS' developments, from smart home solutions to property management systems.

HMOs differ from single lets in that they typically offer bills-inclusive arrangements, simplifying tenants' financial responsibilities to a single monthly payment. While this is convenient for tenants, landlords face challenges such as tenants being less mindful of utility usage. Instances of empty properties with heating on or windows open are not uncommon.

To address this issue, we leverage smart technology, incorporating devices like smart thermostats to regulate overall temperature while allowing tenants to 'boost' heating if needed. This eliminates the need for individual room heaters, reducing both costs and fire hazards.

Enhancing security is another priority. We use smart locks on selected properties to prevent unauthorised key cutting. Additionally, smart cameras are strategically placed in some common areas with tenants’ agreement to discourage antisocial behaviour.

Internally, our office utilises specialised smart software tailored for HMO management. This platform allows tenants to conveniently report maintenance issues and monitor their rental accounts from a single interface.

Incorporating such technologies significantly streamlines the ownership and management of HMOs, making the process more efficient and less time-consuming.

Looking Ahead to HMO Investments

As we look to the future, the landscape of HMO investments continues to evolve. Factors such as sustainability, technology integration, and the ongoing impact of global events will play a crucial role in shaping the next chapter of HMO investments.

Investors, developers, and industry professionals must stay adaptable and informed to navigate the changing dynamics of the market successfully. With insights from experts like Withney Williams, we gain valuable perspectives that guide us in making informed decisions in this ever-evolving sector.

The future for HMOs is promising for tenants and landlords/investors. With a scarcity of houses in the UK, coupled with rising population and property prices, HMOs are becoming more than just a lifestyle choice; they are a necessity. A well-designed and managed HMO offers a cost-effective home for singles or couples and can be a highly profitable asset for landlords.


In summary, the HMO investment journey, as discussed by Withney Williams, Director at HMO LETS, reflects the dynamic nature of real estate. From student housing to a diverse housing solution, HMOs have proven resilient. With Withney's insights, we understand the sector's changes and challenges. His expertise is invaluable for navigating future investments. Grateful for his contributions, we thank Withney for illuminating the Supported Living Sector's evolution and look forward to future collaborations.

Thank you, Withney Williams, for sharing your expertise on HMO investments. Your insights enrich our understanding of the Supported Living Sector. We appreciate your contributions and look forward to future collaborations with HMO LETS. 

If you have additional questions or would like to learn more about converting your single let or investing in HMOs, please find Withney's contact information below. He looks forward to hearing from you.

✆ 020 3927 - 6333 | + 44 7958 -933222



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