Article by Janice Morley
Eirene Eleleanu took her first steps along the road to becoming a property investor six years ago. She bought a top-floor, two-bedroom luxury apartment at Langley Square by Weston Homes in Dartford, Kent for £340,000 and rents it out, earning a six per cent return on her investment. Although Eirene says, with disarming candour, that she is uneducated, she is clearly very good at maths and with money.
In spring of this year, using her savings, she bought a second Weston Homes apartment to rent out, this time at the developer’s Springfield Park neighbourhood in Maidstone, also Kent. This savvy, Dublin-born mother of two grown-up girls recognises that she needs to invest in her future security. “And I am convinced property is the way to go,” says Eirene.
“After I bought my first flat I got quite a taste for it. I went to property shows and talks to learn more. I made my daughter buy a Weston Homes property before she went travelling – she has just bought a one-bedroom Weston Homes apartment in Maidstone. It is good for her to have something to come home to, and the rent pays her mortgage.”
Slim, energetic and tanned after her recent “very fun” holiday with “the girlfriends”, Eirene has been divorced from her Romanian husband for many years, and brought up daughters Jennie and Anna Marie on her own. Jennie, who works in cybersecurity, and Anna Marie, a coding engineer for a bank, are both abroad – one living with her doctor husband in Australia, while the other has just set off on her travels to New Zealand.
“I used to take the girls to the property shows so they could understand the market,” says Eirene. “Nothing touched property – the bank was offering a one per cent return.”
Starting out in search of her first investment home, Eirene was very clear as she scoured the market that she wanted a new build by a quality developer whom she liked and could trust. She sought out an apartment in a good location at a competitive price, that offered a quick commute to London for City workers and, importantly, running costs had to be low: “Because these renters all think about their energy bills and overheads.”
A girlfriend suggested Weston Homes in Dartford. “Oh My God. It was just brilliant,” Eirene enthuses. “It was spacious, there were so many interiors choices. All the facilities were amazing. I was very impressed. Little things like the steam-free mirrors in the bathroom, the clock, the temperature-control taps. I only saw the place once.
“The kitchen was so fabulous. The [boiling water] hot tap, the hidden soap dispenser, the amount of cupboard space, and all the white goods included. I loved the layout so much I went right home and rebuilt my own kitchen.”
Eirene wanted to rent out the apartment unfurnished. She found a tenant right away and decided to handle that side of business herself. “The tenant has been great, and I’m more than happy with six per cent.”
From a large Irish family, Eirene says her mother “put me out to work at 15”. Her first job was with the local undertaker and with her first wage packet she bought clothes. “I had a passion for fashion. There was a wholesale warehouse near us so I bought a van, filled it with clothes and started up a round to sell them.” That paid for her passion.
After some travelling years and some married years, Eirene, 71, has now lived for 30 years in Kent, in a detached house with a river running through the wooded grounds.
This year, when she decided to make her second investment, she used the same criteria for her property search as she had relied upon the first time around. Her Weston Homes apartment in the great location of Maidstone cost £273,000. On the top floor, it offers fabulous views from the balcony and it rents out for £1,500 a month, bringing Eirene a 6.05 per cent return.
“I fell in love with the entrance hall,” she says. “You would not see the likes of it in London. I had my renter before I’d bought the flat.” This time she has employed a rental agent to look after the property, freeing her up to visit her daughters.
Eirene says she has excellent tenants. “They are decent people.” But she advises all landlords to check a tenant’s credit rating thoroughly – which is what a rental agent should do in any case.
“Post Covid, tenants look for different things,” observes Eirene. “Because so many work from home half of the week, they like landscaped outside space. I loved the rooftop gardens at Maidstone. Tenants like shops nearby, too.” For her part, Eirene likes her tenants to have a parking space. And, as a now-seasoned investor landlord, she knows what makes for a happy tenant.
Photography by Juliet Murphy