Fiona Macaskill was named the NLA’s Green Property Woman of the Year in 2010 and the NLA’s South West Property Woman of the Year for three years running. As a five-time world record holder in paragliding, and the fastest female paraglider pilot in the world, you wouldn’t naturally expect this former DT teacher to move into property. Here, Fiona talks about how she made a success of her new business…
“At the end of the 1990s I took a year out from my job as a teacher of design technology and focused on paragliding – a huge passion of mine – but I broke my pelvis while attempting a paragliding world record. While I was recovering, I inherited £100,000 which I used as a deposit on four properties with a view to letting them to students. This became my lettings business, UWE Houses, and my new career began!
“I have always loved ‘making things better’. I enjoy buying dilapidated houses and completely refurbishing them to a very high standard. The environment in which we live is very important to me – my properties are homes, not just houses and I like to go the second mile. We provide eco-appliances, 14 of our properties have solar UV panels installed, and we even maintain herb gardens and fruit trees at the properties. Bills are included in my tenants rent, but they are given the chance to recoup some of their money at the end of the year if they use less energy. We work with them to get their monthly meter readings online and I send them a monthly statement so they track their progress against their target.
“As a result of winning the NLA’s Green Property Woman of the Year and the South West awards, we are recognised as ‘top of class’ within our area of student lets within the north east of Bristol. We tend to attract tenants who are interested in ‘eco’ issues and those who are not when they come to us often then take more interest in environmental issues.
“UWE Houses is a now a family business with 40 properties, and we have managed small growth in a difficult market. Raising money for further expansion has become extremely difficult; you would have thought that with Bank base rate being so low it would be easy to borrow but the criteria has become increasingly stringent.
“As a ‘property woman’, I have very high expectations and standards: I attempt to provide top quality housing with top quality service. With four daughters and six grandchildren, and as a former teacher, I cannot help but take an interest in my tenants and their well-being, but this can benefit my business as much as their tenancy. As a human being I need a challenge, and my lettings business provides this, as well as allowing me time I would not otherwise have had to pursue my other passions of flying paragliders and aeroplanes!
“I would absolutely recommend that anyone thinking about entering the NLA Property Women Awards should do it. It makes you think about your own business in a different way, and you need to communicate it so that it can be easily understood. It is an opportunity to learn and develop your business – whether or not you win!”
If you know (or are) a woman working in property with a similarly inspiring story to tell, make sure their efforts are rewarded by entering the NLA Property Women Awards 2012. Click here to view the categories and find out more. Entries close on 25th June 2012 and the ceremony will take place on 31st October 2012.