Jerald Solis Experience Invest

Jerald Solis is the Business Development and Acquisitions Director at Experience Invest, a company that provides property investors in the UK and overseas access to exclusive investments across a variety of asset classes. He is also a Director at Opto Property Group; a construction firm committed to creating developments that have a long-term, positive impact.

Experience Invest is a leading UK consultancy that provides individual investors with access to high-performing property investments. Specialising in off plan opportunities in the student, hotel and residential buy-to-let markets, Experience Invest works closely with developers to create innovative opportunities that deliver an assured rental income and strong capital growth potential.

Over the past 15 years, Experience Invest has worked with clients based in the UK and overseas. Getting to know the motivations driving property investors has been key to the company’s success and, with a high number of repeat clients, Experience Invest has played an important role helping clients diversify their property portfolio.

How long have you worked in the property sector?

Having worked in the property sector since 1997, I can firmly say that there is not much that I haven’t seen. Straight of University I was thrown into the world of property development and learnt the ropes to sourcing development opportunities, accessing them and naturally preparing them for marketing. This has taught me much in terms of understanding the process and execution of acquiring planning for developments, as well the positioning of products to greater investor acceptance. Fundamental to this has been a strong grasp of raising funds for development, either through institutional funding or through Sales and Marketing.

In my property journey I have also ventured into the construction industry and have successfully set up our very own Construction Company, building project from the ground up, where our largest project to date has been valued at £60 million. Complementary to this has seen my growth in the industry extend to Facilities Management and, since 2012, have grown the business to having 1,027 properties under our management, which is set to grow in the next 2 years by a further 700 apartments.

My passion within the industry remains firmly in property development, where the process of turning land from a raw commodity into buildings that will be enjoyed by both investor and end users alike for years to come, always brings a smile to my face when I visit them.

What sets Experience Invest apart from others in the property investment world?

Experience Invest has been operational for 15 years. Over that time, we have sold around 10,000 properties to investors based in the UK and overseas, proving access to opportunities in top performing markets including student, hotel and residential sectors.

We have always worked with industry-leading developers, with a proven track record, to deliver new build properties which stand the test of time. Each development is carefully designed to meet the needs of the local property market.

In 2012, we decided to take a more hands-on approach, creating Opto Property Group. Opto Property Group is the development arm of our business and I am proud to say that we have now completed four PBSA projects and one residential development in London’s commuter belt. The high-quality of our projects was acknowledged at the 2018 Property Wire Awards where Opto Property Group picked up the coveted Developer of the Year Award.

However, we didn’t stop there. Upon completion, we spotted a gap in the market which led to the creation of Opto Living and Opto Residential. Having our own management companies to manage our buildings upon completion provides our investors with the peace of mind that Experience Invest plays a key role throughout the duration of their investment. From product design all the way to managing their unit and providing investors with their assured returns, our dedicated team is able to keep track of the product throughout its lifecycle and provides a service rarely seen within our sector.

Are there any headline projects you can talk about?

We have just launched our latest UK PBSA investment, Opto Student Cardiff. The project is a prime example of the hands-on approach that Experience Invest applies to projects, whereby our sister companies Opto Property Group and Opto Living will handle the construction and the management of the development upon completion.

Opto Student Cardiff is our fifth purpose-built student accommodation investment which will be delivered by our trio of companies and, with over 700 studios, it will be our largest PBSA to date.

Experience Invests knowledge of the investment market, coupled with the expertise of our management and construction companies, has helped us to create a product unlike anything else on the market.

As an investment product, we have pinpointed the Welsh capital as a prime location for private student accommodation. University cities like Cardiff, which are home to more than one well-established institution, are ideal for this asset class.

The city itself has around 40,000 students, yet our analysis has shown that there is a current shortfall of just over 21,000 student centric rooms. What’s more, a freedom of information request submitted to Cardiff Council revealed that many students living in HMOs are residing in substandard housing with significant faults.

What will make this project stand out on the market?

Opto Student Cardiff provides much needed, high-quality student housing to the market. Studio rooms will feature all the mod-cons student’s have come to expect from their accommodation, including a modern kitchenette, stylish en-suite bathroom and plenty of space to live and study.

The ground floor of the development will act as the building’s shop front. We have spent a lot of time designing a large, open plan communal area that will enhance the university experience whilst providing students with great value for money.

For our investors, delivering a premium product, in a prime city centre location, will help to underpin high occupancy rates, providing plenty of scope to them to achieve a reliable rental income for many years to come.

How has Brexit affected the business?

Experience Invest recently commission a report about how Brexit has impacted property investors. Our research was picked up by various news outlets, including the FT, and revealed that 55% of UK property investors are waiting for the outcome of Brexit before investing.

This stat doesn’t surprise me, as investors tend to be cautious around times of political uncertainty however, it’s not all doom and gloom. The report also revealed that 51% of investors believe that there will be a surge in activity on the market after Brexit and 52% of respondents are actively keeping an eye on potential property investors.

As a company, we provide opportunities to both UK and international buyers. Since June 2016, we have witnessed a rise in enquiries from overseas investors, with many clients viewing Brexit as a buying opportunity. The drop in the value of the pound has created significant savings and we have seen a constant flow of investment from buyers from Asia, UAE and South Africa.

The student sector has proven to be particularly popular with international purchasers. For example, overseas buyers made up over half of UK-based PBSA transactions in 2018.

For Experience Invest, our products have been designed to provide an assured income, which means that our investors will achieve their rental return regardless of what’s happening in the UK’s economy.

Given the current market conditions, what are your tips for investors?

With Brexit now out the way, we are seeing consumer and buyer confidence back in the property market with house prices rising, indicating that now is a good time to invest.

Less uncertainty in the market should naturally lead to the value of the pound rising against foreign currency, which will help fuel appetite from overseas investors looking to capitalise on the current exchange rate.

For those looking to capitalise on the buying opportunity that Brexit presents, here are my top tips:

1) Look for the next hotspot locations

Consider population growth, employment growth, property price growth forecasts. Transport and infrastructure, local council initiatives and policies.

2) Research demand

There are plenty of free online tools and portals like Rightmove and Zoopla which will help you to determine competition levels, pipeline of new build developments, current market prices and rents. This will help you determine trends in the local market you’re considering.

3) Management and letting company

Contact local management and lettings companies to determine occupancy rates in the area for similar properties. Ask about their letting fees and how much rent a typical property achieves.

4) Your personal affordability

Before investing, you need to consider potential changes which may affect the affordability of the investment. Think about potential changes to interest rates, property taxes including Stamp Duty and think about how you will afford the property if the property is vacant for a period of time. If you’re purchasing a leasehold apartment, consider management fees and ground rent. Give yourself a cushion for unexpected repairs. It’s always best to seek professional advice to determine if the property investment that you’re considering suits your individual circumstances.

5) If you’re buying off plan, look at the Developer’s track record

As the MD of a development company, I take pride in showcasing our completed projects and presenting our investors with construction photos throughout the build phase. If you are considering buying off plan, make sure you do your research and ensure that you’re working with a company who is happy to present their existing property portfolio.

Our latest completed development, Opto Student Newcastle is probably the development I am most proud of. The high quality of the build, its NHBC certification and the response of the students living in the building is a credit to everyone who works at Opto Property Group.

How do you see the market moving over the next 5 years?

Looking beyond Brexit, there are many reasons to remain positive about the UK’s property market.

If we look at how the market has responded since the referendum in 2016, it is safe to say that although activity has slowed slightly, property prices have remained resilient.

Across regional markets we have seen prices climb, with prices in cities in the North West like Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds climbing at a faster pace than in London. House prices in Wales climbed by 4.5% in the year to August according to Land Registry, a figure significantly higher than the UK average of 1.3%.

The market may not be experiencing the growth we have come accustom to, but the main point is that prices remain steady.

Over the next five years I expect interest in alternative assets to grow. We have already seen a surge in investment towards the PBSA market. I expect the product’s low entry level and the appeal of a zero rate Stamp Duty rate will continue to attract investment from all corners of the globe.

I think all areas of the UK’s property market will spring back into life when the dust settles on Brexit, which could result is a surge in demand across a diverse range of assets available across Great Britain.

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