Interview with Leah Miller, property developer, influencer and founder of LCM Home
Find out how an obsession with Homes Under The Hammer inspired Leah Miller to become a property developer, and later influencer and founder of LCM Home.
What’s your career background?
I studied for a business degree at Birmingham City University, graduating in 2018, and then got a job as a marketing assistant at an Audi dealership. I knew that I wanted to run my own business one day and believed that these disciplines would be useful in the real world.
When I was 16, I read Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad Poor Dad, and it was a seminal moment for me. I think I heard my mom recommend it to one of her friends and thought I’d read it myself.
I realised that property could actually be an amazing income stream and something that I could actually do full time. Given my love and fascination for property, this seemed like the ideal career route for me.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I’ve wanted to become a property developer ever since I was about 14 years old. I was obsessed with Homes Under The Hammer and found the whole renovation and transformation process absolutely fascinating. I especially loved the part when an estate agent would assess the renovation job and say: “If you sold your property, it would be worth X” and “if you rented it out, you could get X.”
Adding value by transforming old properties into aspirational living spaces I think satisfies both my love for creativity and my entrepreneurial streak. My mom is a business coach and runs several successful businesses, so I guess my original inspiration for becoming an entrepreneur came from her.
How did you move from idea to actual business?
When we first got into property in 2018, my mom and I started a serviced accommodation business called LCM Apartments where we would manage properties on Airbnb and Booking.com.
We’d liaise with estate agents and landlords for corporate letting, but the strategy was labour intensive with very little reward so, after a year, we sold the business. We wanted to focus more on renovations.
In 2019, aged 22, I set up LCM Home with this in mind. I wanted a business that served to raise the standard of co-living. House shares often have a bad reputation and we wanted to change people’s perceptions of this lifestyle by converting period and character commercial and residential properties into beautiful modern homes for professionals and families.
We refinanced our family home and used the equity as the deposit for our first project – an old publishing house we bought for £74,000 in the West Midlands. It was set up as a two bedroom property, which we converted into a five bedroom HMO (house in multiple occupation). The renovation cost £42,000 and took four months to finish. We then rented it out, room by room.
After that, we refinanced on that initial property investment in order to fund the next property renovation – a period building in the same county, known as The Old Post Office – which we bought for £125,000. We converted it from an office space into an eight bedroom house share, which is now worth £295,000. The project took 6 months to complete.
We’ve just finished another property with a super quick turnaround (12 days!) for some nurses who work at the local hospital in Birmingham.
Capital can always be an issue when establishing a business, especially with a business like ours that requires substantial sums to start and complete building work. My mom is a natural networker, so I would often accompany her to networking events in order to meet with potential investors to secure funds in return for a stake in the profits, plus interest.
What’s your USP?
Property renovations, as with anything visual, is subjective and governed by personal tastes. But because I’m part of the Instagram and social media generation, I’m really tapped into current trends and understand what other young professionals look for in aspirational dwellings.
So I guess my USP is having an understanding of my target market who want to live in a great home environment and translate this into bricks and mortar.
I do also believe that house shares will become increasingly popular. Quarantine has underscored an epidemic of loneliness that pre-existed COVID, and this has worsened because of an ongoing situation that has no certain end date. Co-living, if not for a time, could resolve some of those tensions – mentally and financially. So my business ensures that house shares become an attractive option, from both a lifestyle and practical perspective.
Who’s your target audience?
I find that those who follow me on social media and watch my content on YouTube are also young aspiring property developers, but I do also find that people engage with my content for inspiration oninterior design and renovation.
Meanwhile, the target for our actual properties tend to be young professionals who opt to co-live with colleagues or other professionals, as well as families.
How do you spread the word about what you do?
Social media has been an important tool in raising brand visibility, and I’ve been able to leverage quite effectively, given that the business is still a start-up(we have just over 2,000 Instagram followers and 7,000 YouTube subscribers.
Pictures are really important in being able to chart the transformation of a property from start to finish and tell an effective before / after narrative; I use Instagram to showcase the projects. I’ve also started engaging in PR in order to build the profile and raise SEO.
What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?
Starting a YouTube channel, and consistently posting 1-2 videos a week on this platform has been my most successful marketing strategy so far. It’s been a core focus of mine this year. Speaking to people working within property and also showcasing what I’ve been doing in terms of renovations has helped me grow my channel by an extra 5,000 subscribers.
The awareness on YouTube has then led to people following LCM Home on Instagram. I aim for this trend to continue as the business becomes more established and my profile is raised.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
School taught me early in life to fend for myself. Although I remember that some teachers were supportive, I don’t think many really knew my potential. They certainly didn’t push me to go further. I feel that it’s easier to be overlooked if you’re not the ‘super smart kid’ in class, when it’s actually those kinds of students who need the help, encouragement and self-belief to achieve better.
I did often feel like I was being left behind. But I achieved good grades in the end; that was down to determination and a good work ethic.
And your proudest moment so far?
Growing the business so that it’s been possible to leave my marketing job has been my proudest achievement so far. It’s nice being able to work for myself and grow the brand. Within the short to medium term I hope to have grown the property portfolio to 12 co-living houses.
Alongside flipping properties, I’ve been able to use my marketing skills and knowledge in social media to start developing a YouTube channel that interests property developers (both prospective and existing ones) as well as those who just have a passion for interiors and renovation projects.
Why is work so important to you?
I can’t remember who originally said it but one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard is: “How you do anything, is how you do everything”. And it’s certainly a philosophy that frames my day-to-day actions.
Who inspires you?
I’ve always been a self-starter. I believe a lot of that drive was instilled in me by my mom who has always emphasised just how important it is to work hard at everything we do. Seeing how hard my mom worked pushed me to do things to the best of my ability.
What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?
The most important thing is to educate yourself. There’s plenty of free resources out there which you can use to learn about different property strategies and identify which works best for you, depending on the kind of property business you want to pursue.
Attend networking events and meet people who are a few steps ahead of you who can act like unofficial mentors. Learning from others’ experiences can be really enrich the knowledge.
Finally, research and identify the best locations for renovation work that is in line with your budget and time commitments.
You can find out more about Leah Miller here.