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Ben Chiuriri

Ben Chiuriri on healthy developments

By Ben Chiuriri

Founder & Property Investor, Citadel Properties

From his background in retail pharmacy to his passion for property investment and development and his active lifestyle, health has always been the priority underpinning Ben Chiuriri’s mindset.

Having graduated in Zimbabwe, Ben came to the UK in 2001 and qualified as a pharmacist through Sunderland University. He went on to work for Lloyds Pharmacy and other high street pharmacies in various capacities like pharmacist manager and locum pharmacist, before establishing his own pharmacy in Hull with a business partner in 2009.

With the adjustment of family life prompting a change of direction, Ben moved to the south coast in 2018 having lived there between 2003 and 2005, and he has since applied his extensive business experience to a new venture in property investment.

Ben’s company, Citadel Properties – which acquires properties and manages accommodation – is now redefining shared housing and holiday let accommodation in Southampton, providing investors and property tenants and guests with healthy and sustainable outcomes.

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What skills did you learn from your experience within the pharmacy industry that you apply now within the world of property?

The main one, I would say, is having an entrepreneurial mindset and running a business. Property and pharmacy are similar in the sense that you need to be able to run them both as a business – leveraging money, acquisition, finance, marketing, and admin.

Leadership and managing people are also things I learned in the pharmacy business. It's competitive out there, so you really need to stand out. You need to be able to work with people; you need to be able to build trust and reputation because ultimately, people are your resources in this industry.

And of course, how to manage money, because I have seen people in both industries who have essentially gone on their knees because they failed to manage their funds. Without that, basically, there is no business.

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Can you talk us through the Citadel Properties set-up; who do you work with?

I work with investors who want to diversify their asset portfolios and get good returns on their money. I use my industry connections to find and develop properties that need work, add value to those properties, recycle the investment, and retain that property in the portfolio. Not only do you get the uplift in value, but there’s also the monthly income that comes with it. And obviously, the natural increase in the value of the property with time.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I have always been a people person: I love talking to people; I love helping people and that was my satisfaction from working in the pharmacy industry. But in the retail pharmacy business, you are in a room all day with very limited time to do anything outside of that. In property, I’m still leveraging those people skills, but I’ve got freedom to do things such as networking or enhancing my knowledge and skills.

I also enjoy seeing a project through from start to finish. I enjoy project managing it and seeing everything come together, connecting with the people I’m working with.

"One of the things I have learnt in the past couple of years is to not make property or financial decisions via the mainstream media."

What’s your take on the property market right now?

One of the things I have learnt in the past couple of years is to not make property or financial decisions via the mainstream media. The data paints a completely different picture from what the media is saying. I follow data and local trends, and the data suggests that interest rates are going to remain where we are right now (with a slight and slow drop) for the foreseeable future – probably the next two or three years. Things might calm down a little bit but we’re not going to see the rates we had for the past 10 years, which means that it’s going to be hard for most people to purchase properties because of the high cost of borrowing.

However, wages are going up especially in the private sector. So, in terms of affordability, we are moving back toward where we were in 2007 when the house prices were around six times more than the salaries. I think, in nominal terms not taking inflation into account, house prices are going to go down a little bit, I don’t think they’re going to go up, but we’ve got an election coming and that will shake things up.

My general feeling is that when the mainstream media is preaching doom and gloom it’s a great time to buy. I think the next few years are going to be tough, not just in property but everywhere. No one has got a crystal ball for sure. However, if you are buying for the long term (15 – 20 years plus) none of these events matter. 15 years from today, no one is going to remember the month-by-month events of 2023.

Overall, if you’re buying for the long term, you always come out as a winner in terms of capital appreciation.

What do you prioritise the most in life?

For everything I do, my number one priority is health. I’ve always known from a very young age that my health is the most important thing. I’ve always exercised; I converted my garage into a gym, and I love getting outdoors to just do some sprinting in the park. It has physical benefits and I just love doing it.

My partner and her dad are really into kitesurfing and snowboarding so those are sports that I’ve learned and now enjoy. I’m a member of CBK kitesurfing club on Hayling Island and we love going on holiday to Sicily where there is a big kitesurfing lagoon.

Have you had any mentors who have influenced your journey?

For the property business, my inspiration is a lady called Bronwen Vearncombe. She used to work in a bank and 10 years ago, she switched to property. So essentially, she went through exactly what I’m going through. Her business went from zero to multi-millions and most of her properties are here in Southampton.

She’s an ad hoc mentor for me and she was the one who really inspired me to get into property. She’s written a book about the properties she bought “Building your dream life”, how she did it, and the thinking process. She’s also really down to earth, she’s always been there to help and give me direction – she genuinely wants people to succeed.

"If you're buying for the long term, you always come out a winner in terms of capital appreciation."

Ben Chiuriri - Founder & Property Investor, Citadel Properties