034 SME Surveyor Business Stories with Natasha Collins

Natasha Collins is a Chartered Surveyor, Property Investor, Lecturer and CEO of NC Real Estate, a 100% online surveyors firm, which specialises in Asset Management and Property Investment Strategy for commercial and residential property in the UK. 

Over the last 2 years, Natasha has become completely location independent and runs her firm of surveyors, property portfolio and life from New York. She is also the host of NC Podcast and a Mental Health Ambassador for LionHeart.

Surveyor Burnout

Natasha started her career in a small company in London. Quickly she was appointed head of her department and was preparing for APC to become a chartered surveyor at the same time, putting a lot of stress onto herself in that way.

“I had a really tough time going through my APC because I’d taken too much on, which was standard for me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get through the APC process, and I was not doing it in a healthy way. I had decided that I had to be perfect at everything and my OCD kicked in. I was studying for my masters, and I was Head of Property Management, with a massive portfolio. In the morning, I also had to go to the gym for one hour. Then I’d get to my first desk at 8:30 am, then to my second desktop at 1 pm, and I would just work right the way through. And then I’d be like, well, I have to relax after finishing work, so I’d walk home for three miles, and then I would study in the evening. I would just do that consistently for about three and a half years, and I was sleeping six or seven hours a night.”

“I was making myself very unwell,” she continues. “And I didn’t realise that until I went to my APC the first time. I couldn’t answer any of the questions, I just felt like I was being attacked, and someone was going after me for the fact that I wasn’t good enough. I just had a breakdown halfway through my first APC, and I didn’t even know how to get home.”

After experiencing a complete burnout, Natasha found help and support at the LionHeart.

“I contacted LionHeart. They picked up on it straight away that I was not acting normally. They didn’t know who I was, but I remember phoning them, and being like, I don’t know how I can cope with everything that’s going on anymore. And they were like, okay, Natasha, we’re here, we’re going to support you. They started me on counselling, and it was all around being kind to yourself. Doing my APC six months later was a completely different experience. It turned out that it was never a question if I was a good surveyor. The question was that I wasn’t looking after myself.”

Motivation for Starting NC Real Estate

The burnout got Natasha to quit her job in order to recover, and that’s when she started thinking of starting her own company.

“You cannot get over burnout instantly, just by stopping whatever you were doing. I have to say that it takes time, you have to decompress, and change the way you’re thinking and your beliefs. I was very tired, and I finally passed my APC in 2015. I did not start working for myself until September 2016. The reason that I ended up doing that is that at one point I was barely able to even drag myself to the doctor’s office. I talked to my doctor, told her about my lifestyle. When I got my blood test results back, my doctor called me up and said ‘Natasha, you’ve got two options – I sign you off work for stress for the next six months to sort yourself out, or you’re going to hand in your notice. And me, not wanting to show weakness, I was going to hand my notice and do something on my own for a while. So that was the bit that pushed me to start my business, knowing that I really had to make a change.”

Bridging the Gaps in the Property Industry

Natasha continues to describe what NC Real Estate is doing and she has grown this company to be so enthusiastic and inspiring.

“As I love the community and there is nothing better for me than having a good chat, I wanted a firm that lifts people up. What I was seeing in the property management industry at the time was people just cutting corners left, right and centre. I wanted to bridge the gap between the regulated and the unregulated side of the industry and to have fun doing it. That was where NC Real Estate came from. In 2017, I had the idea of setting up a members club, where landlords and property investors pay a subscription fee, and then we give them content and organize meetups, and that was fantastic. I started doing a bit of consultancy as well around property management and asset management. But what I realized was that people were not getting support or honest advice, and it blew my mind. So the whole idea of NC Real Estate is to help smaller landlords and property investors build property portfolios that align with their goals in the most efficient way possible, and to enjoy doing that.”

100% Online Surveyors Firm

A couple of years ago, Natasha moved to New York with her husband, and she shares her experience of finding herself on a new ground, and moving her firm 100% online.

“My husband got offered his dream job, and so we picked up our lives in London and we moved to New York, which has been a roller coaster. It’s very hard when you’ve set up a brand in the UK, to then have to pick it up, put it online, and show that you’re super confident in doing that. That was the biggest hurdle for me to get over, the fact that it wasn’t on the ground anymore. It’s a very different environment, and surveying is very different out here. But the opportunities are amazing, not just to be able to move, but to run your business online, to thrive and to grow, and make the best of where you’re at. I also think that’s a real mindset shift that just because you live and work in the UK, that your work is only in the UK,” Natasha concludes. 

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