It's a sunny August afternoon. The kettle is on constant boil, but the cakes and biscuits are disappearing fast and there's a gaggle of laughter coming through the patio doors from the garden.

You'd be forgiven for thinking this was an afternoon tea party, not a fortnightly business meeting of Reading-based landlords.

But that's exactly what it is. And here's why.

Joining Platinum Property Partners

In summer 2012, Mark and Sue Davies and Alex and Emma Glass joined Platinum Property Partners (PPP) for the same reasons that many of our Partners join us - they wanted to escape the corporate rat race and find a way to generate a secure income stream through a tried and tested property investment strategy.

By following the Platinum business model and training programme while being supported by other more experienced landlords in the region, they were able to start building their portfolio of buy-to-let HMOs(Houses in Multiple Occupation).

And while being part of PPP already put them ahead of the competition in terms of high quality property standards and unbeatable customer service, they wanted to do more to set themselves apart from other private landlords in the Reading area.

They took the power of landlord collaboration in the PPP network to the next level.

Micro-market expertise

"When you first join PPP, you obviously become part of this wider network that gives you all the tools and support you need to build your own profitable property business, and working closely with other Partners in your area is a key part of that," says Alex.

"But within the UK, or even regions, there are micro-markets and it became clear that in Reading in particular, our businesses would do better if local Partners worked together and offered something more than just a room to rent."

Over the next few months, they agreed to share individual investment strategies and tips. They made a pact not to offer on the same properties, shared refurbishment tips and builder contact details and information on areas where young professionals would prefer to live.

Working for yourself but not by yourself

It made sense and reinforced the PPP way of working for yourself but not by yourself.

Mark adds: "We are all running individual businesses and competing in a way. But we decided to share a bit of information to see if it worked and wasn't taken advantage of and benefitted everyone. Then we started to share more and more information with each other, built trust and realised we could collaborate in a more formal way."

By mid-2015, three more people had joined PPP in Reading - Kay, Steve and Kath, and Carol - and like any new joiners, they were put in touch with other local Partners.

It became apparent that the skill-set and experience of each new Partner only added value and everyone could see how they could benefit from each other's learning.

They were now all using the same builders, suppliers, cleaners and gardeners. They were all offering the same type of high quality shared housing and an exceptional level of customer service. They were all part of the PPP brand. But more than that, they were in a position to build a stronger presence locally. They became a team.

Team work

After organising themselves a strategy workshop in September 2015, they created Snug Shared Living. Using the different skills within the group, they created a website, social media profiles, one SpareRoom account and brought in a lettings manager to handle the tenanting of the entire portfolio.

Their unique selling point? High quality, all-inclusive house shares for young professionals, managed by caring and private landlords who are committed to providing good value for money, a great service and happy housemates.

They understand that most of their tenants are new to Reading, and so they offer more than just a room to rent - they offer access to a community of like-minded people, just like PPP does for its Partners, and even a concierge service for international tenants.

The benefits for landlords and tenants

For the Partners, their business operation has become more streamlined and they are able to better place themselves at the high end of the rental market in Reading.

"In our combined portfolio, we have 21 properties and 125 tenants at the moment," says Kay. "By offering the whole portfolio, we can increase the chances of a tenant taking a PPP room rather than one from another landlord or letting agent in the area. And it works - 90% of the time, tenants don't bother looking anywhere else and this also makes their search easier."

Their strength in numbers also means that they have been able to negotiate better rates with cleaners, gardeners and builders for example by putting more work their way.

For the tenants, they have a wider choice of rooms from just one provider and can pick a house that better fits their personality and interests. They also have access to a Facebook group that helps them to engage with other local tenants and can be part of a community that the Reading Partners are intent on building - their second pub quiz took place last week.

Alex adds: "Half of the tenants that enquire about one room end up taking a different one in the portfolio. This is because we are able to offer them somewhere that might be closer to where they work or with people of a similar age group - something you can't always get across in an advert. If someone wants to move slightly closer to town or to a bigger room, we can usually accommodate them too. We've also had many tenant referrals and house swaps and even had our first tenant wedding!"

And the secret to their success? Mixing business with pleasure.

Mark concludes: "We all understand each other, have the same passions and contribute and listen to ideas. We do what's best for the business as a whole, because we know it will benefit us all individually in the end. And we make sure it's great fun too."