This year has definitely been one of surprises. Looking back to this time last year, would you have believed that the UK would vote to leave the EU and that Donald Trump would win the USA presidential election?

And an even bigger surprise is that there has been such an aggressive attack on the private rented sector at a time when there is a housing supply crisis in this country.

It just goes to show that no-one has a crystal ball.

Fortunately, the significant changes in the buy-to-let market have only confirmed that having a strong property investment strategy that focuses on a high level of cash flow is key.

There is no such thing as a risk-free investment, of course, but I believe that property is still a safe haven for investors, especially when you compare the overall returns from property to other asset classes.

The UK stock market entered bear territory earlier this year following a 20% fall from its peak in April 2015 and record low interest rates make cash savings and ISAs far from attractive for investors.

On the other hand, house prices have continued to rise, albeit at a much more manageable rate. Depending on where you get your data from, there has been an annual increase of between 5 and 7%. According to the Office for National Statistics, rents in the private sector rose by 2.3% in the 12 months to October 2016, while the rate of inflation stood at 0.9%.

The main difference for existing and would-be property investors moving into 2017 is that the days of the amateur and accidental landlord are over. It's increasingly becoming a professional investor market.

And this is good news for several reasons.

Firstly, those who have invested in property half-heartedly and without any real plan will probably suffer the most from increased Stamp Duty charges, stricter lending criteria, legislation changes and higher tax bills. These investors could find it hard to justify keeping their portfolio or be unaware of ways they can improve the profitability of investing in property.

Secondly, there has been more emphasis on weeding out the rogue landlords who give the private rented sector as a whole a bad name.

Thirdly, the combination of all the changes that have occurred, or are soon to be implemented, will make it harder for new investors to enter the market. More capital is needed for a deposit, most lenders will soon start asking for a 145% rental cover of mortgage interest payments and selective licensing schemes require landlords to meet minimum standards that a lot of them aren't even aware of.

And then there is the question of whether you should buy in a company and how you should structure your property business.

I know what you're thinking - 'how is this good news'?

As Michael Porter wrote in his book titled, 'Competitive Advantage', higher barriers to entry lead to less competition, which in turn provides a great opportunity for serious investors to flourish.

If you haven't started your property investment journey yet, but have some money to invest and want to make a great return, it's simply a matter of making sure you have the right strategy, but more importantly, the right support.

Just ask yourself how would you have fared through the myriad of changes in the buy-to-let sector if you'd have gone it alone?

For our Platinum Property Partners, this year has been one of clarification.

They have always valued the specialist property investment model that we offer and being part of our network (or they wouldn't have joined in the first place), but with all these changes apparently threatening the future of buy-to-let, they are even more thankful for our support and guidance.

Sometimes it takes some kind of accident before you are thankful you paid for insurance.

Their properties, which are high quality Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) for young professionals, generate four times the rental income than a single tenancy buy-to-let property. Such high margins have offered a certain level of reassurance that other investors are not fortunate enough to have.

Our power team of property experts have also worked harder this year than ever before to make sure our Partners' portfolios adapt seamlessly to tax, legislation and market changes.

Other investors will no doubt start seeing the benefit of investing in high yielding HMOs, but with higher returns comes harder work, planning and licensing.

That's probably why we've seen a month on month growth in new Partners joining us since Brexit and policy changes - because they don't want to go it alone - and this trend does not look like it's slowing any time soon.

So, as you consider what you're property investment strategy is for 2017, I encourage you to focus on cash flow and think about the support you need and who you can get it from.

It might not be Platinum, but I can guarantee you'll have a better chance of success if you're not alone.

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