Tim Henman, new ambassador for property investment fund The Hideaways Club, tells Property Week about his first flat and his love of bricks and mortar.
Tim Henman is winding his way through the streets of west London. His destination, as it has been so often, is SW19. He has a busy day ahead: he sits on Wimbledon’s tournament board so he has some official duties to fulfil, and he’s also working for the BBC as an analyst and commentator.
But right now, tennis is far from his mind. “I’ve always liked property,” he says. “I love the bricks and mortar concept of the investment.”
He’s speaking to Property Week following his appointment as ambassador for The Hideaways Club, an investment fund that buys villas, chalets and apartments all over the world that its members can then use as holiday retreats. So what attracted him to this particular fund? And what sparked his passion for property in the first place?
“When I was about 20 I bought a brand new two-bedroom flat on the river in Chiswick [in West London] in a new development, and I paid £124k for it,” he says. “In hindsight I should’ve bought 10, but unfortunately I didn’t have any money. It was perfect for me because I was based at [the nearby] Queen’s Club, it was good for Wimbledon, and also for Heathrow Airport.”
From then on, he was hooked. He sold the flat a few years later, by which time it had doubled in value, and bought a house in nearby Barnes. As an up-and-coming player he was earning good money, and a property portfolio was inevitable. “I never was keen on the stock market or things like that, so I just left someone else to get on with it. But property has much more appeal,” he explains.
“We [he and his wife] kept hold of a few of the houses and made different property investments within Barnes, which is an area we know well. Certainly in London in the right areas property always maintains and appreciates in value.”
He’s now moved to a small village just south of Oxford, but he keeps a house in London, just in case. And, soon, he hopes he can help his children onto the property ladder in the capital. “Don’t tell them that, but that’s in the back of my mind,” he says, laughing.
Henman’s property tastes have come a long way from his first two-bedroom flat. While playing tennis he travelled the world, but only really saw the inside of hotel rooms. Now, with a bit more freedom, he can afford to think more carefully about where he spends his time abroad. And that’s where The Hideaways Club comes in.
It’s easy to be sceptical when a celebrity or sports star endorses a particularly product or brand. Do they really like it, you wonder, or are they just getting an easy pay day? But Henman’s passion for The Hideaways Club is clear. This isn’t something he’s just stumbled on recently: he and his wife have been members for nearly 10 years.
“When I stopped playing tennis in 2007, my wife and I were looking at buying a property overseas. I was keen to ski – I’d never been allowed to ski when I played tennis with the insurance – but we also liked [going] away to Italy and south of France for the warm weather. So we were a bit undecided.
“Then a friend of mine who was working with the The Hideaways Club said ‘why don’t you come down to South of France?’. We flew to Nice for the day and we went to one of the properties, and we were sold on the idea. Within a couple of weeks, we joined.”
The concept is simple: members invest into the club’s funds, which then purchase properties around the world. Investors can stay at those properties for an annual fee, booking a total of six weeks’ stay. There are currently 52 properties to choose from in 21 countries, and the list is always expanding.
The fund will often lease properties that it’s considering buying to get feedback from members before it makes a final purchasing decision. “We went to one in Lake Como recently, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’re going to buy a property there,” says Henman.
He’s been to a good number of the properties on offer, and says the main appeal is that he can choose his destination from a curated list, each of which has a “wow” factor. “[The fund] can’t have a dud property. You can’t have one where members turn up and go: ‘I was a bit disappointed with that’. It won’t work. I can absolutely say in the last eight or nine years I’ve never been disappointed.”
So what’s his favourite property in the collection? “One we really enjoyed was Koh Samui [in Thailand] for new year’s a few years ago. That was fantastic, there were 10 of us, we went with another family who are great friends of ours. I lived in hotels from the ages of 16 to 33 for probably 35 weeks a year, so I enjoy the space and the privacy that goes with The Hideaway Club.”
A luxury spot in Thailand may be Henman’s favourite, but he says that the property he thinks of most fondly remains that two-bedroom flat on the river in Chiswick. “That was a pretty good time, to get on the ladder at 20, my tennis was moving in the right direction,” he says.
“It was a fun time for me, with no sort of ties. I was proud to have my own property. And the house we live in now, my wife and I love it. Fingers crossed we’ll be there forever.”
Henman’s career has taken him all over the world, competing in the biggest tournament and winning 11 titles. At his peak, there were only three players in the world better than him. But every step of the way, bricks and mortar has served him well. And by the sounds of it, it will continue to do so.