Axis investment in Memphis

On the 7th October 2011 I visited Rod Thomas at Axis's offices in Hove, with the intention of establishing whether to use them to provide me properties in Atlanta, which I had already recognised as the most reliable buy to let location in America. At this meeting Rod Thomas explained to me about a guaranteed 20% yield that could be achieved by purchasing repossessed properties in bulk direct from the banks in Memphis. He also explained that because of the low purchase cost, the properties would be able to be sold in two years for twice what they were paid for - and therefore I could expect a 240% return on my money in two years.

Because of my personal research I still purchased a property in Atlanta, through the Belgrave Group, but the guaranteed 20% yield in Memphis was sufficient for me to decide to include Memphis in a trip to Atlanta in early December 2011. While I was in Memphis I visited Marvin Fisher who renovated and managed the properties, together with his son Michael, his wife Kim and various other members of his family and staff. I also met Charles Alexander who sourced the properties and Neal Hannah who was their attorney. I was shown a number of properties that they had recently sourced and were in the process of renovating, as well as some that were ready to be rented. All seemed fine - the proposal stacked up, indeed running the figures I was given showed a return of between 21% and 23%, so on my return to the UK I agreed to purchase the minimum quantity of five properties. On the 7th December 2011 I received the Axis Property Reservation form which I duly signed, and duly purchased five properties at a cost of £105,837.41.

My five properties were duly sourced with Neal Hannah completing the paperwork, with three purchased on the 9th December 2011, one on the 21st December, and the last one on the 20th January 2012 - all recorded at a cost of between $29,000 and $30,000 (£95,857 at the exchange rate at the time). The balance of my costs was the finder's fee that Axis charged. I was aware that it would take a couple of months for the properties to be tenanted, so I sat back to wait for the money to come rolling in.

In March 2012 I began to be concerned that my properties didn't have any tenants yet. At this stage I had opted not to go for the guaranteed 20% return because I was expecting to exceed this, but with no tenants my concern was that other people's properties were being tenanted whereas mine were being left until last. I received many promises of tenants due in the next few weeks, indeed I was told that one property had a tenant who was paying rent - but I was also told that some were not due to be ready to rent until April. On the 25th April I received an email from Rod Thomas specifically stating that "Memphis portfolio's are performing as anticipated" - a statement that I now know was a lie. Eventually, on the 26th April, I decided to accept the 20% guaranteed return as chasing all the time for status updates on my property was not what I expected from this "armchair" investment. However, although now I had a guaranteed $2,366.67 per month retro dated to the 1st March, and despite chasing Axis and Marvin Fisher frequently, I received only one payment up until the end of September 2012 of $5,965.47.

On the 29th September, Axis sent by email a document explaining that all investors in Memphis had to move to a different property management company called Marathon. Axis specifically stated that the rental guarantee would be null and void if people did not move to Marathon - there was no opportunity to stay with Marvin Fisher, or to go to a different management company. Fortunately, Marathon sent an email to all investors in Memphis without hiding everyone's email addresses, and as a result 56 people got to know about each other. This showed just how bad Axis is as a company - some people had been involved in previous failed investments with Axis - and many had had absolutely no income from their investment whatsoever. As at the end of August 2013, my return is over $50,000 less than the guaranteed income, with my actual income still a negative $9,893.77. During my period with Marathon I had nearly $8,000 of costs - with only one payment of $675 to show for it. Having shared information with other investors I have established that the position I am in is far from the worst. I know one person who had one property and sold it at a large loss simply because the stress was too great. I know two other people who are looking to sell at a loss. I have seen examples of properties purchased for $40,000 now being worth less than $10,000. I have worked out that across 202 properties and 56 investors the average net return is minus 1.7%.

In April 2013 I moved from Marathon because the rental guarantee is meaningless and I don't believe Marathon are able to manage my properties as they had placed no tenants in my five properties in the six months they managed them. I have spent many hundreds of hours sending and reading emails, I have been threatened with legal action by Rod Thomas for explaining my situation on a public forum, and all this for an "armchair" investment. My only advice can be to avoid Axis/Rod Thomas - I believe that the investments provided by Axis don't work and I believe Rod Thomas has deliberately lied to me.

The management company I am now with is Superior Property Management (SPM) and I got my first tenant with them in July 2013 and my second in August 2013. I had to pay another $7,959.10 to get these two properties refurbished to a rentable standard, which makes me question what Marathon were doing. SPM advised me that three properties are in such bad areas they will be unlettable. These three were sold - the first in 2014 for 44% loss, but the next two were much harder to sell, and eventually went in mid 2015 for just a loss of 87% on one, and a loss of 92% on the other - a total loss of 74% of the money paid for this investment. In addition, the costs in taxes and insurance for these properties amounted to $9,317 - which means that for these three properties more than 100% of the investment has been lost. I still have two properties, and I remain optimistic that these will be able to be sold for more than I paid for them. My current expectations after four years with the investment that Rod Thomas convinced me was a guaranteed 240% return over two years, is that I have lost about 50% of my money. That's a change from positive 240% to negative 50% - I would be far better off with the money under a mattress.

Axis has now ceased trading, but Rod Thomas has several alternative companies: Avantis Wealth, Panorama Gardens and Prosperous Retirement Limited, all of which seem to be encouraging people to part with their pension funds to invest in his schemes. The company name has changed, but the person is the same, and I would strongly recommend avoiding Rod Thomas. The experience of everyone I have been in contact with is that Rod Thomas promotes bad investments.