I am often asked this question by clients and it's a really difficult one to give a straight answer to. There are lots and lots of variables contained within the question.
Not least about property, which I can go into in a moment, but such things as; well, how old are you now, and when do you want to retire, and how much money do you need to do so, will you be happy sitting in front of a two-bar electric fire during cold winters, or would you rather be cruising the Caribbean to avoid the cold?
In my experience, having watched the property market for over 20 years and seen a lot of people become very successful, it certainly is possible to accumulate a great deal of money through property, but, and here's the bad news, it takes a degree of skill, luck, and above all, time to do so.
You need to have a great sense of what buyers, sellers, and tenants are looking for at any particular point in time, and also be able to read the market (as best as anyone can) to see when good or bad times might be around the corner.
I have worked through three property crashes and have seen very clever and successful people caught out by them. It is impossible to know for sure when the next big property crash may come, or indeed the next property boom.
Property, like so much other in life, is usually therefore about timing. When you choose to buy and when you choose to exit can be crucial.
Assuming that an investor isn't starting their property career with an enormous pot of cash, it is likely that much of the property will be financed, and this makes it an extremely slow process to accumulate wealth through property as interest can very often take significant chunk of any rent.
Maintenance, repairs, insurance, agent's charges, tax, and admin can take care of another chunk, leaving very little to spend or pay off loans with.
Most landlords only truly reap the benefit of their work when the market rises and they start to sell parts of their portfolio at profit, paying down mortgages on property that's retained, leaving them with their retirement nest egg.
The trouble is, that even with little or no mortgage on a number of let units, unexpected roof repairs, gas boiler breakdowns, or rotten tenants can have a serious impact on income meaning that even relatively well-off landlords are not able to completely rely on the income, and must have other sources to feel truly secure.
So, in short, given enough time and luck and a lot of effort, it is possible to accumulate enough to retire. But, it will take you quite some time to do so, and actually the real wealth will likely come from property market rises and strategic sales.
In other words, to the many prospective landlords who may be reading this, it's not quite time to give up the day job just yet, I'm afraid.