Tuesday, 18 June 2013

My Work: Life As A London Property Developer


Firstly I want to apologise for my absence over the last few weeks...since disappearing I have coined a new phrase; ‘being glutened'. I will now apply it every time I accidentally ingest some of the pesky stuff and end up in bed for almost two weeks. I only discovered a year ago that I had an issue with it and am trying to avoid it at all costs, but occasionally when out in a restaurant or at a friends house it sneaks into my tummy. Gluten intolerance and allergy is something that is becoming more and more common – I’m sure you’ve all seen the increasing amount of gluten free food available in supermarkets now and recent statistics from America estimate that as many as 1 in 10 people are now intolerant to it. I could keep waffling on about it, but I’ll let you read my best friend Al’s brilliant health and fitness blog, Bootique, in a few weeks when she features an interview with me about gluten intolerance and also interviews with the amazing team who managed to diagnose it after 4 years of doctors not knowing why I was in so much pain every day!

Anyway, I’m back to work this week with so much to catch up on. I have also decided after a lot of recent requests to talk a bit more on the blog about what I really do for work {alongside writing and interior design}. 
My main job is developing property and the reason I haven’t blogged about it much up until now is simply because I don’t think that the pictures are pretty enough to share!  Talking about spreadsheets and mortgage finance also has limited interest, so I generally keep quite quiet about my work. In fact I’m sure most of my friends think that I don’t work at all, but simply sit at home watching day-time TV and reading magazines! 

So now I will try to explain a little about what being a property developer in the current market involves...

  • The first and most important thing is finance as without that there would be nothing to develop...I have had to be extremely creative over the last 18 months about the financing of the projects as lending is incredibly tricky at the moment. My advice to any would-be developer is to either work with an extremely talented and trusted advisor for this, or to do it yourself as I am now doing. It does involve a lot of financial reading and research as well as a lot of time spent in meetings with banks, but it can be done and once your forge a couple of good relationships it all becomes a lot easier.
  • Then you have to find a project. In South-West London where we are working finding any property is a challenge, but finding something that has a healthy profit margin is verging on impossible. There is such a short supply and such a huge demand that most things are coming to the market and going to sealed bids within 48 hours...as a developer it’s even more challenging as you’re competing with people buying for their own home and to them the margins aren’t important, so they will pay more. On average I look at 2-3 properties a week that would be suitable for developing and put in an offer on most of them – the result so far this year is that we have been successful in getting one, which shows quite how competitive it is! We aim to do two a year, but have to look constantly as you just don’t know which you’ll be lucky with and which you won’t.
  • Once the property is under offer and you are close to exchange I then start work on the planning application and party wall agreements. It’s vital to do this as soon as possible - delays of even a few weeks are very costly. Mortgage payments start as soon as we own the property and waiting two months for planning approval, while no work is happening on site, is just not an option. These few weeks are always stressful as until you have the stamp of approval there are no guarantees!
  • Then building can start – we are lucky at the moment that we have a great team, but we have to keep them in work constantly as otherwise we could lose them to someone else and that job could take months, which would really mess things up for us. The building industry in London is booming at the moment and most contractors have spoken to recently don’t even have time to quote for new jobs, so we really need to hold onto our team!
  • During construction it is my job to source all materials, which involves a lot of time in places like Travis Perkins and B&Q - almost all the trades I deal with and source from are men. Building and construction is understandably a very male industry and I often go for days and days without seeing another woman, which is when working for myself and being able to meet up with a girlfriend for lunch or a coffee is a real bonus.
  • Finally all being well {and there are always a few nasty surprises!} the work is done and hopefully within the budget. This is another tense part when you get the agents in to value with all fingers and toes crossed that you have actually made a profit...there are no guarantees in this business!
As you can see from these pictures we have now made it as far as bullet point four on our current project and so far progress is good. We're doing a loft extension, side return and rear extension as well as a first floor extension and full refurb and hope to finish by September.  Later this week I will show you pictures of one we did last year; exactly the same as this but the finished version...I feel a Blue Peter catch-phrase coming on!

Have a lovely day.

LMH
x


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5 comments:

  1. Loved reading your blog today. Property development is something I've always desperately wanted to do. We've renovated our house but can't seem to move on from there! I know it must be difficult and stressful at times but what an exciting job and so satisfying when your plans all come together.

    **Signs off, slightly green with envy**

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment Hannah, it's always lovely to hear that a post has been enjoyed. From the pictures I've seen on instagram of your house it looks like you would be a great developer! It is very stressful, but also very rewarding if all goes to plan. You do have to be able to stay calm under serious pressure and often I bury head my in the sand totally, as if I thought about the risk too often I would probably never develop anything ever again! LMH x

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  2. When I move back to the U.K I will definitely be calling LMH to oversee my future house as I have seen the results and she is amazing at what she does. She had vision and innovative ideas x

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    1. Thank you so much - would love to help when you're back! Do email me through the contact page with more details! LMHx

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