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7 Secrets of successful property developing

7 Secrets of successful property developing

Despite what Homes Under the Hammer would have us believe, investing in bricks and mortar, even in booming East London, is a risky business. We discover some tricks of the trade that should help maximise profit

WORDS BY KELLY BESWICK

 

1. BUILD YOUR TEAM WISELY

You are only as good as the team you have around you is Nicole Bremner’s mantra when it comes to successful property developing. Her company, East Eight (east-eight.com), is currently involved in £75 million worth of development in and around the E8 postcode, so she’s a lady who clearly knows what she’s talking about. “I think people sometimes have a tendency to feel intimated employing or partnering up with someone who is better than them,” she says. “This is a huge mistake. I realised early on that I needed to surround myself with the very best people, be they architects, builders or interior designers, if I was to have a chance of making a go of this venture. My team has been with me for many years now, which is quite unusual in this business.”

 

2. HAVE A CLEAR VISION

Developing a USP and sticking with it is also high on Bremner’s tick list. “Anyone can buy a flat, paint the walls white and put in a few nice cushions, but that’s just going to get you regular returns for a regular property,” she warns. “To stand out in this market you really need to do something quite exceptional that people don’t expect, so when the property is advertised online or they walk in it actually makes them say ‘wow’. We are able to get a higher price than others can achieve in the area because our properties do look so aesthetically pleasing.”

 

3. STICK TO WHERE YOU KNOW

“I’ve gone out of location a couple of times and it’s not worked as well,” says Bremner. “Therefore, I strongly recommend choosing an area and making that your specialty. There’s not much of the E8 postcode and its environs that I don’t know – this is definitely my patch. I make sure I find out about every property that’s for sale, sold or being renovated in the area. I live off Kingsland Road so it’s easy for me to keep an eye on things.” Which brings Bremner to a related point. “I know a lot of people are buying properties up North, where you can buy a house for £50,000 and rent it out at high yield. That’s fine, but when things go wrong, as it invariably will, it’s a huge hassle. My business is on my doorstep, which is convenient, less time consuming and while my money doesn’t go as far, the risk is lower.”

4. RECOGNISE POTENTIAL

Bagging a bargain isn’t high on Bremner’s list of priorities – far more important to her is spotting a property’s potential and actually securing the deal. “If I can see it’s a good property and I know it’s going to work then I don’t worry too much about trying to negotiate down to the last pound.” Of course recognising potential is one thing, but achieving it is another, as Bremner attests. “No one can learn all the rules about planning and what they can do and what they are likely to get in any given area because the goal posts are always changing. I’ve been allowed to do something in one place and then just a few streets away the exact same thing is prohibited. It is frustrating, but get yourself a good planning consultant who can help and advise.”

 

5. KNOW YOUR BUYERS

“I always have a really clear idea of the type of person who is going to buy one of our properties, and I think that’s vital,” says Bremner. “When I’m doing a family home then it’s for someone like me (she’s a mum of three), but if it’s a loft apartment, then it’s for my friends who are single, leading busy, social lives. It’s very much about knowing how different people live, and how they aspire to live, and building something I know would really work for them and their lifestyles.” Bremner recalls a big house she recently developed on Englefield Road. “Even though it was 3,000 square feet, I knew from the outset it would not make a family home. The garden was tiny while the property itself was vertical rather than lateral. We designed it pretty much for a single person and that’s exactly who ended up buying it – a musician in fact.”

 

6. SMALL THINGS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE

If there’s one word that’s sure to provoke Bremner’s ire, it’s magnolia. “Just don’t go there,” she warns. “Dull and safe does not sell a property for maximum profit. You don’t have to spend a fortune, however, to give a place that wow factor. Things such as granite worktops in the kitchen, marble bathroom tiles and proper Grohe-branded sanitaryware can all make a huge difference to a prospective buyer’s perception of a property.”

 

7. BE HANDS-ON

Currently juggling a dozen projects, Bremner goes to each site at least once a week. “I spend time where I’m needed most and at certain stages in a development I am needed more,” she says. “It’s important that I am hands on and up to speed with any issues. In addition, my team likes seeing me there. They like knowing that I am interested in what they’re doing. My guys take great pride in their work, so whether it’s the tiling in the bathroom, cupboards they’ve just built or a new staircase, they want to show it off and, what’s more, I love seeing it.”

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