Investing in the (newbuild) future

Giles Leadbetter of Hunters Land & New Homes, London, speaks to Marc Da Silva about Hunters’ new Residential Development Investment division.

Giles Leadbetter imageDoes the decision to launch a Residential Development Investment (RDI) division suggest that Hunters anticipates a rise in the volume of newbuild homes coming to the market?

Due to the recession and lack of available lending, developers considerably slowed down their pipelines, but over the past two years we have seen a real resurgence in the sector, with the cranes coming back in force.

Hunters Land & New Homes was a regional service run by the branches. Our aim is to centralise this and combine our knowledge, enabling all branches to offer a fully integrated service to investors and developers.

International and fund money has hit the market in a big way, which has enabled developers to return to delivering the ‘golden’ supply levels of 2007. This has been coupled with the fact that the Government implemented Permitted Development planning permissions, which has given older untitled office buildings a fast track through the planning system, allowing new life to be breathed into some prime city centre sites across the country. This has been particularly noticeable in major northern cities such as Manchester and Liverpool.

Why was the decision taken to open in Manchester and London? Does Hunters plan to expand this service nationwide?

Through our previous experience in the market, Hunters is aiming to expand and build upon our existing deep-rooted relationships. Previously we’ve focused on London and its surrounding boroughs but with the Hunters brand we have a truly nationwide business that enables us to broaden our geographic spread into cities throughout the UK.

With our main hubs in London and Manchester, it allows us to launch into most areas and capitalise on hugely exciting opportunities. In Manchester for example; we see huge growth potential, with high levels of international investment flooding into the city that can only have a one-way impact on property values. Etihad plans to base their European hub out of Manchester and with heavy Chinese investment already coming into the city’s airport infrastructure, it won’t be long until the effects are felt. This is bolstered by the announcement of the first ever direct flight from Manchester to Beijing, which is expected to boost Manchester’s economy by £50 million.

Is a dedicated Land & New Homes division necessary for an agent to boost newbuild instructions?

Developers want a team of experienced professionals that can help them successfully market a development – the Land and New Homes sector is a specialised business that needs focused expertise. Therefore an agency operating within the new homes sector does need a dedicated Land and New Homes division to help attract a decent level of new build housing stock.

Agencies that would like to benefit from the newbuild market, but do not have sufficient experience in working with developers should seek a joint agency that can help with the process and get the desired results.

As a team we have a skill set that runs all the way through the development process, from initial planning consultancy to exit sales, both internationally and in the UK. Hunters will offer developers this expertise. We are able to offer advice on all aspects of sales and marketing, including pricing, release strategy and building a bespoke sales campaign that has global reach and appeal.

What strategy had Hunters previously taken to grow its investor and developer clientele in the land and new homes sector?

Previously Hunters Land and New Homes had been more of a regional service that was run by the individual branches. Our aim is to centralise this and combine our knowledge, which will enable all branches to offer a fully integrated service to investors and developers.

Is the time right for estate agents to target more new build housing instructions?

The new homes sector is a very big market and housebuilders currently have a huge quota to fill to meet demand – the supply-demand ratio remains significantly out of kilter. As an agent you simply need to be part of the mix to have a chance of winning instructions when new build homes come onto the market.

As with Manchester, we see real value in the secondary areas of London outside Zones 1 and 2. Prime Central is becoming a little overheated and we think that the real value and growth potential can be found in the more affordable areas of the city. Yields in these areas are strengthening as London renters are being squeezed out of the centre of town – and as a business this is where we are concentrating on delivering exceptional developments that represent quality and value.

What advice can you offer agents wanting to expand their new homes service to win more newbuild instructions from developers?

It is very important that any agent aiming to target the newbuild market has experience in the sector.

It’s also worth noting that because overseas buyers are more likely to acquire homes off-plan, many developers want international sales to help satisfy pre-sale funding requirements for their residential projects. Therefore it is particularly important that agents have good contacts abroad, in places like the Middle East, Asia and Africa, with knowledge of how to market UK properties to international purchasers.

Agents that do not have the necessary experience in the new homes sector or the necessary contacts abroad, should seek a joint agency that can help with the process and get the desired results.

Spectrum newbuild in Manchester image
Spectrum: smart and sassy living in Manchester City Centre.

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