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Property Investment

Property

We’re all in lockdown, the economy is in freefall, now what?

Like many businesses, every aspect of the property industry has been severely impacted by this unprecedented time. By late 2019 I was, in all honestly, a little battle weary by the sector. I’d ridden the wave of 2010 until 2017 and then the perfect storm of landlord tax changes, stamp duty increases and the Brexit vote had taken its toll on my property strategy. Of course I was also suffering a loss on some of my earlier gains, on paper anyway. 

I run a boutique property developer building out 105 homes across nine sites in central, east and west London. Following the election in December house prices were experiencing something of a “Boris-bounce” and I’d started to feel optimistic about securing some much-needed property sales. And then the coronavirus spread and brought the whole industry to a screeching halt. In my view the COVID19 pandemic provided a neat bookend to what was a challenging economic period for the property industry.

There isn’t a single part of the property sector that hasn’t been hit hard by the lockdown. Whole estate agencies, law firms, construction companies and more have furloughed whole teams. People can’t move home, bank valuations can’t be undertaken and construction sites remain closed.

Like most people, the first two weeks of lockdown were spent coming to grips with this new normal. Much like the process of grieving, I was stuck in the denial stage unsure what was required from me and, more importantly, what was acceptable. Many were blasted publicly for their insensitivity in continuing to market their businesses-as-usual at a time when it was anything but. 

The new normal and new winners 

As I reflected on what was going on and how businesses were reacting to the economic meltdown there were clear winners shining through the wreckage – those with a viable online offering. We all heard about the big companies booming like Netflix and Zoom, but individuals like Joe Wicks (PE classes for school children), Cat Meffan (online yoga and meditation), Sháá Wasmund, MBE (entrepreneur training and support) – those who already had solid online video training offerings are also winning. It’s no fluke that ads for online training are flashing up on your phone, these often solo-preneurs are winning right now too. 

The big question was how could I apply these strategies to what I was doing? A couple of days of auditing my business, my goals and, most importantly, my passions allowed me to work out some areas I could work on to add a viable online offering to my business. I also reflected on my longer term goals. While I am passionate about building beautiful homes in London and the south east, it doesn’t fit with my five year goal of living aboard a yacht with my partner and sailing the south Pacific. 

Pivoting

While some are calling time on the era of the influencer what the influencer economy has taught us is that it’s no longer enough to be just an accountant, or just an estate agent or just a makeup artist. Those who really won over the last decade are those who build their personal brand. I’m not talking about the Kardashians here but regular people like Antony Slumbers (commercial real estate consultant), Henry Pryor (home buying agent) and Katie Smith (award winning bricklayer). 

I’ve been banging the personal branding drum since 2016 and thankfully have built up somewhat of a following across social media; nearly 46,000 followers on Instagram, 34,000 on LinkedIn, 13,000 on Twitter and just under 8,000 on Facebook. However my strategy for posting on these platforms had been haphazard and lacking intent and purpose – two factors I need to add if I too am going to be relevant in the new economy.

One of the good things to come out of this lockdown is that we’re all realising something I’ve known for a long time – we have too many meetings! I despise (most) meetings and find them inefficient. I have to do my hair and makeup and leave the house for a start. Now I’ve moved to the countryside (which is fantastic during a lockdown) it takes me at least an hour and half to get anywhere. Video meetings are also quicker and more succinct. We get through all we want to get through in at least half the time of a face to face. Another efficiency saving! Now we’re not meeting, commuting (or putting on our makeup and doing our hair) we have time to be productive. 

The next thing I did was look at the parts of my business that I enjoy the most. They include writing, podcasting and speaking. Writing is an easy one to do remotely, it can be done from anywhere with space and power for my laptop. Podcasting just requires a good WiFi signal (which might prove a problem on a boat but not for the next few years). The public speaking conundrum was interesting to consider. 

I’d interviewed public speaker, sports psychologist and corporate trainer Jamil Qureshi in late March. Prior to February he was boarding a plane a couple of times a week for destinations across the globe to deliver training for large multinationals. Overnight planes were grounded and his business dried up. Jamil was quick to contact his clients and offer them video content which they paid for once and were free to repurpose as often as they pleased. While it did impact his revenues, it has now opened up a whole new business for him where one previously didn’t exist. One he can continue alongside his “in-person” speaking when it is again possible. 

I’ve also been working on my speaking business over the last month and have secured speaking opportunities in Dubai and Toronto later this year. What’s needed to secure these often lucrative gigs is a clear message of what you will be delivering to the attendees and what they will get from your talk. Previously my talks had all been on property and my property journey. Now that I am moving away from the built environment to something more virtual my topic or theme also needs to evolve. That’s where #reboundfromsetback came about. 

#Reboundfromsetback

I’ve had the trifecta of problems over the last few years, personally with divorce and a big city move, and then professionally with big loss resulting from fraudulent activity in my investment portfolio combined with dwindling asset values. 

The good thing about telling the stories of setback is that they are followed by stories of success. It became clear to me over recent weeks is that this was the topic and theme I was qualified and passionate about sharing. It doesn’t have to define me forever, but it accurately sums up where I am now. It also rings true for so many others right now. Our world is going through a huge economic setback but, we will rebound! Just look at any investment chart of stock market indices or property cycles – they recover. 

Implementation

Now I had homed in on my goals, explored my passions and found my theme I needed to know how to implement it. That’s where I am now. I am using this period of time while my children are busy attending school via remote learning to do the same. I’m exploring developing online courses, hosting webinars, membership groups, email lists and growing my social media followings. I’ve even used this time to learn how to edit videos for a (near) professional finish and launched a new YouTube channel, SailingSavvy, following my family’s sailing adventures aboard my partner’s boat, Savvy of London. 

After a six month hiatus I’ve relaunched my podcast as the #ReboundFromSetback podcast and am exploring new collaborations with other top podcasters (Look out for Two Women and a Mic with me and Sháá Wasmund soon). Now I’ve experienced also property fraud and misappropriation of funds within my companies I’m well qualified to launch an  exciting new podcast warning others on all the ways you can lose money in property at the hands of those less scrupulous. 

On the writing side I have regular columns with Modern Woman and Development Finance Today magazines. Following the success of my first book in 2017, Bricking It, I have at least two more books in me and one nearly completed manuscript ready for publication later this year. 

All this is a lot of work, granted, and I’m not sure what is going to gain traction and what will fail spectacularly. What I do know is that they’re all areas I’m deeply passionate about so I’ll have a great time working on them alongside my traditional property business. The important thing here is that I believe it will go a long way towards futureproofing my career. Once I have proven what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t, I hope I can work with others to help them implement these futureproofing strategies into their own careers. 

Futureproofing  

This will be the fourth time I’ve pivoted in my career. I started out in banking as an associate analyst, a role I was completely unsuited for. I then tried my hand at online fashion before stopping to have children and briefly returning to banking. It was between children that the idea of property development came to the fore. This now is my next iteration and one that I’m incredibly excited about. Not only does it allow me to grow a business around times that suit, it gives me the flexibility to grow it as big or small as I want it to be. And hopefully from aboard a yacht somewhere very warm and very blue. 

My point here is that yes, change can be a frightening prospect. But if you remain open minded and flexible and listen to what you really want, there is an online business in us all. I’m looking forward to hearing from you what you have decided to pursue and what lessons you have learned from what really are unprecedented times. 

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Property

Beginning of the end or new beginning?

In early September I received a call which changed the course of my property journey.

While I’d had some concerns about the time delays on projects, lack of accounts and the communications I had (and had not) been receiving, I was so caught up in untangling a 19 year relationship along with supporting my three young children that I’d pushed these niggling feelings aside. However the lack of transparency in the situation was completely at odds with my values. During that call the penny dropped for both of us that things were not as they seemed. Something was awry and we had a lot of work to do if we wanted to rescue the situation and engineer an exit for investors in the nine properties within the portfolio.

The situation took a personal toll. I went through the seven stages of grief simultaneously over three areas of my life – career, divorce and the complete upheaval of my family life. It was unfortunate that the time that my property investments needed me my family needed me more.

– Shock and denial
– Pain and guilt
– Anger and bargaining
– Depression
– The upward turn
– Reconstruction and working through
– Acceptance and hope

Now I flip between depression through to acceptance on a daily basis. But definitely with a lean towards the “reconstruction and working through” stage. I’ve set aside everything else, apart from family, just to focus on exits for investors.

If you are a stakeholder reading this please don’t be alarmed. A lot of work has been carried out at a high level since that fateful day in September. We are in a good place now but there is some mess left to clean up. Those in charge of the clearing up are more than capable and progress has been made.

For those hiding behind fake accounts and WhatsApp groups I pity you. It’s a shame that you are so frustrated in your own shortcomings and failings that you have to dwell on and even fabricate mine. Time will tell.

Thank you for the immense support I’ve received from so many places. When I’ve felt like quitting your messages and calls have kept me focussed. It’s amazing the support often comes not from those you expect but those you don’t. Thank you to the unexpected supporters 💙

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Podcast

Securing millions in an otherwise lacklustre property market #47

A good news story in an otherwise lacklustre property market. Graeme Alfillie-Cook, consultant, Apex Airspaces

In this podcast we discussed what it was that sets Apex Airspaces apart and how they’ve grown from a standing start to now a company with a heft delivery pipeline and millions of development funding.

Graeme is a senior real estate banker now working on a consultancy basis for Apex Airspace. He has helped the company put in place a £9m development financing with Homes England and more recently a £10m revolving development financing with the GLA to deliver 500 units across London.

Graeme formerly headed Lloyds Bank’s Developers team providing innovative client centric debt finance solutions and in turn helping customers deliver complex development projects. He has extensive real estate and structured finance experience having worked with Lloyds’ major real estate clients closing numerous high profile debt transactions as well as being active in the structured credit and securitisation markets. Graeme joined Lloyds Bank from the University of Exeter where he studied Economic and Political Development. He is married with two children, lives in Central London, and sits on the Executive Committee of Wasps FC.

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Podcast

Adrian Cormican discusses financing over £750m of property #46

“How do you get your investors? We just ask.” Adrian Cormican

In this podcast Adrian discusses:

– His unique property financing offering;
– Getting over his fear of public speaking;
– Being called a LinkedIn guru; and
– Turning around a development that starts going wrong.

Adrian has worked in the property industry since 2001. Initially starting in banking before setting up a property brokerage in 2010, Hallcroft Finance. Since then the business has assisted with the finance of over £750,000,000 worth of property to the market.

The business has grown alongside its clients into a lending business in its own right with both a second charge lending business and a joint venture arm which has been built on strong relationships created over the years.

For more information see: www.linkedin.com/in/adrian-cormican-80198a11/

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Podcast

EP45: Gita Trevorrow-Seymour – neuroscience geek and founder of High Definition You

High Definition You are the brainchild of Gita Trevorrow-Seymour. Her love affair with human behaviour began at age 6 when she attended her first play. Who, she wondered, couldn’t be fascinated with the inner workings of the human being and how we portray ourselves and how we are perceived?! Understanding what makes humans tick and what forms ‘character’ developed over the decades from a fascination to an occupation. An unexpected passion and current study into applied neuroscience now deeply informs the approach we take at High Definition You and our focus on how we can transform the mindset and ‘confidence’ of our clients.

We love inspiring a-ha moments but we live to empower our clients to take action.

Having sat through too many dull trainings in her corporate career, Gita is determined to equip our clients with a toolkit full of practical techniques that are not only easy to remember and implement but also have a huge impact on their personal and professional happiness, motivation, engagement and success.

Before qualifying as a coach, Gita’s 15-year career spanned psychology, acting, banking, recruitment and sales, so she is uniquely placed to combine science-backed research with an innovative approach to business in an inspiring, engaging and empowering way. Drawing on her own leadership journey, she brings a compelling combination of creative, commercial and cognitive to the personal and professional development space.

Whether giving a keynote speech or working with participants over several days, Gita and her team facilitate change on a deep and sustainable level. Clients report meaningful shifts that unlock not only their individual hidden potential but also boost the company’s effectiveness in a myriad of ways.

To find out. more about Gitanjali see www.highdefinitionyou.com or Instagram www.instagram.com/gitanjali_hdyou/

Let me know what you think in the comments below and do reach out if you have any questions or suggestions, always happy to hear from you!

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Podcast

Creating impactful relationships in property with Martine Bridge founder of property PR firm #44

Martine is the driving force behind Bridging London, her charisma and professionalism have enabled her to build one of the most significant networks in the Property PR industry. Martine and her skilled team have leveraged their considerable experience to create long-lasting and mutually beneficial partnerships for all in her network.

Before starting Bridging London in 2013, Martine had a varied and extensive career in property and lifestyle communications, including five years with luxury developer Candy & Candy, where she has worked on iconic developments such as One Hyde Park, Chelsea Barracks and Fitzroy Place. Martine has also worked for luxury interior design firm Lawson Robb and branding and design agency Heavenly, on prestigious projects such as The Lancaster’s and Somerset Place at the Royal Crescent, in Bath.podcast propertyrealestatebusinessentrepreneurpublicrelationsPR

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Podcast

When your family has been investing since the 1600s Edward Benyon explains how you think differently #40

“This long term attitude has enabled us to do things which a shorter term trader developer company might not be able to do.” Edward Benyon

Not many people can trace the start of their property portfolio to the 1600s. Yet his family initially bought a farm in the 1640s which then covered Islington, De Beauvoir and into Kings Cross.

By the 1930s the estate owned just about every freehold in the 1930s. Since then the estate has shrunk thanks to bombing, leaseholder reform, compulsory purchase, and, most significantly, death duties.

In this podcast we discuss:

– The history of the De Beauvoir and Benyon families;
– The rise and fall of Hackney’s fortunes;
– Investing for the long term; 
– Rental reform and so much more.

Horses were an early passion in life and Edward briefly considered a career in eventing and show jumping before quickly realising that it was a challenging way to make ends meet. Instead, he turned his mind to property.

His first job was in Connaught Square, W2, working for the Irish property investor and former Olympic equestrian, Alfred Buller – who went on to invest heavily in Clerkenwell, on the fringe of the City, not far from De Beauvoir Town. Edward then set up an offshoot of the firm that focussed on rural property from an office in Hungerford, Berkshire.

Later on, Edward ran a property department for a small finance house in St James putting together deals until the family and its trustees decided that The Benyon Estate could no longer be property managed and required asset managing. Edward was brought in to lead the team as Estate Manager in 2007.

“So, my wife and I moved from Peckham to De Beauvoir Town to oversee this change,” explains Edward. “It’s been an amazing experience – somewhat nail-biting at times as we’ve invested a lot of money into the Estate – but I am pleased with what we have started in terms of bettering the Estate with community in mind and I am determined to keep it going. Both the family and trustees have been, and continue to be, extremely supportive of what we are doing here which is about looking after our tenants and really understanding this area and its needs.”

For more information see thebenyonestate.com

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Podcast

Do you need a planning consultant? Mark Shearman from Firstplan explains why #3

Mark is a partner at Firstplan, a Central London planning consultancy based on Bermondsey Street, SE1. He has over 10 years of experience dealing with a variety of developments across London and the UK, including a range of residential, mixed-use and retail, restaurant and commercial developments, as well as high-end, smaller-scale residential schemes such as basements and listed building alterations and extensions.

Mark first worked with Nicole on her City Road scheme – winning a planning appeal enabling her to build 2 additional storeys of residential on the roof of the building – and has subsequently assisted with a number of her other ongoing developments in Hackney, including the St. Matthias Club in Dalston and the Paintworks site on Kingsland Road. He specialises in managing and negotiating with local authorities, and advising developers on planning strategies aimed at helping them to maximise the planning potential of their sites.

www.firstplan.co.uk

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