1. Use a commercial broker
Commercial lenders are specialists, so your typical high street bank won’t usually be on your shopping list for development funding. Some lenders have a direct-to-developer model, but many rely on a network of commercial finance brokers to bring them business. And here lies yet more good news – these commercial brokers are on your side. Their job is to find a lender who can fund your project. Transparency is critical, and your broker will need to know all about the deal and your professional team, as well as you and your development business. Got a few financial skeletons in your cupboard? Tell your broker. It invariably comes out in the wash anyway, and you risk alienating everyone involved if you ‘forget’ to mention your unmentionables. Armed with the truth, your broker can then go out hunting on your behalf to find you the funding. How many brokers do you need? There’s no harm in having two or three on speed dial, as they won’t all be tapping into the same sources. But they can be a great ally as you move forward to secure that first deal.
2. Build a brand
Property development is a business where there’s invariably more than a few bob at stake for everyone involved. For both commercial lenders and private investors, you’ll need to inspire confidence. How serious are you? And how knowledgeable? Do you have a business plan and a team that ticks all the right boxes? Do you understand your deal inside and out? The word that crops up in each case is ‘you.’ But it shouldn’t just be all about you. You need to have a brand behind you. A name, a logo, a website, and a business card. People need to feel that they’re doing business with a brand and not just an individual, no matter how firm your handshake or how convincing your smile. So make sure you set these things up right at the start so that they can silently go to work for you in the background. The number of private investors who didn’t try to check out the developer’s website before they agreed to lend them money is probably as near to zero as makes no difference.
3. Learn how to analyse your deals robustly
When you put your deal forward for consideration by a commercial lender, it’s fair to say they’ll kick it pretty hard to see what falls off. Do your costs look reasonable? Does the professional team have enough experience? Are your anticipated profit numbers prudent or pure pie in the sky? And what happens if the market changes or the contractor goes bust; do you have a second exit strategy? This is, of course, excellent news; it means that if they agree to lend you the money, then you can be reasonably sure it’s a solid deal. But here’s the thing; the prospective lenders will also get to see your numbers. Imagine an errant schoolboy handing in their scruffy, dog-eared, half-completed homework to the teacher. If your own analysis has more holes in it than Augusta, then you’ve just scored a major own goal. So, learn not only how to analyse deals correctly and thoroughly but also how to make your deal analysis look highly professional.