You’re then in the enviable position of being one of a small group supplying a large number of people with something they desperately need. And believe me, every time there’s a crisis, there’s never any shortage of people looking for the exit.
Another growth area at the moment is small-scale property development. Interestingly, property development is a strategy for all seasons – you can turn a healthy profit irrespective of the economic climate – but again you need to know what you don’t know. Many canny landlords have already worked out that smaller development projects are simply the other side of the same property coin and that they already have the skills to both rent property as well as to develop it. Again, a modest bit of research would tell you that the government is desperate to encourage people to create new homes. Unfortunately, every time it tries to solve the housing crisis, a wave of nimbyism rises up to prevent any meaningful progress.
But one relatively nimby-friendly area is the conversion of the existing unused brownfield stock that we have up and down the country. These old shops and commercial buildings are lying there, unloved and unoccupied, with little intrinsic value due to a lack of demand. We have more commercial building space than we need and not enough homes. It’s therefore not rocket science that converting one into the other is likely to be a savvy move.
But surely the large, established developers will have already snapped up all these opportunities? The problem is that they’re not remotely interested, nor do they have the skills to do it. Give them a nice empty field where they can plonk down a few dozen of their standard house designs and make a few million quid; then it’s a case of where-do-I-sign. But give them a small commercial building that requires a bespoke solution and only makes them a few hundred thousand – that’ll be a thanks-but-no-thanks. Which means it’s a market that’s been effectively left to the smaller developers. Better still, the government has recently granted a raft of permitted development rights that make it possible to change the use of these buildings without the need for full planning permission. And with around four years’ worth of new homes locked up in these brownfield sites, it’s no wonder the government is keen to encourage as many people as possible to start developing.
There are many examples across the property spectrum where it’s possible to make money while others are swimming in the other direction or simply treading water. And you don’t need to sit down and try and work out these solutions yourself. The opportunities have already been quantified – and the solutions created – by people that have been there and got the tee-shirt.