Also, conversions are usually significantly quicker to complete from start to finish compared to new builds, which is another key benefit.
So, we’ve determined a winner between our hard and soft centres. The next question is, what type of conversion project is best? The answer is perhaps not as obvious as people might think. For many people, office conversions are the poster child of conversion projects. After all, what’s not to like? Most office buildings look similar to a block of flats externally, with windows in all the right places. They’re often either in a town or just outside one and usually have parking nearby if not on site. Surely, it’s just a question of creating partition walls inside the building to create self-contained apartments and replicating this on every floor?
While it’s not quite that simple, the theory broadly holds. The problem is that everyone else will be thinking the same as you do. As a result, competition for office conversions is fierce, which inevitably drives up the price and drives down the profit. Also, where the design options for converting a property are limited, everyone essentially comes up with the same proposed floor plan, and it’s more difficult to differentiate from your competitors. In this situation, it’s usually the person who will accept the least profit or who has got their numbers wrong who wins the deal. Either way, you don’t want this person to be you.
For me, retail conversions are the Orange Crèmes of the conversion world. They’re very nearly my favourite, just not quite. There’s a lot to like. Firstly, there are a lot of empty shops that can be converted – you only have to visit your local high street to see the evidence. We lost 18,000 retail outlets last year, with a similar number predicted to close this year. But because of how retail has evolved, there’s also scope to convert the uppers of actively trading shops, not just the empty ones. These upper floors used to be for storage, but just-in-time delivery logistics have reduced the storage requirement drastically, allowing developers to convert the unused uppers while the retail tenants remain in situ below. Some rather nice PDR wheezes apply to retail conversions, often enabling you to outbid the competition. A chap’s got to have some secrets, so I won’t mention them here. But using PDRs creatively is one of the key things that we teach our students, and let me tell you, there are plenty of PDR wheezes to play with.