Site visits are an important part of the development finance journey, says Masthaven’s managing director of short-term lending, James Bloom
I’ve just returned to the Masthaven office following a site visit to one of our most exciting- and rewarding- development projects.
This week I drove out to Arden Grange, a high-end development in Tamworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire, to check progress as completion nears on the build of a group of stunning detached three-storey properties.
I drove onto the site to meet Paul Sura, managing director of property developer Blossom Homes, and his team for one of our regular site visits.
Over a cup of builder’s tea (but of course) and a sandwich we toured the site. Arden Grange is an exclusive development that overlooks a golf course and is rumoured to have the most millionaires per square mile in Warwickshire.
But underneath the glitz and glamour, a lot of hard work has been put in to making Arden Grange work. As detailed in a case study we put together about the project, it’s been far from plain sailing. But one of the reasons we collectively succeeded is because of our site visits.
I talk about Arden Grange because site visits are, for me at least, the most exciting part of the development finance journey. They lift applications from pieces of paper and into reality, from words and numbers on a page to a living, breathing thing you can see and touch.
It’s not just that I like donning my hard hat, steel toe cap boots and high-vis jacket for a day out of the office. Site visits help us get under the skin of cases, drive them through, meeting and making connections with brokers, valuers, surveyors and, most important of all, the customer, in the process.
If you’re involved at any level in a development project – be you lender, customer or broker – I’d heartily encourage you to undertake site visits pre-application and when work gets underway. Here are some reasons why.
Helping you pre-empt problems
There are an awful lot of things that can get in the way of a development project. From tricky planning applications to last-minute changes, there are a whole host of variables that can impact the smooth running of a build. Developments that run on time, on budget and without stumbling blocks are a rare beast indeed.
That’s where site trips come in. At Arden Grange, Blossom Homes opted to add a third floor to the proposed properties – a change which increased gross development value and timescales. We’ve always been a flexible lender but the ability to get onto the site, see the proposals and meet with key people made our decision over whether to increase our lending amount a whole lot easier. (We said yes, by the way).
Helping you train new staff
Site visits are an important part of the learning experience, particularly for inexperienced staff. The opportunity to visit a real-world development site gives new employees a whole host of useful insight: getting used to being on sites, working with third parties, developing their project management experience and understanding technical jargon to name a few. This is especially valuable for organisations experiencing fast growth, because it helps blood new staff quickly.
Great for relationship-building
Site visits help you grow as a business, too. They’re an opportunity to get to know property developers, brokers and other third parties. This means you’re in the loop with their upcoming projects and plans.
And if that first development goes well, it’s likely your services will be called on again for the next project that comes up.