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Project Delivery

In this final instalment on property development basics, Ritchie Clapson, looks at arguably the most critical aspect of any development - delivering the project on-site.

Small-scale property development has become one of the most popular property strategies for existing landlords looking to create greater profits and for new investors who may previously have only considered a buy-to-let model. The impressive returns and significant scope presented by the government’s recent changes to Permitted Development Rights have generated unprecedented interest and a wealth of opportunity. But how can those new to development enter the fray and make serious money without making serious mistakes?

For those of you that have been paying attention over the past eight months while reading these articles, you’ll have realised that we’ve now reached the eighth and final pillar of a typical property development journey. You may even be kicking back, a small glass of something to hand, with the slightly smug air of someone who has nailed the first seven pillars. What could possibly go wrong now, you might think. Unfortunately, if you fail to get Pillar 8 right, it won’t make much difference how right you got the first seven; your project will quickly find itself in deep water. Luckily, help is at hand to steer you back to the shallows on this, the home straight.

I’ve talked about development being a highly leveraged business, and this is really brought home to you when you’re starting work on site. Your team of professionals will leap into action and start doing their thing; it’s all rather impressive. Your biggest asset at this stage is going to be your Project Manager. They’ll oversee everything and check-in with you regularly to keep you appraised. It means you won’t have the unenviable task of trying to manage your own development project for the first time, surrounded by a host of industry professionals who have all been here before. Your PM will be your eyes and ears, and they’ll be taking care of the shop.

But it’s a big mistake to think that once you’re on-site, you can sit back and relax. I’ve seen highly experienced developers get things wrong by failing to exercise sufficient control of their project in this final phase, so please don’t fall into this trap. Luckily, you only need to manage four key elements at a high level:
1. Time: How are you progressing against your planned timescales? Time is money in development because it means you’ll be paying finance interest for longer, plus you’ll encounter other problems if a site drags on, such as the ongoing availability of your team. Make sure you’re on top of where you’re at and that you know your anticipated end date at any given point in time.

2. Budget: How are you doing against your original budget? Are you being charged extras and overs at every turn? Is your contingency fund ‘virgo intacta’, or did it get seduced by your contractor within days of the hoardings going up? Keeping an eye on the spend allows you to see the direction of travel and economise en route if you need to. You don’t want to find out you’ve overspent just as you’re being handed the keys.

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