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Financing Developments - The Inside View

Editor Richard Bowser talks to Mike Bristow of Crowd Property

Not that many years ago, obtaining finance to initiate a property development project could be a bit of a lottery with some traditional lenders asking potential borrowers to undergo an exhausting, lengthy and quite rigorous application process. Thankfully times have changed as a number of more innovative lenders have emerged and property developers now have more choice and the process often takes less time to achieve a response from many lenders.

I recently met with Mike Bristow, the CEO at Crowd Property, to talk about the development lending market in 2022 and to congratulate him and his team on their recently achieved milestone of having now lent over £500m to fund property development projects, nearly all of which have been in the UK.

“Yes it’s an achievement we are understandably proud of,” said Mike, “although I was hilariously reminded last week of the phrase ‘the first half a billion is the hardest’. Yes these are big numbers which reflect well on our customer-centric approach and which shows that our original aim of building a better lender has been proven to be the right approach. Prior to launching the company back in 2013, my colleagues Andrew Hall and Simon Zutshi felt there was a real opportunity to create a development finance lender that could do better than the service being offered by more traditional providers at that time. In our opinion the financial services sector was not, and generally is still not, the most customer friendly or focused, and that is what led us to launch the business.

I asked Mike to clarify how Crowd Property (CP) sees itself  nowadays and how it differs from other lenders in the marketplace. “To be clear we are a specialist property finance provider for property developers and that is the market that we compete in. These days the majority of the funds on our lending platform for property developers come from major global institutions not just from individual lenders through a crowd funded raise. We have a diverse source of capital, which we lend out via a range of products for our developer-borrowers to choose from. Of course we have refined and defined our service throughout the last nine years and we will continue to listen to our customers, and their needs evolve just as they themselves adapt to the ever-changing market conditions.”

My next question to Mike was to outline in detail a few examples of how this approach has led them to achieving the levels of success evidenced by the £500m of lending data mentioned earlier. “Our strapline for many years has been ‘property finance provided by property people’, and not from bankers or former bankers which makes us quite unique. Our success has been achieved through SME property developers using us because we really do get what they are about and understand their ‘issues’ and inevitable challenges. As the principle directors, we ourselves have done many property deals over the years and are still ‘doing deals’ as well as assessing and lending on many hundreds of deals through our platform. 

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