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Development Profits From Ivory Towers

Property developer Thomas Knust talks with Editor Richard Bowser

I have met more than a few people at property events in my years of reporting on this marketplace and it’s fair to say that while many are ambitious at the outset, their initial goals from property investing are often not achieved as fast as they might have first anticipated. Some then fall by the wayside, due to poor decision-making, sometimes picking the wrong mentor, a dodgy builder, or choosing a strategy that is past it’s ‘sell-by-date’ in that location.

These are just some of the many reasons why not everyone succeeds in property investing, however good might be their intentions at the outset. As this month’s interview demonstrates, the term ‘delayed gratification’ can often be the unintended outcome if planning and development of property is the chosen strategy.

Ten years ago, I was approached at a major property event by Thomas Knust, who is now a London-based developer. At that time he had what some people would regard as a modest portfolio of residential rental properties. Fast-forward to May 2020 and this was the reply that I received from Thomas when I asked him about his current progress and how the Coronavirus had impacted his property business.

“After a six month process and of late, a few nights of interrupted sleep, we have just concluded the sale of three of the six development projects we have been working on since last year.”

As those who know Thomas will confirm, in public at least, he is not your typical full-on, sales-driven and super confident property developer, testimony to his years in the corporate financial world that he was working in when we first met. He is without doubt a ‘hard core’ numbers guy, who seemingly loves the spreadsheets and doing the detailed painstaking analysis.

Obviously, I was very keen to hear more after that opening statement, to which he then responded. “We had been expecting to complete on the three projects with two individual buyers some weeks ago but we have finally got them over the line this week, which has been a huge relief. And in the next few weeks we expect three more sales in legals to be completed. That will then leave us with four more development schemes, which are at different stages of being built out. All of the 10 mentioned are student accommodation projects, apart from one of the four which yet to be built, as this is a 160-bed Private Rental Sector scheme in Leicester but which is forward-funded. Two of the student sector schemes now sold are also there.”

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