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Development: Focus on Your Local Area

Kent based Peter Dabner talks with Editor Richard Bowser

Having done hundreds of seminar talks at property events over many years I often tell people to discount some of what I am saying when I warn about the potential increased risks of ‘distance investing’. The reason is that I have invested myself for some 20 years in a location around 250 miles from my family home, but for me it has worked out well and produced solid annual returns.

And yet, as I say above, it’s an approach that brings with it some additional risk factors, and which I have seen too many investors and landlords take too lightly and overlook the potential consequences until problems occur. As such my lead interview this month was with a property developer, Peter Dabner who is based in Kent, and who working alongside his father Dick Dabner, have gradually built a property landlord and development business by ‘staying local’.

I first met them some 10 years ago and at that time they were doing typical refurbishments of smaller commercial and residential spaces including some HMOs and flat conversions. Nowadays with the recent further changes to permitted development rights and use class changes, there is a huge upsurge of interest in this strategy but somewhat less so back in 2011.

“You probably would not recognise the local area when you passed through recently,” said Peter, “as it’s changed a lot in the last 10 years, with a new town centre hub built at a cost of over £10m by the council. Back in 2002 when we had been investing previously in property - on the side so to speak - we were running a glass manufacturing operation, but business prospects were not that great and on the advice of our accountant we decided to move into property full-time. The glass business was very management time intensive and not so rewarding financially as property.

“What helped when we started out was that we already had many network connections with the local building trade and we still work with some of those individual trades all those years later. Our speciality then was with decorative glass, mirrors and windows, supplying builders and just as it is now with our development projects we are always look to add value. We started out like many others, by doing simple refurbs but always looking to add real value to property and land through ‘forced appreciation’, and so not just relying on the whims of a possible cyclical uplift in values.

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