Property developers often get some bad press coverage with frequent accusations of ‘land banking’ and ‘greed’, often aired by those who do not agree with a proposed scheme in their local area. The last few years, with the aftermath of Brexit, then Covid, plus the energy cost crisis, have all highlighted that ‘stuff’ happens which for a property developer can derail even the best laid plans for a scheme. And of course now we have to deal with the latest challenge of higher borrowing costs, which impacts on both developers and their end buyers.
When done correctly, property development can of course reap some great returns for those who apply their expert knowledge and resources to create successful schemes, whilst embracing the inevitable challenges that any property project throws up.
Given the above, I set out recently to the Thames Valley area to meet up with two individuals who are clearly scaling up their activities in property development by not only working together on increasingly larger projects, but also having their own separate property businesses.
Ben Richards studied Architectural Engineering at university and is the managing director at Aura Architecture and Interiors and he previously worked on some very large residential development schemes with the Berkeley Group.
I met him along with Jack Jiggens, his business partner at XP Property, which is their property development business. Jack is a very experienced hands-on builder, having done many projects himself, and is development director at Jiggens Property Ltd.
Separate from his development business with Ben, Jack also has a growing portfolio, currently comprising of 100 HMO units in partnership with Rob Jiggens, his brother. They trade under the Central Suites brand with offices in Henley on Thames.
We met up initially at a property in west Oxfordshire, which is just being put onto the residential sales market having been transformed into a luxury four bedroom semi-detached property by Jack and his local builder.
“We bought this as a three-bed semi-detached and very run down property through a local agency contact,” said Jack. “They were aware from previous experience that we could transform it into a desirable property. However, what you see today is not at all what it looked like at the beginning of the year as it was in a very poor state. We hired multiple skips to clear not only the wilderness in the very large back garden but also the huge amount of items left by the previous owners.