Bob worked in the 1980s as a Land-Buyer in a major PLC, rising to the ranks of Regional Land Manager. Bob Hilder compares and contrasts his role as a Land Consultant, to that of a Land-Buyer that he once was, within a Developer-company.
The two roles mirror one another – studying Local Plans and Housing Implementation Strategies, keeping an ear to the ground for residential redevelopment opportunities, reviewing Planning Applications, as well as networking and meeting Landowners.
Developing relationships with Developers and landowners is where the difference lies, as my role is to introduce the site to a Developer who is going to meet the Landowners’ deadlines – and Bob makes it his job to find out which Developers are active and motivated in the market at any given time.
Bob manages the processes of planning, financial, environmental and legal aspects of land-buying – whilst ensuring that he is dealing with a decision-maker at the Developer Company (usually on Managing Director, or Land Director level). There is nothing more galling than progressing a site almost through to exchange when a Board Decision leads to a move of no confidence in the site’s acquisition.
Having worked in the industry, Bob understands the needs of a Land-Buyer, how he/she must work out the costs of acquisition, standard build costs, site overheads, ‘abnormals’ sub-totals, and Fees for Architects, Sales, etc, marketing and any other on-going costs; issues around Planning and Affordable/Social Housing – all whilst being able to read and understand Site Plans.
When assessing a site’s potential, Bob is able to rapidly gauge potential planning issues which the local Planners will identify very early on.
Now in his 28th year, it is rewarding to have referrals and recommendations to follow up. So you see, Bob really does ‘speak a Land-Buyer’s language’.
Our team conducts in-depth evaluations of open market and discrete projects, plus joint ventures on brownfield and greenfield land. We also provide research into ecology, services, Highways, sales rates, and pricing.
Land-buyers are tasked with consideration of the GDV (Gross Development Value) of a site, thereafter applying a percentage (often between 30-40%) to arrive at a land value, depending on the location and type of scheme.
As a Land Consultant, I work similarly, with the added value of considering build costs per square foot/square metre, finance servicing costs, Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) and resale values.
This serves to give valuable insight into how a Developer will look at a site and his decision-making process.
Also considered is the housing mix and local policy requirements – feasibility studies are an important part of the role.
Land Selling Story
Developers may approach land-owners direct, but dealing direct may not be in the Landowner’s best interest – especially to accept an offer without proper legal representation, thrashing out acceptable Heads of Terms and sound advice on the pros and cons of the various options available.
The land deal may appear more attractive without having to pay Agent’s fees, but having only one offer may not reflect the true value of the land.
Expertise, speed of decision, and avoiding a ‘bidding war’ may appear preferable, but having several purchasers in the frame will generally lead to establishing the true value of the land.
The added value of a Land Consultant is being able to understand and dissect a variety of offers, provide objective opinions, and present the best (which is not always the highest) offer to the Landowner.
A Developer Company may have access to his own team of planners, financiers, site managers etc but a Land-Buyer could work up a site for months which is then rejected by the Board.
As a Consultant, tenacity and technical ability are more the mainstays, and certainly industry experience is critical.
Cost v Overhead
Developers generally employ their Land teams as part of their business overheads. As a Land Consultant, I am a ‘cost of development’.
Knowledge & Experience
We have worked since 1991 with local, regional and national builders, predominantly across the South, but also throughout the rest of the UK. We advise Developers on residential land opportunities, acquisition, disposal, planning legislation and, together with our partners, on a range of technical issues which require the services of a Chartered Surveyor.
We ensure Developer buyers are committed and our consultative approach generally ensures less problems at the latter stages of negotiations. Some sites take months or years to come to fruition, especially when dealing with strategic land ventures.
- Sourcing development land
- Strategic land opportunities
- Brownfield/Greenfield sites, with or without planning permission
- Promotion of strategic land parcels through the local development framework LDF
- Formation of assembly sites with adjoining landowners
- Expert advice and guidance on all technical aspects
- Market research
- Expert Witness provision
Strategic Land Work
We leave little to chance when working on Strategic sites, and our objectives include:
- Accountability: to evaluate whether the Developer will deliver on price and in a favourable timescale for the Vendor/Landowner
- Prioritization: to oversee negotiations with all parties, liaison and follow up to ensure the project is delivered in the best time-scales