Landhaven Founder and Managing Director, Andrew Minto, is an expert in property development, design and construction.
Here’s what he’s learnt about property development in Bristol in the last 10 years, and how, through all the ups and downs, he’s stayed true to his principles.
1. Uncertainty is part of the deal.
The last 10 years have seen unprecedented uncertainty in the UK economy. The build-up and fall-out from Brexit, the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the steep rise in inflation have all impacted the property development industry. We’ve seen builders’ merchants close overnight, sharp increases in energy, labour and materials costs and a hike in interest rates that hasn’t been seen for a generation.
Through all that, property values and rent have been rising, because there remains a high demand for housing. But I’ve learnt that anything can happen. We must always be ready to be flexible and have a Plan B from the outset, without compromising on quality or ethics.
2. Work with professionals.
It’s always tempting to cut costs by opting for DIY or finding someone who will do a job on the cheap. But that approach can often cost you further down the line.
Trusted professionals know what they’re doing and will protect and guide you through your project. You get the benefit of their expertise and experience, and the luxury of learning from mistakes they’ve already made, rather than making those mistakes yourself.
3. You must think creatively.
It is notoriously difficult to find development sites around Bristol—people have been developing property and land in Bristol for a long time, so many of the easy wins such as garden plots or easy in-fills have already gone. So, we’ve adapted to think outside the box when approaching property development in Bristol. We often think about demolition sooner than owners ever do (as this gives us a completely blank canvas) and we usually see a wider range of conversion or repurposing possibilities.
4. Overcomplexity can be a weakness rather than a strength.
I’m increasingly a big believer in keeping things simple. A building can still have multiple wow factors and be a joy to live in, without being complex. Simpler designs are easier to build efficiently, and therefore more profitable, and easier to live in in the long term.
We’ve learnt that there is an elegance in simple, beautiful, designs built well.
5. Building regs are ever more demanding.
Building regulations are more stringent than ever before. The government can do little to control existing buildings (particularly for energy use), so new ones are heavily regulated. There is huge pressure on new-builds to be ultra energy-efficient, but this can create other problems (for example, poor air quality) and comes at disproportionate cost.
I’ve learnt to tackle building regs with the mindset that we can rise to any challenge. We have a team of Energy Consultants who work alongside our architects, so that the design blends seamlessly with energy performance regulations. The trick is to get the right professionals in from the start.
Find out more about building regulations on the government website.
6. Modern methods aren’t always the way forward.
Modern building methods have their place, but they are really about speed and getting houses up quickly. The problem is that with some modern methods it can take decades for issues to come to the surface.
So, I’ve learnt to be forward-thinking and creative—to value and combine traditional methods with modern approaches and build homes that we know will work and last for the future.
7. Be realistic.
Be ready for a long ride. It’s a misconception that property development is easy. The reality is that it’s a long, slow, risky, and often stressful process, and things go wrong. You can’t just hope that you’ll find the right site, complete within your budget, or sell for a profit. Be prepared to stay calm, work the problems and find solutions.
As an optimistic person in life, I’ve learnt to be cautious when it comes to property development projects because the reality is that there are many risks, many unknowns and many factors that will change over the course of your project.
It’s much more likely that surprises will crop up than have plain sailing through to the finish line. Work on a pessimistic assessment of your development project and be pleasantly surprised if things go better than expected. This requires real discipline, otherwise you’re just kidding yourself.
8. Environmental considerations are now critical.
10 years ago, environmental considerations were something to be aware of. Now, they are urgent. We prioritise improving energy efficiency and biodiversity to minimise carbon emission and create sustainable homes.
We invest in micro renewables, ensuring homes are equipped to generate their own energy and reduce pressure on the grid. We look at how water use can be minimised (with flow restrictors, aerators and water recycling) and, where relevant, how flood risk can be mitigated. These environmental considerations are now central to all our designs.
9. Smart homes have become a necessity, not a luxury.
From heating to lighting to security, smart, connected homes are in the mainstream. High-speed internet has become a necessity, and many buyers expect to be able to control their homes from the palm of their hands and charge their vehicles on their driveway. Designs for property developments must now meet those needs. We’ve learnt that building this in from the start, and exceeding expectations, creates future-proof and very desirable homes.
10. Helping people is at the heart of what I do.
We’ve worked with many different clients and investors over the years. As a smaller business, I’ve learnt that a personal approach works best. The bottom line is that I want to help people. So, I actively search for people who, for example, have a plot of land or a derelict building, and want to do something with it, but don’t know where to start. With our support and expertise, we can genuinely help, and it is a win-win situation for both parties.
Our projects are based on strong design principles, quality craftsmanship, and unwavering respect for the environment and local community. If you have land or property you’d like to develop, talk to us.