Living Smart are experienced developers based in the Greater Manchester area. Founders, Ben and Tom Thorns worked in the financial consulting and digital marketing sectors before they blazed into the property industry in 2013. They started out as property investors and provided professional letting management services. The duo quickly identified the benefits that can be reaped from developing off-market sites. They secured 3 sites on option agreements all estimated to yield at least 30% profit on GDV.
Living Smart are focussed on growing their high quality rental portfolio in Greater Manchester through new build, refurbishment and change of use conversions. They have perfected the build-to-let business model by designing properties specifically for the letting market so as to maximise yields. The tech savvy duo are known for their beautiful high-quality developments and turn-key rental service. As early adopters of LandInsight, they have championed the product and transformed their workflow.
"We wouldn’t have got to this stage without LandInsight”
– Director, Ben Thorns
Challenge: Self Sourcing Off-Market Sites
As a SME developer, the focus is on finding high margin off-market deals one at a time. Quality over quantity. Living Smart sought the best way to find sites without relying on Land Agents as fees can be quite high. Random bulk letter sending and driving around looking for sites weren’t sustainable solutions either.
Solution: Targeted Digital Search
The goal was to source sites with a minimum 30 % margin on GDV. LandInsight made that possible by bringing structure and strategy to the site search. Instead of scattered letter sending, Living Smart strategically searched for sites using LandInsight’s deep search technology. Theyfilter for sites/planning applications by use class, parcel area, planning status (rejected/approved, etc), vacancy, and much more.Using these filters, they were able to find motivated sellers with sites that had great potential.
Challenge: Cataloguing Sites Under Assessment
There was no effective way to catalogue all the sites under assessment. Excel sheets just weren’t designed for the job and took too much time to manage. Living Smart needed a platform that allowed them to work efficiently in assessing each opportunity. They needed a system that could group all the relevant information about sites under consideration.
Solution: The Site Card and Site Pipeline
Cataloguing and organising sites had become a cumbersome task. To solve this problem, Living Smart use LandInsight’sSites area where they organise all their sites by current status, eg. Potential Opportunity, Letter Sending List, Under Assessment, Viewing Arranged, etc. They can drag and drop sites between stages as the assessment/development progresses. Clicking on any site revealed a Site Card that showed everything they needed to know about the site instantly.
Challenge: Assessing Planning Activity
Living Smart recognised the need to understand the planning activity in an area. In order to assess what planning they would be able to pass on a site, they needed to understand what kind of developments had been approved in that area. They also needed to study the planning history of the site under assessment to see if there were any red flags/hidden opportunities.
Solution: LandInsight's Planning Layer
Living Smart have a 100% planning success rate. This was in part made possible by their attention to the planning opportunities and constraints of a site in the early stages of assessment. Using LandInsight, they are able to see the complete planning history of any site. They are also able to analyse the planning activity in the area in one snapshot. They can see which types of developments have been approved in the area and which types have been rejected. This allows them to make a snap decision on which developments are likely to pass planning.
"LandInsight is the perfect solution for us”
– Director, Ben Thorns
Challenge: Improve Efficiency
Having worked in finance and marketing, Ben and Tom were used to high levels of efficiency. The problem with finding and assessing development sites was that key information was scattered. It took too much time aggregating ownership info, property data, site plans, measurements and more. There was a dire need to streamline this process to ensure success.
Solution: LandInsight's Suite of Tools
LandInsight aggregates all the information needed to assess a site for development. Everything is in one place. Efficiency was boosted by 5x compared to the traditional site finding and assessment methods Living Smart had previously relied on. Living Smart transformed their workflow using LandInsight. The following aspects of their daily grind have been streamlined. Now, they can instantly:
The above tasks traditionally took hours and days, and resources spent on searching for the above information were wasted.
Living Smart were early adopters of LandInsight. They embraced the technology, cut out the inefficiencies and most importantly, found profitable sites at low cost. They saw LandInsight as an investment in the future.An investment that started payingfrom day one.
Hemant is an industry analyst and content creator at LandInsight. As LandInsight's resident wordsmith, he authors blogs, industry reports, and case studies. Prior to PropTech, Hemant worked in the asset management sector. Surprisingly, he doesn’t like Monopoly.