An insight into the world of property development: Interview with Alan Waxman, Landmass London

What inspired you to set up Landmass London?

The process of setting up Landmass London has been an organic one.  Previously, I looked after an international ski-wear business and wanted the challenge of working for myself. Initially, I started to acquire a portfolio of rental properties – a safe way to enter the property market. Having given these rental properties a ‘lick of paint,’ I started to sell to make profit. This spurred me into the development of tired flats to renovate and add value to.

Unlike other developers, I endeavoured to create a home, that is not only desirable to live in, but reflects how one interacts with their surroundings, what effect it has on their psyche, and what they expect to gain from the property.  I soon realised that many developers made the mistake of depleting space, by increasing number of bedrooms in hope of a good return. I began to strive to maximise space, and after a number of successful projects, I decided to launch Landmass as a brand, and hire a fantastic interior design team.

Landmass has completed a number of spectacular projects, are there any which are particularly memorable?

Grosvenor Crescent Mews:

The challenge was the lack of light at the rear of the property – there were only windows at the front of the property. Therefore, in order to bring in light, we cut out the back corner and installed a glass retractable roof. In addition, we installed a 10.5M copper plated waterfall & a Zen water garden in the basement.

This won Best Development in London, Best Interior Design in the United Kingdom at the Residential Property Awards. This immaculate interior design includes a media room, steam room, gym, study and garage.

Find out more here.

Belgrave Mews North:   

The challenge was to create an impressive space. The property was dark, damp, and its layout mimicked the complexity of a rabbit warren. The fact that it was a grade II listed added further

complications. We worked around this by including a combination of glass retractable roofs over the living room area, a glass encased staircase going up to a roof terrace (that we were granted permission for), a circular glass window in the entrance hall looking onto a chrome circular fireplace in the living room & in the basement 3.2M ceiling heights & a floor-ceiling stunning copper plated fireplace.

Take a look at the development here.

Ladbroke Grove:

We transformed a 650 sq. ft. 2 storey dolls house into a 3200 sq. ft. 5 bedroom contemporary masterpiece. We had to overcome the difficulties of contending with a double basement, no garden, a busy road & a council block behind. The solutions were to build 2.75M ceiling heights in the lower two floors, introduction of light through the light wells front & rear, designing one of the terraces like the inside of a yacht with built in furniture at the bow, triple glazing to combat the noise and landscaping the gardens of the council block to help gentrify the area. We emphasise value-added.

See more about Ladbroke Grove here.

What is it about Landmass’ approach to design and development which sets it apart?

At Landmass, we have a strong emphasis on the differentiation between interior architecture & interior design. Many designers and developers focus on the look & feel through use of different fabrics & colours, whereby we work from the opposite end of the spectrum focusing initially on how to maximise the use of both space a light through creative interior architecture and space planning. Once we are satisfied with the product for the client we then start moving into the finish, look and feel.

This discipline has enabled us to beat market expectations on price in challenging markets as well as give private clients a much better use of their space than they had previously thought possible.

How has your previous experience of the property market shaped the proposition of Landmass?

Landmass is my sole experience on property and I have learnt through experience. The first example of this was when I bought two floors above an off-licence on a busy road in Fulham. During the building works of the first of 2 flats, I moved the kitchen 3 times in order to realise where best the location suited the flat. This was clearly based on a lack of experience, but was also a sharp learning curve. On completion, I sourced a Feng Shui specialist to offer her personal opinion and she was happy with the layout. Furthermore, at my own cost, I gave the exterior of the off-license below a refresh and on the front door entrance, installed a solid oak door with 3 portholes to add a sense of intrigue and differentiate it from the other entrances on the street. Subsequently, I achieved my first better than expected market price. Buyers are already making subconscious decisions about the property before they walk through the door and so spending money on this may seem extravagant, but I believe that it’s more important than we think.

The second example was when I bought 2 strangely shaped 2-bed flats in Notting Hill. Most developers may have tried to squeeze a third bedroom into each flat, but having done a lot of head scratching, my intuition was that they worked best as sumptuous 1 bed flats which worked against the agents advice. Sienna Miller, the actress, bought one of them and a private client the other. Both achieved prices well in excess of market expectations.

What’s your plan for Landmass, where do you see the business in, say, five years’ time?

Lots of plans for Landmass!

To have 10 new multi-unit sites either under construction or completed catering to the sophisticated demands of discerning buyers + growth of the internationally renowned design solutions for challenging spaces. Continue to build upon ways of thinking out of the box via our use of clever + imaginative architectural design.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for property developers today?

  • High sales expectations of vendors
  • Uncertainty due to the Brexit – a key factor being the negotiation of the financial passport to keep London as the financial hub worldwide.

Similarly, uncertainty brings opportunity for those with vision and confidence for the future of the UK economy.

How easy is it for developers, like Landmass, to secure finance for their projects?

It is important to make a clear distinction between equity and debt. Due to our strong track record of having sold over 30 projects, banks are happy to work with us on the debt side.

Regarding the equity, considering that we are operating in prime central London which is hugely competitive, it is a ‘catch 22’ situation. Equity investors want to see a clear-cut deal and we emphasise that there are plenty of great sites, but no deals. In central London, we need to negotiate hard with the vendors to source the properties at the right price. This can only be done credibly from a position of strength which in turn means we need the equity facility agreed upfront, in principle, before vendors will take a buyer seriously. Serious investors have to actively engage from day 1 in order to secure a site with strong development potential.

If you could offer one piece of advice for a prospective property developer or designer, what would it be?

Start small.

Our process is analogous to designing and manufacturing a brand-new luxury motor car that has never been designed/built before and building this new car in an old factory.

The nature of the game & process is that there will be many challenges, obstacles, issues, and problems to resolve. Experience & an excellent team are key. For this reason, it’s best to learn on smaller projects rather than jumping in at the deep end.

If you would like to learn more about Landmass London, or have a further conversation about your development finance portfolio, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or visit http://landmass.co.uk/ for more information.

GET IN TOUCH WITH US

CONTACT US