Category

Development Finance

sam-howard-magnet-capital

Magnet Capital marches through May with new business

By Blog, Development Finance, Opinion

Record level of new loans signed up in May 2020

 

Magnet Capital recorded its best month since its 2018 launch, with the highest level of new business written. Both enquiries and written business have risen with an 33% increase on the prior year.

 

Magnet Capital has benefited from its consistent approach to lending, which has not changed significantly through the pandemic, and continuing its approach of funding the right housing in the right locations.  It has completed on loans in March and April (including its largest loan to date, drawing down in April) and welcomed new business.

 

Sam Howard, Managing Director says “We have thrived in May by being open for business during this difficult period. Whereas other lenders immediately pulled down the shutters, our cautious lending model and years of experience enabled us to make sensible funding decisions, limiting potential exposure but continuing to lend.

 

We have a mantra in the office to be the tortoise not the hare and not to bite off more than we can chew. We understand how much value our borrower and broker partners place on consistency and reliability and this is what long term relationships are built on. In these tough times this is certainly bearing fruit.

 

We are delighted but not surprised with the recent numbers. Whilst the UK continues to suffer from the Covid 19 outbreak and arguably until we have vaccine, life will not return to the normal, there is a real sense that people want to get on with their lives. The fatigue of the Brexit years plus the seismic shock of the pandemic, has taken its toll but SME developers are seeing beyond this and thinking 15 to 18 months into the future. On that journey and beyond, we will continue to be their partner “

homes-in-neighbourhood

Government Announces £30m Funding Boost to Acquire Land for New Homes

By Blog, Development Finance

The UK government has recently announced that a funding boost of £30 million will be used to unlock surplus public sector land. This land will be used to build new homes whilst also supporting local economies during this turbulent period of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

This announcement was made at the annual conference for the Chartered Institute of Housing, Lord Agnew – cabinet office minister – stating that the government will be boosting its One Public Estate (OPE) programme as well as its Land Release Fund (LRF).

 

Those in the industry, have provided interesting responses to this new announcement,  including the likes of ilke Homes executive chairman David Sheridan, who has stated: “I welcome the government’s efforts to release surplus land for housing as part of a boost to its Land Release Fund and One Public Estate Programme.”

 

“However, to really kickstart a housing boom, government policy should be more ambitious. Ministers must be proactive in bringing land forward and designating parcels exclusively for factory- built homes.”

 

“This will help accelerate the pace of housing procurement and delivery in the UK – cutting construction programmes by almost half – which will be pivotal to any post-Covid-19 recovery plans.”

 

“Housing associations have a key role to play in using their own funds and their own land to boost the supply of affordable housing and should be encouraged to collaborate closely with Homes England and other stakeholders.”

 

One Public Estate – £10 million will be provided through this programme, helping to support early stages of development.

 

Through this programme, partnerships both new and already existing will have the opportunity to bid for support in delivering ambitious programmes – these programmes concerned around the deliverance of homes, jobs and improved public services.

 

The Land Release Fund – £20 million will be provided through the LRF, of which councils will have the opportunity to bid for to develop their surplus sites for housing.

 

The LRF targets specifically small sites, its support focused around SME builders.

 

Chairman of the Local Government Association, Councillor James Jamieson, has stated the following on the matter:

 

“Councils continue to lead their communities through the coronavirus crisis, working closely with other local partners including health and emergency services.”

 

“One Public Estate will play a crucial role as we move into the next phase and help with the local and national economic recovery.”

 

“This additional funding will support councils to make better use of their assets, including their spare land and property, to help join up local services.”

 

“This in turn will create new savings and efficiencies, as we look towards the future of local public services after the pandemic.”

eco-friendly-hand

Net-Zero Building Standards Don’t Have to Be Costly – Study Reveals

By Blog, Development Finance

A new report published by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) reveals that building to net-zero targets doesn’t have to be costly, and could likely enhance a project’s value.

 

The report by the UK Green Building Council, titled “Building the case for net-zero: A feasibility study into the design, delivery and cost of new net-zero carbon buildings”, explores implications of following net-zero standards throughout building development projects.

 

To help with this exploration, the report enlisted the help of designers, cost consultants and engineers, whose expert inputs have helped to create a clear look into applying net-zero targets to building projects.

 

The UKGBC Study

Throughout the study, two real-life building projects were examined, both at the design stages of their development, with one being a residential block, and the other being an office building.

 

Taking these two projects, the team then created two additional iterations to each of their designs, one aiming to meet the net-zero targets for 2025, and the other shaped by the targets for 2030. These two iterations were labelled the “intermediate” and “stretch” scenario respectively.

 

For the “intermediate” scenario of the residential block’s design, traditional gas boilers were replaced with air source heat pumps, in addition to other tactics to improve insulation and minimise heat loss.

 

In the same scenario, the office building design was altered by trading in the conventional structure of steel and concrete for a hybrid of steel and cross-laminated timber, as well as introducing active chilled beams and removing certain fitout finishes.

 

The Findings

 

For the “intermediate” scenario, aiming to meet the net-zero 2025 targets, analysis found that the cost only went up by 3.5% for the residential design, and 6.2% for the office building. It was also suggested that these costs were likely to be offset by the increased value and reduced costs for operating.

 

For the “stretch” scenario, analysis found that the cost for the residential building would be up by 5.3%, whilst the office building could range from between 8% and 17%.

 

Chief executive of the UKGBC Julie Hirigoyen commented: “We’ve known for some time that taking action to make buildings greener today will add value and save costs in the longer term. But the precise cost benefit analysis of achieving net-zero carbon standards on new buildings today has remained elusive.”

 

“This study provides long-awaited evidence that building today to the standards of energy and carbon efficiency required by 2025 doesn’t have to cost a fortune and is likely to be offset by enhanced value (e.g. higher rents, reduced running costs, higher sale price, reduced offsetting costs etc) in due course.”

construction-worker-with-plans

CHAS and NFB Help to Raise UK Construction Standards With Renewed Partnership

By Blog, Development Finance

The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) and the National Federation of Builders (NFB) have recently renewed their partnership, committing to the promotion of high operating standards throughout the industry.

 

The NFB represents builders and regional contractors throughout both England and Wales. It is one of the country’s longest standing trade bodies, created to not only represent professions in building, but furthermore to improve the conditions NFB members need to contribute to a successful UK economy.

 

CHAS managing director Ian McKinnon has made the following comments on the partnership:

 

“We are delighted to be renewing this important partnership which will help construction firms of all sizes demonstrate compliance and build their businesses.”

 

“Both CHAS and the NFB have gone from strength to strength since we first joined forces in 2018 so it is exciting to be able to bring an even greater range of benefits to our respective memberships.”

 

What Does the Renewed Partnership Include?

 

Through the NFB’s membership with CHAS, they will be eligible for assessment to the new Common Assessment Standard.

 

The Common Assessment Standard has been built with the aim of standardising the prequalification process, enabling both contractors and their clients to improve the efficiency of supply chains and find business opportunities that are reliable.

 

This standard helps companies to attain compliance and accreditation easier than before. These standards streamline the supply chain of construction, and is known as the “gold standard” throughout the industry.

 

CHAS will also enable NFB members to demonstrate their commitment of operating with high ethical, safe and sustainable standards. This opportunity will be provided to the NFB by CHAS through third party accreditation packages.

 

As part of the partnership agreement, CHAS will also offer all valid members of the NFB a discount of 20%. Contractors part of the NFB will be visible to CHAS’s 1,500+ clients via their client portal upon order purchase/accreditation.

 

In return for this, the NFB will offer CHAS contractors a discount of up to 10% when joining. This discount will also be offered for renewals following their joining, providing contractors with a range of benefits such as business services and training support.

 

The NFB’s chief executive Richard Beresford has been reported to comment: “We are very happy to be renewing this agreement with CHAS which will help our members’ businesses prosper while opening up a range of benefits to CHAS members.”

ashley-ilsen

2020 So far…. The development finance market

By Blog, Development Finance, Opinion

I think it’s fair to say at the turn of the year no one expected that we’d be stuck in our homes for several months and the immediate future of our economy would be looking far from rosy. In fact, going into January and early February, Brexit was still the buzz word on everyone’s lips in the industry. I think the way we responded as an industry was admirable. Had something of this nature happened say seven or eight years ago I don’t think we would have been as well placed to take it on the chin. I believe we’ve matured as an industry in recent years and as a result we are more robust in our lending practices and our ways doing things.

 

As I’ve often complained about before, for me one of the key things the development finance sector needs to deliver is constancy. Without consistency we don’t have housebuilding and new homes being created. Initially it was disappointing to see that some self-styled development finance lenders were unable to decide whether they’re in or out. This is not bridging and the risks are much higher. I strongly believe that if you can’t be in the market offering development finance during the bad times then don’t operate in the market when it’s performing well.

 

The biggest losers from this level of unpredictability is the consumer and, after all, the main goal of the development finance sector is to assist SME builders and developers create new homes. Similarly, I found there to be a high level of frustration amongst brokers unable to place deals with lenders who had suddenly dropped out the market. The deal flow was still there, but some of the lenders were not. However, the majority of us stood firm, with tweaks made to LTVs and some lending criteria understandably tightened. It was great to be able to report that Magnet Capital had one of our strongest months for new business in May, and we weren’t the only ones setting PBs during the lockdown period.

 

One of the criticisms I’ve had of the development finance space over recent years is that we’ve lacked innovation. The most successful lenders over the coming years will be the ones that can innovate and provide new and exciting ways of doing things. Development finance lenders have been on a slow curve to absorb and start using new technologies, so it was interesting to watch the Covid-19 crisis accelerate this movement. Lenders suddenly had to be equipped to have their whole force work from home.

 

At Magnet Capital it was no different for us. We make a strong point of meeting every single person we lend to face to face and for the first time in my career this was no longer possible to do with every borrower. Whilst Zoom was an excellent tool for staying in touch with each other, I don’t believe that there is a replacement for face to face meetings and contact. I’m delighted to report that our site visits and face to face meetings have started again where appropriate.

 

Looking forward I think development finance lenders need to avoid the mistakes of the past. There is no point of coming to market at LTVs you can’t sustain. We are almost undoubtedly staring down the barrel of an unprecedented drop in property prices. Development finance lenders with genuine expertise would have already factored this into their offering long before we reached this crisis. However, I will add that it’s not LTVs that cause the biggest threat to development finance lenders, but internal practices and attitudes to lending. I have seen via some of our introducer partners examples of the corner cutting that still exists in the development finance industry. These are the lenders that are going to be tested the most.

 

Brexit is also still a looming cause of uncertainty in the medium-term outlook. I’ve already seen many cases of building suppliers from the continent looking to raise prices for our builders over the coming year and this could seriously hamper many new build and heavy construction projects. Again, a development finance lender that understands the market will have already factored this into their offering.

 

Unfortunately I don’t have all the answer, but going forward we need to continue sensible lending practices at sustainable LTVS. We will need to continue to adapt. This is how we’re going to provide consistency to our brokers and consumers, and this is how we’re going to continue to thrive as an industry.

 

Development finance grade 7/10

London-city

The UK’s Second Most Expensive Home Now Up for Sale in London

By Blog, Development Finance

Headlines exclaim “Billionaire Wanted” as the second most expensive property in the UK hits the market. Priced at £185 million, this mansion sits on 1-18 York Terrace East, London, and was designed by the famous Buckingham Palace architect John Nash. Nash is renowned for his design of the capital’s royal palace as well as Brighton’s Royal Pavilion and Regent Street.

 

The firm currently pushing to sell the huge property have claimed that someone with “billions” who currently wants to find a property in the UK should inquire.

 

The mansion was built between the period of 1821 to 1826, its current owner Zenprop UK, a property investment firm, speculated to have originally purchased the property four years ago for £200 million. However, despite these claims, the chief executive of the firm has commented that the property was purchased for below the price it is currently listed at.

 

The Daily Mail reported comments made by Zenprop UK’s Derrick Beare claiming that the sale “is not for me to make a return, it’s pretty much to get my money back and move on.”

 

“The current price is a result of Brexit and the pandemic. It should be more, but I don’t think I can get more in this market. It won’t appeal to many people but we only need one person. The kind of person with billions, who wants a place in London.”

 

About The Property on 1-18 York Terrace East, London

 

This newly updated property was originally intended as 18 separate homes, however, after WWII was converted into government offices. During the war, the building was almost demolished after suffering bomb damage, however after public outcry was saved, and most of it afterwards used by the Ministry of Works.

 

In 1967, the terrace was when transformed by the International Students Trust into luxury student accommodation. The property was then used as a home for students studying around the area until it was sold in 2016 to Zenpop UK.

 

Zenprop UK are associated with the South African premier property development and investment company Zenprop Property Holdings. The firm agreed to a long leasehold extension, and have been restoring the building to residential use for over three years.

 

Beare is reported to have insisted there is interest for the property – of course, from incredibly wealthy prospective buyers – one even considering placing a bid of over £200 million. However, due to Brexit this buyer had pulled out.

 

The mansion now stands complete, Grade 1 Listed and 117,000sq ft, thought to be the first time in history that an entire Nash terrace has entered the open market.

man-signing-mortgage-application

Mortgage Application Fraud Rises in the UK

By Blog, Development Finance

Whilst mortgage application approvals have recently increased, benefiting both customers and the economy more widely, unfortunately, alongside this has been a rise in mortgage application fraud.

 

The Bank of England reports that both mortgage approvals as well as lending figures overall rose during the month of June – approvals relating to house purchases in particular rising from the record-low figure in May of 9,300 to 40,000.

 

The central bank stated throughout their Money and Credit report that “The mortgage market showed some signs of recovery in June, but remained relatively weak in comparison to pre-Covid. On net, households borrowed an additional £1.9 billion secured on their homes.”

 

Post-covid, the UK government has offered two rounds of mortgage holidays, both three-months, to offer help to homeowners. This scheme was reportedly taken up by 1.9 million households in the UK.

 

The report further claimed that whilst this was indeed higher than May’s £1.3 billion, it was still “weak compared to an average of £4.1 billion in the six months to February 2020.”

 

Furthermore, the Money and Credit report explained that “The number of mortgages approved also increased in June. The number of mortgage approvals for house purchase increased strongly, to 40,000 up from 9,300 in May” however, “approvals were 46 percent below the February level of 73,700.”

 

Whilst reports of this rise, albeit comparatively low to pre-COVID months, is welcome news to the sector during this turbulent period, SmartSearch, an anti-money laundering service, has revealed that the UK is also experiencing a rise in mortgage application fraud – up 5% during last year with a concerning 13% of adult Brits thinking exaggerating their income on an application was “reasonable”

 

SmartSearch CEO John Dobson, reported by the Express, claimed that “Applying for a mortgage can be an exciting and also daunting task, with many first-time buyers unsure of what to expect during the rigorous application process.”

 

“It is important to remember that a mortgage is a significant financial commitment, and making exaggerations or withholding any changes in circumstances may result in you being investigated for money laundering and fraud, making it more difficult to secure a mortgage or other financial products in the future.”

 

What Is Mortgage Application Fraud and How Do I Avoid It?

 

With mortgage application fraud, individuals will provide false evidence to support their application for a mortgage. SmartSearch have suggested some of the following considerations to take into account during the mortgage application process, all of which should be handled with care to prevent red, money-laundering-related flags:

 

  • Register on the electoral roll so that you can prove your identity to lenders – “If you’re not registered on the electoral roll it is just about impossible to secure a mortgage” SmartSearch claims.

 

  • Disassociate from ex-partners you could still be financially linked to via the credit reference agencies.

 

  • Explain and provide evidence of where the source of your deposit has come from (particularly important when the deposit has been gifted to you, or is from inheritance).
building-construction-site

UK Construction Sees Sharpest Rise in Nearly 5 Years

By Blog, Development Finance

The building industry shows promising signs of a strong recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, as UK builders report to have experienced the sharpest rise in monthly activity in nearly five years. This rise came during July this year, residential building reported to be the main driver for this significant boost in activity.

 

The rise comes as excellent news for the UK government, who are reported to be relying on this particular sector to help be a driving force in the country’s economic recovery – PM Johnson himself using the slogan “build, build, build” whilst describing the intentions for the post-lockdown economy’s revival.  New and upcoming “once in a generation” reforms have recently been announced to the country that will help to ease certain building restrictions.

 

However, even with these promising results, as concerns surrounding the economy still remain significantly high, the sector has experienced a decline in workers. IHS Markit’s economics director Tim Moore told the Financial Times:

 

“Concerns about the pipeline of new work across the construction sector and intense pressure on margins go a long way to explain the sharp and accelerated fall in employment numbers reported during July”

 

The Government’s Plans for Construction Post-Lockdown

 

Despite this reported decline raising concerns, the UK government has predicted that this drive in construction will create many more jobs throughout the sector, further helping to push for economic recovery following the COVID-related lockdown measures.

 

On the 21st July 2020, Parliament laid out new laws that will enable homes to be built where unused buildings currently stand, without the need for full planning applications. Alongside this, retail and commercial properties will be able to be repurposed quickly in a bid to revive town centres and high streets.

 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has commented the following on the matter, stating that:

 

“We are reforming the planning system and cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy to give small business owners the freedom they need to adapt and evolve, and to renew our town centres with new enterprises and more housing.”

 

“These changes will help transform boarded up, unused buildings safely into high quality homes at the heart of their communities. It will mean that families can add up to 2 storeys to their home, providing much needed additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows.”

 

These new rules, set to apply from September, follow on from other measures recently announced to help support home building throughout the country, of which include the addition of £450 million to the Home Building Fund, whilst a new £12 billion programme for affordable homes will help to provide up to 180,000 brand new properties.

ashley-ilsen

Opinion: Why lenders need to look to the past to successfully traverse the future

By Blog, Development Finance, Opinion

One thing I often discuss with colleagues is the use of the term ‘old school’. I like it. I take it as a compliment. I see it as a nod to having learnt and taken heed from past experiences. Most of my colleagues at Magnet Capital, like me, were trained at a previous lender that had been successfully lending money for several decades. Our schooling was in the fundamentals of lending; being measured, being considered and being the tortoise and not the hare. If you can balance this with an unparalleled service and a commitment to lend whether the sun is shining or not, then you have the makings of a very successful lending business.

 

However, over the last decade I’ve closely admired the transition of the specialist finance industry from ‘old school’ to ‘new school’. There have been many changes in how things are done and don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate of innovation and finding new ways of doing things. Innovation is one of the key areas that will determine which business will be successful in the coming years, but perhaps as we move into testing times, with undoubtedly choppy waters ahead, we can navigate our way through as an industry by looking to the past.

 

Lending fundamentals are now going to be more important than ever. Cutting corners and taking unwarranted punts on the asset in question is probably the most common fools’ folly I’ve seen in recent years. As lenders we are all keen to grow our loan books and beat the competition. However, I’ve seen many recent cases where we’ve been asked to push our normal lending parameters to win a deal. Whilst we’re undoubtedly committed to servicing our broker partners, it’s this sense of needing to ‘chase the market’ that can really hurt lenders. Looking back at the 2008 financial crisis, the worst hit finance businesses were the ones that were happy to take on too much risk and cut too many corners when the sun was shining. This is even more true in the development finance sector which is inherently a higher risk style of loan.

 

There’s also the factor of top down pressure which can lead to lending errors. Some lenders have large instances of non-utilisation fees. This coupled with high business overheads can put the lender under pressure to make risk-based decisions that they wouldn’t normally do. Turning down business because it’s perceived as too high risk, or an unflattering return for the business is always a hard decision to make. My fear at the moment is there are still lenders lending money on behalf of private investors or institutions making decisions that aren’t feasible in the current economic climate.

 

One of the only ways to judge the future is by looking to the past. Property markets are intrinsically linked to the economy. The economy as we know moves in cycles, and we’re undoubtedly entering a period of great uncertainty and potentially huge economic difficulty. Unfortunately, even the so-called experts are unable to make accurate predictions. So, as lenders, we need to continue to back our brokers and the consumer. If this means giving up business and taking less risk, then so be it, but as I’ve said before now more than ever is it important to be consistent. There’s a great saying that I learnt during my time living in China and that’s ‘crossing the river by feeling the stones’. This idiom about moving forward whilst being cautious couldn’t be more pertinent to the specialist finance industry today.

ground-rent

FCA Confirms Second Round of Mortgage Payment Holidays During Covid

By Blog, Development Finance

The FCA has confirmed that they will offer a second round of mortgage payment holidays, continuing to help those homeowners who may have been financially implicated during covid-19.

 

Around 1.8 million households used a mortgage payment holiday for three months from the start of thelockdown period, as a way of offsetting any financial uncertainty or loss of income due to unemployment.

 

In total, around 20% of the UK’s population benefitted from the mortgage holiday scheme, giving the average household a saving of £755. The FCA also introduced a similar scheme for other kinds of credit and financial products including personal loans, credit cards, car loans and an interest-free overdraft facility.

 

Residential homeowners and those who offer buy-to-let have until 31st October 2020 to apply through their bank or mortgage provider. The process is usually completely online, streamlined and fast-tracked, offering almost instant approval, with no evidence of financial hardship needed or affordability checks.The Financial Conduct Authority’s interim chief executive, Christopher Woolard said upon issuing a further three-month scheme:

 

christoper-woolard

Christopher Woolard explains that the three-month mortgage holiday is necessary to address the ongoing situation surrounding covid

 

“Clearly, if there are further restrictions that need to be placed for health reasons; if the situation becomes
more complicated in some way, then we’ll have to think about how we adjust to those circumstances.”

 

However, Woolard expressed his belief that half of the people who used the initial mortgage payment
holiday from March to May were now able to pay.

 

“About half of that group are people who perhaps thought they were going to lose a job or have some other kind of impact, and in fact they’re in a position where they could still afford to pay now that that ninety-day period is coming to an end.”

 

Woolard emphasised that while lenders suffered the burden in the short-term, borrowers will feel the effects when it catches up in the longer term through extended mortgages and rolled-up interest.

 

“It’s everyone’s best interest to actually get back towards payment wherever that is possible or even partial payment, but we have to recognise that there’s an ongoing situation here,” he said.

 

Homeowners get access to a three-month mortgage holiday, whereby payments are deferred until a later today or carried onto the end of the mortgage term. Applying or using a mortgage holiday through the Government’s scheme will not impact your credit score or ability to access finance from elsewhere.

 

During the coronavirus period, the Government and FCA have also confirmed that no repossessions by mortgage lenders or banks will take place, giving property owners breathing space if they need it.