New legislation has recently been introduced by the Government to abolish the requirement for tenants to pay agents fees on new lettings. The fees cover such
things as letting fees and credit checks.
The move is seen to increase flexibility and mobility in the market. Previously tenants were reluctant to move, not only because of the disruption involved with moving home, but also because of the cost.
Paula Burtenshaw is in charge of Gavil Group’s residential portfolio and sees the change as inevitable. “Over the last 12 months we have focused on improving our properties in line with our customers’ requirements following a tenant survey. Our programme of continuous improvement sets our properties apart from other local landlords and we truly believe we have developed a premium product. The abolition of agents fees will allow tenants in inferior properties to seek to improve their lifestyle by moving to one of our units. In the past, tenants have been reluctant to move, not only because of the hassle, but also because of the cost. With more freedom in the market tenants now have the ability to vote with their feet and move to landlords that offer better properties and premium service. This is an exciting time for landlords who are willing to go the extra mile”.
Building on its partnership with Beaverbrook, Gavil Group is delighted to report that its planning application for 40 staff accommodation rooms at Grantham House
in Leatherhead Town Centre was approved by Mole Valley Borough Council on Wednesday 3rd April 2019
Architect, Andrew Sloan commented; "There is so much specific demand for staff HMO accommodation in the South East. I am delighted this scheme can now go ahead. I am hopeful that I can help to expand Gavil Group's offering in this sector over the next few years."
Following the recent tenant questionnaire we are delighted to report that we must be doing something right!
It is our quest to provide a better service to our tenants and to improve as landlords. Ultimately we wish to become recognised as the best landlord in Surrey / South London. We are not there yet, but the fact that 92% of our survey respondents felt that they appreciated us as Landlords and recognised that we are “trying hard” has encouraged us to throw even more energy in search of our “holy grail”.
We are busily analysing the results of our survey and will implement a series of improvements at all of our properties over the next 12 months.
Thanks goes to Tina, Mark and Lee at Property Connexions for all their help with our survey and to all those tenants that took the time to respond.
In its on-going quest to establish itself as the area's most conscientious landlord, Gavil Group has bolstered it maintenance team to include a dedicated caretaker for our New Malden properties. Paul Miller (right) joined the team in the autumn and has already made a big impact on kerb appeal at our larger blocks. Paul visits Charter Court, Kingston Road and Beverley Court every day to ensure everything is in order and that tenants benefit from a neat and tidy appearance when they return to their home. He is also on call to undertake any maintenance repairs to the New Malden portfolio. "In the New Year I am hoping to roll out a programme of improvements at all our larger properties" says Paul. "These are exciting times. I have a number of quick wins in mind that can really lift the appearance of our properties. A little bit of attention to detail can make all the difference". Paul goes on to say "Quite often it has been difficult to gain access to properties which can delay the repair, to the frustration of both the tenant and the team. There is a plan in place for January to have 24/7 access to all keys. Provided the tenants are happy to allow the repairs to be carried out in their absence this will significantly reduce response times and tenant inconvenience".
Paul joins Michael (centre) and Jorden (left) as the 3rd full-time member of the maintenance team. Team leader Michael identified the need to have a dedicated operative to oversee the Epsom portfolio and employed Jorden in 2017. His appointment has been welcomed by the UCA and our other HMO tenants in the town. "We try to respond to callouts with 24 hours" said Jorden. "It is not always possible to complete the fix on the same day if a part is needed, but we will try". He adds "Since Paul came on board, I have been able to focus solely on Epsom and provide our tenants with the service they deserve". "Of course I can't do everything" Jorden continues "as certain jobs, for example, require the attendance of a fully qualified plumber or electrician. However Gavil Group's portfolio is large enough to warrant employing an in-house father and son plumbing team who I can call upon as required. ES Reding have undertaken the electrical works at New Malden for more than 50 years - that kind of hands-on experience is priceless!"
2019 will see Gavil Group focus on improving maintenance response times even further with better communication and weekly monitoring.
Andrew Sloan of GSA has added another notch to his bedboard by securing planning for the latest phase of the Grantham House project in North Street, Leatherhead. “The new scheme will provide 9 residential units on this redundant office car park,” says Andrew. “Mole Valley Council are determined to provide additional housing in the borough and encouraged my client to optimise this brownfield site.” “Windfall sites such as this will allow the council to move towards their housing supply targets with the minimal disruption to Green Belt”.
Andrew would like to thank Robert Downing at architects Pentangle Design with whom he worked closely throughout this project. Stonewater Properties Ltd who own Stocks House next door were also looking to optimise their scheme so it made a great deal of sense to get together to the mutual advantage of both our clients and Mole Valley Borough Council”.
Gavil Group Commercial Director Dave Pay is pleased to announce the recruitment of Paul Miller as caretaker for the group’s residential properties in New Malden, Wimbledon and Sutton. “Paul will visit each property on a daily basis to ensure they are in a good and tidy condition and to attend to any maintenance issues” says Dave. “Every now and again my heart sinks when I visit a property and foxes have ransacked the bin cupboard or someone has fly tipped a pile of rubble in the driveway. I want to be proud of all our properties each time I visit and I want our tenants and their guests to feel the same. Paul’s appointment will go a long way to ensuring this is always the case - he is very keen to go the extra mile to help establish ourselves as the area’s best landlord”.
Gavil Group’s continuing initiative to establish itself as the area’s best Landlord will see the appointment of Tina and Mark Cassidy as managing and letting agent for all group properties from January 2019. Commercial Director Dave Pay and Residential Property Manager, Paula Burtenshaw discussed the need to have consistency throughout the portfolio and felt the Property Connexions pair had the most to offer. “We are looking to significantly improve our customer service over the next 10 years and it was clear Tina and Mark were keen to work with us in creating a new kind of landlord and tenant relationship” says Paula. “Our properties are not all top end. However, the fact that we try to maintain very competitive rentals shouldn’t impact on the level of service we offer our tenants. If we are to achieve our goal of becoming the best landlord we need the best agents and the best maintenance team. The appointments of Tina and Mark as agents and Paul as caretaker will move us a step closer to our dream.
Gavil Group’s interior designer, Debbie Yarnell, has completed the latest stage in the transformation of the 1930’s block at Charter Court.
“It has taken some time because of the necessity to consult with owners and the complex management structure within the properties. Gavil Group would like to roll out similar improvements in all of the blocks at Charter Court but the business needs the consent of the owners. Hopefully when everyone sees the positive impact of the cosmetic transformation, they will wish to proceed.”
“Last year Chris Jacob from Curchods confirmed that these changes are likely to add more than 10% to the value of each flat so the project not only improves the living accommodation but represents a sensible financial investment for leaseholders at Charter Court.”
“Gavil Group is committed to improve the other blocks in its direct ownership but has been advised by managing agents MLM that the team must seek the consent of the other owners on the estate. This inevitably takes time but we are reassured by MLM that a decision can be made within a month.”
“The uplift in value is not the driving factor for us,” Debbie concludes. “We constantly work hard to be recognised as the best landlord in the area and making these simple yet effective improvements makes such a positive difference to the environment and to people’s lives. We want our tenants to be proud of their homes and are constantly looking at ways to improve their environment.”
“Provided we have the support of all stakeholders, next year is likely to see the continued upgrade of all our blocks at Charter Court.”
Gavil Group completed the sale of their industrial portfolio in Southampton last week.
The 2 units, let to Travis Perkins with 3 years left on the lease were sold at a yield approaching 5.5%.
Group Chairman Martin Morris explains “We bought the first unit as part of the Britannia Portfolio in the late 1990s. The portfolio, which was introduced by a cricketing chum, comprised 6 mid-sized industrial units scattered around the South East. The units were all well let on leases with unexpired terms of around 10 years to household names such as Barclays, Lex and Palmer & Harvey. Industrial investment was out of favour at the time and we acquired the portfolio at a unit price of approximately £25 psf. This was cheaper than it would have cost to build the units. The value of the leases and the land were effectively thrown in for free.”
“7 years ago Travis Perkins confirmed that they intended to vacate their unit in Southampton as they had expanded their operation and the property was no longer big enough for them. An ex-colleague from my days at Healey & Baker pointed out that the building next door was for sale at £20 psf. We bought it and let it (along with a similar new lease on their existing building) to Travis Perkins for a 10 year lease at £4 psf.”
At our Reading University Xmas reunion last year an old friend, who knew our portfolio, and manages a multi billion pound pension fund, suggested to me that industrial values had 'Got silly and now might be the time to sell'. Our managing agent, also an ex H&B colleague, was instructed and immediately identified a potential purchaser.”
“We were considering proceeding with the deal but, between games whilst being thrashed in a squash league match at the RAC, my opponent mentioned that, in such a crazy market, wider marketing could create the kind of feeding frenzy that might significantly increase the sales price. LSH were then appointed as joint agent and swiftly introduced a dozen or so potential purchasers. 10 parties made bids and the top 4 were invited to the second round. The final sale was at a unit price of nearly £110 psf. Far in excess of our initial aspirations.”
Martin concludes the moral to the tale. “It’s clearly all about who you know and not what you know. A huge thank you to everyone that helped us along the way. I should also thank Anna at Laytons, my colleagues and family for their advice and support over the last few months.”
“As part of its continuous improvement policy, Gavil Group is about to significantly improve the access to its Charter Court development. New iron gates, together with improved lighting and landscaping, will provide an entirely new sense of arrival as well as greatly enhanced security.
The Group’s interior designer, Debbie Yarnell, has worked with Architects GSA to put together a programme of improvements that will render Charter Court almost unrecognisable compared to the estate two years ago. “We are determined to make Charter Court the best development of its type in the area and to provide our residents with an uplifting experience every time they return to their home. Our flats remain affordable to buy and economic to rent but we are determined to complete this transformation, and to maintain the estate in a condition that sets it apart from other properties of its age in South London”. A key aim of Gavil Group is to give people a sense of pride in their environment.
Debbie concludes, “We know this is ambitious but our goal is to become the best private Landlord in the area. We are determined to offer the property upgrades and enhanced management services to allow this to happen”.
After thirteen and a half years at Crown House Mews in Walton on the Hill, Dyscover held its last Member meeting on 15th February. The Dyscover team is now moving to new premises in Leatherhead.
Dyscover is a charity providing long-term support and opportunities to people with aphasia and their families. Daily sessions, designed to help people to adjust to living with aphasia, are led by
professional speech and language therapists. Dyscover helps their members to develop strategies for communicating, maximise abilities and provides help and support for partners, carers and other
family members. It is a wonderful cause and we have been privileged to share our Headquarters with them for so long. We wish Gill and her team every success going forward. Gill responded:
“We are very grateful to everyone at Gavil Group for making us so welcome over so many years and for their help and support, enabling us to develop our services in such great premises.”
The new company alliance with Nigel Greenhalgh’s Portgreen Properties celebrated its first planning success this month with confirmation of approval for 18 luxury flats at Tupwood Lane in Caterham. The new flats will help to provide urgently required accommodation within walking distance to the station, whilst ensuring that a design sympathetic to the area, fits in with its surroundings with minimal disruption.
Chairman Martin Morris commented, “This is a wonderful opportunity for the Group. We are excited at the prospect of working with Nigel who has 20 plus years' experience in strategic land as he has a proven track record in supplying quality housing and helping local councils meet their housing targets. Very much a man to work alongside local communities, Nigel has assembled a fantastic team of consultants to assist him with designing and delivering stylish and energy efficient housing to suit the needs of the modern world.”
Martin goes on to say: “Property is a wonderful sector with so many opportunities to experience something new. By definition, every property is different and every location offers a unique opportunity to add value. Perseverance is the key. It’s never an easy ride but I am in the luxurious position of being able to rely on a team of experienced and trustworthy individuals - together we learn something new every day. The alliance with Nigel demonstrates this perfectly - 12 months ago I didn’t know what strategic land was. Today I thoroughly enjoy spending a couple of hours each week with the area’s leading expert in this fascinating property niche.”
Following the grant of planning permission in December for 6 units to the rear of Grantham House in North Street, Gavil Group is in discussions with Stonewater Properties Ltd., the owners of the adjacent Stocks House. Stonewater Properties had secured planning for 5 units to the rear of their site earlier in 2017. During the planning application process, Mole Valley District Council encouraged both parties to get together to explore the possibilities of optimising the scheme. A clear rapport soon developed at the initial meetings and we are hopeful that great things will follow.
Gavil Group is delighted to welcome 40 Beaverbrook staff to its Woodcote Side development in Epsom. The Group is seeking to extend its staff accommodation and HMO offering in the town.
Property Manager, Paula Burtenshaw commented “We have identified a strong demand from local business for staff accommodation in Epsom. We already let purpose designed accommodation to the UCA, the RAC and Beaverbrook and are in advanced negotiations with the NHS. Businesses now understand that the recruitment of the best quality candidates often depends on the wider employment package. The provision of quality accommodation is now prerequisite.”
Gavil Group is preparing to embark on a significant customer service exercise to discover new initiatives in an attempt to consolidate its position as the leading landlord in Epsom and North Surrey. Customer Services Director, Sarah Gamarra, is hoping to visit every property and chat with every tenant over the next 6 months. “We need honest feedback if we are to adjust to the requirements of the modern tenant. It is my intention to interview as many of our tenants as possible to learn how we can meet and even exceed our tenants` expectations. I am truly excited by the prospect.”
The last couple of months has seen a flurry of planning activity at our Walton on the Hill HQ.
We have recently received planning for a new block of 4 units at our Charter Court site in New Malden. We already had planning for 7 units in the roof space there. It is felt that the development of the roofs would cause quite considerable disruption to existing occupiers so we are currently undertaking a feasibility study to see whether these units could be replaced in a less sensitive location elsewhere on the estate.
Last week also saw confirmation of the planning approval for the reconfiguration of our Crown House Mews building in Walton on the Hill. Whilst we will be sorry to see them go, we are pleased Dyscover have found an alternative property at last, which will allow us to undertake the final stage of the transformation of a building that, 15 years ago, was a builders store. Development, by Epsom Builders, will start in the new year with 4 luxury flats coming onto the market for sale in the Autumn.
Elsewhere, we are hoping for planning permission for a new development of 6 flats behind Grantham House in Leatherhead in December.
2017 has also seen a shift in the Group’s activity towards Strategic Land. In association with Nigel Greenhaugh’s Village Development we have taken an active stake in a dozen or so option agreements in Mid Sussex, Tandridge and Uttlesford. Nigel has a fantastic grasp of strategic land opportunities and we are very excited to be working with him.
After 10 years as our principle banker, Alastair Hume of Barclays has hung up his bowler hat and taken early retirement to pursue his ambition to travel the world with his wife. Alastair was a dream to work with and will be missed. We wish him a long and happy retirement.
As we assess the likely impact on values of the recent upgrades at Charter Court we are delighted to have received the following feedback from Chris Jakob from Curchods.
“I have to say how impressed I am with the entrance improvement recently carried out. Historically, buyers (and renters) are put off by the existing entrances, as the first impression given is that the development is rather down at heel. Having secure, well-lit communal hallways and illuminated pathways leading to the building, can only help dramatically improve the overall impression of Charter Court. Currently 2 bedroom flats within the development are selling for approximately £350,000 to £360,000 on a long lease. I can see these improvements adding value to Charter Court to the tune of £25,000 to £30,000 per unit.”
It is our intention to continue to roll out the upgrade programme in our own blocks and, with the consent of the leaseholders, we will extend the project to include their properties.
Following the tragic incident at Grenfell Tower we at Gavil Group have carried out an audit of materials used in all of our tenanted blocks. We are pleased to confirm that none of our buildings incorporate aluminium composite material of the type used at Grenfell. We are fully fire safe and conduct regular checks to ensure all our properties conform to government standard safety legislation at all times.
Epsom Builders Ltd continue to make excellent progress with Gavil Group’s latest student scheme at Temple Road in Epsom. Gavil Group’s Residential Property Director, Paula Burtenshaw, confirms: “The property will comprise 8 additional student rooms in this popular location. The arts and crafts style of the new wing will complement the existing property. In line with other famous UK educational establishments the new wing even incorporates the Gavil Group’s first gleaming spire!”
All of the rooms are now reserved for the 2017/18 student year.