A company who has looked at the ‘opportunities’ rather than just the ‘negatives’ over the last three uncertain months is housebuilder Bewley Homes.
The coronavirus might have put the shackles on many developer’s land and planning team over this uncertain period, but not Bewley Homes.
The Basingstoke based housebuilder, who operates all over the home counties, has recorded one of its most successful land periods in its 30-year history, with 10 deals completed, exchanged or in solicitors’ hands in the last four months. That’s 2,000 units and a combined GDV of around £600m.
On top of that, in the coming four months, Bewley will be making offers on land totalling in excess of 1,000 plots within its operating patch, all of which have at least an outline planning consent. These numbers are even more impressive when you discover the company has only one region. Bewley benefits from being driven by a managing director who previously ran the land department.
It’s fair to say the company has been active in the market since the lockdown, as Andrew Brooks, Managing Director of Bewley Homes, explains: “We’ve always punched above our weight. We know what we want and when the right opportunity comes along, we are very focused and combined all our efforts into securing it. It’s been a successful formula.”
Land has been secured all over the home counties including Guildford, Basingstoke, Swindon, Beaconsfield and Farringdon. Andrew was particularly satisfied with the 190 units in Faringdon secured under contract during lockdown. Not only does it extend the Bewley geographical patch into west Oxfordshire, it was secured after a land owner turned to Bewley when the previous developer wasn’t performing.
Andrew explains: “The site originally came to us with a small window of opportunity, but with the professionalism of our team and expert external legal and technical advice, we were able to complete the due diligence within 12 hours, exchanging contracts late in the evening following a whole day’s meeting.
“We have always looked at the positives of every situation – it’s the Bewley Way. After 30 years, we have seen most things in this industry – highs, lows, peaks, troughs, booms, busts and now Covid-19, which no one foresaw at the turn of the year.”
Andrew added: “Success in land is a complete team effort and without that you fall short. First of all we have a very supportive shareholder who understands the market and sees the opportunity. I also have a very talented, senior land team led by Land Director Angus Cook and strategic Land Director Andy Morris who has been with the business over 20 years. We are fully supported by our chairman Greg Locke who has a 40-year career working at the highest level of the industry. This senior team are backed up by a passionate land and planning team who are very experienced.”
But not every deal goes Bewley’s way as Andrew reveals. “We have our fair share of knock backs. We might end up being second or third on the original bid for a piece of land which is frustrating. But often we also find landowners come back to us after complications with their first-choice developer start to sour for a multitude of reasons. We have seen that on a number of occasions recently.
“We pride ourselves on doing what we said we would do in the first place. We don’t let people down and if we say we’ll do it, that’s what happens. People say its ‘refreshingly old school’. I say it’s about maintaining our reputation in the industry and we are not looking to make a fast buck and move on.
“We are building a sustainable business and our reputation amongst our peers, agents and land owners is of paramount importance.”
Despite this busy period, Bewley Homes is not pulling up the draw bridge on the land buying front. The company is on an exciting, strategic growth plan to expand its territories and has recently extended its reach completing the purchase of a 190-unit scheme in Faringdon near Oxford during lockdown.
Andrew enthuses: “That was very satisfying purchase and I’m expecting more opportunities to come our way from the home counties right across to west Oxfordshire and the M40 corridor. We are looking at some very interesting options. The message is out there – ‘Bewley Homes is the company to do business with.’”
This has been further endorsed by the news Bewley Homes has just exchanged on a significant piece of from Inland Homes Plc at its Wilton Park flagship site in Beaconsfield, just off the M40. It’s considered by Savills as the best development site in the south of England.
Land director Angus Cook recalls how this opportunity came about: “We first looked at Wilton Park in the second month of lockdown and had to move fast to secure it. Inland Homes selected us based on our reputation and track record to get the deal done in a tight timeframe.
“With the support of the executive board, shareholder, Lloyds Bank and Inland Homes, all the teams successfully collaborated to secure this deal in just three weeks on what was a complicated transaction. We will now build and sell the first phase of 94 units on this stunning site which is tremendously exciting and makes all the hard work behind the scenes worthwhile.”
The phrase ‘Bewley Homes – open for business’ has never been more accurate.