I just love the way some people flick two fingers to the problems of the world and just get on with it. Take Taylor Woodrow de España (TW) for example. This division of one of the UK’s oldest and largest property companies is facing unprecedented challenges and yet is turning the problems of buying holiday homes in Spain to its advantage. In order to allay the fears generated through the extensive coverage of Britons who have lost their holiday homes through the so called “land grab” policies of some of Spain’s regional legislators, TW have teamed up with Safe Buying Experience (SBE). SBE offers an independent accreditation service to developers in Spain and Portugal effectively guaranteeing that every TW property has the correct legal title, conforms to planning and building regulations and that buyers are not burdened with a poor or unenforceable contract after handing over a reservation deposit. Suddenly TW have turned the negative into their advantage, indeed have now put themselves in a position whereby their competitors look very risky and therefore poorer as a consequence. SBE is now being utilised by several leading banks to assist marketing their repossessed properties which leads me to another example of a company who have discovered a silver lining.
PropertyEarth.co.uk has just launched and this search engine allows investors to identify properties which are “chain-free” i.e. repossessions, builders stock and part exchange homes. The service is free for the investor; lenders and builders pay to have their properties highlighted and separated from the one million or so other homes for sale at any one time. It is unlike any of the numerous property web sites and portals as properties are listed by their potential yield and investment return rather than the usual criteria of location, number of bedrooms, etc. Some people might look on ventures such as PropertyEarth.co.uk as cashing in on the misfortune of others however I see it very differently. Currently repossessions are advertised via estate agents for several weeks along with all the others for sale with no differentiation at all and then, if they haven’t been bought they end up being sold at auction for a knocked down price. PropertyEarth.co.uk markets to a very specific audience, property investors, who are more likely to pay a higher price than they would in the auction room in return for the extra time and security they can have to thoroughly investigate each opportunity – consequently the lender and in turn the original borrower/home owner is potentially better off.
The number of boarded up shops on the High Streets across the UK is a clear indicator of the problems retailers are facing and yet for those who wish to expand there is a plethora of choice and some incredible deals available. Senti.co.uk imports Dr Vranjes room fragrances from Italy, Akeewakee scented candles from America and distributes Kelly Hoppen’s new candles to retailers across the UK and has now decided to take advantage of the recession and explore opening up their own outlets. In one London “village” alone there are more than 10 shops available, four of them in prime locations and available on very flexible terms with no premiums, break clauses after 12-18 months and rent free periods on top! This is perhaps a “never seen before, never to be seen again” time for people looking to start up in retail – yes the risks are high but because of the economic problems these can be mitigated by negotiating with landlords desperate to have the rates and insurances paid by someone else. Previously a retailer with no track record would struggle to persuade any property owner to take them on as a tenant whereas now they will be welcomed with open arms – landlords are now experiencing the pain they have inflicted on many in the past.
I have no doubt that in five years time we will look back at 2009 as a year where there were as many opportunities as problems. Yes things are tough, and the doom and gloom merchants are having a field day, but I suspect there are more entrepreneurs taking advantage of conditions than we get to hear about and these are the people who see the silver lining that every cloud has to offer.