An idea born of trou­ble at the mill

De­vel­op­ers are dream­ing up new ways of mak­ing prop­erty pay. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

THERE’S noth­ing like a cri­sis for prompt­ing the most cre­ative ideas.

So when banks tight­ened their grip on mort­gages and buy­ers dried up, hard-hit de­vel­op­ers had to think of new ways of mak­ing prop­erty pay.

New­ma­son had just staged the wrap party for their highly suc­cess­ful Vic­to­ria Mills devel­op­ment in Ship­ley when the eco­nomic cli­mate changed.

Five years in the mak­ing and with over 300 flats al­ready sold to in­vestors and owne­roc­cu­piers, there were 150 re­main­ing when the mar­ket went into melt­down.

“We’d ex­changed on most of these but then the len­ders stopped lend­ing or they changed the goal posts on what they would al­low peo­ple to bor­row, so buy­ers strug­gled to com­plete,” says An­drew Ma­son.

“We tried to take a hu­mane view be­cause we didn’t want to bank­rupt peo­ple. We did deals like if they had agreed to buy two prop­er­ties we al­lowed them to buy just one. We gave loyal in­vestors five per cent dis­counts. We cer­tainly didn’t go down the route some de­vel­op­ers did of of­fer­ing 30 per cent off.”

Af­ter help­ing strug­gling buy­ers over the fin­ish­ing line, New­ma­son were left with 88 apart­ments.

An­drew and busi­ness part­ner Alec kept some for their own port­fo­lios, while oth­ers were rented on con­ven­tional let. An­other was turned into a board­room to let for busi­ness meet­ings and they came up the idea of mak­ing 30 into short-stay ser­viced apart­ments.

“We’d al­ready com­mis­sioned some re­search in 2006, which showed that peo­ple pre­ferred stay­ing in apart­ments rather than ho­tels, so the idea was al­ways in the back of our minds and this sit­u­a­tion brought it to the fore,” says An­drew.

They en­listed the help of friend Jo Brown, a ho­tel and hos­pi­tal­ity spe­cial­ist, and be­tween them they came up with Vivo ser­viced apart­ments.

“We were lucky to have a very sup­port­ive bank that was re­cep­tive to the idea,” says An­drew.

We’ve now got reg­u­lars who say it’s like com­ing home and that’s just what it is.

from Tai­wan and Ja­pan to Mex­ico and Swe­den,” says Jo.

“We of­fer ev­ery­thing from pick­ing them up at the air­port to food shop­ping for them.

“We’ve now got reg­u­lars who say it’s like com­ing home and that’s just what it is.

“They have all the home com­forts un­like ho­tels, and there’s a real com­mu­nity here.”

They’ve proved so pop­u­lar that New­ma­son is plan­ning to roll Vivo out to other North­ern towns and cities.

Al­though the ini­tial out­lay is high as the flats need a “wow fac­tor” decor and fur­nish­ings, the yield is far bet­ter than on a con­ven­tional six-month let.

“We’ve been de­lighted with Vivo,” says An­drew, who is con­sid­er­ing tak­ing on an­other large mill devel­op­ment nearby.

“It has been a real suc­cess born out of ad­ver­sity.

“I think we’ve been very for­tu­nate all the way round re­ally be­cause had the cri­sis hit six months ear­lier I’m not sure we would’ve sur­vived.

“As it is we’re look­ing for­ward to the fu­ture with con­fi­dence.”

Vivo: www.stay­vivo.com. Tel: 08700 607044

HOME COM­FORTS:

The Vic­to­ria Mills devel­op­ment in Ship­ley. Top right, An­drew New­ma­son and Jo Brown, be­low, Vivo apart­ments of­fer “wow fac­tor” decor and fur­nish­ings.

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