We spoke to our Chief Investment Officer Laura to find out how she has successfully grown our property portfolio, what she looks for in a development opportunity and what her plans are for this year.
How and why did Just Develop It first break into property?
When I first moved into an investment centric role Just Develop It had already started to build it's portfolio and had acquired 2 properties. Our CEO Chris thought property was rock solid investment and wanted to place more focus on it.
Before officially taking on the role, I had a strong interest in property and was actively looking for properties to either purchase or develop myself, any that I deemed to be too expensive I would pass on for Chris’ consideration. It was at this point Chris moved me into the position to manage and grow JDi’s portfolio.
I developed and managed the portfolio up until we hit around 50 properties, at which point I needed a little help. Conveniently, right around that time JDi invested in a local Estate Agents, Bishops Estates. Bishop’s have taken the majority of the management of tenants away from me and left time to continue focusing on growth.
How have you managed to grow the portfolio to it’s current size in only a few short years?
A combination of factors has allowed this to happen so quickly. Firstly, I’m incredibly passionate about the business and I love the thrill of the buying and development process, this keeps me hungry and ensures I relentlessly chase new opportunities.
Secondly, we made the transition into property development early in the portfolio, meaning we were not reliant on simply acquiring properties and could instead develop our own. This provided higher margins and more equity,
Thirdly, we have built great relationships with our bank and local Estate Agents. The relationship with the Estate Agents gets us early access to property & sites, whilst the relationship with the bank provides us with the opportunity to quickly act on new opportunities. We mortgage aggressively to ensure we have the free cash flow to continue to expand the portfolio.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, JDi has been fortunate enough to have some high value exists from technology companies and has provide the necessary funds to continue our accelerated growth.
"Buy whenever you are in a position to do so; with the right property you should always make money.
Laura Mitchell, Chief Investment Officer
What do you look for when buying a property or making an investment into a new site?
This sounds a touch trivial, but I only purchase property that I would be happy to live in, and/or have my family live in. This mentality works 2 fold, it ensures we purchase properties in the right area and also ensures we purchase property of quality.
Another major factor for us is equity; are we getting value with the purchase. We work hard with our Estate Agents to find properties that represent value or that we can negotiate on. Equity isn’t always the deciding factor, we’ve passed on numerous properties where the numbers work, we just didn’t like the location or couldn’t see our family living there.
How do you see the property portfolio developing over the next few years?
The next few years will see continued growth for the portfolio, we already have some hugely exciting projects planned for 2017 (15 properties in Q1 & Q2) and 2018 (41 properties) as well as some excellent mechanisms for expansion.
Naturally, as our portfolio has grown our growth rate has slowed, however we have consistently added over 30 properties a year since we started and this shows no signs of stopping.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into property?
Buy whenever you are in a position to do so, be bold; with the right property you should always make money.
Leverage wherever possible, look for equity opportunity and place an incredible focus on quality; without quality, you won’t hit your returns.
Laura has owned the property side of our business since day one and she has almost single handedly built our portfolio to over 200 properties.
300% Increase in 3 Years
£45mm + Total Value