Why data is no longer a dirty word in property development

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For a long time, mentioning data in any discussion about property development would make people’s eyes glaze over. It was the dirty word that could hush a room.

But that’s now changing. As property technology improves so does the ability to collate, analyse and present the data in a simple and easy-to-use format.

As the saying goes: “knowledge is power”. Well, data is knowledge if it’s used in the right way. And, along with Brickflow, Nimbus Maps is doing more than most to harness that power and make it more accessible.

Nimbus Maps is on a mission to democratise data and enable more people to both access and understand how best to use it.

Like Brickflow, the firm is aiming to use technology for the greater good of the industry in an effort to remove barriers and help overcome the UK’s housing shortage.

The brainchild of two brothers, Paul and Simon Davis, Nimbus Maps is a software service designed to support anyone who wants to invest in property by giving them access to a plethora of data that will help them in their investment decisions. It brings together property data held by diverse organisations like the Valuation Office Agency, Companies House and the Environment Agency into one easy-to-use platform that empowers property developers and investors to make better choices.

The impact of Covid-19

Over the course of lockdown many people have become experts at using technology like Zoom and Teams that assist with working from home. Without this type of technology it’s likely that homeworking would have been far more challenging.

Homeworking has also done away with the daily commute and freed up that most valuable of commodities – time. Like Brickflow, Nimbus Maps has launched a webinar series that brings industry professionals together to discuss the key issues affecting the sector. The popularity of this type of session has grown over the past few months and has opened the eyes of many people to the possibilities of researching and financing property online rather than by physically visiting a site or meeting lenders face-to-face. 

While the short-term impact of the move to homeworking is clear, what will happen in the long term? There’s been much speculation and the future remains hazy, but it’s likely the working from home phenomenon will result in less demand for office space in city centres while leading to a greater need for amenities in local communities.

Whatever happens, the property industry is entrepreneurial so it will find solutions and quickly adapt to whatever ‘new normal’ presents itself. 

Waste not want not

Platforms like Nimbus Maps and Brickflow aim to emulate the Amazon customer experience by reducing the amount of time, effort and money wasted in searching for and financing a property development via the traditional routes. Rather than travelling hundreds of miles to visit a potential site or dealing with the usual frustrations of accessing development finance, a developer or investor can view the key details of a property and a range of loans which might be available to them from the comfort of their own home.

The data brings the property and money to their door.

This is a win-win for the environment as well. One early adopter of Nimbus Maps reduced his mileage by 15,000 miles in 12 months.

Looking through a psychological lens, the ability to run analysis remotely also helps prevent someone from getting too emotionally attached to a property, which can often be a product of spending too much time and energy on a potential project.

If you’re emotionally attached it can be harder to make a rational decision and step away if something untoward crops up down the line.

At the same time, it increases the likelihood of forcing a project, which is when things often go wrong and money can be lost.

SME support

Most SME developers and investors (certainly if they’ve been in the game for a while) have created a sound business model and know what they’re looking for. Often their biggest challenge is to maintain a consistent pipeline within a locality they know well. Necessity may force them to focus on a different area where they will have to go through the challenging and time-consuming process of building relationships with all the various stakeholders such as the local authority and agents.

With Nimbus Maps, SMEs can access a transparent and open data set that gives them the local knowledge they need to build their pipeline. 

Importantly, it also puts them on a level playing field with the large housebuilders. A decade ago, the proportion of new houses being built was split 50/50 between SMEs and PLCs, whereas now SMEs are only developing around 10%. Where large housebuilders have whole departments dedicated to finding the right sites and the right finance, many SMEs can’t afford to employ even one person full-time to do this.

Proptech and fintech platforms like Nimbus Maps and Brickflow can help SMEs punch above their weight by doing the hard work in the background and by bringing together the different elements of finding, assessing and funding property.

SMEs are key to solving the UK’s housing shortage, and the government’s forecasted changes to the planning system should help them further. However, to really take things to the next level they need to harness the data and technology that not only makes their lives easier, but gives them the tools to compete and succeed in a changing world. The opportunity is there – it just needs to be taken.

 

 

To find out more, listen to episode 3 of our Brick by Brick podcast where Brickflow’s Ian Humphreys speaks to Paul and Simon Davis of Nimbus Maps.

To find out more about how Brickflow can help you secure the development finance, get in touch on 020 3488 1674 or email info@brickflow.com.

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