History book, REalyse

Informed developers make savvy business decisions – increasing their bottom line while upping the profile of a postcode. The REalyst takes a closer look at precisely why doing your research as a property developer is important and how easy it is to find out the history of an area with the REalyse platform.

Read time: 12 minutes

‘You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.’

Perhaps not the expected opening line for a property data blog article. Yet, here we are, dropping deep, meaningful knowledge bombs. Without knowing an area’s past, it’s hard to predict its future. And that can cause a multitude of problems.

It’s not entirely out of context, however. When developers build property, there are many aspects they need to take into account. One of which is the history of an area.

Whether building property with the intent to sell or let, a developer’s primary aim is to make a profit. Sure, to make said profit, the overall picture needs to be taken into account, such as the landscape of the property market nationwide. But that in itself becomes a microcosm when reflected in a local postcode.

Property building or otherwise, all significant decisions require an element of research. In fact, it’s even more critical when it comes to a topic as substantial as bricks and mortar. ‘Getting to know’ an area is fundamental to the success of property development.

In this article, we will explain why it’s vital that you do your research, and how easy it is to source such information.

Why Is Research Important?

Before we dive deeper into the type of historical facts you should be casting your eye over, let’s look at why it’s important to know all about an area’s past. There are so many components that go into the makeup of towns and cities. Studying this history can help property developers make more informed decisions.

From demographics to crime rates, and from building types to broadband speeds, the data gives an insight into how somewhere has functioned previously. Such details provide valuable insight into how an area might shape itself in the future.

Area research is key to unlocking the potential of a postcode’s future, and it’s not solely a case of looking at house prices. With that in mind, what should be the primary focus for property developers up and down the land when looking at potential construction projects?

Property Value

While property value isn’t the only factor, it is an important one. Developers will be keen to know local market prices and rents so they can see the potential profitability. However, it’s not only current prices that will be on the agenda.

Knowing the history of price trends helps developers to understand future forecasts better. A 10-year overview of property prices in a postcode provides a better indication of how a local market works compared to a singular, current day overview.

Using Kilburn as our historical guinea pig, below is the 10-year median sales transactions for the NW6 postcode in North West London from the REalyse platform.

(1) Median Sales Transactions Distribution Jun 09 - Jun 19

If developers are constructing with build-to-rent in mind, knowing property prices over a sustained period is even more vital. Most build-to-rent developments are constructed with the intention of operating them for rental purposes during the first five years. After that, however, developers may look at selling some units.

Overall values aren’t the only factor, either. Price per square foot plays an integral role in deciding on whether to go ahead with constructing a new property. If developers can see the price per square foot trends over a longer period, they can make better assumptions about the speed at which future prices increase, and how high these prices could climb in upcoming years.

Below is the 10-year median square feet sales distribution for Kilburn in North West London

(2) Median £ sqft - Sales Distribution Jun 09 - Jun 19

Property Types

Property developments come in all shapes and sizes, from large apartment blocks to terrace, detached, semi-detached properties, and more. Cities tend to have a large concentration of flats, while smaller towns feature more houses.

(3) Flat Sales Transactions Distribution Jun 09 - Jun 19

It’s good to know which types of properties suit specific areas. Understanding the history of a property type in an area can help you figure out vital aspects such as demand. Again, using Kilburn as a reference, it’s clear to see that the flats are the most popular property type in the NW6 postcode, with 2,000 sold between June 2009 and 2019.

In the 10 years to June 2019, there were 13 new build developments – with unit sizes ranging from 24 to 229. For developers, access to this sort of information takes away most of the guesswork and lets them know the number of new builds, the frequency at which they were built, and the size of the project.

(4) Type of Development Application

Below, you can see the data for completed, in construction, granted, in progress and refused over the 10 year period to June 2019.

A total of 11 new build projects were refused and, interestingly, out of the 32 granted, only 13 completed in the 10-year period.

Local Demographics

People are the lifeblood of a postcode, and it’s their behaviour that can help developers understand the fundamentals of an area. Developers are going to build different types of properties depending on a postcode’s affluence.

In order to understand an area’s demographics, it’s vital to look at its context and history. The REalyse platform can provide a number of datasets for this – some from as recent as one month, all the way back as far as 1995.

People and Population

(5) NW6 People and Population Overview

So, how can the REalyse platform help us scratch beneath the surface of Kilburn’s past? Looking back over the last 12 months tells us that Kilburn has a population of just under 64,000 and a median age of 34. An average median age of 34 would suggest professionals who are likely vying for managerial positions in their respective fields.

Kilburn’s London location would also suggest the majority of people living in the area are renters, something that is backed up by the REalyse platform. As many as 83.1% of people living in Kilburn rent their home compared to 16.9% of homeowners.

(6) NW6 Renters vs Buyers

A developer looking at this information might decide the area is rife for a build-to-rent development – with them thinking it will be easier to secure tenants than it would buyers.

Local Area

(7) NW6 Local Overview

Transport also plays its part; the more connected somewhere is, the higher the premium on the property. This is especially true in urban areas, where public transport takes on more significant importance.

Moving on to broadband speeds, and this is where things get even more interesting. The government is dedicated to making broadband speeds faster all over the country, and internet connectivity speeds play their part for people deciding where to live.

(8) NW6 Broadband Speed

Building a property development where there are slow broadband speeds is risky business, which is why a long-term overview of average speeds gives a better spread on how they have performed over a sustained period of time.

Average broadband speeds in Kilburn between June 2009 and June 2019

Kilburn has kept up with speed increases, to the point where it can offer fibre broadband to residents. The past five years give an indication that broadband speeds should continue to increase at a good pace.

Economics

For a development to ‘make sense’, the economics need to be right, which includes taking more than market prices into account. The affordability for people living in and around the area is just as important.

(9) NW6 Socioeconomics
(10) NW6 Monthly Income (1)

In Kilburn, the average credit score for residents over the last 12 months is 794 – which is slightly above the UK average of 757. The median monthly income in the same time period sits at £2,719.

A more in-depth look at earnings shows a 10-year breakdown of specific age groups and how they’ve increased in the last decade.

Developers looking at these trends will instantly understand the affordability groups of those in the area. Using the previous 10 years (or more), they can make calculated predictions about the rate at which earnings will increase. The result will see them building property developments that fit the right demographic.

Crime Rates

(11) NW6 Crime Level

Unpacking a postcode’s past where crime is concerned provides developers with a background of its safety and desirability. Of course, there are certain aspects to take into account when looking at the data: larger and more crowded cities will have higher rates than smaller towns. However, having access to the right information can help when comparing crime rates in other areas.

(12) NW1 Crime Level (1)

A 10-year view of crime statistics in Kilburn, NW6

Over the last 10 years, Kilburn’s highest crime wave came in 2011 – with arrests reaching the 1,000 mark. Now, let’s compare those numbers to another area in the Borough of Camden, Euston.

The crime statistics in Euston are eminently higher than Kilburn. While this data alone isn’t enough for developers to make a decision, it does provide them with an in-depth overview of crime rates over a selected amount of time.

(13) NW6 Crime Level by Group

How much developers want to know about an area’s crime statistics is down to them, but it helps to understand more than just ‘the amount of arrests’. Knowing the variety of crimes committed gives a more precise indication of the frequency and different types.

 12-month average for crime types committed in Kilburn, NW6

Regeneration

Informed developers make savvy business decisions – ones which, if done correctly, increase their bottom line while upping the profile of a postcode. Property development is often the first phase of regeneration and, despite the protests that come with such change, lays the foundation for an area’s growth.

However, it’s not a case of coming in and ignoring everything that went before. From paying respects to an area’s past through design processes to getting the fundamental details needed to construct a successful new build, many of the answers developers seek can be found in an area’s history.

Not every new build is the first brick laid in the process of regeneration, but successful projects open the doors for others. Thorough research has the power to build new communities and significantly boost the profile of an area.

Wrapping It Up

They say the devil is in the detail, and property developers need every available piece of information to make smarter decisions. Delving deeper into an area’s history provides a clear indication of what awaits its future.

Setting price points, understanding local demographics and gauging demand – these are all characteristics that can be deciphered through area research.

The only question left centres around just how easy it is to get this information. With the REalyse platform, the history of any residential area in the UK is accessible in just a few clicks. Instead of searching several data points, such as the Land Registry or The Office of National Statistics (ONS), you have access to hundreds of datasets each month to guide you in making the right decisions for your project.

Interested to research an area thoroughly before drawing up architectural plans? Get in touch and sign up for a trial here.

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