Director

1. Since launch, Ocea has established itself as a leading specialist in commercial to residential property conversion. Do any projects stand out in your mind that you’re particularly proud of?

In their own way we are quite proud of all of our projects but if you were to push me to select one it would be Coates House in Nailsea. This was a very unattractive, tired old 60’s office building riddled with asbestos sitting at the entrance to a small industrial estate. It was vacant and contributing nothing to the community in any way other than as a haven for bored youths for illicit activities! It will now provide 56 much needed 1 and 2 bed apartments at the more affordable end of the scale for people in the local area. In the words of the estate agents, ‘you are providing exactly what we need, and for which we do not have any stock at all.

 

2. Why in your opinion is concentrating solely on commercial to resi developments the best business model for you?

Prior Approval removes the 3 biggest risks in property development. With a normal approach to planning, developers don’t know how long an application will take, how much it will cost in terms of iterative designs, additional reports etc, or what the eventual outcome will be. All these can have a dramatic impact on scheme viability. With Prior Approval we have a known timescale, known outcome and with predictable costs.

 

3. One of your recent developments was the conversion of Furness House in Redhill, Surrey. How is this development coming along and can you tell us a bit more about it?

The conversion of Furness House is flying along and ahead of schedule which is great as this is one of the first office to residential conversions in Redhill. A mix of predominantly 1 bed units with a few 2 beds as well, we will be providing 71 apartments with Help to Buy at the more affordable end of the scale. Likely to be the least expensive new apartments on the market, all come with a parking space, within a ¼ mile of the town centre and 600m from the station providing trains directly to London. We will be extremely excited to bring this new product to market this autumn and expect lots of interest.

 

4. How do you differentiate yourself from other property developers in the market?

We are a niche developer simply focusing on office to residential developments, ensuring a depth of knowledge and experience in this sector that sets us apart from developers that only use this strategy every now and then. We spend a lot of time constantly improving on the already innovative and highly specified units, pushing our brand standards ever further to ensure that smaller can still be beautiful, but crucially accessible to first time buyers that would normally be priced out of the market. Simply put, we focus on adding another rung to the bottom of the housing ladder, enabling more people to get started on their house owning journey.

 

5. With Brexit around the corner, what do you feel the impact on the UK’s property sector will be and how are you preparing for it?

Brexit has created uncertainty and the market never responds well to that. However, I think the lower end of the housing market spectrum is still relatively strong and will respond even better to a more certain future, whatever that future might be.

 

6. What advice would you give a budding entrepreneur who is planning to enter the same sector?

Start small, prove the model to you and your financiers and then scale when you have the knowledge, systems and credibility.

 

7. What has been the game-changing moment in your career so far?

The introduction of Prior Approval!

 

8. What made OakNorth stand out from the other banks?

OakNorth immediately stood out by their responsiveness, meeting me on site within days of our enquiry. Excellent terms followed within 48 hours despite needing to liaise with a mezzanine partner, and the transaction was completed from start to finish within 5 or 6 weeks from a standing start with no prior experience of working with each other. This was an impressive performance.

 

9. What is the best piece of advice you have ever heard?

Always invest in yourself whether that is training, mentoring or reading.

 

10. Finally, a bit of fun – Can you please tell us your favourite app, book and holiday destination?

App – Ginventory, Book – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Holiday Destination – I’m not sure I’ve been there yet!