British Asia News Network
London: An avid real estate developer based in London, 28-year-old Naman Pathak stands out in the trade for quality and innovation. The London School of Economics graduate is a firm believer in the ethos behind building homes; to develop properties and the community around it. Every construction is accompanied by building nurseries, pharmacies, shops and developing the area for his stakeholders and neighbours. This young Asian developer is changing the landscape of the slippery property ladder in London through innovation and drive to do things better and pass on the end benefit to buyers. After all, why should luxury be so expensive.
What is in the anvil - 2019 and beyond
“We at Mountbatten Homes presently have 4 sites under construction and are targeting completion for all these sites by the end of the year. We also have several other sites at different stages of the planning cycle and, once planning is achieved, we will look to mobilise the team as quickly as possible to begin construction on those projects as well.
“Whilst we have 12 projects in total now, we are keen to continue our growth by acquiring and developing new sites. In order to achieve the level of growth we aspire to, we are considering alternative funding strategies which will enable us to operate in a more efficient and sustainable manner. On the same note, we look to reinvest in our people and continue to build the team as the volume of business increases.”
The business milieu
“We currently have projects totalling £18 million in value under construction, with a further pipeline of £50 million in the planning process. Whilst we may not necessarily build out every site, we obtain planning for, our aim is to double our output over the next 18 months.
Our contracting business, Marengo Projects, which works hand in glove with the Mountbatten Homes, will hit a turnover of circa £8 million within 18 months of trading. The aim for this business is to augment the team further as the number of sites increases and support Mountbatten Homes (and other developers) in delivering their projects in a cost effective and timely manner.
Identifying potential markets in a highly competitive property market
“We love Crossrail. I personally feel that it will add so much value to several areas by connecting them to central London in as much as half the time. Although central London will always remain an attractive place to live, who wouldn’t want a bigger place that costs less, especially if you can be in central London in a matter of minutes?
“We have exciting schemes in Hanwell and Acton, both walking distance to the upcoming Crossrail stations, from which you can reach Bond Street in just 17 minutes and 9 minutes respectively! In terms of value for money, both sites are close to the bustling Ealing Broadway, which is retailing at over £1,000 per square foot (psf) so there is still plenty of value to realise in these areas.
“For example, our site in Hanwell is priced at a blended average of £650psf and is a 5 min bus or car ride from Ealing Broadway. Inevitably this disparity will be minimised and, although people have already seen price rises due to the Crossrail effect, I believe that there will be a further increase in prices once the line is in operation.
“Aside from the Crossrail, several areas are undergoing significant regeneration (such as Brixton) which is why we find these areas attractive for developing real estate. Being in an area where connectivity to central London is good (and improving), where there are good schools, and where general amenities are strong forms our general tick list for any site. Most importantly, the area must be affordable and growing, where there is a strong indication for short to medium term capital growth.
The innovation and style that Naman Pathak stands for
“We have explored several different innovations, both from a buyer’s perspective as well as a building perspective. One example is the consideration of cross laminated timber (CLT) as the superstructure for one of our developments. Whilst CLT can effectively shave off considerable time and effort in the building process, we learned that sometimes it is more cost efficient and safer to go with what you already know – methods that work and are proven. Despite various efforts to make CLT work, it was apparent to us that some of the newer technologies required different skill sets that were not readily available in the market, and the cross synergy with other subcontracting disciples were very weak, affecting the deliverability of the project overall.
“We travel the world to source top quality and trendy items at reasonable prices, so that our buyers can benefit from better products with no added cost. Whether this is a vanity unit or kitchen worktop, we want our buyers to feel that their home is luxurious and fashionable, without paying the extra cost. This takes a lot of effort, but our growing inventory allows us to benefit from some economies of scale, which we hope to benefit from further as the business continues to grow.
“These items are not picked randomly either. We have several team meetings that involve our interior designers, architects, contractors, agents and so on, to ensure we are delivering stylish homes for our buyers.”
Tips for a first-time-buyer, buy-to-let
“First time buyer – location location location. As this is your first home, you want to stay somewhere which is close to local amenities and has good transport links. Moreover, when you plan on upsizing, you may plan on retaining this dwelling as a buy-to-let investment. Any decently kept property in a good location, with strong transport links, will let out comfortably, so a good location is not on pertinent to you as a buyer but also as a future investor.
“Buy to let investors are concerned with two primary factors – rental yield and capital appreciation. I have touched on the location element above but for capital appreciation, buy to let investors must look at areas where there is a strong possibility for future grow. These areas could be benefitting from some major infrastructure soon (for example, Crossrail or Westfields in Croydon) so there is scope for medium to long term capital appreciation as these grand projects become a reality.
“For those looking to refurbish their property, spend that little but extra for not only a better quality finish and product, but also for the longevity of the product. For example, toughened glass splashbacks for kitchens are more expensive but practically last forever, as opposed to other less attractive options like brick tiles for which you may have to replace tiles/grout every few years.”
Key challenges and how best to cope with them
“Construction costs are spiralling out of control, both from a material and labour perspective. Partnering with our construction business, Marengo Projects, allows us to keep a close eye on cost. We do this with a combination of sub-contracting packages to smart procurement. This is ever evolving, and we scour the world to source finishes that allow us to procure at good prices without compromising our quality of product.
“Many people ask me about how Brexit will affect the UK and London market. If there ever was a time to have Brexit, this is it. India is suffering at present and forecasts are not good given the political uncertainty there. China is also not in the best place now economically speaking, as is the Middle East which is suffering both economically and politically. I can go on about several other regions and their issues.
“What this really means is that the UK, and particularly London, will continue to attract overseas investment. This is for two primary reasons – one is because of the strength of our democracy and the secure perception of our market, and two is the potential exploitation of short-term currency fluctuation, where overseas investors may be able to exploit the short term weakening of sterling.”
Inspirations: Atul Pathak OBE and Paul Austin
“In business and in life, my role model will always be my father. He came to the country without a penny to his name and is now the largest McDonald’s franchisee in the country. Best of all, he is one of the humblest people I know and that has never changed despite his continued success.
“In the business itself, I look up to my construction partner, Paul Austin. Not only is he an honest and hardworking individual, his knowledge is second to none. This is not just limited to construction – he has the best general knowledge of anyone I know! To have the energy and passion at his age is phenomenal and I am grateful to him as a partner and friend. Each time I have a meeting with Paul, I am guaranteed to learn several new things - it’s been a sheer pleasure and inspiration working alongside Paul in growing the business.”
“When I was younger, I tried to run several businesses at the same time. Although this worked conceptually, the reality was far different, and I was far too stretched. As a result, I could not concentrate on all businesses and invariably a couple of them did not do as well as I would have liked. However, I do not regret anything as this is all a part of the learning process and has, in fact, allowed me to concentrate my efforts where I see the most reward.
If I could go back in time, however, I may have pursued a course at university that would be more relevant to real estate. Having said that, nothing can really prepare you for running your own business – you just must get your hands dirty and learn through experience.
In other words
“Those who have a keen eye on property should continue purchasing. There may be a small correction but nowhere near as the amounts I read about in the press. There is simply too much money waiting to attack the UK property market and you do not want to be too slow off the mark. We are continually looking for new sites, so it is business as usual for us. It should be the same for you. “
Naman is also one of the first core members of Quorum and has embarked on setting up a property fund which he plans to launch in 2019. Naman is currently working with a Quorum contractor and was a Quorum member that found one of Naman’s sites for which he is proposing a tower block.