SIAN ASTLEY, PROPERTY DEVELOPER
It's not just retailers and designers who visit INTERIORS UK, savvy property professionals read Living Etc and watch Grand Designs too, you know! I'm your property developer and landlord blogger, Sian Astley, and I've spent the last 15 years renovating houses for sale and rent, developing property and generally learning how to get the best for less – handy knowledge in these difficult times. I'm obsessed with all things property-related from the bricks-and-mortar through to the finishing touches like wallpaper and paint finishes, to the extent that the long suffering Mr Moregeous (who you'll know if you follow us on Twitter) has been known to listen to me waffle on about the merits of a particular wardrobe. In my sleep.
Property developers had it easy in the boom years. When money was sloshing around, all they needed to do was employ the services of a talented interior design company to work magic on a show home and the sales multiplied. Working as both a small developer and an interiors consultant for larger development companies was an eye opener; I found I was quite unusual in my interest in design, trends and interiors. Most developers didn't give such fripperies a second thought. But times have radically changed...
Not only has the credit crunch taken away the easy factor, but consumers of property – those who buy and rent – have become far more savvy, informed and design-conscious. Those developers and landlords who went the extra mile and considered good and sustainable design, liveability and the beautifu finishing touches essential to developing a desirable property are the ones who are maintaining success and riding the storm, in my opinion. To stay ahead of the rest, your bricks-and-mortar properties have to look their best, only that way will you achieve top price in sales or rental. The smartest property developeers should keep ahead of trends, styles and the tastes of their target markets, especially now that there are limited funds to pay someone else to do that on your behalf.
For me, the time spent making a property the best it can be is all part of the fun of developing and renovating but there's a very critical financial bonus too – in competitive times your properties will still sell or rent faster, for a higher premium. Ten years ago when I'd been developing and selling for a couple of years but was just starting to build a property portfolio as my pension, I was accused of spending too much time / cash and being too 'personal' with the interiors, ie that houses should be bland and appeal to the largest proportion of people. I ignored that advice. ‘Pish, pash, posh, what boring nonsense,’ I thought. I thought, and still do today, that properties should have pzazz, personality and style!
I started visiting the first design trade shows, subscribed to style magazines and became a voracious watcher of property porn, even appearing on Property Ladder to be roundly scolded by the presenter who though I was too ‘design-led’. I believed that in order to make mine the best properties, whether for sale or rent, I should be creating homes as though I would be living in and loving them. Without the large design budgets available to big companies, I learnt how to make my properties Moregeous – More than Gorgeous – but on a budget. It's a lesson which stood me in good stead when the crash came in 2008. Knowing design tricks, upcycling, mixing designer with high street, making things look a million dollars on a miniscule budget - we've been doing it for a decade and it's ensured – touch wood – that we're still trading healthily.
Few properties have been developed in the past couple of years and many property developers have become intentional or accidental landlords, renting out the properties which they can't sell. Not surprisingly those who ensured their properties looked fabulous have had no problem consistently renting them out. I've included a few images of some of the properties I've renovated for sale or rent in this blog post and I am so proud of them. It's been very, very hard work but is all worth it when I speak to the people who bought or rent from us.
Property and interiors are inextricably linked and I feel hugely passionate about both. It's curious, but an economic crisis can inspire people to be more creative and less lazy. Innovative, interesting design often flourishes in a recession and over the last couple of years, I’ve seen some fabulous developments at trade shows and design events. I'm very much looking forward to writing this monthly guest blog about interiors as seen through the eyes of a property professional. Roll on January's INTERIORS UK show!
You can follow Sian and the exploits of Team Moregeous at her blog http://moregeous.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter.