Acquisition and development of large-scale apartment blocks, office-to-residential conversions and family housing are all on HS Property Group’s radar as it prepares to deliver its first co-working project in Manchester.
Speaking to Place North West, the company’s founders Guy Horne and David Searle outlined HS Property Group’s ambition to increase its development pipeline as it prepares to deliver its first co-working office at the Progress Centre in Ardwick.
The company has traditionally been focussed on social housing projects, and while that remains its core market, Searle said HS Property would be open to looking at more projects if the right opportunities arose. The purchase of the Progress Centre and its refurbishment is expected to cost more than £1m, and was acquired off-market. It will be converted into around 22,000 sq ft of co-working space with a rent of around £10 to £12/sq ft, and is supported by profits from the group’s social housing business.
The office space will be targeted at digital, tech, and start-up businesses with suites varying between 100 and 4,000 sq ft, while the building’s current café will be refurbished and a fitness studio will be added in the basement, along with a games room. This, Horne said, was inspired by Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, where he used to work, and will be delivered over the next three to four months.
Founded by Searle and Horne, former schoolmates at Manchester Grammar who also both attended the University of Nottingham, the four-year-old business now employs 12 staff and the top floor of the Progress Centre will act as the company’s head office. The team has recently expanded with the addition of two project managers who will oversee project delivery across its portfolio.
Although both Horne and Searle said they would be interested in developing more co-working space, the business’s core focus is social housing, and Horne said the company has “an aspiration to work on larger blocks and developments”.
HS Property has now developed between 300 to 400 homes in total in the social housing sector, and Horne said the group had been “put off PRS” in its early ventures, with higher returns coming HMOs – houses in multiple occupation.
“We’ve developed over 100 units specifically for homeless people; we’re looking at family homes, terraces, and office blocks to convert into social housing,” he said. The group’s focus is on run-down, derelict, and vacant properties and refurbishing these to a set standard, described by Horne as “high-quality, durable, and safe”.
Backed by private investors, social housing funds, family funds, and overseas investors, Horne said HS had “the ability to acquire properties quickly” and would be looking to significantly expand its portfolio in the coming years.
Particular areas of interest include North East Manchester which Horne said had seen “massive house price growth”, and the company has already delivered schemes in Denton, Ashton, and Oldham, where a former office has been converted into 29 studio apartments. “We started in Greater Manchester but we are now looking at projects in Liverpool Cheshire, and Lancaster to name a few,” added Horne.
“We’re actively seeking freehold apartment blocks and office blocks that we can convert into residential.”
Horne also has a background in proptech and the company claims to be the first in the UK to use blockchain technology to sell a residential property; in March, the company used the Clicktopurchase blockchain platform to sell a four-bedroom investment property in Oldham.