Scott joins Martin Property Group to lead BtR onslaught
Ian Scott has joined the Londonderry-based property company, leaving his position as national head of build-to-rent at Lambert Smith Hampton.
Martin Property Group, a family-run development business, will establish a new living division to focus specifically on investment and development opportunities in the build-to-rent sector.
Scott has been appointed as the managing director of the company’s new division, which aims to deliver 1,000 homes in its first two years.
“There was a point when I knew I didn’t want to be an agent anymore,” he told Place North West.
After almost nine years at the LSH, during which he was involved in BtR transactions worth more than £500m, Scott has moved on to a more development-focussed role.
To some, the move from agency to a family office that is relatively unknown in England, may come as a shock.
“People will think I am crazy,” Scott said.
Having handed his notice in at LSH last September, Scott started looking at opportunities to move into development.
“I started having conversations with a lot of developers, investors, propcos and family offices, basically asking people for money to set up a build-to-rent business,” he explained.
Scott already had a relationship with Martin Property Group, having acted for them on an asset in Liverpool. Earlier this year company’s chief executive asked him if he wanted to come aboard and lead the firm’s push into BtR in England.
After a meeting in Derry to discuss the proposition further, Scott was sold.
“I think the reason I got on with them so well so quickly, compared to everyone else I was talking to, was because they’re not so well established,” he said.
“Building a business is what really gets me out of bed. If I went to a Renaker, for example, I would just be a cog in the machine.
“I want to be driving it and I think the journey is going to be really enjoyable.”
That journey, in the first instance, will be focused on Fishergate in Preston.
Martin Property Group acquired the 500,000 sq ft shopping centre last April for £8m – beating off competition from Preston City Council – and Scott has high hopes for its development potential.
“It could be the Kings Cross of Preston,” he said.
“Preston is a really untapped market. The rents on some of the high-quality products are like Manchester.”
Scott’s remit at Martin Property Group is UK-wide but there will be a bias towards the North of England in the first three years in places like Sheffield, Liverpool and Preston, he said.
However, a move into central Manchester is not in the immediate forecast. Instead, Scott is eyeing opportunities in the suburbs, where supply is extremely low.
“If you go on Rightmove and look for a two- or three-bedroom house in Withington to rent there’s like four results. It’s mental.”
According to research by Knight Frank, suburban build-to-rent is predicted to see £7bn of investment in the next five years, and Scott hopes he can take advantage of this opportunity in his new role.
The Martin family has around £20m ready and waiting to be spent on land acquisitions. This cash, coupled with Scott’s plans to scale up, could see Martin Property Group make real inroads into the booming BtR market.
Scott is in talks to form a 10-year partnership with a German pension fund with capacity to invest £500m in the UK in the next two or three years.
“They’ll fund [schemes] and we will deliver and operate them thereafter. If you’re going to attack the UK market you’ve got to go pretty big.”
Another option the company could explore is pointing the pension fund in the direction of other developers’ projects that Martin Group’s living brand could then operate long term.
This would eliminate the need to fork out for expensive city centre land, Scott explained.
Ambition on this scale requires a team and Scott is aiming to recruit 10 people before the end of the year so the company can hit the ground running in 2023.
Scott is determined to offer unrivalled customer service to BtR customers and recognises an opportunity to broaden the sector’s target demographic and improve the UK’s rental offer across the board.
“If you’re in built-to-rent in Manchester, you’re doing quite well for yourself but I am quite passionate about delivering the same quality product for the social market,” he said.
“If the boiler breaks in a shit terraced house that a single mum in Oldham is renting off a landlord in Bristol, that’s just not good enough.”