Today I am going to tell you a story which starts in 2006 – ends – and then re-starts today in 2011!
So let’s go back to the year 2006. When Justin Timberlake was playing on the radio, petrol was 88p per litre and banks used to lend on property development…feels like a lifetime ago!!
In my wisdom I had bought a detached terrace of old antiques shops in Stoke on Trent. They were dilapidated and in need of some serious work. As you can see!
But, I also knew there were special grants available to assist bringing these buildings back into use – and I knew these grants were worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The properties sat on a good plot size and while they were in a conservation area, I felt that I could get change of use and make some money – so I applied and got planning permission for 9 apartments with associated parking.
And then I set to, got my quotes, checked the end values and realised that if I went ahead with the project I wouldn’t make any money. I was shocked. I had already secured a grant in excess of £200k – how could it not work?!
This wasn’t at all what I had intended. I went out to tender again. I got another structural engineer in. I got my architect back again. I rechecked and re-did everything. No matter how I tried to cut it, I just couldn’t get the numbers to stack. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that a conversion could cost so much!
It was an important lesson which I had to face up to – it was a beginners mistake. I hadn’t costed the job properly.
And so I decided to sell the property with the planning permission and with the grant that I had secured.
I sold it in late 2006 to an Irish man who I spoke to on the telephone once. We never met. I made a £2800 loss.
Fast forward to 2011…
I am invited to present at a council heritage day to talk about re-locating my business to the area and how I have benefited from the council’s grant scheme.
I am introduced to an Irish lady, who is the new owner of my old dilapidated antiques shops and who is now bringing the scheme forwards – although in a different format to what I had originally envisaged. It only turns out she is the wife of the Irish man who I spoke to on the phone!
We talk about the scheme, and when I admit to her that I was the one who sold her husband the properties she offers me the keys back! The project has been hugely problematic and costly. The renovation bill is set to exceed half a million pounds. It is stressful, time consuming and costing a massive amount of money.
Then today, in the ultimate twist of “what goes around, comes around” the new owner calls me. She wants me to let and to manage the building – it is almost finished and she wants it tenanted. She has done an amazing job – I really do take my hat off to her.
So now I have the keys back! The project that I once bought, envisaged and then sold is now back in my hands. I may not own the building, but my dream for what can be done is still alive. I will help bring back businesses to the area and I will make a success of this building. It may have a new owner on paper, but in my heart this building will always be part mine. I am part of the history of this building and I am proud to be a part of the future.