How Technology Has Revolutionised Residential Site Sourcing and Assessment

house illustration

The process of residential site sourcing and assessment has begun to evolve in recent years, but many property professionals are still relying on slow and inefficient manual methods. This results in a significant drain on time and resources and leads to many sites with high potential being overlooked. 

Sourcing and assessing sites is essentially a search for data - who owns what, what planning could I get, what are the risks. But as you know all too well, having to track down all the information about a potential site is a painstaking process. 

A more effective way of gathering all this data and pulling out the key nuggets of information quickly is essential. 


A better way of doing things

It’s abundantly clear that an effective method for sourcing and assessing sites is critical to the success of any property professional. And now is the time to act.

Government amendments to new permitted development rights are game-changing for property professionals. It is now much easier to get planning permission to redevelop properties than it was before, such as converting commercial property into residential. This has created a wealth of new opportunities for residential property developers, investors and agents - a much-welcomed change to the real estate landscape.

Moreover, the appetite for property and the sales and rental values are continuing to grow:

  • Prices and demand hold firm - With a predicted growth of c.4% expected in 2022 (Fine and Country).

  • Stock remains low - Shortage of property supply remains historically high (RICS). Compared to 2020, the year-to-date volume of homes for sale is 28% lower.

Whilst there’s higher demand and more opportunities to redevelop properties, how can property investors quickly find the best property investments?


Solving the property data problem

All property investments start with discovering a property opportunity, followed by a forensic exercise to bring together information from a wide variety of locations. It is typically a reactive process waiting for the opportunity to arrive before the research can start.

This takes time and often leaves questions still unanswered. Site sourcing and assessment has typically been a nightmare due to the disparate data points needed to do the job properly. This process is heavily reliant on manual research, and so scaling the process has been a huge challenge for property developers.

Once a potential opportunity has been identified, it is only an opportunity if it works out financially and if you can get any planning requirements passed. Therefore, for each potential opportunity, there are multiple data points that need manually sourcing and consolidating to assess a deal.

Here are some of the key checks required:


Financial checks

1. What’s this building worth right now?

To check if it works financially, you need to understand the value of what the building is as it stands.
For example, there may be an asking price for a commercial building, but to establish whether the asking price is fair requires a lot of research. You need to find comparable buildings that have been sold or let and use those to justify (or not) the purchase price.

Alternatively, you could ask a local commercial surveyor. They would have some knowledge of the right price for the building and may provide some advice. You would then need to pay them for the advice, possibly through asking them to provide a valuation for you. However, it's worth noting that this method does run the risk that they might take the opportunity you present and pass it to other clients who may also be interested in making your purchase.

2. What will it cost to convert?

You then need to understand what the build costs are. There are multiple websites that you can use or alternatively you could consult with a Quantity Surveyor.

3. What’s it worth after conversion?

You need to know what a property is worth after a conversion can be done. 

This is typically carried out by finding comparable properties that have sold in an area that are of a similar quality and similar size. Portals like Rightmove or Zoopla will provide lists of properties that have sold and the price they sold for. The sizes however, are often hidden within the information for each property, often written on the floor plans or hidden in room sizes that need adding up. This means many calculations need to be run to understand what those rates are.


Planning checks

To check if the scheme is likely to get planning permission you need to run a number of checks.

planning visual


Each of the new PD rights has lengthy checklists of characteristics to establish whether they apply or not. Each of those need checking before you can be confident of securing planning permission.

Examples include:

  • Whether a property is listed - By checking the Historic England website or similar to try and find the address of the property on the register of listed properties. This is typically an address type search and takes multiple lengthy searches to be confident that the property is not listed.

  • Whether the property is in a conservation area - This information is held by each council across the country  - there are 427 across the UK - and there is no consistency between them. On the council’s planning pages, or on an interactive map, there will be details of which buildings and areas should be preserved. This means that many of the PD rights are removed.

  • Whether a property is in an area at risk of flooding - You’d need to find the flood maps on the environment agency website. However, the mapping is low resolution. This makes it difficult to understand if a property sits within those flood zones and how close they are to the edge of those zones - such as rivers and seas.

flood check

Image showing Flood Zones on the Nimbus Maps platform. 

Common property data challenges 

Fundamentally, traditional research methods are painstakingly slow. Looking at the checks above, it's easy to see why:

  • It takes days to capture the right information - It takes time to source the right information to build a picture of the viability of an opportunity (more on this here). 

  • Data then needs to be manually consolidated - This information then needs to be manually consolidated from multiple sources and formats. Missing a piece of information can be vital. 

  • It’s unscalable - With these methods being so time-consuming, it is virtually impossible to flip them round and target off-market opportunities at scale.

  • It’s inherently risky - You need to have confidence in the information you are using to make the right decisions. Whilst you don’t want to lose a deal, running due diligence is essential to avoiding complications.

With so many sources of information, all with differing ways of identifying the information it can be very hard to achieve that clarity.

The solution, then, is to bring together all the necessary data in one place - so property professionals can make considered, strategic decisions that keep them competitive in a ruthless market. 

A good example of this is the Historic England website. It simply offers an address search where you type the address of the property into the search. 

However, there is no consistency in the way the addresses are captured and, of course, often the names of commercial buildings change. With a simple address search you can often miss entries.

For example, the Grade 2 listed Wetherspoons pub on the High Street in Saffron Walden “The Temeraire” was listed in 1971 when it was called “Comrades Club”. A search on Historic England for the pub wouldn’t return all the entries for that property. You therefore need wide searches for say “High Street, Saffron Walden” which returns pages and pages of results, none of which include the name of the pub you are searching for - but it’s in there!

Driving growth through property technology

As we’ve seen, having access to data is no longer an option for property professionals - it has become an essential operating tool. After all, quickly finding and assessing sites is crucial for property professionals in need of a competitive advantage. 

Whilst the real estate industry has been relatively slow to adopt modern technologies, this is changing. Digital transformation is happening to all areas of property - from managing tenants to monitoring property trends using Artificial Intelligence, through to finding deals quicker.

It’s completely disrupting the property industry and is an enabler for ambitious property developers, investors, and agents.

Never before has it been easier for property entrepreneurs to create and scale a property business.

That’s because new technologies enable savvy property professionals to:

  • Consolidate data in one place - The very best tech solutions are capable of consolidating all the data you need in one place - resulting in finding property opportunities much quicker, and qualifying them much faster too.

  • Confidently assess properties quickly - Assess sites in minutes rather than days and without a middleman such as a third party broker for the data.

  • Gain direct links to owners (at scale) - Some tools even provide direct contact to owners, at scale. This opens up off-market opportunities - which is a major win.

Unfortunately, those doing manual property research are going to be left behind.


Expert guidance to grow property investments with the latest technology

We’ve seen major changes to the uptake in property investment tech. From wide scale investment from the largest UK companies, like Avison Young, M&S, Tesco, Costa - to name a few - through to people fresh out of training in property making their first investment. 

Whether you are considering using software to aid your site sourcing and assessment or are using it already and struggling to gain value for money, we’ve got some guidance to help you maximise growth.


New to Property Technology?

If you need help to get started, here’s our expert guidance:

  • Invest in technology that supports you at multiple points- Your chosen tool should have a wide reach across your business adding value across multiple areas.

  • Pick tools that have great training and support - All technology companies will tell you that they offer great support, but not all of them do. 

  • Check for reviews on websites like Trustpilot - These are great places to understand the quality of support and training. Look at how others review companies to give yourself the best chance of realising the value you want from those tools.

Bonus tip: If you are considering property technology, we recommend ensuring the tool includes these two features:

  • Make sure residential and commercial data are included as  developers might want to convert commercial buildings to residential under PD rights, and a tool with purely residential data won't help you find or assess these opportunities.

  • Ensure it can highlight profitable opportunities because crunching numbers yourself can take time and can limit the ground you can cover.

Tools like Nimbus Maps give you access to reliable full information on residential and commercial property. In fact, Nimbus Maps is the ONLY tool to provide such comprehensive data. 


Already using Property Technology?

If you are already using a tool and feel you are struggling to get value for money, here’s our expert guidance:

  • Reach out to customer success - Speak to the tech company and explain to them what you do and what you want to be able to do with the platform. A good platform will have plenty of options to help you get the most from their tool and a good company should realise the importance of this.

  • Make sure it ticks your boxes - Make sure you’re able to do the three to five things that impressed you when you bought it. It’s easy to get blinded by additional features that you may never use - but pay for the privilege of having access to.


Unlock the best property investments today

With the market primed for ongoing growth and profitability, savvy property developers are leveraging property technology to streamline processes. 

Speed is key here. With property technology, days of data capture are reduced to minutes - allowing you to more quickly and easily scale your property businesses.

Trusted by 1000’s of the most successful property entrepreneurs, Nimbus Maps enables property investors and professionals to find the best off-market opportunities and make decisions quickly and with confidence.

🔎 Case study: Find hidden property gems

Some of our users attribute recent success to using Nimbus to find the “hidden gems” that have given higher than average profits. 

In one case study, a developer was able to negotiate an increase in sale price of over £300,000 on a site being sold by a client to a national food retailer because they were able to compare their offer with other deals they had done elsewhere and were truly able to drive the best deal.

Request a free trial today. Or, see our property intelligence platform in action: Watch a demo.

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