What’s Hot In Property Investment and Development For 2021

Finding the right site is critical for any developer or investor to be successful. The old property saying is, you buy right, you make money. But how do you find the best sites? And how can you be confident they are going to work?

I have been involved in over 350 successful planning applications throughout my career, and I soon discovered that four crucial, yet simple considerations made them a success.

Principles for success

Intensification – Drive value out of sites by increasing the density of usable accommodation within a development.  If the land value is fixed, you want to get as much usable floor space on the site. Minimise areas that don’t attract value like common parts as they cost you to build but don’t have any intrinsic value.  As a rule, areas with a residential value of £300 per sqft or more start to make a lot of sense for residential development.

Transformation – Drive profit into sites by changing them from a lower value use to a higher value use, or simply refurbish buildings. Take tired properties and bring them up to modern-day standards to command a higher value. It’s just then a simple calculation between the cost of works and the value of what’s created.

Location – Choose sites in sustainable locations, typically this means there is a local shop, pub, bus route, education facilities, etc. This will increase your chances of getting planning approval, plus you will have plenty of comparable evidence to support your valuation and be confident you are paying the right price and know what you can realistically expect to sell for.

Consideration – Put forward proposals in line with the existing character, style and typical land densities of that area. Planners don’t typically like anything that is out of character for an area.

Get all of this right, and you will have schemes that stack up, proposals that councils will support and projects that should be profitable.

While these four principles stand the test of time, there are additional new opportunities unique to 2021.

In today’s COVID affected market, the message from government is BUILD, BUILD, BUILD. Combine this with the wholesale changes we expect in our personal and working lives, after 3 national lockdowns, there are more property opportunities out there than ever before.  There are various sets of permitted development rights, creating fantastic potential for developers and investors. Commercial conversions are proving to be very profitable right now, these are three examples that present exciting opportunities for anyone looking for new sites in 2021.

Convert shops, financial establishments, betting offices or payday loan shops to mixed-use


You can have one or two flats above a shop under permitted development without planning permission. It is worth noting that these are subject to building regulations, there must be flats above the shop, you can’t convert any part of the ground floor to residential, and from 6th April 2021, these will need to adhere to the new minimum space standards.

Convert retail, takeaway & others to residential

You can convert a ground floor retail space, takeaway, betting office, payday loan shop or launderette to residential up to 150 square metresThe unit must have been in use as a shop or other retail unit on or before 20th March 2013 and PD rights do not apply if it is in a key shopping area where the unit’s loss would impact the area’s sustainability. From 6th April 2021, these will also need to adhere to the minimum space standards. 

Convert offices to residential

You can convert offices to houses or flats as long as it is not a listed building or in an area where the local authority has an article 4 preventing this type of conversion, and it must have been an office before 29th March 2013. It can be carried out in conservation areas, national parks and other protected land. 

Our team of Nimbus® data scientists have calculated that there is over £100bn of free, uncapitalised property value up for grabs. Follow these principles and strategies to make the most of the unique opportunity 2021 presents, while we have both new and existing permitted development rights in place. My advice to everyone is act now or risk missing out on this once in a generation opportunity!

If you would like to discover how Nimbus Maps will help you find and assess sites in minutes…

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