The highs and lows of being a developer

The Yorkshire Post recently ran this insider’s guide to being a developer from our Chairman John Reeves.

From man-sized caterpillars to buried Romans, John Reeves, Chairman and developer extraordinaire at Helmsley Group in York, gives us his top tips on becoming a developer.

Whilst inspecting a property at a dark, dank cellar, with a tiny torch under what is now Missoula Bar on York’s riverbank, I scared the hell out of myself when a huge, man sized, caterpillar-like object shuffled across the floor.

In my panic to get out, I bashed my head and promptly knocked myself unconscious.

Awaking some minutes later, I found that the caterpillar was in fact a tramp in a sleeping bag. He leant over me and I knew my days were numbered. In fact, he turned out to be kindness itself and helped me back up so I could get on with my day.

Top tip no 1: Always expect the unexpected!

Murphy’s law says that if it’s going to go wrong, it will! In development terms, when it does, this can throw even the best laid plans to waste.

Tip no 2: Rules are rules. Today’s development sector encompasses a myriad of red tape, from health and safety to planning rules. All of which can have serious consequences if you cross the wrong lines.

We have a combined experience of over 36 years at Helmsley Group, yet no traditional developer can ever hope to know all these rules, hence we always employ specialists in each subject, whose job it is to try to get the rules right and keep everything on track for us.

Tip no 3: Time is money. Planning and building delays invariably cost you dearly. It’s rare to get projects done more quickly than you think, even when you’ve been pessimistic with your planning in the first place.

Tip no 4: It always costs more than you think. Don’t underestimate the costs of getting planning permission or the actual building work done.

Nowadays report after report is required, all of which need professionals and cost money to do. Who ever heard of a builder saying: ‘good news – it was cheaper than you budgeted for?!’’

Tip no 5: Watch out for history

In York, archaeology is a best guess and having just found deceased Romans on a site, which the developer pays to have cleared up, this can cause havoc with an appraisal!

Tip no 6: Beware of the ‘customer’. Our development customers are generally solid, reliable people. However, when we’re selling a scheme we do run in to some interesting characters who can spin a good line about their circumstances; some ‘customers’ are in fact professional property viewers, who spend their weekends inspecting property but have no intention or ability to buy. Unfortunately, some people do live in a fantasy financial world too.

One thing for certain is that development is never boring. Nothing ever goes according to your original plans and something unexpected can always throw you off course.

That said, I would recommend becoming a developer to anyone, as long as you’re thick skinned, have the patience of a saint and are un-shockable!

John Reeves, Chairman at Helmsley Group, York

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