In an interview with Development Finance Today, Lucy Sharp, co-founder at Dot Residential (pictured above), talks about the impact of the new product and the future of property investment.
You recently launched your revive-to-rent product. How do you hope to improve the standard of rental housing stock with this?
We have industrialised the end-to-end process of acquiring, financing, renovating and managing homes, turning a fairly complex and fragmented supply chain into a slick e-commerce experience that can be completed in a few minutes. This means that investors who previously didn’t have the time/experience/contacts to improve their investment properties now can, and very easily. This will result in a better standard of secondary rental housing stock... and potentially better returns. Our view has always been that happy residents make for happy investors.
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Why do you think that in the future it will become increasingly normal for people to invest in properties without visiting them?
Trusted online platforms can provide all of the information and evidence that an investor needs to transact — it’s already happened in other asset classes, and we expect real estate to follow suit. For a platform such as Dot, it will not happen overnight. Our early clients have all wanted to inspect the properties in person, but as we grow and build track record and credibility, there’s very little extra comfort we can offer when doing a physical inspection that we can’t replicate/deliver online. This again comes down to trust, which we will need to earn over time. But, in the long run, we are adamant that speed, efficiency and convenience will win, particularly as a new generation of investors enters the market.
How does the revive-to-rent loan work and how is it backed? Are you able to provide finance faster than a traditional lender? If so, why?
We fund our revive-to-rent loan using a mix of high-net-worth, institutional and balance sheet funding. We are able to underwrite these asset-backed loans very quickly as we already have intimate knowledge of the property itself, having specifically isolated the asset through our detailed market analysis and then completed physical inspections, survey and bespoke interior design, and build specifications. As such, by the time an opportunity is made available to our investors, we have not only cherry-picked the asset itself, but also completed far more due diligence than a typical lender. This enables us to pre-approve funding, subject to matching the asset to an investor who also meets the criteria.
What one thing would you like to change about the property development industry?
The industry that’s developed on the back of freehold interest is one that we would love to see regulated more stringently.
How did you get into the industry?
I met my co-founders when I was working at Amazon. Gray [Stern] has a property finance background (he co-founded the BTL lender Landbay), while Fraser [Armstrong-Watters] is ex-L&G and spent a year at the online estate agent start-up Settled. The concept for Dot was exciting, and I was adamant that I could help them package up and sell the idea to a global audience.
If you didn’t work in property, what would you be doing?
Running a rescue dog charity, preferably on a beach somewhere tropical.