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5 signs it’s time for your asset portfolio audit

 

As an asset portfolio manager, you are responsible for millions of pounds worth of bricks and mortar. Your reputation dictates that you need to be fully aware of the value of the assets you are managing so that you can advise your clients on the best course of action for their investment. Here are 5 signs that it is time for you to commission an asset portfolio audit:

1. Time for your asset portfolio audit: You don’t trust the data you have.

In order to make good decisions you must be in possession of the facts. Don’t charge into battle until you are armed and you know exactly what you are up against. Too often businesses are almost forced, coerced or misled to carry out works that simply aren’t required by a corporate version of a dodgy tradesman sucking his teeth and saying 'x' when actually 'y' would be better and cheaper. If you are being asked to embark upon a major capital programme but aren’t given the resources and tools to deliver results without risk, think again. Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. Don’t rush headlong down a path without truly exploring the data and ensuring it is honest, trustworthy accurate and above all – impartial. In another word, plan well first  with valuable data.

2. Time for your asset portfolio audit: You have a merger looming.

Merging portfolios, merging businesses: It is coming to you and you are about to inherit the motherload of problems. Is their data accurate? Is it better than yours? Will they use your lack of knowledge to beat your price down? Or exploit your lack of understanding of their data to drive their value up. Due diligence is a part of life. Do it better than the other party and you stand a good chance of leaving the room standing tall and confident in your decision. Who knows, you might dodge a bullet and walk away unscathed. Ask Royal Bank of Scotland about their due diligence process on the purchase of Dutch Bank. They did not have one and it almost bankrupt them.

3. Time for your asset portfolio audit: Your client wishes to dispose of their assets.

At some point your client will want to sell on a property or two, maybe even their whole portfolio. What do you advise them? Which ones do you sell? Nothing short of an in-depth understanding of every facet of that portfolio is good enough. Your client is paying for professional advice: you need to be confident that you know their portfolio inside out without any nasty surprises  and that the information you have at your fingertips is up to the minute to provide accurate advice to the best of your knowledge. You must become an asset management Jedi with a crystal ball.

4. Time for your asset portfolio audit: Brexit impact

2016 has brought a fresh challenge for the property world. We have witnessed the Brexit vote result. Now there are talks of a possible Clexit, where Britain bows out of all the climate change targets. This will trigger yet more unwelcome uncertainty. We all saw the effect the Brexit vote had on share prices and the unprecedented action taken by the likes of Aberdeen Asset Management. Investors like bricks and mortar for the long term stable nature of something physical. Brexit and Clexit are speeding things up to say the least. The risks and their impact are very real. Of course the market will recover, but the long term effect of the likelihood of sudden and dramatic risk is toxic for us all. Yet here we are. The world is still turning and people still want to invest and make decent returns. Brexit didn’t bring about a revolution overnight. If you are currently trying to dispose of a portfolio, you may consider putting it on the back burner for a while and instead use the time to ensure your portfolio is the very best it can be and use technology to increase the assets value.

5. Time for your asset portfolio audit: Legislation presents a risk.

As mentioned above, legislation is so fluid at the moment it represents a credible risk to the market. Remember ESOS? Ever even heard of it? 12 months after Energy Saving Opportunity Surveys were introduced and implemented by the brave few, they were abandoned. What a waste of money for all parties. Will MEES / MEPS go the same way? (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard and Minimum Energy Performance Standard) Same thing two different names. They are major pieces of legislation with Royal Assent that say you can’t sell rent or lease a building with an F or G rating. It is estimated that 31% of the built environment falls into that space. (Source WSP on Aberdeen Asset Management’s portfolio).

I can tell you first hand from three of our clients their thoughts:

One said: “we need to provide professional advice, this is of grave concern we must deliver rapid cost effective energy audits at scale to satisfy our client’s needs”.
Another client said the exact opposite: “the legislation won’t come. If it does it will morph into something else, I am not advising my clients spend needlessly when I have no faith in the government following through”.
A third client literally took me to a 30-storey building erected in the 1960s with uninsulated roof, concrete precast modular walls, single glazed, original heating system etc. He then proceeded to show me the £250 EPC certificate boasting about his C rating.

Why invest millions when a £250 piece of paper will suffice?

If you are seeing one or all of the above signs, help is at hand. Today, rapid portfolio evaluation and impartial, solution-independent advice is a phone call away. Technology has progressed to the point where infrared images can be quantified, data augmented and calculations carried out by sophisticated algorithms – all for much less than you might think. Drones and software advances have meant surveying is easier, reporting online and the deliverable all dynamic and interactive. Experts are being replaced by sliders and speedos on dashboards. Simulations that were once a black art practiced by experts only are now child's play. If you can catch a Pikachu you can conduct an energy audit on a portfolio.

Are you seeing the signs? Then please do contact us to discuss your requirements by clicking on the button below.

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Innovative surveying technology for built asset management

Innovative surveying technology for built asset management

Seems you can’t move these days without hearing about drones, apps and thermal imaging, but are they truly helpful or just gimmicks? We managed to get almost all the way to 2016 without them.

Like every new industry that erupts from an emerging technology, there are people who take it seriously and do it professionally and those who charge in to make a quick buck. And like every other example in history, the cream rises to the top, the market consolidates and the cowboys are eventually driven out by the sheriff who is usually better known as legislation.

Innovative technology: Thermal imaging

Thermal imaging, or infrared thermography, has - and still is - going through this process. Companies like iRed, Thermascan, Ti and IRT surveys have been around now for more than a dozen years each. There is a healthy respect and competitive market out there. But there are a myriad of smaller companies buying low end equipment, not training themselves properly and going to market with nothing more than a nice looking website. This is why asking the right questions when making your research on infrared companies is important.

Innovative surveying technology: Drones

The same can be said of the drone industry, only it’s 20 years behind the infrared world. It is experiencing a lot of negative press also with an emerging industry to shoot them out of the sky – yep – anti drone tech is also out there. It is a little known fact that over 80% of drone pilots don’t renew their license after year one. It either means the vast majority of the market are novices, or that the failure rate is enormous.

Innovative surveying technology: IoT

The IoT industry is the next big thing for the built environment for sure. If you haven’t come across the anachronism before, it stands for the Internet of Things. Everything from your toothbrush to your fridge will be connected to the net. Lightbulbs will tell you when they become inefficient. HVAC systems will call the engineer themselves and tell him what parts they need, before they brake. Fuses will alert the electrician, or some form of R2D2 unit to repair them before they blow.

When the building itself senses that something isn’t quite right, drones will be deployed to survey a building at night, equipped with an infrared thermal imaging system. Smart meter and sensor technology is moving at an alarming pace. Or exciting pace depending upon your perspective. I love the idea that a sensor will send me a message with GPS co-ordinates to a defectuous building that we can survey and report on.

Innovative surveying technology: Caution required

Huge caution though. Just because things get all high tech and whizz bang, doesn’t make the operative an expert. Interpreting the cause for failure and understanding what the tech is telling you still requires a skilled person. No software will ever replace an experienced RICS qualified surveyor with 20 years under their belt. A sensor or thermal image may say your insulation is 20% saturated on your flat roof - a common defect – the image may point clearly to the origin of the leak but only a human can see that the roofer lapped the felt the wrong way, or didn’t seal the lap joints correctly.

Technological innovation for surveying is unstoppable.

The technology is coming, some of it is here already. It's unstoppable. Best embrace it, swimming upstream is exhausting. But fear not: the dystopian Star Trek world, where no-one has a job and everything is leisure time, is a long way off. De-skilling mundane tasks and de-bugging our built environment will free us up to focus on bigger challenges!

Would you like to know more about how thermal imaging and drones can ease the management of your asset portfolio? Click on the button below to contact us to discuss your surveying requirements and for your free and no-obligation quote.

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5 stages to enhance your property portfolio performance

5 stages to enhance your property portfolio performance

Enhancing Property Portfolio Performance

As a portfolio manager in charge of multiple buildings for a profitable return on behalf of your clients,  you are trying to

  • stay ahead of legislation,
  • mitigate risk,
  • foresee any future complications,
  • maintain and ideally increase assets value,

whilst ensuring that the buildings themselves are occupied and rent income is being paid on time.

Enhancing the performance of the property portfolio you are managing is always your top priority so that you can prove to your clients that you are satisfying their objectives. In turn they keep you in business.

Before you can enhance something though, you must have a clear picture of where you are starting from and what enhanced performance actually looks like. Think of the task as a journey. Here we give you 5 stages to enhancing property portfolio performance.

Stage 1 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Benchmark today’s situation

Before you set your destination and road map your journey, you need to figure out where you are.  The questions you ought to ask about your property portfolio performance are:

  • What information should I have?
  • What information do I currently have?
  • Is it accurate?
  • How old is it?
  • Who collected it and how did they do this?

Get a true picture of today before you try and describe tomorrow.

You may be stuck at this early stage, with very little data at your finger tips, out-of-date data, or data coming from an unreliable or unknown source. If this is the case, you will have to stall your planned course of action on the buildings to fulfill that data collection stage. You may be interested to read our recent post about exploiting your assets big data.

What is the fastest and most cost effective way to benchmark your commercial buildings? Traditional surveyors offer one solution, there is a supply chain out there pushing their own products and there are technological solutions offering everything from desktop reviews to in-depth reporting, simulation and analysis. Your choice will depend on your time available, your budget and your requirements.

A word of warning which applies whatever you decide to do: Do not proceed to Stage 2 without completed this Stage 1.

Stage 2 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Decide on the improvements required

Assuming you are now in possession of accurate data, you need to establish which improvements yield the best return on investment for your client. Ask questions such as

  • Which building(s)?
  • Which solution?
  • In what order?

It does sound easy but impartial advice is difficult to come by and not all solutions will deliver upon their promises. Software can rank and rate savings and costs but none can get the tenants on board, keep building control happy and understand the nuances of each challenge you are aware of personally. It is best to take the output and augment it with your own knowledge of the buildings and strike a line through the ones you know just won’t get traction with your client or tenant.

Stage 3 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Plan and communicate to client

The next stage on your journey is to establish a costed refurbishment schedule with a known ROI. Show and discuss your plans to your client. Clients all want the same thing: a healthy portfolio, appreciating in value, filled with happy tenants who pay their rent on time. Anything else is an inconvenience, isn’t it? In our experience, clients also want something a little more: they want to know their money is being spent in the right direction, that we are helping them mitigate risk and optimise their budget.

Of course they will be mightily impressed and may write a blank cheque to enable the solutions. This is more likely to happen when you provide them with clear and justified figures. Hence the importance of not missing steps 1 and 2.

Stage 4 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Compare quotes and do your due diligence

This stage implies you have agnostic advice to hand.

Did you go to market to a flat roofing company for example, who recommended you replace your roofs? Or an HVAC company who recommended you replace 50% of the heating systems? Impartial advice is a critical step in this process. You will have to pay for it, but in the long run it pays for itself tenfold and allows you to proceed with confidence in the outcome.

You may have your preferred suppliers either formally listed in your company’s purchase framework or whom you have used before and trust. Alternatively, you may also be looking for new suppliers who might have more fitting solutions or use newer technology. Make sure you get clear and detailed quotes, ask questions and do your research for due diligence.

Stage 5 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Manage the refurbishment work

If you have followed steps 1 to 4, you should be relatively safe in the knowledge you are delivering best value to your client. It is of course easier said than done. You will need to regularly communicate and hold progress meetings with your appointed suppliers and keep them on their toes.  Don’t accept in blind faith what they tell you.

For good measure we will add a 6th stage to your journey: Audit your actions. You need to measure performance to ensure you have reached your destination.

Are you ready to go on your property portfolio enhancement journey? Looking for impartial advice to increase the value of your buildings portfolio? Stuck at Stage 1 with little, unreliable or out-of-date data? If you answer YES to any or all of these questions, then please contact us today to discuss your project, by clicking on the button below.

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Register today for our webinar The Future of Building Asset Management taking place on Friday 30 September 2016 at 1pm. Click on the button below for more details.

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What are the challenges in the Real Estate Management profession?

What are the challenges in the Real Estate Management profession?

Real Estate Management

 

Real Estate Management profession covers a wide range of roles in many different sizes of organisations, in the public, private and voluntary sectors. Like any other profession, it faces many challenges.

Real Estate Management: asking the challenge question

We held a very successful webinar at the end of September on The Future of Building Asset Management which gathered speakers from RICS, BBA, OVO Energy and South Yorkshire Housing Association. More than 100 people registered for the event, coming mainly from the building surveying sector, local authorities and housing associations.

We were keen to understand their challenges so that we can help them overcome them. When registering, they had to answer a simple question:

“What challenges do you face in your profession?”

 

Real Estate Management: answers to the challenge question

Luckily the webinar participants agreed to answer. Knowing that their answers would remain anonymous, they provided candid and honest comments.  These were collated, de-duplicated, and classified in themes.

Challenges clearly lie around data, internal and external relationships with interested parties, time management, understanding and meeting clients’ requirements, compliance in an evolving legislative and technological environment, costs and finances.

Interestingly the practical elements of managing buildings and their fabric was the least mentioned.

Real Estate Management challenge: Data

Collecting robust and consistent data.
Access to good building information.
Accurate data.
Access to comparable data.

Real Estate Management challenge: Internal and external relationships with interested parties

Dealing with contractors.
Local authorities’ representatives.
Managing lifecycle works against hard facilities management services.
Managing a portfolio that is administered by all sorts of departments under one roof.
Making decisions affecting the course of project it would take.
Interdepartmental Communication and Planning.
Conflicting pressures.

Real Estate Management challenge: Time and time management

Real Estate Management challenge: Understanding and meeting clients’ requirements

Knowing what the client’s risks are.
To offer clients value for money in the changing economic environment.
Engagement.

Real Estate Management challenge: Compliance in an evolving legislative and technological environment

Shifting legislation.
Compliance.
An ever changing market.
Need to understand latest technology for asset management.
Converting theory into something tangible.
Improve my general knowledge in the building survey industry.
Knowledge.
Overcoming technical challenges.

Real Estate Management challenge: Costs and finances

Cost.
Finances.
Finding funding for organisation.
Reduced team size.
Delivering sustainable and manageable income stream for surveying team.
Market failure in terms of price signals to attributing value to sustainable property assets.

Real Estate Management challenge: Managing the fabric of buildings

Ageing Buildings.
Water Ingress.
The diversity of cases.

It is not our intention to provide an answer to all these challenges, as some of them are outside our control. Our technology, teamed with intuitive bespoke software however may be able to alleviate the severity of these challenges so that you work in a much less stressful condition.

Do you face similar challenges? Or do you experience others that are not listed above? We are keen to know.

Contact us to discuss.

Register for our next webinar on Tuesday 29 November at 1 pm: Miranda Plowden, South Yorkshire Housing Association Business Development Director, shares her views and experience of managing building assets. For full details and to register, click on the button below.

Register for webinar.
5 good reasons to say NO to a housing stock condition survey

5 good reasons to say NO to a housing stock condition survey

Housing Stock Survey

We have written at length as to why, as a housing portfolio manager or energy manager for a social or affordable housing provider, you should consider commissioning a housing stock condition survey and how to do it.

Still, you may have doubts about the value of such surveying and wonder whether you should be even interested.

Here we give you 5 good reasons why you should NOT bother with a condition survey of your housing stock.

1. You are confident your current dataset is accurate.

You have taken the time to get your house in order – so to speak.

The houses you manage were built recently and came to you data-rich.

Maybe you have already commissioned a housing stock condition survey in recent months and have all the data you need.

You have inherited a good quality dataset of the houses that are now under your responsibility after a recent merger, asset purchase or transfer.

You operate a tight ship whereby you understand the value of an accurate data to support investment-grade decisions, and therefore insist on the right data being collected, collated and analysed before making the investment. This access to accurate data and control of your assets allows you to be confident in your spending for a good return on investment. You implicitly trust this information and have it at your fingertips.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as your excellent data set speaks for itself and tell you what you need to do to fulfil your energy efficiency agenda.

2. Your budget is generous enough that you can afford to spend.

You are in an envious position to have a healthy budget for retrofit and refurbishment. As long as this budget is spent by the end of the financial year, then return on investment isn’t a concern for you.

This means that you may decide on your refurbishment based on what is ‘fashionable’ at the time: insulation, boilers, double glazing, etc. It is not a matter of “what can we afford which will return the highest dividends?”, but “what can we  spend the money on? what can be done next?”

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as justifying the expenditure on a specific retrofit is not a priority.

3. You don’t have time to obtain funding from a utility company.

Utility companies may be able to help you with funding whole or part of your next refurbishment. In order to consider your request, they need to know some key information about your housing portfolio, information that you don’t have and are not likely to have in the near future.

It is better to miss out on some funding rather than taking the time to understand what your stock needs.  Time is always of the essence. You want to get on with the job, and approaching utility companies for funding will be a delay in the proceedings.

Or it could be that, to come back to Reason 2 above, as your budget is generous, then you don’t approach these companies because you have money to spend.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as time is already in short supply. Commissioning a survey and negotiating funding will only delay your refurbishment project.

 4. You trust your current supply chain.

You have selected your current supply chain (consultants, software, contractors, materials etc)  by conducting a thorough procurement process which absorbed all your energy and time for a while, and you are confident you have the suppliers who best fit your requirements for the time being.

Or you simply have built a great network of supply companies who you inherently trust and you hope they will be there for a while longer.

You sleep at night knowing that your supply chain is working for the benefit of your portfolio and tenants.

You don’t see the need to change your suppliers or investigate what else is available on the market that you may be missing on.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey because your current suppliers know what your future needs are and will keep you informed of the latest innovation on the market.

5. Your tenants are happy, they never complain.

You know you are looking after your tenants and their rented property well because they haven’t reported any issues with damp, mould growth, condensation etc. Your ‘Complaints Inbox’ is empty for problems related to the fabric of the houses.

This is probably because your maintenance schedule was well thought-out and resourced and is on target, even nearing completion.

Or your housing stock is of outstanding quality, relatively new and repairs are not (yet) needed.

Say NO to a housing stock conditionsurvey because your repair and maintenance programme is fulfilling its objectives and you are already thinking of the next tranche of improvements.

 

If all the above 5 reasons are true for you, indeed you are a very astute portfolio manager and most would envy your position.  Indeed, you don’t need a housing stock condition survey, you are in control of the situation, you have access to good quality data allowing you to make the right decisions and get things done.

We live however in an ever changing landscape of legislation, energy pricing and increasing uncertainty. Feed in tariff, Green Deal, CERT, CESP, EU, all this has changed and continues to evolve.

Best practice would suggest the only way forward is to keep you data as accurate as you can, keep learning about what technology is coming along that can help you, keep talking to your peers and assume that everything you know will change tomorrow.

Are you in this fortunate position? If so, we would love to hear how you got there. Do contact us to tell us how you achieved this so that we can share with our clients.

If not, you do need a housing stock condition survey. It will help you achieve your energy efficiency agenda, whilst make sure you are spending wisely the budget you have, even increase the funds available and have your tenants contacting you only to thank you.

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