A day in the life of a Land Manager
Everyone is obsessed with property. As Brits, we love nothing more than watching houses being built, renovated, interior-designed and sparkle cleaned, all within 60 minutes.
We’ve all seen Homes Under The Hammer and Grand Designs, showing off the glamourous side of property development, or so it seems. What isn’t documented as much is the competitive offer process to secure sites in the first place, followed by an arduous planning process, refusals, appeals, build delays and constantly climbing costs, all of which developers deal with behind the scenes.
So why be a property developer? It’s a risky, competitive and highly volatile business, with huge financial risks, but with the hope of greater rewards. As a land manager/land buyer, there is nothing more rewarding than shaking hands on a deal you have worked so hard to agree, then getting stuck into the planning process with surveys, drawings and financial appraisals. And of course there is the added thrill of seeing the plans you have worked on for 2 or 3 years finally get built into real life homes and new homeowners moving in.
As land people, we are notorious dreamers, optimists and problem solvers. We think nothing can get in our way. We (with the help of our knowledgeable architects, planners and engineers) share a vision to turn an empty field, dilapidated building or back garden into a much needed housing development.
We are people-people, born deal makers and often chino and gilet-wearing men. This is what I like to call the Land Manager uniform. Although this is not my uniform of choice, I much prefer floral dresses. Whilst what we wear doesn’t ultimately matter, what bonds us is the thrill of doing deals, moaning about the planning process and creating value through imagination and determination.
From working for an SME developer for the past 5+ years, I have become accustomed to having a very varied daily schedule. Like most land managers, I spend a lot of my time out on the road and walking sites with agents and landowners and hopefully a dog. It’s always a good day on site if there is a dog. Meeting people and building relationships is a huge part of what we do, and it’s largely about who you know, not what. As my boss always says, your phonebook is your most important asset.
When I first started this article, I decided I wanted to describe an ordinary day to give a taste of the real land manager life, warts and all. However, I quickly realised there is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a land manager, as our days can be so varied and unpredictable.
My day often starts either at a meeting with an agent or landowner, or at my desk checking up on our live planning applications, property and economic news and catching up with emails. My days are usually then filled with Teams meetings with various consultants, site visits, land meetings, sales meetings, Women in Residential Property webinars, reviewing drawings and reports, doing financial appraisals, submitting offers and planning applications. No two days are ever the same.
The variation in my day has armed me with a breadth of experience which I am very grateful for and which I wouldn’t necessarily get at a larger company. It gives me a broad understanding of the whole development process, from start to finish, which I like to think makes me a more effective land buyer.
The role of land professionals is ever changing, especially for those of us working for SMEs in the current economic climate. We shift what we are looking at constantly, depending on what the market is doing. Whether this is subject to planning deals; sites with consent; partnership deals such as Joint Ventures and build contracts with housing associations or PRS/BTR companies; or longer term strategic land deals. Being able to diversify what we are doing is one of the benefits of working for an SME developer. There is no one size fits all approach and I am given the autonomy to be creative with deal structures, locations, house types and tenures which makes my job rather good fun.
The role of land professionals is vital as we are responsible for the conception of every new development site. Without land, there are no new homes; and without new homes, the housing crisis will be even further from being solved. With a little bit of optimism and determination, as well as a sprinkling of luck and the tiny matter of local authority support, we, as land professionals continue to grow the pipeline of homes coming through the system and are ultimately creating job opportunities further along the property line in construction, estate agency, conveyancing and beyond.