Magazine article Marketing

Brand Builders: Buildstore

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Builders: Buildstore

Article excerpt

Want a home but can't get on the property ladder? This firm will help you build one from scratch, writes Mairi Clark.

Spotting market niches and creating consumer services to fill them are not activities you associate with solicitors. But Edinburgh-based property lawyer Raymond Connor, founder and managing director of self-build home service Buildstore, is out to defy expectations.

The idea for the company was born during the property boom that has put the average house price of pounds 170,000 out of reach for many first-time buyers. With few houses coming onto the market, there was not enough conveyance work to keep solicitors busy.

It was this saturation that led to the launch of Buildstore, which helps people who want to build their own home to find a plot of land, arrange financing, draw up plans, gain planning permission and even liaise with the builder, all without the customer - if he or she prefers - lifting a brick.

'We were members of the Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre, and there were 14,000 transactions going on every year, with 260,000 legal firms chasing that business,' explains Connor. 'But there were a couple of thousand self-build transactions going on and no one chasing that business.'

So, in 1998, he set up the Self-Build Advisory Service, which advised on self-build mortgages, finding plots of land and running a newsletter. But Connor soon discovered there were problems with the market. 'We quickly realised that the mortgages were not suitable for self-build,' he says. 'In the old days, you would have to build a bit, have it surveyed, have it valued, then the lender would give you something. You were always in arrears.'

Connor tackled this by finding lenders willing to back a new mortgage that allowed upfront payments. This was good for suppliers, as their customers had more money to spend, and good for customers, as their access to cash gave them greater clout in the building trade.

'At that point, we realised we were onto something quite big,' Connor continues. 'I knew the market existed, but it had been very fragmented from the customer's point of view and equally fragmented from the supplier's.'

In 1999, Connor and his two part-ners, Sam Malcolm and Rachel Pyne, approached a corporate financier friend, who raised pounds 2m from venture capitalists, and Buildstore was born. …

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