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Research And Record-Breaking Schemes From Family-Run Developer

Posted 11 May 2022 by Lizzie Leigh

We talk to Lee Espinoza, development manager at Group One, about hard work, painstaking research and record-breaking schemes…

Group One’s Lee Espinoza tells us about working in prime districts of Greater London and the Home Counties...

Lee, you are a qualified chartered surveyor, can you tell us a bit about the career path that has led you to Group One?

Since a young age, I have been interested in property and so always wanted to pursue a career in this field. Whilst at school, I undertook a number of periods of work experience with Allsop in their residential auction department. Once I graduated from university, I joined Workman LLP, a property management and building consultancy. They are now the largest independent commercial property management and building consultancy firm in the UK. I’m very proud to have started there as a graduate and become a fully qualified chartered surveyor and then appointed as a Partner in 2017. I learnt a huge amount at Workman, working with some great colleagues and for some very interesting clients; experience that I continue to lean on in my role at Group One.

I joined Group One in 2019 and thought it was the perfect time to join the family business and bring what I’ve learned to help grow and drive the company. Residential property development has always been a huge passion of mine so it was an opportunity I couldn’t let slip!

Group One is a family-run business, what do you feel this adds to the mix?

If, like me, you are fortunate enough to be close with your family, you will understand how much more meaningful work can be when it's aligned to that tight-knit relationship. There's complete and utter trust between us all and support at every twist and turn. Nothing is ever someone else's problem - we tackle it together and there's a real collegiate feel amongst us. We work hard together and we celebrate together, which I believe has been a huge factor in us taking our offering to another level and breaking records at various schemes.

Your website describes the homes you build as being ‘profoundly distinguished residences’; what does this mean to you when you think about the homes you build?

Every home is unique because every buyer is unique. In this day and age you cannot expect to create even the most beautiful of homes purely based on your own taste and opinion of what is needed. Part of why we have been so successful to-date is because we ensure we painstakingly research the target market before we start any project and when we have buyers part way through the build process, we enable an open dialogue as we go to ensure it is exactly how they envisaged. We aim to be flexible to adjust to their specific requirements, as these will be their homes and if we can alter specifications to match their needs we will do it.

We understand Group One has just had a particularly successful year, which included two of your flagship schemes selling out off-plan, can you tell us about those?

We have achieved sales in excess of £22m at The Pinnacle in Mill Hill and North Twenty in Whetstone – all off-plan and secured six months before completion, which is a fantastic achievement for the team.

At Mill Hill we set a new price record for the area, achieving up to £1,055 per sq.ft. and sold almost exclusively to downsizers in and around the area, looking for well-designed, spacious apartments with outside space and close to amenities and transport links. We achieved very similar results at North Twenty, which has also proven popular with locals who wanted high-quality apartments but couldn’t find anything of this level nearby, so when we launched the response was just incredible.

Are you seeing any exciting new interior trends emerging that you could share with us?

There is not one particular thing, as people have such diverse tastes. However, the one thing that always crops up from buyers is that they want a high level of detail and to see that the developer has gone the extra mile when it comes to finishes and modern technology and innovation.

Once we begin work on a new development there is one key theme that runs throughout the process and that is a highly focused attention to detail. From the exterior and interior design to the amenities and landscaping, we want to ensure that the final product is of the highest possible quality. It is this obsession to produce the best homes that we believe sets us apart and has allowed us to create a strong reputation in prime districts of Greater London and the Home Counties.

Do you create two distinctive styles for your London schemes and those out of the city and in the Home Counties?

All of our schemes are completely bespoke and have their own character. We do not have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Even when two schemes are located close to each other, they are always different and have their own style. Of course, there may be some common themes that run through but the underpinning approach is one of quality and attention to detail.

How do you see those two different markets performing over the next year or so?

Whilst there is often much talk and commentary on the markets slowing down soon, we have not seen any evidence of it to date. Demand still seems to be very strong and we believe there is still a lot of pent-up demand after the Covid period. People who were staying in their homes for far longer periods than usual have become a little fed up and keen to make a change. Indeed, with more people now working from home there is also a huge demand for additional space for a home office / study.

Indeed, for our two sold out schemes in Mill Hill and Whetstone, the phones continue to ring daily asking if any are still available! This just shows the extraordinary level of demand and if you pitch a development correctly then the sales will come in quickly and consistently.

Which schemes do you have coming to market in the next 12 months?

We are starting work very soon on a site in Southgate, London, N14. This will be another boutique scheme with a handful of lovely apartments of differing sizes. In Longfield, Kent we are shortly starting works on two very large luxurious houses with beautiful gardens. There are also more schemes in the pipeline that I can’t say too much about yet! It is an incredibly exciting time for Group One.

Looking further ahead, do you have exciting plans for the future of the company?

Following the recent successes at our schemes in Mill Hill and Whetstone, we are looking to increase our portfolio and actively searching to acquire sites with or without planning consent that would deliver boutique schemes in well-located areas to help us build on the momentum generated from our recent growth. In fact, we have a couple of very exciting sites that we are very close to completing our purchase.

We are well-funded and in a strong position to move quickly on sites that meet our stringent requirements, as we look to broaden our net. Typically, we operate in and around London and the Home Counties, but as the market continues to evolve and other parts of the UK maintain rapid growth, we’re keeping our options open.

And finally, what’s the most useful piece of advice you could give to anybody buying a new build property off-plan?

Almost anything is possible so make sure you always keep how you like to live at the forefront of every build decision. Think practically about regular use of rooms or access points to certain cupboards you know you'll need daily and will ensure your schemes stay relevant and up to date.

Think about the flow based on how you like to live, how you would like to live or how the market has responded to previous projects. Don’t just worry about how it will look...at the end of the day we want the homes we build to be just that, a place that our buyers can comfortably call home!


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