GRS Group is going to have a major presence at the MBA’s CREF conference in early February. One person from the team who will do a great deal of networking is London-based Andrew Chisholm, who is managing director of GRS | Capital and Provincial. He talked to us about how the due diligence market differs overseas from domestic business, and part of his strategy for the MBA conference, among other topics. GRS Group is one of the sponsors at the show, and there will be wall-to-wall coverage of the event on this space.
Tell us about the evolution of GRS | Capital & Provincial and how the relationship started.
The relationship started in 2006 when GRS Group CEO, Charles Victor was at Land America. Land America acquired CNP, a business I was a founding partner of, to provide international real estate transactional and construction services across Europe from our base of nine offices in the United Kingdom and two offices in Germany. After the completion of the purchase, business flourished. I developed very close business and personal relationships with the leadership team of Land America, which continued when the same leadership formed GRS Group. We continue to have a close working relationship and share the same customer-focused drive for excellence in the relentless pursuit of unrivaled levels of service. We now provide “boots on the ground” service for GRS Group’s U.S. customers transacting real-estate-acquisition or funding deals across Europe.
You are going to the MBA’s CREF conference in February…what do you hope to achieve at the show?
With the help of my GRS Group sales-rep colleagues to get in front of U.S. debt providers with international exposure or aspirations and showcase a number of recent projects where we have been engaged to provide purchase due diligence by way of Property Condition reports and Environmental Site Assessments and subsequent Construction Cost monitoring services where the clients have committed to fund development projects. There is a growing appetite for debt finance in the U.K. development market, as the availability of funds continues to be challenging, and a limiting factor in the fluidity of development opportunities. U.S. debt finance is seen as an available resource and U.K. borrowers are widening their horizons away from the conventional domestic conduits for finance. My focus at MBA CREF is to amplify this shift in appetite and reinforce GRS Group’s ability to service their interests on the ground. We have two very real live opportunities for development finance in the £20-million to £80-million ($30-million to $120-million)-range, and it would be nice. It might be a touch ambitious, but I think that one output of MBA would be to generate some interest in these particular opportunities.
How are you marketing GRS Group in Britain and Europe?
We keep close dialogue with all of our property-development-sector clients to continue to highlight not only the availability of U.S. debt finance in the U.K. and wider European real estate and construction markets but also the recent examples where U.S. finance has been deployed in the U.K. for developers here to fund their development pipeline.
Has the need for these types of services increased or changed in that part of the world?
The requirement for pre-acquisition construction due diligence services, and services associated with construction-cost monitoring, have increased as a result of continued growth in the U.K. property market.
Over the last 12 months, average U.K. (in the Southeast) capital values have increased by 12.9 percent, resulting in total return of 19.7 percent for the year. As an attractive investment class, demand is at an all-time high fueling the rise in development projects to take advantage of diminishing stock and rising exit values. This, in turn, has seen a rise in the requirement for debt finance. And presto! GRS Group can assist with the protection of U.S. clients deploying capital in oversees markets!