We're back with another instalment of Women in Property Investment, and this time we catch up with Helen Barlow, sales and marketing director of SevenCapital - one of the largest privately-owned real estate investment and development companies in the UK.
Tell us about your career in property so far
I’ve always worked with growing businesses across multiple sectors, but I was very fortunate that my mum was one of the first female Quantity Surveyors in the sector and so I’ve always been exposed to construction and the property world.
What I’ve seen over the last five years from some corners of the industry is a lack of solid information available to potential investors, with too much focus on the effective “bells and whistles” to a property without longer-term consideration of the area, its potential and the longevity of the investment.
One of my key aims is to ensure that investors have access to as much information as possible.
This includes low-tech on-site tours, to high-tech virtual reality visualisations and well-founded research at the core.
How can PropTech be used to reach investors and help them to make informed decisions?
In today’s digital, ‘always on’ environment, PropTech is critical to helping developers understand their clients’ needs better. Whether that be through sharing news and core development information instantly via personalised portals or helping clients really visualise what an off-plan development will actually look like with augmented reality, to ensure their confidence in what they’re investing in.
Investors in all areas need better information and quality, realistic future visualisations. Just being able to ‘step into’ a development and really see and understand what a development aspect might look like, or determine whether a particular plot will suit their needs in the future, is game-changing for both the industry and the consumer.
Are you a property investor yourself?
Yes, in both bricks and mortar and via funds. In physical units I’ve chosen great areas with good regeneration potential and strong employment growth - both of which are important elements to consider when looking to invest in property - and I have seen great returns.
For anyone looking at investment, I’d always suggest looking at location first as absolutely key, along with regeneration and local employment factors as good predictors of growth.
Do you see an increasing number of women investing in property over the next five years?
There is a common misconception that women are less likely to choose property than men. From our own research at SevenCapital I can tell you that this is not necessarily the case as in some areas we have found that women who invest are more likely to look at property: an independent survey we carried out last year revealed that out of the respondents who identified as investors, 20% of female respondents invested in property compared to 19% of men.
We all, regardless of gender, need to think more critically about our financial health and future planning. With less certainty around pensions we should all be taking more steps to secure our long-term security and property for many, both men and women, is a key component of that.
Historically, UK property prices have doubled every 14-15 years and with the ongoing and increasing undersupply of housing available across the UK, the private rented sector is set to grow by 125% in the next 20 years. So yes, based on that and once we’ve navigated around the recent tax changes imposed on buy-to-let and second properties, I do believe more women, and men, will be choosing to invest in property over the next decade.
Ultimately, from every survey and piece of research we’ve carried out, property remains the most popular investment that people aspire to, and whilst house prices continue to see growth, that doesn’t look set to change.
What more do you think can be done to encourage women to invest in property?
Share experiences – again regardless of gender. Property investment can be too “hush hush” as many of us don’t choose to share our experiences or like to talk about money – even in close circles. But if we are to make sure that opportunities are made visible, we must become more comfortable with talking openly about our finances and, of course, successes in property.
SevenCapital operates across residential, commercial and hospitality sectors. Since launch, the group has built a portfolio of projects with a value in excess of £2 billion, spanning more than 7 million sq ft and employing more than 130 dedicated property and construction professionals. Its current develpments - The Grand Exchange in Bracknell and New Eton House in Slough - recently appeard in the five emerging resi investment hotspots to watch in 2020.
This is part of an ongoing series focusing on women in property investment, with the next article appearing on January 3.