Most developers have their heroes in property, people who they look up to and emulate from times past and present.
For 20-somethings Jonny Jackson and Harry Dee it’s the Candy brothers, whose careers and business development trajectory they clearly admire, despite the brothers’ well-publicised difficulties last year in court.
The pair, who run Gatsby properties, are following a similar trajectory to the Candys, although to be fair it will some time before they build their own One Hyde Park.
“We’re well aware of the Candy brothers and what they’ve done, their reputation and the aura around them – some positive, some not so positive,” says Jonny.
“In a sense yes we are similar to them because they were putting a better product on the market than most other developers.
“What they did with their properties was unheard of in the London market at the time and they were the frontrunners in achieving such high standards. They made their name a brand and we’d like to make Gatsby a brand too.”
Gatsby Property was started in 2013 by Jonny. He had recently finished a degree in Government and Economics at the LSE and while completing internships at several blue-chip companies including KTMG, he bought a house in London with his father and refurbished it, selling the property for a profit.
“We brought down workmen from my native county of Yorkshire to complete the project, and Gatsby grew from there, snowballing to where we are now,” he says.
Gatsby’s upmarket interior styling does not protect it from London’s struggling prime housing market. Although it’s completed ten projects, it has decided not to sell its final two and is also looking outside London for more opportunities.
“We’re not active in London at the minute and are looking elsewhere in markets where house prices are sensible and are linked to people’s earnings and therefore houses are in demand and are selling,” he says.
One example of this is its Beechwood Grove development in the Yorkshire town of Driffield in the East Riding, where Gatsby currently has 15 upmarket homes under construction and is where Jonny says he sees the business going.
“But that’s our first new-build site that we’ve started from scratch including getting planning permission to final completion. We’re still working on that now, and hope to have the first houses being completed from April through to August this year.
“We want to do bigger projects than just one-house refurbishments and really want to grow the business into a fully-fledged property development company rather than a run-of-the-mill refurbishment one.”
Gatsby takes an entrepreneurial approach to property sales. Although it has tendered out its projects to local and big-brand agents in the past, Jonny says he also sold one property himself, using the company’s own branded boards outside the house.
“It was quite tricky and more work than I thought it was going to be but it was a good exercise to do and saved me a lot of money in fees. But it was a very hands-on process and the most customer facing we’ve ever been as a property company.
“It was a good process and a steep learning curve, but estate agents know their stuff.”
“We’re well aware of the Candy brothers and what they’ve done, their reputation and the aura around them – some positive, some not so positive.”
Jonny Jackson, Gatsby Property
Gatsby also uses Instagram to introduce potential buyers to both its brand and properties for sale, and Harry says that the company doesn’t feel the need to be that vocal on other social media because everything it does is very visual. It’s why they decided to use Instagram.
“It’s a great place to showcase the quality of what we’re putting out,” says Harry. “Twitter seems to be all about ranting about negative things and it’s all you ever seem to hear about the platform,” he says.
“We’re not really interested in that; Twitter’s not really about attracting buyers or finding the next development opportunity. And anyway, we’re far too boring to have anything of interest to put on Twitter personally.”
One of the company’s most unusual moves has been to sell one of its properties, an apartment in Kensington, via a raffle – an unheard of approach in London’s prime market. Launched just before the New Year, the raffle is running for six months using a platform the pair has developed themselves, called Cadivus.
“We’re in the process of doing the PR and digital marketing for it, and so far we’ve had pretty good sales but it’s limited to the newspapers whereas social media is the way to mass market this kind of raffle – both organically and paid-for digitally.
“We’re working with a couple of Instagram influencers with large numbers of followers,” says Harry.
“Every social media star has their own style and niche within the influencer market so it’s a really nice and refreshing way to get unique content out – other raffles have done a fairly decent job but they tend to push out the same content over and over agtheain, whereas we offer each influencer bespoke content.
Jonny says that he and Harry are ‘relatively entrepreneurial’ and the pair have high expectations of what they can do with a project and, as with their raffle, cherry pick the best practice from previous efforts, and avoid the worst. It will be interesting to see how far their both sensible and sometimes unusual approaches to property development and marketing get them.