As a director of fifth generation family business General Estates, James Percy knows how important good relationships are to business success.
Tracing its roots back to ferries and toll bridges, the Southampton-based company moved into mobile home parks in the 1950s and since then has expanded into owning and managing some 1,150 residential and holiday pitches across the south of England.
Its most recent purchase was Avondale Park, a development of both mature and new mobile homes at Colden Common, just five miles south of Winchester.
It’s a deal for which Barclays, which has counted General Estates as a client for the past 13 years, was both the architect and the financial backer, as James Percy explains.
“A fellow director and I were en route to view another park for possible purchase when Lucy Smith, our Barclays relationship director, contacted us to advise that she believed the owner of Avondale Park was looking to sell,” he said.
“We could see that Avondale was an excellent fit for our existing business model; it’s in a great area, is very attractive and is also close to one of our other residential parks.
“Negotiations proceeded quickly and we soon moved to discussing financing with Barclays, who came up with a competitive offer which met our needs. Lucy understands our industry well and her specific knowledge is very important to us.
“Their involvement during completion was seamless, enabling us to finalise the transaction to the agreed timetable.”
Barclays’ Lucy Smith, said: “When General Estates let us know they were looking to expand, I heard about Avondale Park coming up for sale and was pleased to be able to forward the details.
“We had previously funded the purchase of Roi-Mar Park, near Bournemouth, and were delighted to be able to support this fairly significant investment and help them complete the deal.
“This is a good market as demand for residential parks outstrips supply and we hope to continue to support the ongoing growth of their business in the future.”
The two organisations began working together when General Estates left its previous bank after more than a century, and James Percy says it has been a positive step.
“It was with a little trepidation that we moved at the time. Barclays competently managed the transition and we have enjoyed a good relationship with them since. We particularly value the assistance of the corporate team over in Southampton in helping resolve issues, no matter how big or small, as they arise,” he added.
“We recognise that a lot of retired and older people, some of whom may be more vulnerable, live on the parks and making sure they are treated fairly and properly is essential to the way we do business.
“It is important that when these developments are sold, they go to the right people and, as a family business with good relationships with existing residents, I like to see ourselves as a safe pair of hands, in addition to offering a fair price,” he concluded. “As the retirement age population continues to grow we see this positive trend continuing for reputable park owners.”
Looking to the future, he says demand for mobile homes continues to grow as baby boomers reach retirement and want to downsize to release equity, reduce the cost of home ownership, move closer to family and/or live on a single level.
And, as an added bonus, he adds that the community feel many parks enjoy, means residents look out for, and support each other, particularly as they get older.
To meet demand, General Estates is keen to purchase further established residential mobile home parks across the south of England to add to its existing portfolio of 18, which stretches from Bournemouth and the New Forest, through to Uckfield in East Sussex and up to Lowestoft on the edge of the Norfolk Broads.