Q&A with Joshua Bond of Bond Land 

BTR News in conversation with Joshua Bond, Founder and Managing Director (MD) of real estate agency Bond Land.

Joshua Bond of Bond Land | BTR News
Joshua Bond of Bond Land | BTR News

The BTR News team sat down with Bond Land’s Founder and MD Joshua Bond to gain an insight into how the company operates, what it does that sets it apart from the competition, and its involvement in the Build to Rent sector.

What differentiates Bond Land’s approach to site finding from other agencies in the sector?

In a market characterised by growing construction costs, real estate’s operationalisation and a challenging planning system, there’s increasingly less room for compromise when it comes to finding the right land. Traditionally, the site finding process would involve a limited number of on-market sites for developers, investors and housebuilders to choose from, which weren’t necessarily suited to their requirements.

Where we’ve found success is our ability to work directly with vendors to source land that directly matches our client’s demands for size, price and location. This isn’t easy, as it requires an in-depth knowledge of the relationship between real estate and wider infrastructure and the ability to navigate a complex planning system. But though demands for sites are becoming more specific, our tailored approach to site finding remains something of a novelty, which is helping to set us apart from our competitors in the long run.

How does Build to Rent and the wider alternative living sector feed into Bond Land’s strategy?

The growth of Build to Rent and the wider alternative living sector is probably the biggest trend to emerge since I founded the company five years ago. The residential sector has witnessed an influx of pension funds, family offices and institutional capital driven by the promise of long-term, inflation-hedging income streams. At the same time, demand for suitable housing has increased not only among mobile young professionals seeking rental properties close to city centre job opportunities, but families who want larger homes with access to things like parking and green spaces, which means we’ve expanded our focus into alternatives like co-living and single-family housing. We’re also active in the industrial and logistics space, but there, too, we’ve noticed that the demand for a serviced, operationalised product has increased.

What impact has the operationalisation of real estate had on the site finding process?

With the size of the operational real estate market expected to reach £750bn once the sector hits maturity, according to law firm Macfarlanes, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing the ask of land brokers change as a result. While in the past, institutional capital and those who manage it could afford to take on riskier plots of land, a tougher economic environment has meant we’re seeing increased demand for sites that are guaranteed a smooth sailing through the planning process. That means land with all the necessary qualities to build, lease up and stabilise income-generating real estate, whether that’s through connections to energy and transport infrastructure, strong environmental credentials or the ability to adapt planning use.

What does the future of land sourcing for Build to Rent opportunities look like to you?

As AI grows in popularity, there’s a perception that the future of our profession lies in automating the site finding process. It’s true, digitisation will be part of the package, and things like digital search tools and geospatial data have helped to streamline our work. But as the alternative living sector grows, and the demand for sites becomes more nuanced, we’ve found that our clients want a more, rather than less, personalised approach to site finding. That means always having someone on the other end of the phone to answer questions and agents who can make use of their wider networks to find the right sites. The human face will play a greater role than ever in finding the best land, which plays to our strengths as an agency that is able to go out and find sites based on client demands.

What changes would you like to see within the UK’s planning framework to improve delivery of Build to Rent and other alternative living schemes?

As it stands, our planning system relies heavily on a rather out-of-date distinction between brownfield, greenfield, green belt and rural land. These designations often fail to match up to reality, with a whole chunk of previously developed land of little ecological value sitting within protected areas. It’s rarely the idyllic, green land that people imagine it to be.

Designated brownfield sites, meanwhile, are often owned by multiple landowners and are too small to develop on their own, making it difficult to create the necessary social infrastructure and wider public realm that go into a high-quality living scheme. If we’re to develop, for example, the single-family homes desperately needed by families in the suburbs, we need to fast-track suitable pockets of land through the planning system.