Ground Up Development Finance

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Gary Hemming

Author: Gary Hemming CeMAP CeFA CeFA CSP

20+ years experience in development finance

In the world of property development, one term you might frequently come across is “ground up development finance”. But what exactly does it mean? And more importantly, how can it benefit you as a property developer?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of ground up property development finance, shedding light on its purpose, process, and potential.

What Is Ground Up Development Finance?

Ground up development financing is a specialist form of finance that is designed to fund the construction of new buildings from scratch – hence the term “ground up”. This financial product is a lifeline for property developers, enabling them to cover the costs associated with constructing new commercial or residential properties.

Unlike a traditional mortgage or bridging loan, development finance for ground up developments is specifically tailored to the unique needs and challenges of property development. It takes into account the complex nature of building projects, from obtaining planning consent to managing cashflow during the construction phase.

In essence, ground up development finance is the financial fuel that powers the engine of property development. It’s the catalyst that transforms a plot of land into a complete development, whether that’s a block of apartments, a commercial property, or a set of sustainable developments.

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How Does Development Finance Work for Ground Up Projects?

Now that we’ve covered the ‘what’, let’s move on to the ‘how’. How does ground up property development finance work in practice? Well, it’s a structured process that involves several key steps and requirements.

First and foremost, a property developer approaches a finance lender that offers ground up development finance products. These lenders could range from traditional banks to pension funds and investment funds specialising in the property and finance industries.

The developer then submits a detailed proposal for their planned development. This proposal should include information about the project’s scope, planning consent, estimated costs, projected cashflow, and potential return on investment. The developer’s experience and past performance in property development are also taken into consideration.

Once the proposal is approved, the lender sets the terms of the loan, including the interest rate, repayment schedule, and any additional conditions. The loan is then released in stages, at agreed points, which are aligned with the progress of the development project. This staged release of funds helps manage the risk for the lender and ensures the developer maintains a healthy cashflow throughout the construction process.

It’s important to note that ground-up property development finance is a form of senior debt, meaning it takes precedence over other forms of debt in case of a default. This makes it a relatively secure form of lending for the finance lender.

Ground Up Development Finance


How Much Can I Borrow using this type of Finance?

The amount you can borrow through this type of development finance depends on several factors. These include the scale of your project, the estimated costs, the projected value of the completed development, and your track record as a developer.

Typically, lenders offer finance funds that cover a certain percentage of the project’s total costs. This percentage, known as the loan-to-cost (LTC) ratio, can range from 60% to 90% depending on the lender and the specifics of the project.

To calculate potential loan amounts, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of your project’s costs. This includes everything from land acquisition and construction costs to professional fees and contingency funds.

Remember, while ground-up property development loans can provide substantial capital, it’s not designed to cover 100% of your costs. You’ll need to have some equity or other forms of finance to fill the gap.

In the world of property development, ground up property development finance is a powerful tool that can turn your vision into reality. By understanding how it works and how to leverage it effectively, you can use this type of loan to set the stage for successful and profitable developments.

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What Are The Costs of this type of Ground Up Debt Finance?

When it comes to ground-up property development loans, it’s crucial to understand the costs involved. After all, as a savvy property developer, you’ll want to ensure your project’s financial feasibility. So, let’s break down the costs associated with this type of finance.

Firstly, there’s the interest rate. This is the cost of borrowing and is usually expressed as a percentage of the loan amount. The rate can vary depending on the lender, the risk profile of the project, and the current financial market conditions.

Next up are the arrangement fees. These are charges levied by the finance lender for setting up the loan. They typically range from 1% to 2% of the loan amount.

Then, there’s the exit fee. This is a charge you’ll need to pay when you repay the loan in full. Some lenders calculate this fee based on the original loan amount, while others base it on the gross development value (GDV) of the completed project.

Lastly, there may be additional charges such as valuation fees, legal fees, and broker fees. These costs can add up, so it’s essential to factor them into your project’s budget.

How Long Does It Take To Arrange a Property Development Loan?

Arranging ground up development finance isn’t an overnight process. It involves several steps, each of which can take time. From the initial application to the final disbursement of funds, you could be looking at a timeline of several weeks to a few months.

The exact timeline can depend on various factors, including the complexity of your project, the lender’s processes, and how quickly you can provide the necessary information and documentation. However, working with an experienced broker can help streamline the process and potentially speed up the timeline.

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What are the advantages of Finance for Ground Up Developments?

Ground-up development finance comes with a host of benefits that make it a go-to choice for many property developers. Let’s delve into some of these advantages:

Tailored to Property Development

Unlike a standard mortgage or bridging loan, ground-up development financing is specifically designed for property development projects. This means it takes into account the unique needs and challenges of developing a property from scratch.

Flexible Funding

Ground up development finance provides flexible funding that aligns with the progress of your project. This means you can manage your cashflow effectively and ensure that funds are available when you need them.

High Loan Amounts

It can cover a significant portion of your project costs, often up to 90% of the total cost. This can be a major boon for developers who need substantial capital to get their project off the ground.

Enables Large-Scale Projects

With the substantial finance funds available through ground up development finance, developers can undertake large-scale projects that might be beyond the reach of traditional finance options.

What are the disadvantages?

While this type of development finance offers numerous benefits, it’s not without its potential drawbacks. Here are a few challenges you might encounter:

Higher Interest Rates

Given the higher risk associated with property development, the interest rates for ground up development finance can be higher than those for standard loans.

Complex Application Process

Applying for ground up development finance can be a complex process, requiring detailed project plans, financial forecasts, and risk assessments.

Requires Significant Expertise

To successfully navigate a ground up development project, you’ll need a good understanding of the property market, construction processes, and financial management.

Is it a good idea?

So, is ground up development finance a good idea? Well, it depends on your circumstances. If you’re a property developer planning a large-scale development project, and you have the necessary experience and expertise, then ground up development finance can be an excellent tool to finance your project.

However, it’s important to carefully assess your project’s feasibility, potential return on investment, and your ability to manage the development process. If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a financial advisor or a specialist in the property development finance industry.

What are the key considerations when taking out this type of Development Finance?

When contemplating this type of development product, there are several key considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Project Feasibility: Is your project feasible? Do you have planning consent, and is there a demand for your proposed development in the local property market?
  2. Financial Planning: Have you accurately estimated the costs of your project? Have you factored in contingency funds for unexpected costs?
  3. Risk Assessment: Have you assessed the potential risks of your project, such as construction delays, cost overruns, or changes in the property market?
  4. Repayment Strategy: How will you repay the loan? Will the sale or rental income from the completed development cover the loan amount and the associated costs?

By carefully considering these factors, you can make an informed decision about whether ground up development finance is the right choice for your project. Remember, every property development project is unique, so what works for one developer might not work for another. It’s all about finding the right financial solution for your specific needs and circumstances.

What are the alternatives?

While ground up development finance is a powerful tool for property developers, it’s not the only option out there. Depending on your project’s specifics and your financial circumstances, other forms of finance might be more suitable. Let’s take a look at some of these alternatives:

  1. Bridging Loans: Bridging loans are short-term loans that can provide quick finance for property developers. They’re often used to ‘bridge’ the gap between a debt coming due and the main line of credit becoming available.
  2. Mezzanine Finance: Mezzanine finance is a hybrid form of finance that combines elements of debt finance and equity finance. It’s typically used to fill the funding gap between senior debt and the developer’s equity.
  3. Commercial Mortgages: If you’re developing a commercial property, a commercial mortgage could be an option. These loans are secured against the commercial property and typically have lower interest rates than other forms of property development finance.
  4. Investment Funds: Some property developers might opt to partner with an investment fund. These funds can provide substantial capital, but they often require a share of the profits or equity in the property.

Frequently Asked Questions

The maximum loan amount you can get with this type of development finance typically depends on the project’s total cost and the lender’s loan-to-cost (LTC) ratio. Most lenders offer finance that covers between 60% and 90% of the total project cost.

The approval process for this type of development finance can vary depending on the lender and the complexity of your project. However, it typically takes several weeks to a few months from the initial application to the final approval.

Yes, it can be used for both residential and commercial property projects. However, the specifics of the loan, including the interest rate and loan-to-cost ratio, might vary depending on the type of project.

Like any form of finance, ground up development loans comes with risks. These include construction delays, cost overruns, changes in the property market, and the risk of defaulting on the loan. It’s important to assess these risks and have a contingency plan in place before embarking on a ground up development project.

Ground-up development funding is specifically designed for property development, making it more tailored to the needs of developers compared to traditional property loans. It offers higher loan amounts, staged disbursements, and takes into account the unique challenges of property development. However, it can also come with higher interest rates and a more complex application process.

In the world of property development, understanding your finance options is key. Whether you opt for this type of development finance or an alternative form of finance, the most important thing is to choose the option that best suits your project and your financial goals.


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