Tim Jackson was once a professional musician but now he’s making a name as a London residential property developer with a reputation for doing things slightly differently. We spoke to him about the new Jamm Living residential concept.
Working as a professional musician and recording studio manager is not an obvious grounding for a career in property development. But for Tim Jackson, it provided an understanding of the new young-and-upwardly-mobile population that populate north London’s rediscovered ‘villages’.
This demographic is one of the main targets for Jamm Living, the new residential property brand being created by Jackson and his business partner Eli Robinson, through their company SaS (Secure A Sale) Investments.
The name – ‘Jamm Living’ – is a conscious nod to music – think jam sessions, Pearl Jam, The Jam etc – and an unapologetically contemporary approach to the design, construction and interior fit-out of new homes. The duo has very deliberately turned their backs on the pastiche Period architecture favoured by many of the larger development companies.
“We are not building Edwardian pastiche. We are building what is modern using modern energy-efficient materials and making best use of light and views,” Jackson says.
We are using modern energyefficient materials and making best use of light and views
Developments commonly feature home entertainment centres, under-floor heating, triple glazing with solar panelling atop the roof, highly efficient boilers and levels of insulation that make the homes very energy efficient.
“They are not quite passivhaus [the low energy design standard] but in most months they will put more energy into the grid than they take out,” Jackson says. He adds that in many cases home owners will need only to switch on their heating for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to stay warm.
“Money talks. People aren’t interested foremost in whether their house is saving energy until you point out to them that their energy costs will be minimal,” he says.
For Jackson the leap from music to property development came via estate agency.
He was working as a professional musician having graduated with a music degree from the University of Salford. He had established his own recording studio in London’s Wood Green, and was working with several of the musicians who have since gone on to provide accompaniment for the contestants on TV talent show The Voice. Then, in 2004, at the age of 26 and a year into his marriage, Jackson reassessed his life, decided that although he was enjoying what he was doing, the future lacked certainty.
Always interested in property, he secured an interview with London estate agent Foxtons and got a job as a trainee negotiator. “Foxtons is aggressive – in a good way – it is very meritocratic and rewards success, but you have got to give it 100%,” he says.
It was at Foxtons that he first worked with Robinson – an ex-graphic designer who was then his manager. After four months, the two of them opened Foxtons’ Muswell Hill office and two years later while Robinson opened the firm’s St John’s Wood branch, Jackson opened the firm’s Hampstead office.
But by 2008 the world was in financial crisis, the UK economy was looking at years of austerity ahead and the property market was responding accordingly. “We had to ask ourselves if we wanted to be estate agents in such a tough market,” Jackson recalls. At the age of 31, Jackson left Foxtons with Robinson to set up SaS Investments.
The two spent six months assembling a group of high-net-worth individuals who had not previously been property investors. NatWest Bank agreed to match the development funds that the company secured elsewhere.
“That was quite an achievement at that time when banks were reducing their exposure.”
The idea of SaS was to help people to sell their property in an illiquid market and the company acquired properties in distress situations at a slight discount, quickly improved them by replacing kitchens and bathrooms, and sold them on. Between 25 and 30 homes passed through their hands during the brief nine month-long window of opportunity after which interest rates fell to their current levels, buyers were no longer buying and sellers ceased selling.
Jackson and Robinson had to decide what to do. Then came the opportunity for a more substantial development: eight flats in Notting Hill where deals with several prospective buyers had fallen through. Jackson and Robinson saw the property on 25 March but had to complete the deal by 1 April in order for the vendor to comply with the Charities Act 2006. “We didn’t really know what we were doing but within six months had refurbished and sold the flats. Our investors were very happy and we made a good profit for them,” Jackson says.
Jackson and Robinson had found that while being small meant they couldn’t vie on equal terms with larger companies and volume housebuilders, it did make their company more nimble and flexible in the face of difficult purchases and they were able to take on projects that others would reject. “It is a lot easier when you are not competing with these buyers,” Jackson says.
“We have good relationships with the community and the local councillors. We can’t compete with the big housebuilders but we can be a lot more nimble on planning and we always build places that we wouldn’t mind living in ourselves.
“Even our one-bedroom flats have underfloor heating, speaker systems and quick-clear bathroom mirrors. It’s like when you buy a Mini, you get all the same toys that you would in a Mercedes.”
The other ace up their sleeve was a preparedness to take a risk on planning. In order to buy a property before a planning application had been submitted, they used their deep knowledge of the areas in which they work to judge a scheme’s likelihood of gaining consent.
However, as Jackson says: “You also always have to have a plan B. Generally most land has some value. The key also is knowing the cost implications of everything that you may have to do. That is where a lot of people come unstuck. You should never go into anything on the basis that it will all work 100%.”
SaS is also very choosy: “We buy perhaps 1-in-500 of the things that we look at. People out there are prepared to pay silly money for projects with planning, but we will always take a planning risk using our expertise and knowledge of local markets and customers.”
The duo’s latest project is in north London’s Muswell Hill where, with partner Clovelly House, it has bought a redundant former pub, night club and car park. Jackson and Robinson had previously introduced the opportunity to another party who eventually decided not to proceed.
The complication that had deterred them was the presence of the London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy (LCCCP) at the back of the site. The centre’s lease was virtually up and locally it was assumed that any development would either see the LCCCP evicted or would need to work around it.
SaS had another idea: include LCCCP in a joint development, relocating it for the duration of the construction phase, and bringing it back to a new facility that is double the size of the original and secured on a 999-year lease.
With the support of local celebrities such as broadcaster Robert Peston, and actress, Maureen Lipman, the plan gained the support of the local community and convinced the council.
“We are local developers and like to contribute to the community in which we live,” said Jackson.
The project is about to start construction and marketing is due to start in May – shortly after the General Election. Jackson is optimistic about the London property market over the next year or so, but inevitably, the election result will have an impact.
“The election is a big factor, not in terms of which party gets in, but how stable things are – especially if there is another coalition. But we assume that interest rates will remain low and that the economy will continue to grow.
“And, London always has a lack of homes and a steadily growing population.”