|Vantage Quay||Piccadilly, Manchester|
In partnership with urbanbubble, property owners achieved:
- A 20% reduction in annual service charges
- Complete interior and exterior refurbishment
- Enhanced security and extra peace of mind
- Open and transparent dialogue with their managing agent
- Record rental and sale prices
The full story:
Vantage Quay is one of Manchester’s premier residential developments, comprising 2 modern blocks of 118 apartments situated around a beautifully restored working canal basin in one the of city’s former warehousing areas.
Its location next to the vibrant Northern Quarter and Piccadilly train station make it an extremely popular place to live for young professionals, who love the buzz of being at the heart of things but also appreciate the oasis of calm provided by Vantage Quay’s stunning waterside location.
But prior to August 2010, things were less than peaceful for property owners and residents.
A series of problems dating back five years had been allowed to escalate by the original managing agent. These included a leaking roof that was causing serious flooding issues and inefficient security measures that allowed criminals easy access to the development, with a subsequent increase in burglary and car crime incidents.
Leaseholders were also confused by a billing system that meant they were invoiced separately by their managing agent for different services, leading to much-needed funds that could have been spent on improving the estate going uncollected.
To make matters worse, when residents voiced their concerns they found that their managing agent did little or nothing to solve problems, whilst a serious breakdown in communications led to a
feeling of mistrust developing between the two parties. This culminated in the Residents’ Management Company (RMC) being struck off by Companies House due to neglect.
Enter urbanbubble, who from the get-go began to tackle the problems at Vantage Quay using their unique approach based on proven process of listening, planning then most importantly, doing.
Their first action was to reinstate the Residents’ Management Company (RMC) to empower leaseholders to take control of a situation that had spiralled out of control.
This was followed by preparation of the all-important Initial Property Inspection Plan (IPIP); a detailed assessment of the development carried out with full leaseholder consultation that scrutinises every aspect of the structure, cosmetic requirements, maintenance regime and operational procedures.
IPIP: This creates a comprehensive picture of the current situation at a development that gives the property management experts at urbanbubble a 360° view of the current situation. This allows them to apply their experience to quickly solving immediate problems and identifying any issues that may not have been apparent to leaseholders. It also provides all the information they need to begin planning holistically to minimise the risk of future problems.
Top to toe TLC
The resulting analysis of the situation at Vantage Quay highlighted that major works were required to the roof and also identified that urgent repairs were needed to fix potentially dangerous problems with cradles in the development’s car park.
The first problem to tackle was the seriously leaking roof that was causing flooding and major inconvenience for residents. As the development was less than 10 years old, urbanbubble found it was still covered by the Zurich Insurance building guarantee, which was successfully claimed against resulting in £600,000 works to solve the problem and all remediation costs being paid by the insurer. They also made a more welcome splash with residents by ensuring nobody had to move out during the works and going even further by negotiating £1000 compensation for owners, plus complimentary wine and chocolates for their tenants, to say ‘sorry’ from the insurer.
Not only did these works result in the leak and flooding problem finally being solved, but also cut claims on the buildings insurance from £25K per year to £2K per year, leading to further urbanbubble-initiated negotiation to cut the development’s annual buildings insurance premium.
Making a clean start
Next, the entire development was treated to a deep clean to restore the interior and exterior areas to the condition that owners had originally been wowed by. This was enhanced by a complete
redecoration, new carpets and the installation of bespoke art reflecting the development’s designer living aesthetic.
Drains to finances caused by excess site service personnel were also identified in the initial analysis. A £55K annual saving (20%) was instantly made by putting urbanbubble’s own expert site service staff on the case to ensure the development’s day-to-maintenance and cleaning was carried out to a meticulous quality standard that used funds far more efficiently.
Safe and secure
urbanbubble then shifted their attention to the car park and security issues. Dealing with the former, their stringent inspection spotted major problems with the cradles that were developing into a safety risk which were put right with a major £20K repair schedule. The car park also held hidden treasure in the form of two car parking spaces that didn’t belong to any resident and led to £40K being added to the management company’s assets.
Security is something urbanbubble has learned how to get right in city centre residential developments. This was reviewed and improved following consultation with residents, Greater Manchester Fire Service and Manchester City Council planning department. With full approval of the Residents’ Management Company at every stage, it was improved to include digital locks on all doors, a fully secured car park, new security lights and an upgraded CCTV system that provides more peace of mind for £11K less per year.
Those light bulb moments
Using their experience in identifying ways to reduce outgoings in residential blocks, the property managers at urbanbubble know that electricity bills can be dramatically reduced by adopting a smarter approach to lighting in public areas and the water pumps used in modern multi-story developments. At Vantage Quay, energy efficient light controls were installed resulting in communal energy bills being halved.
An unregistered electricity meter was also discovered during their site assessment. A common problem in new build developments, this means free energy for a while but can also cause huge backdated bills that put extra strain on residents’ funds when discovered by the energy supplier. urbanbubble entered into intense negotiation with the supplier about this problem that saved the residents an impressive £150K for previous year’s unmetered energy use.
The urbanbubble benefit..
With new streamlined measures and reviewed services in place, Vantage Quay leaseholders are now enjoying brilliant value for money for their service charge and improved levels of cleanliness, safety and security across the site. They also appreciate a new 24 hour rapid response phone line that means any emergencies will be quickly dealt with even if they occur out of office hours.
When the company were appointed in 2011, savings of £55K were immediately implemented across the site with no change to service levels or living quality. This reduced the annual service charge from £280k p.a. to £225kp.a, which was combined into one convenient bill rather than the previous of inconvenient multiple invoices.
These were followed by annual savings of £15K in 2012 that were passed on to the leaseholders whilst ensuring the correct proportion was reinvested into the development to be used against future risks.
urbanbubble’s proactive approach also pushed forward a leaseholder-led insurance policy that resulted in savings on annual premiums to the tune of £9k.
Result? A revitalised Vantage Quay where residents are confident that they have appointed a managing agent whose priority is to help them make the most of their service charge whilst keeping them in the loop every step of the way.
In fact, prices at the development are now at a record high with biddings wars reported on apartments for sale or rent. Which suggests that urbanbubble’s unique touch also helps make life better for owners when it’s time to move on or rent their property.
Resident Darren Illingworth was delighted about how appointing urbanbubble gave Vantage Quay leaseholders the advantage, saying: “Service charges are a fact of life for city centre apartment owners, but nobody likes to pay for a service that’s below standard. urbanbubble’s approach was a breath of fresh air and thanks to open consultation and a real skill in spotting and resolving problems that weren’t obvious to leaseholders, they’ve saved us money both now and in the future and made it an even more desirable place to live.”
“urbanbubble’s approach was a breath of fresh air.”
Darren Illingworth – Vantage Quay apartment owner
”It’s reassuring to know that every leaseholder has a right to reply when it comes to how their service charge is being spent.”
Richard Milling – Vantage Quay RMC Director
“With stylish decoration, new carpets and great artwork. The communal areas look fantastic. Can urbanbubble do my apartment, too?”
Keith Hallet – Vantage Quay resident