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Residential Land featured in The Estates Gazette

Residential Land featured in The Estates Gazette

The article below featured in a February edition of Estates Gazette:

For many people, buying and selling a flat is a hassle or, at best, a job. For Bruce Ritchie, it’s a way of life.

“We’re getting to a stage now where we’re mostly bidding against the institutions,’ says Ritchie. ‘But that can be a big problem because many institutions vendors don’t know us and tend to go with people that they’ve heard of. Still, with a bit of work, we think we can expand even further and take them on.”

Richie, who began his property career in the 1980s as a sideline while working as a sales manager and assistant buyer at Harrods department store, has built up, over past 20 years, a massive property portfolio and trading company worth a lot. Ritchie owns more than 1,000 prime London flats and has a joint share in such top London restaurants as Criterion, Mirabelle, Quo Vadis and Drones.

“It was a running joke when I was at Harrods,” says Ritchie. “Where’s the sales manager?” “Oh, he’s on the phone to his solicitor doing another deal”. It was a pretty good job, really – not too stressful, so I could get on with buying and selling flats at the same time.’

Richie’s property career was born when the south London boy realised one day that he could make more money flipping one flat than he could by working at Harrods for an entire year.

Bruce Ritchie

Bruce Ritchie

He made his first purchase, 5 Albert Close in Hackney, N9, in 1985 at the tender age of 21. When he discovered that the property he had bought for £64,000 had increased in value to £96,000 in year, making him a profit that easily exceeded his annual salary, he was hooked. He quickly put an offer of £72,000 on the house next door, which he sold for £86,000 two weeks later.

“I still go back to Harrods and see the people I was working with 20 years ago,” he says. “Only now I’m a customer. You can see them thinking, ‘how has he managed to do so well for himself?’ It’s a good feeling.”

Ritchie joined Harrods in 1983, aged 18, as an executive trainee. He had already built up a small business at his south London public school, Dulwich College, buying and selling cars in his spare time.

“I was particularly keen on Lotuses in those days,” says Ritchie. “I worked out that by buying cars at a used car dealership near Manchester Piccadilly station and re-selling them in London, I could make a fairly tidy profit.”

“It was the 1980s and I had a bright orange Lotus with a green interior,’’ he adds. “I used to backfire all the time. People certainly noticed you sitting in a queue of traffic.”

By the time the quit Harrods in 1986, Ritchie had built up an extensive property operation by trading residential units across London. However, as many similar small property companies went to the wall during the late 1980s property crash, Ritchie was forced to think rather more creatively.

A newspaper advert opens doors
“It was at the height of the recession. I was leafing though The Sunday Times and saw an advert from this bloke who was selling a list of repossessed flats from one particular lender,’ he says. ‘I called him up and he agreed send me the list for fifty quid.”

“And then I thought, there’s money to be made from going corporate-style and selling an authoritative list of repossessions from all the main lenders rather than just one, as this guy had done.”

Ritchie’s next venture was the London Repossessions List. He bought a huge photocopier and persuaded the main lenders to contribute to a regular list which he published though a separate company, charging £65 for a three-month subscription. Repossessions were listed both alphabetically and by region. The list proved so popular that Ritchie even exhibited it at Earls Court.

“I got to the point where we went to the Ideal Home Exhibition to sell the list in 1994,” says Ritchie. “I was still the middle of recession and no-one was selling any homes, so we got a ridiculous deal on stand 2086, the stand behind the Nationwide, and we had queues of people coming to look at the lists, which we put up for free.”

Ritchie also managed to swing a cheap advertising deal at exhibition, and lists of 2,000 repossessed homes graced all the main turnstiles in the Earls Court centre. Subscriptions to the list were also advertised though an irritating jingle on Capital Radio. To the bafflement of Ritchie, the ad generated the most telephone responses at 4am each morning.

Meanwhile, dealing with repossessions allowed Ritchie, working from the company’s Abbey Road offices in St John’s Wood, to cream off the best ones for his growing personal portfolio and trading company.

He has a lot of residential properties, located mostly in the areas surrounding Hyde Park and Regent’s Park. And Ritchie, along with chef Marco Pierre White and restaurateur Jimmy Cahoud, is an investor in White Star Line, the company that owns upmarket restaurants Caprice, Criterion and Drones.

The company owns Garden House a block of 58 rented flats in Bayswater, W2 and has recently bought Roland House, a block of 94 flats in South Kensington that was being marketed by Savills. His company is understood to have bid for the £300m British Land residential portfolio now under offer to Insight. Now, with a large rental portfolio that is managed mostly by on-site managers and a staff of 18, the company is looking beyond small-time residential deals to invest in larger properties, both for reasons of economy of scale and because it faces fewer rival bidders.

Residential Land has a large selection of properties to rent in London. As one of the Capital’s largest private landlords, we are residential property experts specialising in the acquisition, sale, rental and management of our portfolio of over 1,200 flats in London.  Based in the heart of Mayfair, the Residential Land team invest at an institutional level acquiring increasing numbers of properties in our specific areas of operation.