Will Herrmann is a property developer and poster boy for “alternative.”
Everything about him bucks the established trend and is proof perfect that lateral thinking, combined with street smarts and shrewdness, can turn a modest investment into a sizeable fortune.
Herrmann is undoubtedly one of the noughties’ great success stories – not least because making money as a new developer on the overstretched, overpriced and hugely competitive London market would have daunted all but the deepest of pockets.
Yet, such was his confidence that he started with a bet – that he would make money out of property with virtually no money of his own (his initial investment back in 2010 was a mere £35,000).
He came close to losing his first stake, but kept his head and came with the idea of underwriting auction properties that looked undervalued. He would guarantee the vendor their bottom line and split the difference if the lot was bid above it.
His approach to acquiring land or developing existing properties with potential (one of his current projects is Brian Sewell’s former house and gardens) is as original as it is laudable.
Rather than sum up profits from square foot, stack up a few floors of flats, sell and move on, Herrmann takes a wider community approach. The needs of both existing and new schools where his buildings arise are important to him and unlike many fellow developers, he doesn’t see the affordable housing units rule as an abomination.
The View, West Eleven’s development in Battersea Park, is a good case in point. Launching in September 2018, the 15-storey, 39-unit (including three penthouses and three roof terraces) project has provided tangible benefits to the local school in the shape of a new sports hall and funding towards new windows. Herrmann has also offered 10 units to teachers from the school through affordable housing.
Herrmann’s acquisitions are on the fringes of prime London and the apartments are within the realm of possibility for younger, well-salaried Londoners.
Speaking of home ownership in general, he feels strongly that relaxing the density rules would alleviate the housing crisis – as would the removal of the populist stamp duty policy. London, he says, can only grow one way and that’s up, because the green belt is sacrosanct.
West Eleven was funded by private investors whose faith in Herrmann has been more than well-rewarded – his alternative investment fund has consistently paid between 20% and 36% per year in interest.
Today, the company is looking to diversify, with out of London projects that will generate cash in different ways. It has acquired a farmstead in Cornwall with a view to developing it into a 5-star hotel with an on-site distillery, aptly named Porthilly Spirit, and an experiential food and music festival.
Herrmann is an engaging man, as men with restless minds often are. The ideas pour out of him and these days he can afford to delegate the execution to the gifted people he works with, not least the architectural practice of Jo Cowen, who has been with him from the very beginning.
Would-be investors, attracted by the consistent and high returns, would do well to meet the man. He remains his fund’s best ambassador because he has mastered the property game from the bottom up and done it his way.
About West Eleven
Led by Founder and CEO Will Herrmann, Development Manager Annika Prince, and PA Lucy Harkin, West Eleven is a boutique and multi-award-winning property development and investment company specialising in residential-led mixed-use schemes. Since 2010, the team has developed six properties including Bakery Place, which saw a former Victorian bakery in Clapham transformed into a collection of 11 homes.
Primarily focusing on sites that are undervalued or with yet to be realised value, the West Eleven team pride themselves on their ability to shrewdly identify an investment opportunity that has high yield.
Choosing to develop predominantly on the fringes of prime London supports West Eleven’s ethos of seeking opportunity where others can’t or won’t. This approach allows West Eleven to avoid the crowded and often overpriced central London market, whilst still generating a premium on sales value by catering to the appetite of affluent buyers.
Once an opportunity is identified, West Eleven acts as the development manager, overseeing the entire process on behalf of its investors. West Eleven invests in each of its projects with a select group of investors, and opportunities are available from as little as £50,000.