Untangled Land with Thomas McAlpine
The world of land and property transactions involves a complex array of information needing to be brought together from a wide variety of sources. Sources are located within different institutions and organisations, take time to assimilate and are poorly represented visually. Even for professionals, aggregating this information is no easy task, and becomes a distraction from the real business of putting an offer together. While for those outside the business, until now the best – probably only – solution has been to hire an expert.
This is set to change with the arrival of Addland, an online platform whose purpose is to Bring Land To Life, making it visible and accessible to everyone, establishing a comprehensive and cost-effective service.
Conceived and designed by Thomas McAlpine, Addland’s architecture and interface were built from the ground up, after comprehensive research amongst stakeholders and potential users, to create an indispensable resource for anyone and everyone involved in land. By the now customary medium of a virtual meeting, Thomas explained the thinking behind Addland.
‘Addland is for anyone, and everyone, involved in finding, researching, buying or selling land. On the research side it could be a property developer looking to do a site assessment for a residential development. Maybe a big developer wanting to take multiple units through planning, or perhaps a small project, a single property or refurbishment. It might be a landowner seeking information on their property, perhaps looking to repurpose or redevelop. Or a person or company looking to buy a specific property – a 50-acre estate maybe with mixed woodland and a particular range of buildings. In the rural marketplace it covers everything, the complete range from farmland to woodland, smallholdings, country homes of course, equestrian properties, any and all development opportunities.
‘The value of Addland comes from bringing all elements of the process together in a single destination, with the information needed to make informed decisions. The land industry is very digitally fragmented, so whether you’re a buyer or a seller you previously had to go to many different websites to locate all the information you’re after. You’ve also got to be certain you’re looking at every opportunity that’s out there’.
‘My logic was, why make people, especially consumers, work harder than they need to get insights on land? Another factor is that a lot of the information out there isn’t very transparent. So not only are we bringing all the information together in one destination, but we’re also providing it in a way that’s easy to use and understand. We focus on it making information visible and accessible. It’s presented in map layers, which you can drill down to find all the data you need. We’ve gathered information on every piece of land in the country, held in 29 million polygons. Click on a polygon, a piece of land, and we’ll give you a report. Title number, boundary areas, flood zones, agricultural classification, current or historic planning applications, ownership and valuation data to name but a few.
‘It’s part and parcel of the whole idea of pre-qualification, both for buyers and sellers. We provide all the information needed to avoid buyers wasting time on unsuitable land or property, or sellers wasting time on buyers who aren’t looking for what they’re selling. With Addland, by the time the two parties get together they can both be pretty certain that there’s a genuine interest. And because both parties are looking at the same information, there’s no confusion or crossed wires. These leads are much more valuable than someone phoning an agent to say they’ve seen a piece of land, tell me about it. Not least because the agent won’t necessarily know which factors are important to the buyer.
‘Our data comes from a variety of sources, some in the public domain, some private. HM Land Registry, DEFRA, Ordnance Survey, Historic England, Natural England and we’re a RICS Tech partner. We gather the information, and make sure it’s available to buyers and sellers.
‘We’ve also found there’s enormous traction for Surveyors, Conveyancers and Planning Consultants, for whom it’s invaluable. When they need to become au fait with a piece of land, with Addland they can very quickly find all the background information they need, including land considerations, measurements, average prices in the area.’
It took Thomas three years, working pretty much on his own with specialist partners, to prepare the site for its pre-launch version in April this year, on the strength of which several hundred agents committed to use the service even before it went live. Having subsequently brought together an in-house team of around forty people, the platform further refined its experience based on extensive customer feedback and has just launched. With different services for different categories of user, it’s a monumental achievement, and quite apart from anything else if you’re as curious (i.e. nosey) as I am browsing the site is enormous fun. Addland is currently offering a no obligation 7-day free trial membership; there really is no more effective way to discover the staggering extent of the data it offers, and the simplicity and transparency of the way it presents the information.