Property entrepreneurs offer flats to homeless as part of support to Sleep in the Park

Two property entrepreneurs have offered to donate some of their flats to the homeless, in a unique collaboration with the charity Social Bite.

Dundee-based Graeme and Leanne Carling are offering units from their extensive property stock in Tayside free of charge, as part of their involvement with Saturday’s Sleep in the Park event.

The couple, who own private property rental and management firms Carling Property Group and PRS Group, are “walking the walk” by sleeping out at Slessor Gardens in Dundee as part of the mass event. As corporate sponsors of Sleep in the Park Dundee, the Carlings have already donated £5000. For every £2,500 more that their team raises, Carling Property Group and PRS Group will house one homeless person free of charge for a year, up to a maximum of eight people.

To support our campaign to help Social Bite end homelessness in Scotland click here

Part of Social Bite’s mission is to make actual homes available for the homeless, rather than hostels and bed and breakfasts. Its Social Bite Village in Edinburgh opened in July. Social Bite and PRS Group are in talks over how the property firm can divert some of its units for use by the homeless.

Graeme Carling said:

“We didn’t hesitate to back Sleep in the Park Dundee. As property developers and supporters of their mission, it just makes sense that we would both take part in and sponsor it. But it was also important to walk the walk and go an extra step, particularly as we are landlords. Not only did we want to sleep out, we wanted to put some of our units to good use and offer accommodation free of charge to homeless people for a year.”

He added: “The more we raise in money, the more people we can house. We will then work with Social Bite to match people with the accommodation.”

Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn said:

“We’re delighted to be working with Graeme and Leanne on both Sleep in the Park Dundee and on their offer to provided free accommodation for the homeless. It’s only through innovative solutions like this that we will help eradicate homelessness in Scotland.”

The Carlings grew their business initially by providing quality affordable housing. They have worked with the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership on projects to convert non-residential buildings and renovate existing homes. Last year they made history as the first private property developers to receive affordable housing support from the Scottish Government.

The Carlings are active philanthropists, both through charity donations and taking part in fundraising events.

Carling Property Group owns and manages 350+ rental properties all over Scotland, making the Carlings Scotland’s largest independent residential landlords.

Sleep in the Park is taking place across four cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee – with an estimated 12,000 people participating. Social Bite, which addresses homelessness through its cafes, restaurants and free food distribution in Scotland, is aiming to build on last year’s fundraising total of £4 million.

Amy Macdonald and KT Tunstall are ‘busking’ at all four venues, travelling between each by helicopter. Other performers across the cities include Eddi Reader, Frightened Rabbit, Lulu and The View’s Kyle Falconer.

PRS Group ending the year on ‘property high’, 2019 set to be even better

The PRS Group, which is emerging as a major player in the UK’s property market, is ending its first year of business on a high as the sector continues to show promise.

PRS, owned by Graeme and Leanne Carling, have spent the last several months in talks with landlords across the U.K. as they grow their new company through business acquisition. They now have offers in place worth £130m.

As well as private rental properties, PRS Group includes maintenance, management and development arms. And with more and more private landlords shedding their portfolio because of the heightened regulations and extra costs involved, PRS expects 2019 to be one of “rich pickings”, said Graeme Carling.

“These last few months have been full-on for us as we check out sales prospects and discuss our options with financial backers and lawyers. We’re well on the way to ending this year on a property high, and next year will see even more rich pickings for PRS Group,” said Graeme, an outspoken commentator on the private rental sector.

He added: “The red tape and costs surrounding being a private landlord are high, which is why we think more and more small firms will divest their rental property portfolios and open up the sector to fewer, bigger players.”

PRS has secured financial backing from banks in the U.K., as well as individuals and investors overseas, and expects to reach 5000 rental units much earlier than previously planned. However, Graeme adds that the company is being discerning. “We have a very strict investment criteria which we won’t deviate from. Fortunately, with the market being so buoyant, we are able to be very selective with our acquisitions.”

PRS Group owns and manages 350+ rental properties all over Scotland, making the Carlings Scotland’s largest independent residential landlords. The couple also head up United Capital, a new player in the financial investment sector.

PRS Group announces new board

PRS Group, the new force in the residential rented property sector, has recruited a number of industry experts to its new board as it seeks to consolidate and strengthen its operations in the private rented sector in the UK.

The Dundee based group, which is owned by Graeme and Leanne Carling, has ambitions to increase its private rental properties by 5,000, building on its existing substantial portfolio of 350 rental properties. It is currently considering in excess of £200m worth of new business opportunities.

The new board members, headed up by the couple themselves, have been carefully selected to offer industry expertise at a time when the business is seeing a surge of private landlords approaching them due to the challenging market conditions brought about by the new tax and regulatory changes in the private rented sector.

Syd Fudge OBE has joined the Board as Non-Executive Group Chairman. With over 40 years’ experience in the oil and gas sector including time spent with British Steel, he was awarded an OBE for services to the oil and gas industry in Scotland. He has considerable experience in establishing new organisations and in the role of managing director.

Syd is joined by owner Graeme Carling, who is also founder and owner of Scotland’s largest private residential landlord, Carling Property Group. Graeme has over ten years’ experience in consolidating an extremely fragmented industry, with extensive experience in raising finance, acquisitions, transactions, rapid growth and sales. Graeme is joined by his wife Leanne, who as an experienced company director and business owner herself, has also demonstrated significant success over the years in acquisitions, finance, profit improvements, consolidation, roll ups and business sales.

Gordon Fowlis, has joined the Board as Acquisitions Director. He brings to the Board over 30 years’ experience in managing acquisitions, most recently with Your Move, a leading UK estate agent. An effective change manager, he has overseen the successful integration of acquisitions with existing business operations numerous times. He also has a valuable knowledge of industry operators looking to sell. Gordon is joined by Chris Arnold, an experienced commercial lawyer, joining the Board as non-executive director. He is a former partner of two major Scottish law firms in which he led significant transactions in the public and private sector.

Laure Duhot, an expert in the private rented sector, has been advising the board on its strategy. Laure has more than 20 years of experience at senior executive level in the property sector including time with Grainger PLC, leading over £16 billion worth of transactions. Laure also has prior professional experience in private equity, project finance and investment banking.

PRS Group CEO Graeme Carling commented: “This is an extremely exciting time for PRS Group as we look to take advantage of the opportunities the market is offering us with an extremely talented and experienced management board. We are delighted to welcome all our new board members who I know in their own unique ways will each bring their own insights and expertise to the team from their collective decades of experience. I have no doubt they will be instrumental in helping us deliver on our ambitious expansion plans.”

PRS Group considers £200m worth of new business as expansion plans get underway

PRS Group, a new force in the property sector, is considering £200m worth of new business opportunities after announcing its plans for rapid expansion.

Dundee based PRS, owned by Graeme and Leanne Carling, has been offered a plethora of property portfolios for sale all over the U.K.

PRS wants to expand its private rental properties by 5,000 as quickly as possible. It currently owns and rents more than 350 properties, and also has maintenance, management and development arms.

Graeme, who is due to meet with potential funding partners in the USA, said:

“We are in full-on expansion mode and have been impressed by the businesses which have approached us, some of which we are seriously considering for purchase. There are many landlords out there who are being squeezed by new tax and regulatory changes in the private rental sector. It’s difficult right now to be renting private property without some sort of scale and investment behind you, which is where PRS Group comes in. I think that’s why we’re seeing so many people knocking on our doors.”

PRS has secured financial backing from banks in the U.K., as well as individuals and investors overseas. Graeme is an outspoken commentator on the U.K. property market. He has previously written about the negative way in which renting is perceived in Britain by the public and the media and has applauded suggestions for reforms in the private rental sector to tighten up the rules for private landlords.

PRS Group owns and manages 350+ rental properties all over Scotland, making the Carlings Scotland’s largest independent residential landlords. The couple also head up United Capital, a new player in the financial investment sector.

As buy-to-let property sector slumps, Scotland’s largest private landlord says private rental sector in need of massive shake-up

Scotland’s private rental sector is in need of a massive shake-up, according to Scotland’s largest independent residential landlord.

As more and more buy-to-let investors bail on one of the surest financial bets in our lifetime, serial entrepreneur Graeme Carling says he is “not surprised” given the “minefield” that is being a landlord in Scotland.

Commenting on reports that there has been a decline in buy-to-let mortgage applications, Graeme says that it’s not just tighter regulations and extra costs, such as the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, which are to blame. The problem, claims Graeme, is “the minefield of actually being a landlord in Scotland”.

He says: “What appears, on paper, to be a tidy little investment can turn into a major headache for those wanting to earn extra income, or use buy-to-lets to invest some spare cash. Operating a building full of rentals is one thing. Running a place which is part of a collection of private properties is a whole lot different.”

Things can get “messy”, says Graeme, if there is no compulsory property factor to oversee common repairs. Chasing other landlords for money to pay for common repairs can be a full-time job, and if solicitors are used to chase payments, it can become costly too. “On a few occasions I’ve opted to swallow the costs myself simply because I couldn’t face the hassle. And that’s not fair,” he says.

Graeme goes on to argue that perhaps landlords and property agents are also means-tested, so that they are in a position to pay towards common repairs should they arise.

Graeme is co-founder with his wife Leanne of Carling Property Group and owner of the newly formed PRS Group. They own and manage 350+ rental properties all over Scotland, making them Scotland’s largest private residential landlords. The Carlings also head up United Capital, a new player in the financial investment sector.

PRS Group aims to expand rapidly by owning 5,000 rental properties “as quickly as possible”. They currently rent more than 300 properties through PRS, which includes maintenance, management and development arms.

Scotland’s largest independent landlords plan rapid expansion

Scotland’s largest independent residential landlords intend to add thousands of properties to their property portfolio.

Graeme and Leanne Carling, co-founders of Carling Property Group and owners of the newly formed PRS Group, want to expand rapidly by owning 5,000 rental properties “as quickly as possible”. They currently rent more than 300 properties through PRS, which includes maintenance, management and development arms.

The Carlings want to buy out landlords who have been squeezed by recent tax and regulatory changes in the private rented sector. “Those changes have made it difficult for smaller operators to make money in the private rental market. Our argument is that when you have scalability, things are not so costly,” said Graeme Carling.

The entrepreneur couple is also interested in talking to the owners of property management companies who want to sell their businesses.

Funding for the Carlings’ property growth is already in place. PRS has secured financial backing from banks in the U.K., as well as individuals and investors overseas.

Graeme said: “The funding is in place and we’re ready to go. We’re keen to take advantage of the market conditions UK-wide and grow our property business as quickly as possible. Our backers are excited by both the market potential and the weak value of the pound, which makes Scotland and the U.K. highly attractive investment territory.”

Graeme is an outspoken commentator on the U.K. property market. He has previously spoken out about the negative way in which renting is perceived in Britain by the public and the media and has applauded suggestions for reforms in the private rental sector to tighten up the rules for private landlords.

PRS Group owns and manages 350+ rental properties all over Scotland, making the Carlings Scotland’s largest independent residential landlords. The couple also head up United Capital, a new player in the financial investment sector.

Why ‘rent’ shouldn’t be a four-letter word

A recent report claiming millennials are facing a lifetime of renting should have been welcome news for property developer and private landlord Graeme Carling. But he has concerns.

Being a business investor, property developer and private landlord, I should have welcomed the recent report that millennials will rent property all their lives.

According to the Resolution Foundation, up to a third of millennials in Britain will rent property, as opposed to buying, from cradle to grave. The report demands reforms in the private rental sector, from rent control to strengthened contracts. And there’s a nod to Scotland where, thanks to new tenancy rules brought in last year, some of this is already happening.

As a long-time affordable housing provider, I support the report’s recommendations. But I’ve been reading the accompanying news stories with interest.

I’m fascinated by how the rental sector is treated, by the public and by the media. In everything from casual conversation to newspaper reports, when it comes to stories about people renting their home, the language is subtle, the message clear. Renting is frowned upon, while home ownership is held up as some sort of holy grail. Renters are spoken of in whispers, almost pityingly (‘Poor them, they’re still renting!’) Advice columns and personal finance pages are filled with tips on buying property or helping a loved one buy. Even the phrase ‘property ladder’ implies there’s something to escape, and if we’re not careful we’ll fall back into it. Adverts for banks, loans and savings schemes detail all the latest incentives to help us hit that first rung, move ‘up’ and leave this nasty renting thing behind us.

How did Britain get to the stage of treating living in rented accommodation as second-class and so unappealing?

As rental sector models in mainland Europe and the USA prove, it’s more than just OK to rent. When the transaction between the tenant and landlord works, it works well.

The idea of building properties solely for rental purposes is at last gaining some traction among developers here in the U.K. That’s great news for tenants; who doesn’t want a reliable washing machine and wi-fi, and the security of knowing the place won’t be sold from under you?

It’s also good news for us private landlords who are serious about what we do. Because if renters crave stability and security, so do we.

It frustrates me that nine out of ten of the U.K.’s private landlords own just one property. It frustrates me even more when I hear of tenants who can’t get a roof repaired or a boiler serviced because the landlord can’t afford it or, worse, can’t be bothered.

Letting out properties shouldn’t be the cottage industry it has become. If, as the Resolution Foundation demands, we are to address the U.K.’s housing crisis, lack of housing stock and spiralling rents, we need a shake-up of private landlords.

In Scotland, things are going in the right direction. The extra costs incurred by the recent Land and Buildings Transaction Tax seem to be putting the squeeze on buy-to-let investors; there is evidence that part-time landlords are pulling out of that market. The new Scottish Private Residential Tenancy, which balances out the power between tenants and landlords, will surely have a similar effect.

But I think more could be done. Compulsory property factors to oversee common repairs is one example. Another is means testing for landlords and agents to show they’re financially able for long-term property management.

Renting is here to stay, and a massive cultural shift is ahead of us. It’s time public perception changed, and private landlords stepped up to the plate. All of us need to start treating renting seriously.

Scotland’s largest independent private landlord speaks out on ‘cradle-to-grave’ renting

Scotland’s largest independent residential landlord has spoken out on one of the property sector’s hottest topics – so-called ‘cradle-to-grave’ renting.

In an article in today’s Herald newspaper, Graeme Carling, slams the negative way in which renting is perceived by members of the public and the media.

“In everything from casual conversation to newspaper reports, when it comes to stories about people renting their home, the language is subtle, the message clear. Renting is frowned upon, while home ownership is held up as some sort of holy grail,” he writes, adding: “Even the phrase ‘property ladder’ implies there’s something to escape, and if we’re not careful we’ll fall back into it.”

Graeme applauds a recent report from the Resolution Foundation which demands reforms in the private rental sector. And he sets out his views on how he thinks private landlord regulations could be tightened up to address “part-time landlords”.

But he cautions: “Renting is here to stay, and a massive cultural shift is ahead of us. It’s time public perception changed, and private landlords stepped up to the plate. All of us need to start treating renting seriously.”

Graeme’s comments came in the same week that he announced the opening of a new affordable housing development, in Angus. Funding for the £900,000 project, which features apartments and, still to come, houses, came partly from a £300,000 grant from the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund, which aims to increase the supply of affordable housing in rural Scotland.

Read the full article in The Herald here.

It’s time for lateral thinking on Scotland’s housing crisis

All eyes will be on Scotland, and Edinburgh, next week when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle come to visit. Like others, I was heartened to hear they’d be keeping social consciousness in the headlines by paying a visit to the New Town cafe of Social Bite, the homelessness charity.

But then I got to daydreaming. What if they did more than follow in the footsteps of George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio, who have both paid the Social Bite cafe a public visit? What if they added another stop-off, a more radical photo opportunity? What if a maverick advisor to the Royals whispered in Harry’s ear and said: ‘Pardon me, Your Royal Highness, but you may want to consider stepping a little out of the city, away from the New Town, to Edinburgh’s outskirts and Midlothian. Do you know there’s a private residence there which has been vacant for 25 years? Excellent photo opportunity to highlight homelessness, Sir.’

Yes, you read that right. A Freedom of Information request by Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie recently resulted in some startling statistics. The report from Scotland’s councils revealed that almost 1,000 private sector Scottish homes have been empty for a decade, more than 20,000 have been vacant for six months or more, and that one in Midlothian has been empty since April 1993.

At this point you’re probably about to pause reading this article and Google me. You’re asking yourself: ‘Who is this guy and what does he know about homelessness? Is he a charity worker? A wannabe politician?’

Answer: neither. In fact I’ve made money out of Scotland’s sad track record on housing, to become the country’s biggest private landlord. I’ve done that mostly through providing affordable housing – converting former schools, pubs and other empty buildings into rented accommodation for those on lower incomes, students and the elderly.

I make no excuses for turning this into a capitalist venture. I’m an entrepreneur; it’s part of my DNA to look for gaps in markets and economic holes to fill. And I know that the people we house, and the councils we supply, thank us.

I’ve been a property developer for ten years and even I was appalled by the figures released last week. But what’s the solution? More private landlord schemes? Help from central and local government, by way of easier planning processes or perhaps – as Mr Rennie proposes – loans for the renovation of empty, derelict buildings?

Yes, all of these – and more too. But while the Scottish Government ponders solutions, and how to arrive at its recent commitment to deliver at least 50,000 new affordable homes, what I would urge is that both the Government and local authorities think laterally, that they put on their entrepreneur heads and consider not only the short-term housing crisis but long-term housing trends.

Let them consider the property successes in the business world: Airbnb, pod-style hotels, tiny homes. It’s lateral thinking that led my company to recently turn a portion of student accommodation into temporary digs for workers. It’s lateral thinking that – at the other end of the housing spectrum – led luxury property developer Ian Schrager to his most recent creation in New York. Called Public, the place does double duty as a hotel and as residences. It is ridding itself of room service and other extras to concentrate on value for money and a cheaper nightly rate.

Lateral thinking will get us everywhere – including a Royal photo opportunity that, if it ever happened, would stick in the public’s and politicians’ minds forever.