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Hitting the sweet spot

Imad Ali is not a man to rest on his laurels. Already boasting a varied portfolio of interests in property and retail through family firm Aykley Group, his new venture Pimlico Homes – built by his Aykley Construction arm – aims to shake up the new build homes market, pitching itself at buyers looking for exclusive quality and design at the right price. With multi-million-pound projects across the region in the pipeline, Imad tells North East Times how he’s aiming high thanks to solid foundations.

In a crowded housing market, it takes a lot for a newcomer to stand out.

But with his first project in the heart of Durham city centre selling off-plan within days of going on sale, Imad Ali is confident he’s hit on a winning formula.

Aiming for the ‘sweet spot’ between luxury design, specification and competitive pricing, his Pimlico Homes marque is making waves across the North East property market.

The venture is an addition to the umbrella of Durham-based Aykley Group, which has a broad portfolio of interests, including student accommodation, HMOs and commercial and residential lettings.

Built up over 30 years by Imad’s parents, the company continues to diversify and grow under his directorship, including a new arm, Aykley Construction, which is leading the development of Pimlico Homes’ projects.

It’s first signature series, Pimlico Court, a development of four individually-designed executive homes hidden away in a courtyard close to the centre of Durham’s nightlife, reached a record price per square foot for Durham when it went on the market earlier this year.

A one-off bespoke development of two executive homes is also planned for Newcastle’s exclusive Darras Hall estate.

“We’re new to the market and setting a new benchmark for quality and design, but at an affordable price too,” says Imad.

He adds: “The team really helps us stand out; we have award-winning designers and architects who are internationally renowned, and that sets us apart from the crowd.

“And because we construct our own sites, we keep a close eye on every step of the process. We keep control at every point, from design and planning right through to the build and up to the final handover stage.

“Too often, new builds aren’t the best quality unless you’re going to pay above a million pounds.

“That’s why I want to set the bar in relation to the standard of finish – we’re going to sit in the sweet spot, where people know they’re getting a real quality home without the extortionate price.”

Aykley Group was founded by Imad’s parents, who immigrated to the UK in the 1980s with nothing.

He speaks with pride about their determination to succeed, starting with a retail shop in Durham before expanding into property investment, particularly student accommodation and private rentals.

Educated at the prestigious Durham School, Imad quickly decided academia wasn’t for him.

“I did one year at sixth form, and then quit to work in my mum and dad’s shop at the age of 18,” he laughs.

He says: “I was working behind the counter, behind the scenes in the shop, really getting to understand that trade; I mastered retail at that point.

“I then ended up sort of managing our property portfolio for my parents, and really started to navigate around agents and the property scene in the North East, connecting and networking with people.”



He further cut his teeth in property working in corporate acquisitions and disposals for some of the largest retailers and leisure brands, and working with some of the largest landlords in the country, which propelled him into the business of property development, new builds and construction.

And his confidence at taking Aykley Group into property development comes from the knowledge the company has firm foundations.

He says: “Pimlico Homes and Aykley Construction are new ventures, but it’s backed by our core property portfolio and retail business, which is now matured and is stable and strong.

“There are strong assets backing these ventures and supporting us to go forward.

“The foundations are correct, and that allows us to go into this market and do something different, which has already proved incredibly successful over the last 12 months.

“We want to keep that up for the next three to five years, get as many sites under our belts as we can, and reach a new level of stability.

“But right now, it’s all about growth.”

Not content with taking on the residential property sector, Aykley Group is further expanding its portfolio with a shift into the leisure market through the refurbishment of the Court Inn, a traditional pub close to the city’s law courts.

Described by Imad as a bespoke, luxury scheme, the renovated building – which has stand out views of Durham Cathedral – is expected to open in July, sitting under the group’s sister company STA, which specialises in short-term accommodation.

He says: “We’ve got a multitude of arms in the Aykley Group, which allows us to look at different things.

“But the real focus right now is on new build accommodation and developing Pimlico Homes.

“We’re going through a restructure to create a board of directors, we’re looking to bring in outside investors to really help us go for the big deals and we’re recruiting; we’re looking for young, hungry people that want to help us grow and succeed.

“We’ve got in excess of £65 million worth of deals in the pipeline at the minute, some really big deals which, if they come off, will really turn heads.

“Within the next five years, on the new build side alone, we’re looking to grow the turnover to £150 million.

“To me, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.

“We’re redefining what is possible in the residential market and using the hard work and success that has gone before to push on even further.”

LinkedIn: Pimlico Homes

May 9, 2024

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