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Helping a care home passion to grow

For Fiona Robson, running Overstone House residential care home isn’t just her business, it’s her passion.

Fiona’s been the dedicated owner and manager of the caring residence in Hexham, Northumberland, since she bought it 28 years ago.

Her love affair with Overstone House began in the family café business in Hexham, where she did the cooking and realised how much she loved caring for people who enjoyed her food.

Fiona says: “I was looking for a new direction and knew I enjoyed caring for people, so I decided on running a care home after seeing the property discretely advertised for sale locally.”

Buying Overstone House was challenging enough financially, but things became more complex when the family member she’d planned to run the home with dropped out of the project, leaving her to run it by herself. 

However, through sheer hard work, determination and perseverance, Fiona went on to make the business a roaring success.

“My first major challenge was to install a lift to the first floor to meet modern care home standards, which I achieved after securing a loan from Barclays,” says Fiona, “even in the early days of running my business and still learning Barclays backed me and my vision for the business. It meant I could run the business more effectively, offer more to residents and grow the business – even at this early stage.” 

Today, the main house is a comfortable home for 15 permanent residents, providing external nursing care if needed. Additionally, there are five cottage-style bungalows in the grounds offering assisted living.

The opportunity

While Fiona and her 23-strong-team of full and part-time staff provide bungalow residents with cleaning, meals and access to the main house for a fixed monthly fee, Fiona didn’t own the properties initially and decided to expand her business further with our support.

She says: “Ten years ago I decided I wanted to buy the cottages freehold as this helped me to have more control over the accommodation I provided to my residents, enhancing the care I could provide while helping to generate additional income and boosting the value of my business.”

“I knew buying the bungalows was the right thing to do but it was also a big step for me, especially when trying to manage the business at the same time. Now we have a waiting list for them, so the hard work has definitely paid off.”

To help with this latest development, accountant Phil Empson at Baldwins of Hexham introduced Fiona to Jayne Preston, one of our Business Development Managers. Jayne worked closely with Fiona’s Relationship Manager, Laura Richardson, from March 2018 to progress the plans and they quickly built a good relationship. After detailed discussions, they were able to start the purchasing process for the fourth cottage in spring this year.

The solution

Laura explains “Fiona was receiving a monthly income from each cottage, and knew she could also raise additional rental income if she owned the fourth bungalow in her grounds.”

The solution was to remortgage her existing commercial mortgage with us on Overstone House. She took a seven-year mortgage on a six figure sum, made up of a part fixed-rate and part floating-rate loan.

“This enabled Fiona to buy the cottage, bring it up to standard and consolidate her mortgages on the other three,” explains Laura.

Phil Empson at Baldwins said “Fiona’s built a successful, caring, respected and well-run care business and I’m delighted we were able to assist with a funding proposal and introduce her to Barclays to help her with her growth plans.”

The result

With work on the property finished and a new resident in place, Fiona is thrilled with what’s been achieved.

“Having Barclays on board and an excellent relationship with Laura gave me a real sense of trust and confidence,” she explains “I knew I’d be properly supported and Laura was always there if I needed her.

“It was important to get an affordable seven-year deal to help manage my costs and, with this deal structure, I’m paying less for each cottage than before whilst building the value of my business.”

She concludes: “I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved with this beautiful place and the care I provide to my residents. Looking to the future, buying the fifth bungalow is really the last piece of the jigsaw and I know where to get help when I decide to do that.”

If you’d like to discuss a client lending case or become one of our approved brokers, contact one of our BDMs.

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