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Property Development

Three days later, the processed documents were delivered to Claude as Rodan promised. From that moment onwards, Claude was the owner of three qings of land. However, Rodan seemed rather down when he came over with the documents.

"What's up with you? You look quite down."

Rodan sighed and told Claude about his troubles. Even though he had completed the transfer of property to Claude, he wasn't able to gain any progress with the other task he had at all. He wasn't able to purchase any property in Whitestag for Maria.

Perhaps, her impression of the town was what it was some ten years ago. So, she believed that three hundred or so crowns was enough to buy property there. She requested Rodan to buy property near the streets. After the kingdom's announcement of the king's decision to revamp Whitestag into a militarized city, those properties would no doubt multiply in price. It would also be incredibly easy to sell them off. She thought that she could earn more than a thousand crowns that way and that would loosen her finances quite a bit for the two to three years to come.

However, Rodan found that those properties near crowded streets had more or less increased in price for nearly ten times over the past decade or so. Each shop lot couldn't be bought with only twenty or thirty crowns like Maria thought. Instead, the three hundred crowns were only enough to afford a two-storey building, one that wasn't built on the busiest street either.

Additionally, there were no fools. Ever since Morssen's discovery of the new trade route and the arrival of the two naval ships in Whitestag, almost everyone could see where the developments of the town were heading. Not a single one of those property owners wanted to sell and only rented them out to others instead.

Claude laughed and said, "Did Lady Maria specify where she wanted to buy property in?"

"She didn't," Rodan replied honestly. Though he was a loyal servant, he was no property manager. Yet, Maria didn't have anybody she could trust to bring that sum of money to Whitestag for that purpose.

So Claude decided to give him a hand. He considered it a way to thank her for the land. "Do you have a map of the town?"

"I do." Rodan took out a map from his sack and put it on the dining table. He made lots of markings on the map and it could be seen that he went all over the busiest streets of town, but still wasn't able to find anything that fit his requirements."

"Give me a pencil."

Claude took the charcoal pencil Rodan gave him and drew a large circle at the slums behind the old street. "I think you can buy some property here. Three hundred crowns should be more than enough for five to six units. Then, you can use these units as collateral for a loan at the national bank. Given Lady Maria's status, she can probably easily get a another loan of eighty percent of the value of the collateral. You can use that loan to continue buying up more properties and mortgaging them again for more loans. Soon, the whole area will belong to Lady Maria."

Rodan had his eyes wide agape. Could that really be done? However, he wasn't someone who could decide on something so important immediately. After some hesitation, he said, "But... but the lady requested to buy properties nearby streets..."

"That's simple. Can't you just build your own street in that area?" Claude drew a line on the map and said, "There, there's your street. After you buy the property, not only can you build a street, you can also use it to build shop lots around that street. Maybe have four-storey apartment complexes built there. If the lady is sure that the town will be developed into a military base, then there's no need to worry about whether those units will sell. The naval officers would probably buy them up to settle their own families there, especially when the slums are so close to the public docks. It would be ideal for them."

"B-but..." Rodan was blushing like a tomato. "M-madam d-doesn't have enough money for such a construction project..."

"No, she does. She just doesn't know it," Claude said as he cracked a smile, "She doesn't even need to spend her own money for the construction either."

Claude pointed outside the window. "She can mortgage the wood away to the bank for another loan to use as the funds for the construction project. There isn't a need to worry about the mortgage. When the built property is sold, the loan to the bank can be repaid. You just need to pay a monthly interest for the loan to have enough funds for the project. The earnings from that will be no small number. I estimate that the returns will be approximately triple of the loan."

"H-how much can the wood be mortgaged for?" Rodan said with heavy breath."

"There are seventy qings of land in the wood. Assuming a loan of seventy percent of the value of the land can be loaned, there should be around 15 to 20 thousand crowns," Claude guessed. Since each mu of land was worth around three crowns, seventy qings, or, seven thousand mus of land, would probably be worth that amount.

"Not only that, the wood required for the construction can also be obtained from the wood. That would be a huge saving too," Claude added.

Rodan twitched about like a teenage girl. "S-something on this scale... This isn't a decision I can make. Master Claude, c-can you go back to the royal capital with me to discuss this with the lady? I... I can take care of the passport for you..."

Claude sighed. "Butler Rodan, you're no doubt aware of my current situation. Do you think I can afford to leave? How about this, I'll draft a proper development plan for the madam tonight. All you have to do is to bring it back and to show it to her."

That was probably the best solution. Even though Claude had never been part of property development in his past life, that didn't mean he didn't understand anything about it. One didn't have to be good at music to be able to appreciate it, after all. Not to mention, there were many business contacts of his boss who were developer tycoons, which allowed him to get more and more knowledgeable about the smart tactics required in the field. As his boss said, without any tricks, all their business would be taken care of by the big corporations that could provide the best service. They, on the other hand would be left to pay them the fees for their service when they could do it themselves.

This parallel world still hadn't developed to the point of large-scale property development. The most land owners would do was to sell their land off to others or commission for something to be built there. None of them had the slightest inkling on developing the land they owned to increase its value. Claude decided to use the simplest and easiest way to draft the development plan. At the very least, he had to make sure that Maria knew what to do right away after reading it.

But though it sounded easy, actually putting all the plans into paper wasn't something that simple. Claude spent the whole night working to finish drafting the plan. The reason he was forced to do so was because Rodan was waiting by his side the whole time. He was aware how important the plan Claude was describing would be to Maria. If it was successful, then she would never have to trouble over not having enough money for her herbalism experiments.

So, Rodan served Claude tea, snacks and supper without regard to their age difference to the point that Claude didn't feel comfortable putting the work off and getting some sleep.

However, Rodan was quite convenient to have around. Anything he couldn't understand was probably hard for Maria to understand as well, so he could use him as a reference. Yet, that took up quite a bit of effort. Not only did Claude have to write up the plan, he also had to plan the explanations meticulously. Such a large project wasn't something Claude and Rodan could implement on their own. Even though Maria had power and reputation in Whitestag, the strongest of dragons in the sky couldn't press down on a serpent on the ground anyway. If there were someone local who could cooperate with them, then they would have eliminated quite a bit of unnecessary trouble.

As such, Claude suggested to extend an invitation to a few other elites with good reputation in town to be part of the plan. Maria could give up on a part of her shares so that the others could have a piece of the cake. At the same time, Claude suggested that Maria develop the land with the grounds of bringing fortune back to her own hometown through such an investment. That way they could buy up as much land locally as possible before Stellin X's announcement. That way, even if people already had an inkling of the news, the development project would already be underway and nobody could jump on the idea before they could.

Not only did Rodan prepare a new map of the town for him, he even marked the area of the slums and the other parts where they intended to purchase clearly. Claude also drew a few simple designs for the concept of the buildings they were going to build along those streets as well as some facilities near the naval base and the public docks. That way, even someone not in well-versed in real estate could come to the same conclusion -- that the buildings around that area would be in no lack of buyers.

Lastly, Claude stressed the importance of fuel and water supply as well as the sewage system and the security arrangements of the street. In essence, he was going to gentrify the whole of the slums. Rodan got more and more excited as the plan was drawn up. Even though he wasn't an expert in the details, he could tell that there was much future in the plan Claude was proposing.

By the time it was five in the morning, Claude finally finished the whole thing. Rodan clutched his sack of documents as he would a gold-egg-laying goose.

"I'm going to return to the royal capital immediately," the butler said.

Shocked, Claude asked, "Aren't you going to take a bit of rest? You've been working through the night. I'll cook something up for you to fill your stomach."

"That won't be necessary, Master Claude. I have to deliver your plan to the lady as soon as possible. Time is of essence and I worry that we won't have enough of it even if she agrees to the plan."

Claude understood the urgency as well. The 5th month was only one month away. After Stellin X's announcement, all buildings or shop lots in Whitestag would instantly surge in price. Rodan had to rush to the royal capital and back and that would take four to five days at least. If Maria agreed to implement the plan, any wasted time would mean lost money.

So, Rodan returned to his carriage with nothing but some bread and water. He was prepared to drive nonstop and that would probably save them a day's time.

Five days later, Rodan once again appeared before Claude with another of Maria's letter. There was only one sentence in the letter: I'll go with your plan.

Claude smiled bitterly at how he was seeking out trouble on his own accord. But he had no choice. Since the whole thing was kicked off, he might as well go through with it. He could also earn quite a bit of money for himself while he was at it and it would be a rare opportunity. And with Maria backing him, he wouldn't have to worry about being given a hard time.

According to Rodan, Maria wanted seventy percent of the shares and profits, and ten percent would be given to Claude. The other twenty could be split among investors in town.

"I'll also mortgage the three hundred mu of land I have," Claude said after some consideration, "I won't be comfortable holding any of these shares without investing some money myself. I'm going to use the loan from the bank to make more money anyway. What you have to do next is to mortgage the wood away for a loan as soon as possible. I'll bring you to connect with some other investors later tonight. We'll need them with us at the slums as it won't be too convenient for us to show up there."

Claude was going to bring Rodan to meet Morssen's associates who were part of his venture. They also lost quite a bit of money from the failed venture, and Tomas also lost his job as the chief constable. He wanted to give them a chance to associate with Maria to repay the favor they showed his father. He was also trying to solidify the Ferd household's network in Whitestag for the future.

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