The Aprao Story: A better alternative to spreadsheet development appraisals

In this series of 'The Aprao Story', CEO Daniel Norman tells the story of how Aprao was born. For the first instalment in the series, click here

For nearly 10 years my job involved reviewing development appraisals and feasibilities from property developers looking to secure finance. During this time, it would be common for me to review anywhere from 2-5 development appraisals per day.

Almost all of the development appraisals that I was receiving were in a spreadsheet format.

If you have ever used spreadsheets for anything, you will know that they can very easily become confusing and are prone to letting errors creep in. 

The usual spreadsheet development appraisal story is:

  • 😀 The founder of the business did the first property development project and created a pretty basic calculation using a spreadsheet to work out if they would make a profit
  • 😕 Then, as the company did more developments, each new development had new problems so the spreadsheet appraisal evolved into a more complex spreadsheet
  • 😣 Then the team expanded with the arrival of a land buyer who added their own modifications to the appraisal
  • 😫 Then the business grew and hired a finance director who added in their own elements to the appraisal to look at investor returns and drill down on profit forecasts
  • 🤯 The result: everyone gets frustrated with the mammoth spreadsheet, which overcomplicates every deal, slows the team down and also has errors (which everyone knows about but nobody can be bothered to fix)

Now let's skip back to me sitting at my desk back in the days when I was reviewing development appraisals. I would see spreadsheet development appraisals like the one described above every day. All spreadsheets were unique in their approach, but with the same problems consistent throughout.

I started to think: what if we could create a new industry standard for development appraisals to help the entire sector operate with new levels of accuracy, consistency and efficiency?

That's where the idea of Aprao come from.


A 2 minute overview of Aprao's financial modelling software for developers


When we began working on Aprao we decided to start with the end result (the appraisal report) and then worked backwards to figure out the smartest way to build the appraisal tool itself.

With the report, we wanted a format that was so easy to understand that you could show anyone the report and they would instantly know what was going on without the need to endlessly scroll through columns, rows and tabs on a spreadsheet.

We showed the report to anyone that would take a look at it, asking the question – does this work for you? Development finance lenders, property developers, development valuers and other professionals all had their input. We listened, made tweaks and finally ended up with a format of the report, which we were happy with. 

From here we knew what the output looked like but we wanted to create a game-changing and enjoyable way to actually create the development appraisals. 

Everyone we spoke to had a strong dislike for their old spreadsheets and any other software tools that had attempted to solve this problem were clunky and too rigid. We knew we needed to create a user experience that was a delight to use.

This is where Jonathan's experience of building cloud-based web applications and my love of visual design came together. We only ever released features where the user could instantly understand what the feature was and how to use it without the need for a training course or having read a guide.


We also validated every element of Aprao with our network within the property sector and have continued this process now with our customers following the public release of Aprao.

Now, two years after the public release of Aprao, we have hundreds of customers creating thousands of development appraisals every month in Aprao. We constantly receive feedback from our customers saying how they can't believe that they were using spreadsheets for so long and that they wish they had always had Aprao in their professional life.

So have we created a new industry standard in development appraisals? We’re only getting started in Aprao’s journey but seeing thousands of Aprao reports generated every single month feels like a massive accomplishment. We’re on our way there!

If you're at all interested in what our appraisal software now looks like, get started for free, no credit card required and find out for yourself.

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