Buyers demand warmth, space and efficiency as market takes new turn
In a challenging market, buyers of new homes are expecting better designed and more energy efficient homes. Sharon Dale reports.
FIVE years ago, buyers were snapping up homes before the builders even began on the foundations.
They considered the location, glimpsed the computergenerated images, paid a deposit and hoped for the best.
Now, developers rarely sell offplan and buyers are calling all the shots. What they are demanding is very different to what they got in the boom years.
Rising fuel bills and a reaction against tiny, rabbit hutch-sized rooms have resulted in newbuilds that are more spacious, better designed and far more energy efficient.
Nick Hudson, of Beadnall Copley estate agents, Harrogate, says energy saving and generating features are now a major selling point. A recent development by Zammitt on Pannal Ash Drive, was a huge success thanks to its impressive eco credentials. The properties there have above required amounts of insulation, solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system.
“That element was a massive selling point and we used it to great effect when we were marketing the houses,” says Nick. “We worked out that each homeowner would save about £800 a year on running costs. That’s a large amount of money and if you add to that the fact you don’t need to do any maintenance to your home for the first few years, and there are substantial savings in buying new.”
The appeal of new and energy efficient homes is set to rise.
The dual fuel tarriffs have gone up by 40 per cent over the past five years and domestic gas and electricity suppliers are preparing to raise prices again this summer. Recent increases in the cost of both wholesale gas and electricity are to blame and the average bill will jump to £1,300 a year, according to Bluemark Consultants.
Price is another carrot for buyers, who want value for money, and deals such as partexchange, discounts and shared equity are a good way of winning business.
Developers also need to keep an eye on interior trends and lifestyles.
“We’ve noticed that most people want big, family-sized living kitchen,” says Nick Hudson.
Steve McElroy, sales director for Miller Homes, adds: “With ever changing lifestyles, we find that layout and design are still key factors when purchasing a new home, buyers require a perfect blend of style and practicality. Perhaps more increasingly, due to restrictions on mortgage lending, some homes are becoming more attractive if supported by a purchase assistance scheme such as shared equity or deposit match or alternatively for those that have an existing home to sell part exchange is still seen as a valuable incentive to those wanting a hassle free move.
“Purchasers continue to see the benefits of low maintenance and enhanced eco-friendly advantages and combine this with the “blank canvas” and you can see why the demand for new homes is still there.
One of the biggest changes in new-build has come in the apartment market. Developers of flats have had to work extra hard to get buyers. Previously most apartments were snapped up by buy-to-let investors, but now they have to appeal to owneroccupiers.
Isis Waterside Regeneration, which is building the Granary Wharf development in Leeds city centre, reacted by giving its apartment more square footage and better quality fittings.
“We’ve also upped the specification to add value for money, so inside the apartments, the doors are all high-quality veneered, work tops are granite and all the white goods are included,” says a spokesman.
Clayton Homes, who converted Silk Mill in Elland, also realised that bigger was better.
Eddisons, which now manage 79 of the apartments for sale or rental and also manage the building, report that one buyer has snapped up three flats: one for himself and one each for his daughters to live in.
“They were built for owneroccupiers and there is a lot of space,” says Paul Wilson, head of residential agency at Eddisons.
“They have utility rooms, studies/third bedrooms, lots of storage and balconies. People need somewhere to keep their vacuum cleaner and other belongings. The other big selling point is that the development is gated with CCTV and it is very secure and so what we are seeing is that people who are renting them are becoming interested in buying.
“In fact, we’re planning a rentto-buy scheme and I think this is going to be a big part of future sales for developments across the UK.
“There are a number of reasons for this. People aren’t in any hurry to buy and they like the idea of living somewhere before they commit.”
BIGGER AND BETTER: Silk Mill in Elland, was built by Clayton Homes with owner occupiers in mind and the apartments are spacious.