Buyers are demanding more from new-build purchases
Smaller developers often lead the way. Sharon Dale talks to three about how the new-build sector is giving buyers more choice.
WHILE mass market builders are constrained by shareholders, tried and tested designs and layers of management, smaller developers have the freedom to do what they like as long as they turn a profit.
They are the innovators who test materials, pioneer new technology and push architectural boundaries. They also have a closer relationship with clients.
The last ten years in Yorkshire has seen some stunning examples of their work, like the Passiv Haus in Denby Dale by the Green Building Company, one of the most energy efficient homes in Britain; a whole eco-friendly apartment block in Leeds by CITU and a host of strikingly contemporary properties.
The recession, however, has made buyers more cautious and demanding. Over in Huddersfield, architects One 17 are using clever design to seduce them.
Mark Lee of the company’s speculative development arm, One 17 Residential, says the quality of the space inside is what matters.
“What we are trying to do is to bring architecture in and make the projects more design led rather than completely cost led. We’ve found people generally want a more conventional exterior and a modern interior. If the interior is interesting, well designed and feels good and it excites people. We tend to use a lot of internal windows and we have openings between one room and another then you have a visual link rather lots of little boxes. You get more light and a greater sense of space and that higher level of design is like a breath of fresh air compared to a conventional new-build.”
Smart home technology, like remote control curtains and integrated sound systems, is now the norm in high end new homes and is offered as an extras in others, where around half of buyers are happy to pay at least £10,000 for the pleasure
Another distinct change over the last five years is that people want to see what they’re buying and rarely purchase off-plan.
Ilkley-based developer Melvyn Lilley says: “People are a lot more cautious and want to see the finished product before they commit. I’ve just done a property in Cottingley and no-one was interested until we had built it.”
Melvyn, who has been in the business for 45 years, is also cautious about building anything that looks too avant-garde after struggling to sell a house in Ben Rhydding, Ilkley, two years ago.
“The road had house types from different eras and so the planners wanted me to build something that represented the 21st century. I did but I struggled to sell it and I ended up taking £800,000, which was £200,000 below market value. I think most buyers want a property that looks traditional from the outside but they also want character. They don’t want a boring box.”
Melvyn always consults local estate agent Dacre, Son and Hartley to see what the market wants before building anything.
“I ask what they are short of. In Guiseley, it’s three-bed semis, whereas in Baildon it’s twobedroom detached houses for downsizers. No-one wants threestorey townhouses because going up and down all those stairs is hard work. Everyone wants a downstairs toilet and an en-suite in the main bedroom.”
Inspired by Grand Designs, they are increasingly asking for a big say in the layout and interior design.
Peter Zammitt, of Zammitt Homes, is at the luxury end of developing and has taken client involvement to a new level at his Fulwith Mill Drive site in Harrogate. He is allowing buyers to “bespoke” the five detached properties, which start at £1.5 million, so they can choose everything from the layout to the windows.
“I am building two to show prospective buyers the quality of what we produce and it’s been useful talking to them because they told us that they didn’t want seven bedrooms, they want five very big ones instead,” he says.
Buyers are also starting to ask about square footage.
“In general you get more square footage for your money if you buy second hand and less if you buy new. That’s because new is a more expensive product. In Harrogate, good second-hand properties fetch in the high £300’s and even over £400 per square foot, which is why I am undercutting that,” says Peter. “People are much more astute about value for money.”
At the £1 million plus end of the market, they are also interested in energy efficiency, which is why the Zammitt homes will have zero heating bills, achieved through high levels of insulation, solar panels, low emissivity glass and government feed-in tarrifs.
“In a large house people are paying £11,000 a year in fuel bills. Why wouldn’t they be interested in reducing that and spending the money on a luxury holiday?” says Peter. “You are doing your bit for the environment and the low energy costs will increase the re-sale value of the house.”
www.one17design.com; Zammitt Homes Fulwith Mill development contact Beadnall and Copley, tel: 01423 503500, www.beadnallcopley.co.uk; Melvyn Lilley developments tel: 01943 885404,www.dacres.co.uk
TIME WARP: The Hollies, converted by the Victorians from a row of Georgian cottages, has had a makeover inside and out. Owner Carole Johnson has created a series of outdoor rooms in the half-acre grounds including a folly ruin, known as the Abbey, which incorporates an open fire and barbecue.
PERSONAL TOUCH: One of the properties being developed by Peter Zammitt. Clients are able to ‘bespoke’ the homes to their specifications.