New Homes


New Buy Scheme Slow To Take Off

by Sarah Halloran

The Government’s New Buy Scheme was launched in March amidst a great fanfare and hopes that the plans would give the property market a much needed boost. Six months on however, the first set of purchase figures have indicated a slow start to the scheme.

In the four months from the launch of the initiative, only 250 homes were sold through the scheme. Overall, the coalition were looking to help 100,000 people move by the end of 2015. Writing in his newspaper column in January, the then Housing Minister Grant Shapps underlined his hopes for the new buy project.

“At the heart of the (government) Strategy is a new-build indemnity scheme, which will offer a useful alternative to the Bank of Mum and Dad for those people struggling to get deposits together and take a step on the housing ladder,” Shapps wrote.

“Due to be launched this Spring, under this new industry-led scheme house builders and we in Government will provide security for the loan, enabling homebuyers to secure mortgages on newly-built homes with just a five per cent deposit”

The headlines surrounding the news suggest that this is a big blow for the government’s plans but as a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government pointed out, the average house purchase takes around six months to go through and a significant proportion of reservations aren’t shown in those initial figures.

“As the Home Builders Federation have recently reported, 1,500 reservations have been made through NewBuy and at least 25,000 additional new homes will be built as a direct result of the scheme,” the Spokesman said.

The Home Builders Federation are also standing behind the scheme and they indicate greater interest from lenders and property developers since the launch back in March. At that stage, only seven builders and four lenders had expressed an interest but this has risen to six lenders along with thirty developers.

“People weren’t aware of it – it’s a completely new scheme,” said Steve Turner, spokesman for the HBF.

“Take-up in the past few weeks has markedly increased, to about 100 reservations a week.” He said take-up had been similar to the previous government’s FirstBuy scheme, which was regarded as a success.”

Predictably however, the opposition government has criticised the initiative in the wake of the new figures and is suggesting that the planned target for 100,000 purchasers by 2015 is way off course.

“The government needs to drop the hype and change course by implementing a real plan for homes, jobs and growth,” said Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey.

“If it fails to do so, at this rate, it will take 200 years for NewBuy to help 100,000 homebuyers buy their own home.”

Whoever is right or wrong in this argument, it seems that it’s far too soon to be judging the New Buy Scheme after just four months.


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Government Answers Call for New Build Measures

by Sarah Halloran

Last week, the Home Builders Federation (HBF) announced a welcome to new housing minister Mark Prisk while urging the MP for Hertford and Stortford to act quickly to protect the interests of domestic property building firms across the country.

Meanwhile, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have responded to calls within the industry to aid housing growth by announcing new proposals which will inject cash as well as addressing the question of restrictive planning laws.

“We hope he (Mark Prisk) will offer some radical ideas to transform the current housing and planning systems and tackle the housing crisis, providing economic growth and jobs, and strengthening communities across the country,” said Stewart Baseley of the HBF last week.

In the separate announcement, the UK’s coalition government claim that their brand new package of measures will create up to 70,000 new properties including a significant proportion of affordable new homes for first time buyers.

The proposals will also aim to create around 140,000 jobs in the sector as the government aims to inject £40bn into infrastructure projects. It will also look to reduce the obstacles put in the way of new homes and will allow developers to sit down with local councils and re-negotiate agreements on affordable homes.

Speaking on daytime television Mr Cameron said,

“Frankly we had a situation where the lenders did not want to lend so the builders could not build and the buyers could not buy. We are talking today about 140,000 jobs provided by building an extra 70,000 houses.”

Nick Clegg added that the scheme would simply make it cheaper for developers to build.

“If you are finding it too expensive to raise money yourself to put shovels in the ground to employ on construction sites and build homes for private rent and to build affordable homes we are going to make it cheaper for you to do so,” he said.

Predictably however, Labour’s opposition has criticised the government’s actions on new homebuilding as a whole.

“We need to get Britain building again, but the government has slashed the housing budget and the number of affordable homes being built is down by 68%,” said Rachel Reeves, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

“The fundamental problem is not the planning system or Section 106 agreements for much-needed affordable housing, it is the lack of confidence and demand in the economy, slashed public investment and the government’s failing economic plan.”

However, the Prime Minister is adamant that this shows a clear commitment from the government to address any problems and to meet the demand for new housing.

“The measures announced today show this government is serious about rolling its sleeves up and doing all it can to kickstart the economy. Some of the proposals are controversial; others have been a long time in coming. But along with our housing strategy, they provide a comprehensive plan to unleash one of the biggest home building programmes this country has seen in a generation,” Mr Cameron concluded.

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Interest in New Homes Soars

by Alison Feemantle

New homes have been firmly in the news of late with government schemes announced that attempt to encourage construction companies and local authorities to build the houses that will meet demand. Now, as we enter the second quarter of 2012, leading house builder Barratt Homes have announced that they have experienced their busiest start to a year for five years.

The increase in activity began with a vastly increased number of searches on the company’s website back in January and this has subsequently been supported by a rise in visits to new sites and reservations on new properties.

As a result, Barratt claim that some sites are selling homes at twice the national average. The company’s figures have also been backed up by Right Move, who confirm a 27% rise in property searches since the start of the year.

Barratt believe that potential buyers are making their move as they become aware that home ownership is more cost effective than renting.

“We believe that one of the key factors is that savvy customers have worked out it’s now cheaper to buy than rent,” said Lisa Preston of Barratt West Midlands.

“We simply can’t believe how busy we are especially at a time when all you hear in the news is doom and gloom. It just feels like the people of Burton have decided to get on with their lives.”

Lisa Preston also added that she believes people are becoming aware that there may never be a more affordable time to buy their own property.

“In recent years many people have had to put their lives on hold but it seems that they are not prepared to wait any longer,” she added.

“Home buyers have also woken up to the fact that with interest rates low and house prices still some way below their peak, buying is more affordable now than many believe.”

Staying in the Midlands, home builder David Wilson have announced the development of six new sites across Leicestershire as they also start to meet an increase in demand.

“The Prime Minister has said again and again that one of the best ways to boost economic growth and get people working is through building more homes,” said Philip Lacey, David Wilson’s sales director for the area.

Mr Lacey also went on to confirm that over 1,500 jobs would be created for local people as a result.

“In addition to the local construction jobs created in building the new homes, the local people who move into the new housing will also spend their wages locally. This translates into a significant boost for local retailers at a time when concerns remain about the national financial picture. It’s exactly what this area needs,” he concluded.

In the midst of government announcements, the claims from these two home builders may just be tangible proof that the housing market, for new properties at least, may show a marked improvement in 2012.

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The Benefits of Choosing New-Build

by Alison Feemantle

Decreasing property prices and incentive driven schemes have left many feeling that new-build might be the answer when it comes to moving home.  More developers are now investing money in new-build properties and are giving a helping hand to first-time buyers and existing homeowners.  If you are looking to move in the near future, there are many benefits to choosing new.

The best thing about buying a new property is that you are the first to live there.  That means you get to choose some of the finer details of the property such as kitchen units, carpets, bathroom fittings, and many other aspects that allow you to put your personal stamp on your new home.  Choosing furniture for a completely new home is an exciting and liberating experience as you have no clashing décor to worry about and you can use your home as a completely blank canvas.  Previously owned properties usually need a large amount of redecoration or revamping.

When you buy a new home you also have a great chance to make it as environmentally friendly as possible and many such features come as standard.  New homes have to satisfy a number of regulations with regards to energy consumption and don’t suffer half as many problems as older properties do.  For example, an older property may lack good quality windows or have problems with the roof.  Both can let heat escape and this means a larger carbon footprint for you not to mention higher heating bills!  Moving to a new home also gives you the chance to review other areas of energy consumption such as appliances.  Spending out on new energy efficient appliances is a smart move that will pay for itself very quickly.

Older properties often require a lot of repairs and renovations.  Indeed you may be up for the job, but many people prefer to move straight into their new home without endless DIY projects threatening to take over every weekend for the foreseeable future.  Moving into a new home means you avoid the hassle of arranging repairs and also the expense.

The housing shortage problem in the UK has made the Government sit up and take notice.  As a result there are many incentives being launched to help existing and first time homeowners to move home and improve the economy.  You will often find new homes are discounted or that developers offer to pay your deposit or your stamp duty.  There are also good mortgage deals offered by lenders working in conjunction with house developers as an incentive to buy.

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Government on Track to Build 100,000 New Homes

by Sarah Halloran

If you are particularly after purchasing a new home then good news is on the horizon.  The Government is currently on track to build 100,000 new homes in the UK over the next 4 years, according to Housing Minister Grant Shapps.

Buying a home off-plan comes with a lot of benefits.  Firstly you get to be the first person to ever live in the house and you can see if well before it is built.  You can also usually choose various fittings such as carpets, the finish of kitchen units and the style of bathroom tiles.  Many housing developers are also making it easier for people to move into new homes by offering to pay deposits or stamp duty which can really be a lifeline to some first time buyers.

Mr Shapps said that he is “delighted” that Government departments are taking up the challenge to release more land with the space to build over 50,000 new homes, and that property experts will carry on working with departments to ensure “no stone is left unturned”.

At the same time, he also set a challenge for UK property firms to release as much land as possible and make it available for new homes.  A cabinet committee will carefully analyse each department’s plans to ensure every possible site is made available for house building.

Mr Shapps went on to explain that the new Community Right to Reclaim Land will assist communities with the improvement of their local area by arranging for disused publicly-owned land to be released for new developments.

He also claimed it will “revolutionise” the way local people, working alone or with their communities, will be able to come together to build the homes, shops and businesses the area needs.

“Ordinary people will have a simple system for making a case to use that land and improve their local area, with a promise they will now be listened to,” he added.

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Valuing Sustainability

by Gordon Miller

A home’s sustainability characteristics should be considered within property valuations, according to a new information paper, entitled Sustainability and Residential Property, launched 20 Sepember by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The issue of sustainability is not currently viewed as significant to property market value. However, this is changing and RICS is suggesting that, should a home possess sustainability features, which are likely to have an impact on value, this should be reflected in a valuer’s assessment of the property.

Sustainability features can include a home’s energy efficiency rating, the materials used in its construction and other features such as an energy-efficient boiler. Although, elements such as a building’s proximity to public transport links and its ability to adapt to occupiers’ changing future needs could also be considered.

Sustainability, which covers a broad range of physical, environmental and social factors, is moving progressively higher up the coalition government’s agenda. It is likely that residential markets will become progressively sensitised to sustainability considerations. Therefore, RICS feels residential property valuers should be fully aware of the sustainability characteristics of buildings when carrying out a valuation. Also important is consideration of legislation and policy that can influence current and future value.

Ben Elder, RICS Global Director of Valuation, said: “Although market awareness of sustainability has risen significantly, attention is currently focused largely on a home’s energy efficiency, propensity to flood and carbon emissions. However, a property’s sustainable status can cover a range of social, environmental and economic matters that can potentially lead to changes in demand and therefore affect value.

“With the increased emphasis on green living and energy efficiency, it is highly possible that the market will need to adapt. This new information paper offers advice to our members, recommending that they are fully aware of sustainability policy and the characteristics of individual buildings when valuing property.”

Anwar Harland-Khan, CEO of Sustain Worldwide, an exclusive membership organisation of sustainable developers and industry professionals delivering sustainability, said: “We welcome the RICS information paper, while noting that in our opinion it is long overdue that the valuation industry recognised the inherent value premium in sustainable property.

“It stands to reason that today’s sustainable homes have a value premium. They are cheaper to run because they are better insulated and require less heating and mechanical cooling, and they are fitted out with ‘hands off’ energy saving applications. What’s more they will increase in value faster because these homes are more ‘future proofed’ than a conventionally built existing house that will require expensive retro-fitting.”

Gordon Miller is sustainability & communications director of Sustain Worldwide. He writes for The Financial Times and The Sunday Times and founded eco homes website and local energy and awareness social enterprise The High Barnet Green Home Zone.

For more information about Sustain Worldwide’s members’ luxury sustainable homes, resorts and communities, visit or call             +44 (0)20 7754 5557

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Gazanging – The New Threat to the Housing Market

by Sarah Halloran

Now, you’ve probably heard of gazumping and gazundering, but a new kid is in town that is threatening to damage the property market: gazanging.  This phenomenon is caused by a volatile housing market, and the lack of available property, and involves sellers pulling out at the last minute.  Notice we said ‘sellers’ there and not buyers.

Research from the legal property website In-Deed has found that over 54,000 homebuyers faced gazanging in the first half of 2011 because vendors changed their mind and decided they didn’t want to sell after all.  The website, also reported that the incidence of sellers pulling the rug from under buyers’ feet had risen by 20% in the first half of 2011 and was more likely to affect homebuyers than gazundering or gazumping.

Gazanging can have a huge effect on a property chain depending on which stage the gazanging happens.  Let’s say a seller pulls out just before exchange of contracts.  That’s a lot of money that everyone has paid out on surveys, conveyancing costs and other expenses.  An under-supply of suitable homes and an unstable property market are the most common drivers of gazanging with many sellers blaming ‘cold feet’ as their reason for staying put.

Figures released by the National Housing Federation (NHF) aren’t too promising and show just 105,000 homes were built in England between 2010 and 2011 – this is the lowest level in almost 100 years.  House sales also dropped to a two-year low in August according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors who also claimed that buyers were avoiding buying property due to a fear of falling house prices in the future.

Harry Hill, founder of Rightmove and former chief executive of Countrywide estate agents, said: “What we’re seeing at the moment is uncertainty in the housing market and poor consumer confidence giving sellers cold feet. Buyers can’t do much about the economy, but regardless of the state of the market, poor property legals continue to compound such problems, though this is easily avoided.”

There are no laws regarding gazanging and you could find yourself on the receiving end of a seller pulling out, but the good news is that this is unlikely once you have exchanged contracts.  If you have reached this stage when buying your new home then the seller will be liable to quite expensive fines and to pay compensation to you if they decided they don’t want to move after all.  If you are thinking of selling your home, think before you put that For Sale sign up.  Do you really want to move?  Can you afford to move?  Asking yourself these questions now will save a lot of stress and heartache for yourself and others later.

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Architects Brand New Homes as “Shameful”

by Sarah Halloran

The Royal Institute of British Architects has referred to many new-build homes in the UK as “shameful shoe boxes” that are too small for family life.

RIBA has carried out its ‘Case for Space’ study of 3,418 three-bedroom properties in the UK and reported that the average three-bedroomed house is 8% smaller than the recommended minimum.  That lost space equates to the size of a single bedroom, according to RIBA – enough room for a single bed, bedside table, wardrobe, desk and chair.

Even worse, some three-bedroomed homes were found to be even smaller, with a shortfall of two double bedrooms or built using only 77% of the recommended minimum space.  Whilst there are currently no UK-wide ‘minimum space’ standards, RIBA’s research was conducted using the London Plan space standards based on the 96 sq m minimum currently laid out in the guidelines.

RIBA chief executive Harry Rich said that these new homes were causing some homeowners to live a lesser quality of life.  He said “Our homes should be places that enhance our lives and well-being,”

“However, as our new research confirms, thousands of cramped houses – shameful shoe box homes – are being churned out all over the country, depriving households of the space they need to live comfortably and cohesively.”

As a result of its findings, RIBA wants consumers to have access to better information from house builders and estate agents so they can see exactly what they are getting for their money.  Off-plan properties can be deceptive and RIBA would like all plans to include furniture and other fittings to give consumers a clearer picture.  Show-homes should also be furnished completely and present rooms as realistically as possible.

A spokesman said: “Under our planning reforms neighbourhoods will be able to design and vote on their own plans for the future of their areas, giving them the chance to exercise meaningful choice over the type and size of homes that are built, and giving developers the chance to benefit from a smoother process for getting planning permission by working with local people from the start.”

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Build it Yourself? 1 in 3 Would!

by Sarah Halloran

You may have considered building your own home yourself or know somebody who has taken the plunge.  More and more people are starting to take up the challenge in a bid to build their dream home and a more efficient living space.

A study conducted by Norwich and Peterborough Building Society has revealed that one in three people in the UK would think about building their own property in the next five years.

The research has shown what could be strong demand for more self-build projects in the near future with 12% of those questioned saying they would consider undertaking the project in the next 12 months.

So, what’s the big attraction with self-build?  It seems the most important draw is the freedom to design and build a home to meet the needs of the individual.  Around 25% also said they liked the idea of self-build being cheaper than buying an established property of the equivalent size and location.

One fifth of those questioned also said they were attracted to self-build because they could build a much more energy efficient and environmentally sound property.

Richard Barker, mortgage manager at N&P, said: “Self-build is a market with huge potential which could have many benefits for those willing to carry out a self-build project.”

N&P said that those who choose to enter the self-build market are usually ardent property developers or those in their 50’s who have significant funds to build their own homes.

The National Self-Build Association reported that over 15,000 people choose to build their own property in the UK each year and that the market is worth around two billion pounds which equates to 1.4% of the mortgage market in the UK.

The Government is now looking to increase that figure to 50,000 homes annually across the next few years by launching a number of initiatives to make self-build more appealing.

Barker said: “It’s definitely a tall order for the government, but it does have the backing of the National Self Build Association, which has the same goal.

“In addition, Housing Minister Grant Shapps is also looking to open up self-build to more people and is holding working groups to discuss how to finance it. This should all help towards boosting the market.”

If you are interested in building your own home we’ll be publishing a guide later this week that will tell you how to get started, the pitfalls, the advantages, and details about costing.

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Firstbuy scheme: Mixed news for first time buyers?

by admin

Here at The Big Property List we have been highlighting some of the issues facing first time buyers who are trying to get involved in today’s housing market. Quite often, it can be a real rollercoaster ride if you’re in this position and this weekend summed that up perfectly. On the one hand there was good news as more details emerged with regards to the Government’s First Buy scheme but there was a warning that it may not be the breakthrough that many buyers were hoping for.

Essentially, FirstBuy will allow homeowners who are able to put down 5% as a deposit to take out a mortgage at just 75% of the cost of the property, with a shared Equity loan being made available for the remaining 20%. The first properties will be made available from September and the qualifying household income must be less than £60,000. At first glance, the news seems to be the perfect answer for those struggling to get a foothold on the ladder but there are some disadvantages.

FirstBuy only applies to new homes and that fact alone rather limits the choice. Although it’s not exactly a hardship for a first time buyer to ‘settle’ for a new property, if there aren’t any new developments in your area it does restrict your options. Moreover, it’s likely to mean that demand will outstrip supply and that is already being seen in London where the money that has been made available is only likely to help around 940 buyers.

Property developers have however welcomed the scheme and it’s believed that up to 100 companies will lend their weight to the Government’s initiative. Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and Bovis are among those taking part.

Meanwhile, four lenders have so far indicated their intentions to back the scheme with Nationwide, Halifax, Melton Mowbray Building Society and Barclays expected to be joined by around 16 more providers.

There is no indication that there will be help among those lenders for those with a less than perfect credit history.  While there may be help for those with a chequered credit past under the Homebuy Direct scheme, there is no indication as yet that FirstBuy will assist in any way.

The whole project has been met with some cynicism and it’s felt in some quarters that it is merely a scheme to help developers clear overpriced properties. For many buyers however, this could be the answer they’ve been waiting for, providing that the meet the criteria.

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