Posted 22 January 2015 by Keith Osborne
Continuing his weekly series of interviews with senior figures in Britain’s property industry, Marc Da Silva poses the questions to Michael Shwartz, whose company is currently building new homes at sites across the South East of England.
What are housing market conditions currently like in the areas where you are building? There are very buoyant conditions at the moment. Kent in particular is only an hour away from London and we have seen a keen interest from young families who wish to have a bigger home but cannot afford it in London, as well as downsizers who are seeking a different lifestyle.
The Michael Shwartz Group recently launched Ashlin Quarter in Aylesford, could you tell us about the scheme? Ashlin Quarter is a phased development of four- and five-bedroom houses in a gated community in the historical village of Aylesford, Kent. The houses, which range from £395,000 to £500,000, are being built to a high specification and built in such a way that they are complimentary to the area and surrounding environments. We are a very community focused company and I am delighted to be able to bring the beautiful development of Ashlin Quarter to the people of Kent where they can raise their family in a tranquil, peaceful setting and still be close enough to commute to London for work.
What other projects are you working on and what’s in the development pipeline? At Roxeth Green Avenue in South Harrow, which forms part of a major mixed-use regeneration scheme that we have been working on for eight years, we are currently working on the final phase of the project.
We are also working on a major scheme in Alperton, an area in Brent, northwest London. The development, also part of wider regeneration project, will feature about 2,000 new homes, including 20-30% affordable housing. Property prices in the new development will start from around £180,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.
What types of properties is your firm developing? We develop apartments and houses as well as some commercial units that are integrated with apartments.
How much does a new home by Michael Schwartz typically cost to buy? This is all dependent on the area in which we are building. Prices are driven by demand and we like to ensure that all our developments are priced competitively.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new build home as opposed to older property? All our properties are modern, good value for money and are integrated with modern and innovative solutions.
Some of the homes at Ashlin Quarter even have inbuilt acoustic vents in the rooms letting in fresh air whilst keeping out all noise from the road outside so that homeowners can enjoy peaceful and tranquil living.
All of our new build properties come with a 10-year warranty. With new build you have the luxury of modern appliances, brand new carpets, and kitchens and bathrooms which are decorated in neutral colours, allowing people to move in straight away and then stamp their own style on their home. There is nothing like opening the door to a brand new house and knowing everything in it is new and never been used by anyone else! New build homes are also less costly to insulate as a result of current building regulations. The homes are more airtight and insulated better therefore reducing your energy costs in the long run.
Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? Very much so. If you buy early your price is secured and as the market is ever changing with prices being driven by demand, you may find that you end up paying less than your neighbour who bought the same property six months later. We do try and help people to buy by releasing special offers at Ashlin Quarter e.g. over the Christmas and New Year period we had an offer to reserve a number of plots by a certain date and to help the buyer, we agreed to pay the stamp duty as well as legal fees up to £1,000! We reserved two homes as result of the offer.
What is Michael Schwartz Group’s USP? I believe that what sets us apart from the rest is our commitment to our customers. We are very community focussed and involve local residents as well as people who have purchased from us previously or are considering purchasing from us, in various aspects of the building process. We personally respond to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible, rectifying any issues they may have as soon as possible. We update our social media on an almost daily basis letting people see how their homes are being built to give them reassurance and confidence that their home is being built to the highest standard.
Which of the developments Michael Schwartz Group is currently developing do you think stands the best chance of winning a WhatHouse? Award? Ashlin Quarter, our latest development of 95 houses in Aylesford, Kent. The site that Ashlin Quarter sits on was the former Somerfield Distribution Centre covering an expansive area of approximately 7.8 acres. It was an eyesore and had been derelict for many years. We initially rented the site to local businesses to allow them an opportunity to set up new businesses at a very low rent. We also saw this as an opportunity to give the area a much needed change which was received well by residents and the local Council. As I mentioned, creating communities is at the heart of everything that we do.
Working with local suppliers and contractors was incredibly important to us from the offset. As well as bringing a new community to Aylesford, we were keen to give something back, too. We were committed to appointing local tradespeople and suppliers thereby creating employment but also forging links with the businesses who were selected based on their superb craftsmanship and attention to detail. This has made Ashlin Quarter the success that it is proving to be, and we are delighted with the outcome and hard work put in by the whole team.
The government-backed initiative, Help To Buy, is also available at Ashlin Quarter. So with only a 5% deposit you can be the proud owner of a brand new home with large and spacious rooms, some of which also include integrated garages.
Overall, I believe the Ashlin Quarter will bring something new to the community of Aylesford. A refreshing change whilst being respectful of the historic surroundings and giving people the chance to grow their families, build memories and live happily together as a community.