One-on-one interview: Andy Gatrell of NU living

Posted 3 September 2015 by Marc Da Silva

Marc Da Silva's ongoing weekly series of interviews with senior figures from the UK's property industry continues as he poses the questions to Andy Gatrell, director of regeneration and new business at NU living, part of the Swan Group.

Where is your firm developing new homes?

NU living primarily develops new homes across East London and south Essex. A large proportion of our work is invested around areas of large regeneration, as it provides the opportunity for many first-time buyers to get onto the property ladder, as well as the chance for existing property owners to progress their way up to the next stage of property ownership.

We offer a range of properties, from one-bedroom apartments to four-bedroom houses, in order to appeal to the broad audience that is today’s property market. NU living is committed to creating beautifully designed, high-quality homes that fit customers’ expectations and lifestyles.

What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas?

As is well known at the moment, there is a huge amount of interest in the London property market. We find evidence of this in our sales leads in the region, particularly in East London, which has become a hugely popular postcode in recent years. This is due to the area’s history, with its unique character and vibrant culture, alongside good transport connections and the modern facilities driven by the East End regeneration scheme.

Similarly, in south Essex, we find the market is particularly strong and there is potential for capital growth. With plenty of parks and events throughout the year, this location is particularly popular with young buyers and families.

What types of properties is your firm selling?

In East London, NU living is primarily developing apartments, while in south Essex, we are developing a combination of apartments and houses. NU living is finding a high level of demand in these key areas, so we are keen to continue work here into the future. We are always looking for new opportunities, either to work on new regeneration projects, or straightforward land purchase to develop new private homes.

What projects is NU living working on and what’s in the development pipeline?

NU living has just completed the refurbishment of Bellevue Bow, the last phase of the regeneration of Bow Cross Estate, which features a total of 648 units. This 24-storey development represents the final chapter in the award-winning renovation of the three iconic apartment blocks on the former estate and will provide 93 new one- and two-bedroom apartments.

We are also building out the third phase of our development at Oldchurch Park in Romford, consisting of 84 apartments which will be ready form November and will commence construction of the final phase in September.

NU living is also working on a number of other projects, including: Cambridge Road, Barking (240 new homes); Peachey House, Ilford (140 new homes); River Place – a large development in Canning Town (437 new homes); Blackwall Reach, including the estate regeneration of Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar (1,575 new homes); Craylands estate regeneration in Basildon (circa. 800 new homes); Repton Court in Barkingside (200 new homes); Five Links regeneration ( 93 new homes); and Laindon town centre (around 300 new homes plus 25,000 sq ft of retail and commercial space).

These are all phased developments and, whilst some phases are already complete, the majority of homes are yet to be built and developed.

How much does a new home by NU living typically cost to buy?

Typically, apartments in East London will cost in the region of £300,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and £385,000 for a two-bedroom unit. For south Essex, it ranges from £160,000 for a new build one-bedroom flat in Basildon to £265,000 for a three-bedroom home.

Why should more buyers consider buying a new build home as opposed to older property?

There are many considerations that a buyer should bear in mind when looking at a new build home compared with an older property. These include assurance that their new home is going to have a good specification, be low maintenance and as convenient as possible and have a high quality of build. It is always worth ensuring that the home has a ten-year property guarantee, to act as a ‘peace of mind’ purchase for all types of buyers – this rule applies to the whole range of buyers, from investors, to first-time buyers, to other owner occupiers.

Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction?

Absolutely. The value of the property is locked in at the time of purchase, which provides the potential for capital growth from completion. There is often the opportunity to make client choices to personalise your home and, depending on time-scale, can also give buyers the time to increase the amount of deposit they put down.

What is NU living’s USP?

NU living offers an ‘all-in’ product. This means there are no hidden extra costs at move-in - the client will not be charged extra costs to install flooring, appliances and carpets. The idea is that the buyer is able to move straight in, or to let the property immediately. Additionally, Swan is an ethical builder and does not have shareholders, so all profits are reinvested in the group to fund affordable housing projects.

Which of the developments NU living is currently developing do you think stands the best chance of winning a WhatHouse? Award?

Angel Way, Romford for the Best Starter Home category. This is a quality project in a central and booming location due to the introduction of Crossrail in Romford. The majority of the development is new build, but there is also the refurbishment of a former pub. Approximately half the scheme was sold to shared ownership buyers who were able to get their foot onto the property ladder, in a good location with improving transport links which in turn will have a positive impact on capital growth.

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