Marc Da Silva continues his weekly series of interviews with senior figures in the housebuilding industry by putting some questions to Bob Weston, chairman and managing director of renowned regional developer, Weston Homes.
Where is your company currently developing new homes? We operate across London and the South East and we are extending our geographic area by investing in new land, infrastructure and people through the creation of three divisions covering a swathe of the south east. Our plan is to double the size of the business in three years, and by restructuring into divisions with responsibility for North, South and East.
At the moment, our portfolio comprises 21 active developments across London, Essex, Hertfordshire, East Sussex and Cambridge.
What type of homes are Weston Homes building? Everything; from complex conversions of listed properties to large regeneration projects, apartment blocks with their own challenges to individual family homes, and even experimental eco-homes that blaze a trail in innovation and provide a model for how we can integrate new technologies into our future projects.
We've grown our business a great deal in the last 26 years. Our very first development was a four-bedroom family home in Essex, and now we cater not only for families but also singles, young and old, retirees and professionals, downsizers and first-time buyers, as well as investors. We pride ourselves on being the best at what we do. The homes we provide are high-quality, good-value properties in locations carefully chosen for their transport connections and growth potential.
What other schemes do you have in the pipeline? At the moment, we are gearing up to launch a new development called Silver Brook in Markyate, in Hertfordshire. We acquired the site at the end of 2012 and by the time Silver Brook officially launches in late October, we'll have delivered a show house, street scene, and the sales and marketing suite - all within 10 months. The opportunity to redevelop the site provides significant benefits for the entire village not only creating a new collection of excellent homes - both affordable and private - to meet the local housing needs, but to deliver additional retail and commercial space for the community as well. Silverbrook will comprise 73 houses and apartments and we'll also restore a section of the River Ver, so that the brook winds through the site.
We also have a very active pipeline and some great schemes to look forward to, which we'll be announcing in due course. These new developments follow the acquisition of sites in Hornchurch, Napsbury and Edgware Football Club to name but a few. Currently, our active and pipeline developments equate to a combined GDV of over £300m.
How much does a new home by Weston Homes cost to buy? We cater to a very wide market ranging from £120k to £1m and more. It really depends on the site as we do not have a single target. We tailor each development to the best market, unlocking value and attracting a wide range of buyers.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new-build home as opposed to older property? New-build properties have many obvious benefits, none of which should be understated. A new home is a blank canvas, covered by a ten-year build warranty, built to purpose making clever use of space and storage, and is compliant with the most up-to-date health and safety regulations.
Probably one of the most attractive aspects, particularly with energy prices rising relentlessly upwards, is the energy efficiency of modern homes.
The construction standards and levels of insulation required under the code for sustainable homes dictates that new-builds have significantly reducedenergy costs, compared with homes built even as recently as the 90s.
Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? It's all down to personal choice. Some buyers prefer to buy a home that they can see; others want to be involved in the process. Those with the vision can gain an edge by choosing their home at the start, and then tailoring it to their own tastes. Buying off-plan is one of the ways that purchasers can bespoke their homes, changing finishes and fixtures and sometimes even the layout. Buying off-plan is also a sure way for the purchaser to secure the best plot for their needs, picking the roomiest property with the terrace or balcony or the view that sets the home apart.
Which of the developments Weston Homes is currently developing do you think stands the best chance of winning a What House? Award? We've got several developments that are worthy contenders, but we're particularly proud of our latest, Silver Brook in Markyate.
The design of the homes and the landscaping takes cues from the historic centre of beautiful Markyate, which is a designated conservation area containing a number of listed buildings dating back to the 19th century. In one of the UK's most beautiful counties, the homes are perfectly placed to enjoy the country lifestyle, whilst still benefitting from great transport links for easy commuting. I'm also proud of the fact we have opened up and diverted the River Ver, which was previously hidden in pipes under an industrial estate, so that it create a feature through the heart of the development, enhancing the landscaping and but the integration of the site with the rest of Markyate. But we'll need to enter this one next year!