We head to Scotland to continue our weekly series of interviews with senior figures in the new homes industry and pose the questions to Calum Stewart, who’s at the helm of a family-run business that has been building homes north of the border for around 40 years.
Please tell us a little about yourself and Richmond Homes.
I’m currently managing director of the company but my family has been building houses in the luxury sector for the past three generations. It was my grandfather, Harry Richmond, who started the firm back in the 1970s, and since then we’ve built over 500 luxury homes in prime Scottish locations including Edinburgh, Fife, Perthshire, East and West Lothian and the Borders. We’ve won a number of prestigious awards for our developments and bespoke homes and are currently working on some exciting new projects.
Where are you currently building new homes, and what is the range of property types/prices?
At the moment we’ve a selection of properties in Fife, the Lothians, Edinburgh City, and the Borders. From one-bedroom flats through to four-bedroom townhouse, four-/five-bedroom luxury detached villas, and bespoke homes, our prices range from £110,000 through to over a million.
What are the points of differentiation for your company and houses?
We’re committed to a very high level of specification on our properties, using top-of-the-range building materials, locally sourced. We think carefully about the design of our homes, and since finding great locations for our properties is key to our company ethos, we try to take inspiration from the local landscape in terms of house lay-out and architectural style.
We use eco-friendly materials to build our homes and think carefully about energy efficiency and carbon footprint.
Customer care is very important to us and we work closely with our clients to ensure their homes meet their individual needs and taste. This leads to another part of our service which differentiates us in the market – our bespoke service which offers one-off turn-key homes to clients looking to create their ‘grand design’.
Was 2015 a strong year for selling new homes?
Yes, it’s really been the strongest year post-crash now that house prices are firming and slowly increasing. And 2016 looks like a better year still in terms of opportunities for the company. For instance, having sold out phase one of our popular Chesterhill Wood 19-home development in a beautiful rural setting close to the capital, we’re now onto phase two with a number of homes reserved, as well as early-bird enquiries at our new exclusive Colinton Heights development in Edinburgh.
Do you think house-hunters see the many benefits of buying a new home, or is there some persuasion needed?
I think they do see the many benefits - mostly a high standard of build and finish but also, low maintenance, lower running costs, higher insulation values, lower carbon emissions, as well as being pre-wired for new technology. A customer’s personal style of kitchen, choice on tiles and sanitary ware and decoration are always very important. At Richmond Home we’re very happy to liaise with clients on making changes to internal layouts and finishes to suit their personal needs. And we offer a 10-year warranty with all our homes.
What's the secret to a really good show home and are they still important?
I think they are very important, particularly to help people to visualise the space and quality of finish available in their new home. The secret is to finish it to appeal to the majority of your clients while highlighting what Richmond Homes can offer - our unique brand of housebuilding and a higher specification than many of our competitors, in other words, what singles Richmond Homes out as a good choice for a new home.
I also think show homes are even more important now than they every have been because of clients’ increased desire to see the quality of the finish. Great care and thought goes into our show homes, working with local designers and suppliers, to provide inspiration to clients on how they can finish their own homes.
How have customer expectations of specification and customer service changed over the last few years?
Well I think the aspirational home is well and truly back again post-crash. During the recession it went away, but now clients expect a very high quality of finish, state-of-the-art kitchens and sanitaryware, beautiful ceramic tiles etc. People’s homes are changing too in terms of usage - with more people home-working nowadays, It’s important that their house has facilities for study and work.
What are the ambitions for the company and what developments are in the pipeline for 2016?
Moving forward into 2016, our ambitions are to open a further two development sites of four- and five-bedroom luxury homes in addition to our current projects, and continue growing our development area in central Scotland.
We’re shortly getting started on a steading development with new builds at Brunstone in Edinburgh, plus, we launch our show home at Colinton Heights, also in Edinburgh, an exclusive development of seven townhouses in another very desirable location in the city. At East Calder in Midlothian, Kirkhill is another new development of four luxury detached villas; and we’re looking forward to finishing our successful development at Chesterhill Wood that I mentioned earlier.
I’m also very pleased to say our team has recently expanded and we’re excited about working on these new projects as a larger group, adapting to the market, continuing to grow and expand into new location areas in East Fife and Perthshire for instance. We’ll continue to offer a broad range of properties from starter homes through to the more luxurious bespoke end, while retaining our quality throughout. That’s the key to our success so far and we want to consolidate on that.
Find out more at www.richmondhomes.co.uk