One-on-one interview: David Bentley, head of new homes, Bidwells, Cambridge
Posted 16 October 2013 by Keith Osborne
Our ongoing series of interviews with senior figures in the new homes industry continues this week with Marc Da Silva putting some questions to David Bentley, head of new homes for Bidwells' Cambridge office.
What regions do you cover? We sell new-build homes in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex.
What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas? All areas are performing well with some exceptional, but expected, prime locations outperforming other locations. Cambridge places itself firmly at the top of those 'hot-spots' with anticipated growth this year to reach double figures, fuelled by the continued under supply of stock, and strong residential appetite.
What types of property is your firm selling? A complete spectrum, from investor city apartment stock to 5,500-sq-ft villas, whilst still encompassing traditional housing to award-winning, 'outside the box', product.
How much does a new home offered by Bidwells typically cost to buy? Our average new-build price last year was £380,000, although this is a moving beast dependent on what schemes are available at a given point. Our core business is focused in Cambridge where average per-square-foot rates are now in excess of £425.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new-build home as opposed to older property? New-build homes have many appeals, whether that be maintenance, running costs, warranties or the general excitement of buying ‘new'. People are also much more aware of running costs these days with many clients demonstrating this through EPC's and charts showing the real cost-benefit comparison. Old still has its appeal and charm, but I feel improved design, creative architecture has been really embraced by many developers and we have some exciting products that have won over those, ‘I don't want brand new' purchasers.
Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? Absolutely. Whilst it's a leap of faith for some, it reaps reward and benefit in the long term. Generally, capital values improve through the duration of a scheme as street scenes evolve and curtains appear at windows. There is also a degree of 'willing' by some developer clients to underpin a scheme, and sell those first few units at good value to gather sales momentum.
What is Bidwells's USP? Our passion for client service embraced for over 170 years. Whilst I haven't been around all that time our commitment to our service standards is our lifeline and recognised by all client levels!
Which of the developments Bidwells is currently selling do you think stands the best chance of winning a What House? Award? That's a difficult question as we have some fantastic core central urban schemes to several strategic sites that offer real quality design and individual product. The regeneration of CB1 at Cambridge station at Ceres by Hill Residential has been a huge success and changed the gateway to the city, and then we have the iconic The Marque by Almaren, which provides the tallest residential tower, and Kaleidoscope with Crest Nicholson providing a stunning collection of city apartments.
If I were to place my money on any winners I would lean towards the recent fringe expansions to the city through Great Kneighton with Countryside Properties and Trumpington Meadows with Barratts. These two schemes encompass acres of parkland, some very creative design and individual product, and have fully embraced the creation of a new suburb of the city with all the added benefits and requirements that have been years in the making. As both these schemes are evolving, what has been created is a credit to all parties and is being rewarded by the level of demand being shown in them.