Marc Da Silva continues his weekly series of interviews with senior figures in the housebuilding industry with an exclusive chat with Dominic Waters, development director for Waters Homes.
What regions do you cover? We are a family-run business based in Leicestershire and working across the East Midlands. Alongside a number of private housing developments in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, we also work alongside some of the region's biggest housing associations on affordable housing schemes.
What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas? Consumer confidence is most certainly on the increase and there's a real buzz and energy returning to the market. Our Carrington Gate development in Nottingham is testament to this, with 90% of the properties already sold off-plan and 50% of those already exchanged before we even started on site.
Prices in the East Midlands have risen slightly since the start of 2013, which is definitely a major improvement on the past couple of years. However, developers still need to be realistic when it comes to price. Confidence may be increasing, but buyers are still exercising caution and it's up to us to meet their needs and calm any fears they have. I certainly wouldn't expect any major price hikes in the near future. It's more a case of a gentle, steady rise.
What types of property is your firm selling? Our focus at the moment is on two-bedroom palisade terraced homes and they're proving incredibly popular. It's a formula that's worked well for us over the last three years, mainly due to the affordability factor.
They're ideally suited to the first-time buyer market and we've also had a great deal of interest from investors.
How much does a new home by Waters Homes typically cost to buy? Working on the premise of one of our two-bedroom starter homes, a buyer would be looking at an investment of £125,000.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new-build home as opposed to older property? There are so many benefits. Firstly, new homes make better use of space as more care is taken at an early stage on the internal design layout. They're designed for modern living.
Cost effectiveness is also a major selling point, as new-build homes tend to have lower running costs and none of the short-term maintenance issues associated with buying an older property.
Taking the idea of cost-effectiveness to the next level, our new-build homes also offer what we refer to us ‘sustainability through intelligent living'. That's because we include eco features as part of the basic specification. So, all of our properties at Carrington Gate have photovoltaic panels on the roof, which convert solar radiation into direct current electricity. This creates a sustainable energy source and can significantly lowers utility bills.
When you buy new-build, you're also buying into a lifestyle.
Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? This is becoming an increasingly popular way of buying. We found that our purchasers like to get in early and have first choice when it comes to picking the property on a development that offers the best fit with their lifestyle.
I also think that everyone, no matter what price bracket they fall in to, dreams of having their own Grand Designs moment, and buying off-plan allows that to a degree. It means the buyer can have their own say on little touches during the build process, such as kitchen finishes, flooring and even the types of door handles we use. It offers an all-round personal experience.
What is Waters Homes' USP? We're a small housebuilder and I set the company up with my brother Damian in 1997. We were adamant that we never wanted to lose that sense of family as it helps to create that personal touch, which buyers sometimes miss out on with larger developers. Damian and I are still very much involved in the day-to-day site activities and I think that's really important. As directors, we aren't detached.
We've always strived to set ourselves apart from the competition by the quality of our basic specification. Yes, we're working at the cheaper end of the market, but that certainly doesn't mean quality should be sacrificed. We want to be seen to offer true value for money and a cost-effective, sustainable way of living.
That's why we include a number of eco features as standard, such as the photovoltaic panels on the roof. It's rare to get that sort of feature included in the basic specification and we also extend that ethos to those little touches to continue to set ourselves apart from the competition. It sounds silly but including things like the turf, an intruder alarm and higher-specification taps as standard, all makes a real difference.
Which of the developments Waters Homes is currently developing do you think stands the best chance of winning a What House? Award? It has to be the Carrington Gate development in the Sherwood area of Nottingham. The sales rate has been phenomenal and I think that the mix of product and location is just right.
Buyers in the area have really embraced our sustainability through intelligent living ethos and the success of the development shows that, as a company, we're making the right decisions and pitching ourselves at the correct level of the market.