Katie Hunter, senior new homes manager at Waterfords estate agents, is the latest senior industry figure to take time out of her busy schedule to answer the questions posed by Marc Da Silva.
What regions do you cover? We sell new homes in Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey.
What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas? The market in these areas is extremely buoyant, with demand outstripping supply in a big way. At the moment, we are actively encouraging developers to sell off-plan which is a huge change in mindset from this time last year. The general shortage of properties in our area has also been driven by a surge of prospective buyers looking to take advantage of the Help to Buy scheme. This has really helped to encourage first-time buyers back to the marketplace thus increasing the middle and upper ends of the market to move things forward.
What types of property is your firm selling? We sell everything from single units provided by individual builders, through to large multiple unit developments by major housebuilders such as Bellway Homes.
The areas within which we operate such as Camberley, Sunningdale and Ascot, are highly affluent locations, so the majority of our properties tend to start at the mid-range, upward. One- and two-bedroom homes are in less demand in these areas.
How much does a new home offered by Waterfords typically cost to buy? Our prices currently start from £300k increasing to our largest instruction which is £7.5m.
At present, our cheapest property is a three-bedroom mid-terrace at Mayborne Gardens, in Sandhurst, Berkshire, priced at £320,000. We are currently dealing predominantly with the premium end of the market therefore averaging above the £1m mark. This has been supported by the instruction of an impressive crescent of 17 luxury townhouses in Sunninghill, prices start from £1.2m. We have sold out of all of our mid-range housing between £500,000 and £800,000.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new-build home as opposed to older property? New-build homes offer so many advantages. New homes are well insulated and include double glazing as standard, making them cheaper to run than older homes. They offer a blank canvas for the purchaser to put their own stamp on everything, from the kitchen worktops to the type of flooring, and this can be very appealing for some. With no property chain the process is much more likely to be hassle-free and unlike years gone by, prices of new-build properties are now far more in line with the re-sale market, meaning it's possible to get new homes for almost the same price. This is because surveyors will value as a re-sale property for mortgage purposes so that buyers don't pay a premium. New homes also come with a 10-year warranty from providers such as Premier Guarantee or the NHBC.
Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? The advantages of buying off-plan are that you can pinpoint the best plot for you, have choice over garden size, parking space and, depending on the builder, potentially alter the internal layout to suit your requirements, e.g. open-plan or not.
You can also have a say in the final specification and choice of fixtures and fittings and this is one of the big selling points from a builder's point of view.
With new-build homes in greater demand than we have seen for some time, this is certainly a growing trend, but with more and more houses being sold off-plan, buyers really do have to get in there early to secure the one they want.
What is Waterfords' USP? Waterfords New Homes is a dedicated department specialising solely in the marketing and management of new-build developments.
For a small independent agency we feel we have built a comprehensive New Homes department unrivalled by any other agent locally. Since launching the department just two-and-a-half years ago, we have worked alongside major housebuilders such as Antler and Bellway, as well as smaller local companies and individual builders, with some impressive results. To date, we have sold every unit that we have been instructed on sole agency and our only limitation is the level of new-build properties coming to the market.
We put our customer service at the core of everything we do, provide one on one support and have been instrumental in providing developers with an in-depth viability appraisal of potential development sites. As a result, we can provide evidence of where our local knowledge has impacted the planning of sites to ensure the building of homes which we know, from our experience, will be met by sufficient demand.
Which of the developments Waterfords is currently selling do you think stands the best chance of winning a What House? Award? Whilst each of the developments we are actively marketing are designed specifically to meet the needs of those they have been built to target, I think Claremont, a crescent of 17 luxury four- and five-bedroom townhouses in the Berkshire village of Sunninghill, would have the greatest chance. In particular, plot 2 which is the show home, ‘Marlborough House'. This is a stunning semi-detached five-bedroom townhouse set across 3,030 sq ft over four floors with split levels, which means the property has so many interesting spaces to it. It has been finished to an extremely high standard and has a guide price of £1.395m.