One-on-one interview: Lesley Stringer of Hamptons International
This week. Marc Da Silva continues his series of interviews with senior figures in the new homes industry by posing the questions to Lesley Stringer, regional residential development and investment director at Hamptons International.
What areas do you cover? We market new homes for sale in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire.
What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas? There is improved market sentiment and a general feeling that we have turned the corner since the market downturn in 2007. Without doubt, we have seen a steady improvement across the regions, particularly in the western region of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire over the last 18 months.
One of our schemes, Thirlestaine Park in Cheltenham, a Berkeley Homes scheme of 60 luxury homes was 60% sold in the first few months of off-plan marketing - this emphasises the encouraging confidence returning to the market. In particular, during the last six months accelerated growth has occurred since the introduction of the Help to Buy equity scheme - this has kick-started sales of new homes as purchasers only need 5% deposits.
Consumer confidence is certainly growing, but purchasers have become more discerning and risk adverse and are now more than ever seeing their new-build purchases as long-term investments.
What types of properties are your firm selling? We are selling one-bedroom apartments from £135,000 up to five-bedroom luxury detached houses for just under £3m.
How much does a new home offered by Hamptons International typically cost to buy? We are averaging around £500,000 for the purchase of a new home.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new-build home as opposed to older property? There are some fantastic advantages of buying new homes. For example, most new-build properties are built to the latest environmental standards thereby significantly reducing utility bills.
The ten-year building warranty is also a huge positive when comparing a new build with a re-sale option as it gives purchasers fantastic peace of mind. New-build homes are also sold chain-free and are metaphorical ‘blank canvases', buyers are able to put their own stamp on their home without inheriting a design style which can be costly to change.
Another real selling point for new-build over re-sale is that developers quite often offer incentives such as stamp duty paid - this is hugely attractive to buyers especially at the lower to mid end of the market.
Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? For the right buyer, purchasing off-plan can bring many positives. For instance, buyers can personalise their home by selecting kitchen, floor covering and wall tiling and within reason the developer will undertake internal layout changes.
Very early buyers might also benefit from greater levels of discounts and incentives as developers seek to gain sales momentum and set benchmark values. It may even be a condition of their funding to sell a number of homes off-plan. In the current market however, developers can be reasonably firm on asking prices in the knowledge that sales are strong with plenty of pent up demand.
What is Hamptons International's USP? At Hamptons International we offer clients exceptional end to end service from land acquisition, valuation, development funding, social housing through to new home sales across London and the south of the UK. We are a local, national and international agent so we have unrivalled market knowledge and excellent levels of customer service.
Hamptons is also part of Countrywide, which is the largest estate agency group selling one in ten houses in the UK. The RDI team at Hamptons draws on an extremely large knowledge base covering all areas of the market with members of the team coming from varied backgrounds including commercial and property development.
Which Hamptons development has the best chance of winning a What House? Award? Long Walk Villas, Windsor by Octagon. Long Walk is a development comprising traditional-style villa properties - Octagon's team of talented in-house designers and architects have created a magnificent terrace of just nine homes, traditionally built in mellow brick with lavish York stone dressings, each with an integral garage, private rear garden and stunning roof top terrace. Long Walk Villas' homeowners have privileged views over Crown land from the privacy of their secluded and sheltered top-floor terraces.