This week our regular series of interview with senior figures from the UK’s large and small housebuilders turns to Kitewood, a development and investment company focused on London and the South East, and poses the questions to its chief executive, Philip Van Reyk.
Where in London and the South East is your firm developing new homes?
In London, we are looking at sites between zones 3 and 5 and currently have schemes in Greenwich, Deptford, Sydenham, and Peckham. We also have a scheme in West Drayton, very close to the new Crossrail station.
In terms of the South East, we are developing homes in London commuter towns such as Horley, Surrey; Hailsham, East Sussex; Salisbury in Wiltshire; and have strategic land sites in Kent and Berkshire.
What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas?
Our developments in Greenwich and Horley have both sold really well. We are also seeing a lot of interest in Woodacres, our Hailsham scheme. The market in London and the South East for homes under a million is generally very good at the moment. RICS recently reported that the number of house sales has risen at its fastest pace for 16 months.
What residential projects are Kitewood currently working on and what’s in the development pipeline?
We have just sold the last unit at The Peltons, a 138-unit scheme in Greenwich; all of the nine high-end houses at Bluebird Gate in Horley, which we launched in May this year, are either reserved or completed; and four are already reserved at Woodacres in Hailsham, where we launched 19 houses two weeks ago.
In terms of our pipeline, we have various projects throughout London and the South East where we either have planning or are in the process of obtaining it. We have a further 51 units at Woodacres; a consent for 57 houses in Polegate; a site for 12 houses in Rochester; Creekside Village East in Deptford, a 216-unit scheme which is still at the planning stage; Tavistock Gardens in West Drayton, a 308-unit scheme that we have just received consent for; Lawrie Place in Sydenham, where we are due to start on site for 46 houses; Cossall View in Peckham, a joint venture with Crest Nicholson for 122 apartments on a former school site; a site for eight houses in Salisbury which we intend to launch soon; a 60-unit strategic land site in Bracknell, Berkshire; and a number of further strategic land sites in the Canterbury district, where we are looking to get consent for 300 to 500 units.
All in all, we have circa 2,000 plots in the pipeline.
What types of properties are Kitewood developing?
We are developing a mixture of apartments and family houses. Our apartment schemes are generally between two and nine storeys but our Deptford scheme will take us to 20-plus storeys. We also build care homes for the elderly and recently forward sold an 80-bed scheme in Sevenoaks to Octopus Healthcare.
We have an element of commercial property as well. This is usually part of a mixed-use scheme but we do have some stand-alone commercial including a business park in Herne Bay, Kent.
How much does a new home by Kitewood typically cost to buy?
We tend to focus on the mainstream market. Generally speaking, our properties are less than £1m, although some of the family houses we are developing in London will be in excess of this. The lowest price we have is a two-bedroom house at our Woodacres scheme selling for £215,000, and the highest will be our five-bedroom detached house in Sydenham which we expect to be priced at around £1.6m when we launch the development.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new build home as opposed to older property?
New homes are built using the latest designs and specifications with modern materials. They are more energy efficient with, for instance, the latest insulation, heating and glazing systems, and so are more economic than older homes in terms of running costs. They also have lower maintenance costs and high security standards.
With a new home you have peace of mind as all of our properties come with a 10-year warranty. Another benefit is that the buying process can be quite stressful and with a new build property you are buying a home which isn’t in a chain.
What challenges do housebuilders face in today’s market?
Construction costs are rising as a result of labour shortages so that will impact on margins. There is also planning uncertainty surrounding the forthcoming change of the London Mayor, and we are still waiting to see the outcome of the Conservative’s new planning policies. The change to stamp duty before the election has clearly impacted the top end of the market, but that doesn’t really affect us so much.
What is Kitewood’s USP?
Our USP is that we don’t have a standard house type. Every home is designed to suit its location and the market. For us, it’s about creating the right product, in the right place, and at the right price.
Which of the developments Kitewood is currently developing do you think stands the best chance of winning a WhatHouse? Award?
The ones we enter! Bluebird Gate was put forward for Best House. We think it’s a great home for the price point. Prices range from £585,000 to £850,000, which is good for a family home that is only 33 minutes from central London by train.
The houses sit on very good-sized plots and have been individually designed to suit their surroundings. Each property benefits from the high quality kitchens, bathrooms, fixtures and fittings, and floor and wall tiling.