One-on-one interview: Stephan Miles-Brown of Weston Homes
This week, Marc Da Silva catches up with Stephan Miles-Brown, who has recently been appointed as a non-executive director of Weston Homes.
Describe the Weston Homes portfolio
Our portfolio is a really interesting combination of medium size, bespoke housing schemes and large scale urban regeneration projects, in a mixture of traditional and contemporary styles. Whether large or small, urban or country, all our new homes embody the Weston Homes ‘signature style’ of high quality design, superb specification, beautiful landscaping and an utmost attention to detail, which runs through the company’s DNA and rightly attracts premium values.
Why did you become a non-executive director of Weston Homes?
I've been a huge fan of Bob Weston [chairman & managing director or Weston Homes] for many years and watched from the sidelines with great interest as he has grown the business to become one of the most prolific, intelligent and admired housebuilders in the UK.
He’s something of an industry polymath, with a deep interest in every aspect of the building process – his enthusiasm and dynamic approach has attracted a highly talented senior management team to help deliver his vision for the company. I have a deep affection for ‘owner-drivers’, arguably the best CEO’s in the business, and so when I was asked if I’d be interested in joining the board of Weston Group, I jumped at the opportunity.
What value does a non-executive director bring to the business?
The non-executive director (NXD) adds value across the piste, because one is able to stand back from the day to day decisions and look at the whole business with a sense of perspective and detachment, which is impossible in an executive position.
The NXD offers necessary ‘checks and balances’ to board debates and decisions and will often bring a wider business experience to many of the challenges and issues every board faces, displaying the independence to challenge and question when the need arises, to ensure that other views are heard and properly considered.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new build home as opposed to older property?
The obvious arguments for buying new build are – a ‘box new’ product, with all the advantages of a contemporary specification – fully fitted kitchens with all the latest gadgets and appliances, the latest designs in bathrooms, cloakrooms, showers etc., and of course the huge advantages of modern sustainability systems, in terms of insulation, heating and water.
Moreover, you can be assured that with a new property, an architect and interior designer will have given considerable thought to how you will actually use the property. So things like storage, lighting, power points, security etc., will all have been installed to optimise the efficiency of the accommodation – which is not always the case when taking over an older property, where necessary compromises will have been made as the property passes through different ownerships.
Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction?
It’s most certainly worth buying during the off-plan phase of the marketing – with sufficient time between exchange of contracts and physical completion. The developer will usually offer a good range of interior and specification options to ‘customise’ your new home and if you’re a buy-to-let investor, providing there is a reasonable period between paying your deposit and completing the purchase, and the market is moving forward during that period, there is the opportunity for a reasonable arbitrage.
What value do you put on the What House Awards?
I place great value on public recognition – particularly the What House? Awards, where the participants are judged by a panel of experts from within the industry. Participating, being short-listed and actually winning one of these highly coveted awards is great for all concerned.