One-on-one interview: Stephen Wicks of Inland Homes

Posted 15 December 2014 by Keith Osborne

This week, Marc Da Silva continues his ongoing series of interviews with senior figures within the UK’s housebuilding industry by posing the questions to Stephen Wicks, chief executive of Inland Homes.

Which areas of the UK do you cover? We operate principally in the South of England with sites stretching from Poole in Dorset across the South East and up to Ipswich.

Developments underway include a new ‘Garden Village’ in West Drayton called Drayton Garden Village, the Queensgate development in Farnborough and Carter’s Quay, which has kick-started the regeneration of Poole Harbour. We are also very excited about the recent purchase of Wilton Park in Beaconsfield, a 110-acre site where we plan to build a new community of more than 300 homes.

What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas? The demand for homes in the areas we operate has been very buoyant and this has been assisted by government schemes such as Help to Buy.

What types of properties is your firm developing? We offer new build properties ranging from studios and one-bedroom apartments for first-time buyers to spacious four-bedroom homes.

What projects are in the development pipeline? Inland currently controls over 35 sites with approximately 4,000 residential plots and 500,000 sq ft of commercial space in the South East. These range from large former Ministry of Defence sites such as Wilton Park in Beaconsfield, which all deliver upwards of 300 homes, to former hospitals, nurseries, public houses, office blocks, factory premises and a TV studio.

How much does a new home by Inland Homes typically cost to buy? We aim to build homes which are for first-time buyers as well as those that wish to move up the chain. Prices range from £170,000 for a studio to £520,000 for a four-bedroom home.

Why should more buyers consider buying a new build home as opposed to older property? There are so many benefits. The buying process is often simpler, allowing you to be at the end of a chain rather than in the middle. Buyers have more choice in the style of home they purchase and, subject to construction stage, you can personalise your home before you move in. It’s a neutral canvas with no dated décor or under-maintained exteriors from previous occupants to inspire ‘DIY’ and drain your cash.

New build properties are designed to suit modern lifestyles, are built to last and offer long warranties. Inland Homes use up to 50% less energy than homes built in the early 1980s. Sound insulation is also much better and safety and security is a priority. Electrical circuits are designed for today’s lifestyles, double glazing and locks are new and secure and today’s natural ventilation systems and new materials can bring health benefits to those suffering from allergies and asthma. Also, once you have moved in to your new home, you have the benefit of neighbours who are in the same situation as you, making it relatively easy to make new friends and acquaintances.

Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? Yes, in the areas in which we operate it is definitely worth buying off-plan. Apart from the obvious benefit of having more input into how your new home is designed, when the time comes to move again it’s likely that you will be happy with the resale price of your new home. The value of your property will be linked to the last price that your home type sold for on the development, as values increase in line with the last price offered for sale. So if you buy early, your potential increase will be that much greater.

What is Inland Homes’ USP? We started out in 2005 as a brownfield developer, regenerating plots of under-utilised or contaminated land and selling them on to other developers as safe ‘oven-ready’ plots for new home construction.

Latterly, although we have continued to focus on the regeneration of brownfield land, we are increasingly building on the land ourselves. At Inland Homes the focus is very much on excellence in regeneration, sustainability and design. We engage in extensive public and community consultation in order to ensure that, where possible, local community needs and opportunities are met.

In short, Inland’s aim as a specialist housebuilder is to create sustainable communities and homes which set a benchmark for all future developments in the South of England.  

How pleased are you that Inland Homes won a WhatHouse? Award this year? We are very proud of all Inland Homes’ developments, but this year we chose to enter Drayton Garden Village (DGV) in the awards and are delighted to have won a Silver award for Best Landscape Design.

DGV is a brand new 779 home ‘garden village’ community being created by us on a 31-acre site, formerly RAF West Drayton. The ‘Garden Village’ concept is now starting to gain traction, and we think DGV is quite pioneering, in part because of its innovative, low-carbon District Heat Network (DHN) which powers the whole community.   

The latest Inland Homes phase at DGV is Vista, containing 43 two-, three- and four-bedroom houses. Some 13 out of 15 of the first few released in July were reserved at the launch weekend, so there is great demand, not least because of the Crossrail link at nearby West Drayton Station, which is due to become operational in late 2019.

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