One-on-One interview with Karl Hick of Allison Homes

Posted 9 January 2015 by Keith Osborne

Marc Da Silva starts a new year of weekly interviews with senior figures in the property industry with a one-to-one with Karl Hick, ceo of Allison Homes, a newcomer to the housebuilding scene in the East of England.

What persuaded you to launch a new company? Although Allison Homes is being launched as a ‘new’ company, the brand is actually not so new. The launch is a ‘rebirth’ for Allison Homes.

In 1987 I became managing director of a Spalding-based company trading under that name when it was acquired by Wiggins GP PLC, a Docklands property developer for which I was working at the time. Wiggins, however, suffered serious financial problems at group level and extracted substantial cash from Allison, as a result of which the company went into receivership in June 1992.

I knew that Allison was a profitable company trading under a respected and recognised name and I agreed a deal to acquire the business. Over the next eight years I grew Allison Homes into a successful business. A year later, after selling Allison Homes, I went on to set up what is now Larkfleet Group with flagship housebuilding company Larkfleet Homes.

Now, more than a decade later, I have acquired the rights to use the Allison Homes name again and the company is effectively being relaunched as part of Larkfleet Group. Allison Homes had an excellent reputation for quality throughout the 1980s and 1990s and I am keen to bring that back to life as part of the Larkfleet Group.

One of the things that has made our flagship company and housebuilder, Larkfleet Homes, so successful is that as a relatively small housebuilder we have been able to give personal service and real customer focus, paying attention to the small details that make a house a home. But our success threatens those very characteristics. Larkfleet Homes is growing and, as it does so, it becomes more difficult for management to have that ‘hands-on’ role which I think is so important.

So, we are launching Allison Homes as a separate entity within the group to ensure that it – and Larkfleet Homes – can continue to deliver the quality that we feel is vital. With both Allison Homes and Larkfleet Homes, we will continue to keep meeting the demand for high-quality new homes and provide the great service our customers have come to expect.

How will Allison Homes differ to Larkfleet Homes? Allison Homes will have its own management team and its own staff but its property offering will in many ways mirror the existing ‘flagship’ company in the group, Larkfleet Homes.

Like Larkfleet Homes, Allison is committed to building to the highest standard using sustainable materials – such as sustainably sourced timber frames. Our properties will come with a two-year guarantee and an insurance-backed NHBC warranty for the next eight years – giving buyers ten years’ peace of mind. Our homes will also meet the latest standards for things such as fire protection, electrical safety and noise insulation.

Larkfleet Homes has helped many homebuyers onto the property ladder with the government’s Help to Buy scheme. Allison Homes will also offer the scheme, helping homebuyers to purchase the home they want, often sooner and for less than they think possible.

Where in the UK will Allison Homes develop new properties? Allison Homes will build a range of homes across the East of England and East Midlands, from starter homes for first-time buyers through to large executive houses.

What are housing market conditions currently like in the East of England and East Midlands? The housing market is definitely improving and Larkfleet Homes’ sales figures demonstrate this. I think there is a now a confidence from homebuyers who are finding schemes such as the government’s Help to Buy initiative extremely useful in helping them secure a new property.

The locations of Allison Homes’ developments will allow homebuyers to get the best of both worlds – a rural location with extensive transport links to surrounding cities, including London. By purchasing a property in these areas, homebuyers can make their money go a lot further and not comprise their work-life balance.

What types of properties will Allison Homes build? Much like Larkfleet Homes, Allison Homes will offer a variety of different property types to suit a variety of homebuyers – from first-time buyers to growing families looking for a little more room.

A specialist division within the new business – Allison Luxury Homes – will design and develop bespoke individual properties.

What projects have Allison Homes got in the pipeline? Allison Homes will shortly be announcing its first development sites. Allison Luxury Homes has launched Anvils Mews, an exclusive collection of just nine stone-built properties close to the centre of the market town of Stamford, Lincolnshire. There are nine townhouses and a single-storey property within the development, all arranged around a central block-paved secure courtyard. There are two parking spaces per property as well as visitor parking. All the properties will also feature high-quality interior design elements.

How much will a new home by Allison Homes typically cost to buy? Allison Homes properties will follow a similar pricing structure as Larkfleet Homes. Properties will start at around £120,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and go up to £250,000-plus for larger, four- to five-bedroom family homes.

As well as the government’s Help to Buy scheme, we will also offer several of our own incentive schemes.

Why should more buyers consider buying a new build home as opposed to older property? There are many benefits of buying a new property instead of a second-hand home. With a new property, there is no chain on the home you are buying so you don’t have to wait for someone to move out. If you are eligible for one of our part exchange deals, you don’t have to wait to sell your own home either. It can be a completely stress and hassle-free move, with no one unexpectedly falling out of the chain.

A new home is clean and untouched by previous owners, giving you the chance to put your own stamp on your new home. DIY and maintenance jobs are also greatly reduced with a new home as after all, everything is brand new, thus saving you money and giving you more time with your family and friends.

New homes are fitted with high-efficiency heating systems, good wall and loft insulation and double glazed windows and doors. Like Larkfleet Homes, Allison Homes will pay close attention to energy efficiency. We will also offer PV (photovoltaic) panels on many Allison Homes properties which will generate electricity from sunlight – cutting emissions and energy bills.

Allison properties will come with a two-year guarantee and an insurance-backed NHBC warranty for the next eight years – giving you ten years’ peace of mind that any building defects will be fixed without costing you a penny. You won’t get that with a second-hand home!

Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? Absolutely. As one of the first homebuyers on a development, you have a greater choice of properties. You may also be able to utilise any incentive schemes on offer to best effect.

Reserving early also has advantages when it comes to adding personal touches to a property. If you reserve your home early enough in the building process, or even before building begins, you will be able to choose from a range of options for kitchens and bathrooms – and maybe other things too – to make your new home reflect your tastes.

If you talk to our sales teams early enough, you can include your choice of things such as carpets and kitchen appliances in the cost of the house that is covered by your mortgage – so you don’t have to find money for these things just as you move in. There’s less expenditure on buying replacements over the next few years, too. You will have new equipment covered by manufacturers’ warranties that should give years of service.

What will be Allison Homes’ USP? As Allison Homes will mirror Larkfleet Homes in its offering to homebuyers, it will also mirror Larkfleet’s dedication to quality, sustainability, the environment and local communities.

Allison Homes will come with a ten-year insurance-backed guarantee – and we care about our customers. Our sales teams are on hand to help homebuyers at every stage of their move – and beyond.

As a regional business, we will strive to employ local people, place contracts with local suppliers and support local schools and charities wherever possible. We will also minimise waste and the use of materials during construction and we protect wildlife around our sites.

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