Marc Da Silva presents the next part of his ongoing series of interviews with senior figures in the new homes industry, looking east to talk to Peter Blemings, managing director of Anglian housebuilder Gipping Homes.
Where in the country is your firm developing new homes? We mainly build properties in Suffolk and currently have a major project in Old Felixstowe, with a further four sites around the county. Rarely do we venture further afar, although we have built properties in Cambridgeshire and close to the Norfolk border.
What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas? Suffolk is seeing a great property boom, the likes of which we haven't seen for a number of years now. Properties are not staying on the market for long at all and there is a shortage of good-quality new and second-hand houses available, and so when they do come to market, the average time to achieving a sale is generally just four to six weeks. We have of course been through a difficult few years, trying to limit our stock of completed property, but now we have no fully finished properties available due to high demand.
What types of properties is your firm developing? We mainly build detached family homes, but have in the past built brand new apartments and also converted properties into apartments and added in new-builds at the same time.
What projects are Gipping Homes working on and what's in the development pipeline? Our main project at the moment is the conversion of the amazing Grade II* former convalescence home in Felixstowe - The Bartlet - together with the former nurses' annexe which was originally part of the Bath Hotel in Felixstowe and which has just celebrated the 100th anniversary of it being burnt down by the suffragettes. It's an amazing site and we are very proud to be transforming the site into 33 unique luxury homes.
We are also completing on two of our sites - one in Wingfield and one in Bacton - and about to start transforming the former Cherry Tree public house at our Drinkstone development which comprises 15 detached family homes.
We have other sites in the pipeline, again in Suffolk, but are still working on the schematics of these, so will release them onto our website as ‘coming soon' within the next few months.
How much does a new home by Gipping Homes typically cost to buy? That's a tough one to answer really, as we don't build standard homes, but I suppose an average start price in the current market for a three-bedroom house would be around £300,000. However, our apartments at The Bartlet are most definitely in a different league and to date, prices of the first six reserved units have vary between £385,000 and £540,000.
Why should more buyers consider buying a new-build home as opposed to older property? Nowadays people are so busy that, unless you are able to juggle your leisure time with work, they don't have the time to buy an older house and do it up themselves. Not only that, but financially, it doesn't always stack up as the work involved to improve electrics, plumbing, heating, possibly the roof and then redecorate everything, can end up costing you more than buying a brand new house, where everything is done for you.
What's more, everything has a guarantee, it's never been used before and you can simply move in and enjoy your home at leisure, particularly if it has been built by a reputable company with a proven track record.
At The Bartlet, we are offering the best of both worlds - a new-build within the envelope of an iconic building, where the remaining fabric has been restored and many features retained.
Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? Most definitely it is from Gipping Homes. If our buyers get in early enough, subject to stage of construction, they can have an input into the layout of not only rooms such as the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms, but also into the fitting out.
For example, if we haven't got to the first fix stage, they can choose to have more or fewer downlights in the kitchen, add in an Island to give additional workspace or even to house a hob and retractable extractor - great things they are! We will always try and accommodate them.
What is Gipping Homes' USP? Our USP is that we can build bespoke properties at speculative prices. We are a small company who pride ourselves on delivering very high-quality, individual homes and we prefer to take our time over the build, rather than throw them up and look like everyone else.
Our team have been with us for many years, some from as young as 15-year-olds on work experience, who are now senior project and site managers who not only look after the developments and teams they work with, but take pleasure in meeting our purchasers and being involved from day one. When you buy a Gipping Home, you're buying a part of the company not just the house.
Which of the developments Gipping Homes is currently developing do you think stands the best chance of winning a WhatHouse? Award? Funnily enough I was just looking at the categories this morning and believe we have a great chance of winning next year the Best Renovation award for The Bartlet and/or, indeed, for the best Landscape Design.