Our weekly series of interviews with senior people in the UK housebuilding industry continues this week with an organisation that builds homes in many parts of the UK, as we speak to Julie Stafford, head of sales and marketing at Guinness Homes.
Julie, please tell us a little about you and your role, and about Guinness Homes.
With over 20 years’ experience of marketing and selling shared ownership homes. I have worked at Guinness Homes as head of marketing and sales for the last seven years. Based in Gloucester, I manage a team of 13 people, who provide sales services ranging from scheme inception to sales completion.
What I find so exciting about working at Guinness Homes is the variety, every day is different. As we are selling apartments and houses all over the country, our buyers are also very different; from young single people looking to take the first step to buy their first home, to families looking for room to thrive and grow, or older purchasers looking to downsize and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle.
Where is Guinness Homes currently operating and what sort of properties do you build?
Our team has a national brief, which means we can be selling homes from Manchester to Brighton and from Southend to Plymouth. Over the last couple of years, we have also become involved in selling homes on the open market, in areas such as Milton Keynes and London.
You've just released a new phase of homes in Bethnal Green – can you give us some details about that?
I am really proud of our scheme at Suttons Wharf, near Bethnal Green. Working with our developer Hollybrook we have built over 260 homes in blocks of one-, two- and three-bed apartments, the specification and the standard of finish is excellent, as is the location right next to the canal.
We have recently launched the final phase of Titanium Point and as with the previous phases we have focused our marketing on selling to owner-occupiers, who want to live in the area rather than property investors.
Is there a show home that buyers can visit, and is such a thing still important to many buyers?
The apartments are finished and ready to move into now, so prospective purchasers can view the apartment they are really interested in buying, and spend time planning where they want to put their sofa, bed and other furniture, rather than getting anxious about what the property will look like when it is finished. There is also a show apartment to give potential purchasers an example of how the apartment will look once they move in.
Are you finding buying enquiries come more from local people or from others who are keen to move in to discover city life?
Our enquiries for Titanium Point have come from all over the country even as far as Wales and Scotland. We’ve also had purchasers moving in from across the road.
Titanium Point is a great base to enjoy the very best of city life, it is close to some great parks, local shops and markets and transport connections. The area is a rather eclectic shopping paradise for those looking to buy a new home close to the hustle and bustle of a traditional market, with six of London’s renowned street markets nearby. The location is also great for the tube into the city and West End, while the panoramic views of the East London skyline from the upper floors are stunning.
What response have you had from buyers since Help to Buy London was introduced earlier this year?
Since the rules on Help to Buy London were changed earlier in the year we have seen a huge increase in demand from first-time buyers looking for apartments at our schemes in Bethnal Green and Elephant & Castle. Purchasers who had previously thought they would never be able to afford a new home are now able to buy because of Help to Buy.
How has the market changed in recent months in the areas where you 're building and what do you think lies ahead over the coming 6-12 months?
Because we work all over the country, I have seen that we don’t have just one housing market. There are thousands of housing markets operating all at once with varying degrees of success. Everywhere we work the demand for new build homes, which are cheaper to run and easier to maintain is rising. Our new homes are designed to fit around our purchasers’ lifestyles and enhance their lives and Titanium Point is an excellent example of this.
No one knows what the next 12 months will bring in terms of house prices and availability. But, having lived through a number of recessions and housing booms, my advice would be to spend time looking for the home you love, rather than trying to second guess the market.
What do you see as the main points that might differentiate the products and service of Guinness Homes from other developers?
At Guinness Homes we are committed to making our buyers feel special and work hard to make their experience of buying one of our homes amazing. It’s a huge step and we are here to help you make it.