This week, our continuous weekly series of exclusive interviews with senior figures in the UK new homes industry looks to the north-west of England as we put the questions to Marie Morris, sales director for Elan Homes in the North.
Please tell us a little about yourself and Elan Homes
Elan is a niche developer with our northern headquarters in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. In the North West, our core markets are Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and North Wales. The company’s objective is to build homes to meet local housing needs and to create vibrant and sustainable communities.
The team, myself included, has a wealth of housing industry experience – both professional and personal. I live in an Elan home with my husband, who works in commercial property, and our children.
What are you currently building and selling?
We’re currently building and selling in various locations including Tarporley, which was recently named one of the best places to live in Britain. The Birches is ideally situated just off the thriving high street and follows on from the sell-out success we’ve achieved at The Paddocks in nearby Kelsall. At Hall Gardens in South Warrington some of the homes enjoy views over neighbouring fields. At Vicarage Fields, near Crewe, we’ve sold all of the three-bedroom homes, but there’s a good choice of four-bedroom properties. In Stockport we’re giving a former hospital site a new lease of life with our Cherry Tree Park development. We’re also building apartments at Saltra, Salford Quays.
Do you have a "star" development outperforming the others and if so, what do you think are the reasons?
All of our developments are performing exceptionally well. Location is a key driver when we’re looking at purchasing a site as it’s an important factor for our customers. We carefully consider who would want to live in a neighbourhood and why. We take into account their needs and aspirations such as, schools, restaurants, employment prospects and transport facilities, all of which have an impact on quality of life. For example, Tarporley was ranked in the Sunday Times’ Best Places to Live guide – one of only 13 locations in the North West to make the grade.
How has the market in your region changed over the last 12 months and where do you think it's heading?
The housing market in the region has been really buoyant over the last 12 months and is continuing to grow. There’s a real supply issue in certain areas and there’s a need for new build homes to help address that gap in the market. The priority for us is to acquire land in those locations so that we can satisfy the demand from people who want to buy.
Are Help to Buy and your own purchase assistance schemes popular with your customers?
Help to Buy is a great way to reduce the initial cost of homeownership as it reduces both the size of the deposit and mortgage required to buy a home. It’s particularly popular with first-time buyers, but can potentially be used by other purchasers too. We also offer a range of move-making incentives across our developments. These can be tailored to individual customer circumstances so that they can purchase their ideal home.
What do you offer in terms of spec and service that differentiate you from the competition?
Because we’re a small company our focus is on building homes for our customers to live in. Our mantra is “homes you will love, inside and out”. We’re much closer to our customers when it comes to decision-making, which enables us to deliver a much more personal service and sets us apart from some larger companies.
We’ve recently introduced our new Signature range, which allows customers to upgrade their new home. Buyers can choose to add a combination of items including granite worktops to the kitchen with underslung sink and taps, superior floor tiling and carpets, oak internal doors and motorised garage doors amongst many other options.
What do you feel are the primary reasons your customers pick new build over a resale home?
One of the things people really love about buying a brand new home early in the build process is the amount of opportunities they have to personalise the property. They can select the finish of things like the kitchen cabinets and worktops and bathroom tiles, which we’ll install so that everything is ready when it’s time to move in. Whereas if they were to buy an older property, they’d be inheriting someone else’s choices and could face expensive bills for repairs and renovations. Plus there’s no onward chain that could delay matters and there’s need to wait for the previous occupants to move out.
Do you have any advice for would-be first-time buyers who think they may be priced out of homeownership?
Assess your finances and explore all of your options – you could be in a better position than you thought. With Help to Buy you should only need a 5% deposit. The scheme enables you to take out an equity loan for up to 20% of the property’s value interest free for up to five years. Mortgage lenders have lots of different products available for first-time buyers and by seeking independent advice you can find the right deal for you. The Help to Buy ISA is a great way to save for a deposit as the government will boost your savings by 25%. It’s also a good idea to register with your local authority for affordable housing as they tend to have schemes designed to help people onto the property ladder.
What's in the pipeline for Elan in your region?
It’s an exciting time for Elan in the North West as we’ve recently secured planning consent for two new projects – Aigburth Grange in South Liverpool and Westminster Place near Chester, both of which we’ll be launching ‘off plan’ this summer. As a Cheshire-based business we’re excited to be part of the regeneration of the former Saighton Camp site in Huntington, bringing the land back into good use by providing high quality housing. Work to prepare the land is now underway and we’ll soon be building a mix of two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom mews and detached designs.
In Liverpool we’ve previously built large and luxurious properties, but our new Aigburth Grange development will appeal to first-time buyers, families and downsizers alike as we’ll be building 40 homes including two-, three- and four-bedroom designs from our Regency Collection. We also have further developments planned in Neston, Congleton and Wilmslow amongst many other opportunities and are continually looking for additional land with development potential.