We mark the start of Shared Ownership Week (15-21 September) with a special interview with Simon Neary, head of sales and marketing at Notting Hill Sales, a pioneering company in the history of the Shared Ownership scheme and a highly active company to this day in helping those on a modest budget own a new build home in London.
Hi Simon, please tell us a little about yourself and Notting Hill Sales.
I have over 15 years’ experience working extensively in the both private and public sector housing, currently holding the position of head of sales and marketing of Notting Hill Home Ownership at Notting Hill Sales. My property and development expertise ranges from pre-planning valuation and viability, to strategic sales and marketing programmes. One of my priorities at Notting Hill Sales is to maximise sales for both private and Shared Ownership homes across the development pipeline, optimising exceptional homes to maximise saleability and satisfaction for buyers, providing them with beautiful places to live, and investing in a better London.
Shared Ownership is a powerful buying tool for house-hunting Londoners - what are you currently offering them under the scheme?
Contrary to popular belief, we offer homes across London not just in Notting Hill! As the original pioneers of Shared Ownership in 1980, we have lots of current shared ownership developments in all corners of the capital, from the North in Arnos Grove and Islington, East in Woolwich and at the Royal London Docks, West in Hammersmith and South in Streatham and West Norwood.
Our Shared Ownership prices currently start from £82,500 for a 25% share, and we have everything from one-bedroom apartments, to duplexes and triplexes and three-bedroom townhouses, perfect for single professionals, young couples, families, and downsizers. We also have some very exciting new schemes coming in the next 12 months, including a large regeneration project at Canada Water and a superb mixed-tenure scheme in Clapham. Watch this space for updates!
What sort of eligibility criteria should buyers be aware of with Shared Ownership?
There’s not as much as you might think! Thanks to the recently changed eligibility criteria (in April) Shared Ownership is now open to a lot more potential buyers. The scheme is no longer just for first-time buyers, and the previous cap on the number of bedrooms has now been lifted. It is also open to buyers with any job or profession – not just key workers. The income cap has also been raised, so if you have an annual household income of £80,000 or below (or £90,000 or below in London) then you are eligible.
Most of our schemes are also open to anyone living in London, although some local authorities opt to limit Shared Ownership to those living and working in certain boroughs, so it’s worth checking this too. Buyers should seek mortgage advice too, to ensure their circumstances allow them to borrow funds (if required) and pay the remaining rental share.
There's an option on the scheme for more senior house-hunters too - can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes, we currently have and older person's shared ownership development, Cheviot Gardens in West Norwood, which is exclusively for those aged 55 and over, ideal for those who’d like to downsize. The scheme has a real community feel and there is the added benefit of having extra-care facilities too. Furthermore, with this scheme, when buyers purchase a 75% share, they will not have to pay the remaining 25%, which helps them free up extra equity to enjoy their retirement. Prices here start at £147,000 for a 40% share of a one-bedroom apartment, and from £182,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.
Are there common misunderstandings to Shared Ownership that you'd be happy to dismiss?
Yes, gladly! As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of myths about Shared Ownership, but we understand that it can be confusing for buyers, which is why we are delighted be part of Shared Ownership Week [http://www.sharedownershipweek.co.uk/ ]again this year, to hopefully bust those myths and help people understand that this is a great home ownership solution, that we at Notting Hill are proud to have started over 30 years ago.
Here’s a few misunderstandings that I’d like to clear up:
- it’s not just for first-time buyers
- it’s not just for key workers
- it’s not just for low-income households
- and perhaps most importantly, Shared Ownership homes are not the poor relation! They come with just as good a spec as any new home on the open market, and at Notting Hill, we select prime, popular, well-connected locations for all our Shared Ownership homes.
I should also add that the process for staircasing is very straightforward, as is the process of selling, so buyers should not be put off by any notion that they are entering into a complicated arrangement.
Does the buying process for Shared Ownership new builds differ much from open-market transactions?
No, it’s all fairly standard and straightforward. Once the housing association assesses your eligibility for Shared Ownership, you can proceed with arranging your mortgage with any of the lenders who offer this type of loan, and proceed with the usual legal process.
The ability to increase their ownership ('staircase') will appeal to many - what's the process for that?
Staircasing is a great way to gradually increase your ownership, as your financial circumstances change, all the way up to owning your home outright. The process is very simple, and you can speak to your housing association when you feel like you are in a position to increase your share. Typically, this will mean having a further valuation of your property, to determine how much you will need to pay for your new share, and what your monthly rent will reduce to, and then the usual buying process will start again, with the arranging of your mortgage with your current lender and solicitors agreeing the legal paperwork.
First-time buyers can be nervous about the buying process - how does the Notting Hill Sales team help their customers?
We have been helping our customers buy homes for decades, and we understand that the whole process can be extremely daunting, especially if it’s your first home. We help all prospective buyers and purchasers at every step of the way, often recommending IFAs and solicitors, and we communicate regularly with our customers to ensure the buying process runs as smoothly as possible. We know also that in particular, the concept of part-buying and part-renting with Shared Ownership can cause some confusion initially, but our dedicated sales team ensure that all Shared Ownership purchasers understand all the options and what they can expect from the buying process.
Are there changes to the Shared Ownership scheme that you would like to see implemented by London's new mayor, or the government?
We believe Shared Ownership is a viable solution to solving the housing crisis in London. The rental market is completely overwhelmed, and whilst I appreciate that there are those who prefer to rent, there is, I believe, a significant proportion of renters who would like to be able to own a home. Not only are we contributing to housing supply, as the seventh largest housebuilders in London, but we are also offering a much needed alternative to private renting and open-market buying.
The changes in the criteria in April has certainly opened up the market, but it would be great if the Mayor and the government could help spread more awareness of the Shared Ownership option, and also support its delivery through the Land and Planning system.
Would it be possible for buyers looking for their own place by Christmas to consider it a possibility with Shared Ownership?
Yes, and we currently have a range of apartments and townhouses that are now completed and ready for purchasers to move in for Christmas!
Your guide to Shared Ownership from WhatHouse? is free to download.