First Time Buyer Home Show - Q&A with organiser Lynda Clark

Posted 20 March 2017 by Keith Osborne

We speak to Lynda Clark, organiser of the First Time Buyer Home Shows and the First Time Buyer Readers' Awards...

Lynda Clark is a major figure in the new homes market for first-time buyers, not only as editor of bi-monthly publication First Time Buyer magazine but also as organiser of the First Time Buyer Home Shows and the First Time Buyer Readers’ Awards. Ahead of the next Show in London (Saturday 25 March) and this year’s Awards event (21 April), we speak to Lynda about her portfolio and today’s property market.

Hi Lynda, can you tell us about this spring's First Time Buyer Home Show?

This spring we are hosting a very exciting new show in Stratford Town Hall in Newham, East London. It’s a really exciting property hotspot where there is so much going on at them moment in terms of new homes and regeneration, so we decided it was a great place for the next show. Already we know it’s going to be a busy show as even a month ahead of the event we have nearly 1,000 people registered to come – the most we have ever had signed up at this stage and before we’ve done any serious advertising. So it’s looking set to be a great day!

Are there any new exhibitors for this show?

Many of our regular exhibitors will be there and we also have a few new ones too to add to the line-up. We have a wonderful new headline sponsor this year, East Thames, which has a great range of Shared Ownership properties available. We have a couple of new exhibitors at the next show, including Weston Homes, who amongst others will be able to showcase a great range of properties that they have available, perfect for first-time buyers.

The seminars are usually very busy - are you covering all topics again over the length of the show?

Yes, the seminars are a great way to find out in greater depth an area of information that homebuyers need to know more about, whether they are just starting out on their homebuying journey or are on the verge of paying a deposit. The main topics will be covered, including financing, Shared Ownership, Help to Buy, and not forgetting the important legal aspect of homebuying. We also have the local MP Lyn Brown attending and she may give a talk about the local housing market and the current political situation for homebuyers.

How is the market currently for first-time buyers?

The market is strong and actually it appears as though first-time buyers are actually driving the property market at the moment, as buy-to-let investors sit back and wait to find out about potential increased tax measures in April. So, it’s a great time to buy, with lots of incentives, affordable mortgage rates and great schemes to help reduce the upfront costs involved with homeownership. Also as London house price growth expected to drop to zero this year, now is perhaps an opportune time to get a great deal on a brand new home.

Do you find that there are still a great deal of active, hopeful first-timers who don't know much about Help to Buy or Shared Ownership?

This is most certainly true. From experience many people may have heard about the schemes but don’t realise that they will most likely be able to qualify for them. Many people believe that Shared Ownership means you have to share a property with a stranger or that its only for people on very low incomes. This simply isn’t the case and these schemes have evolved and moved with the times and now can help the majority of the homebuying population that require a little helping hand.

What are the most important things for first-time buyers to consider as they start their search?

Well, I think budget is probably the biggest factor; what you have saved, what you can afford and what you need to save if you still need to. Once you’ve worked out the financial side of things you can decide where you can then compromise and what your priorities are. For example, is it better to buy a small studio in Zone 2 or 3, or if you could, move a little further out of London and be able to stretch to a three-bedroom family home with a slightly longer commute? Whatever the outcome, you’ll need to know what budget you’ve got to play with first.

Is it better for London workers to consider a first home in the capital or to move out and commute (eg Crossrail route)?

Well, that really depends on priorities and what stage they are at in life. As first-time buyers do seem to be getting older, many will have young families and so moving further out of the capital might prove more appealing for quality of life and getting more for the money. Buying a first home should be an investment but it should also work as a home and if it doesn’t suit your personal needs, it won’t do you any favours in the long run.

Are you optimistic that government regulations and funding will build enough new affordable homes for those trying to get on the ladder?

I think they are doing as much as they can but of course we will always need more. Building the amount of new and affordable homes that we need is a big task and we need to keep seeing more meaningful initiatives put in place to really help buyers.  

Your next First Time Buyer Readers' Awards event is coming up in April - what do they tell you about what buyers actually look for in a new home?

The Award winners tend to be the ones who really put a lot of thought into what they offer. It’s not just enough to say that a property is affordable to tick the first-time buyer box. Homes, initiatives and schemes need to go the extra mile, reflecting the desire for first-timers to make great first investments as they step onto the housing ladder. This will allow them to continue to grow and move as time and finances allows. So quality, space and financial support will be key for any first-time purchase.

Do they also tell you much about how housebuilders and housing associations value first-time buyers in our property market? 

It’s very heart-warming to see some of the great lengths that the industry goes to help first-time buyers buy their first home with confidence. I’m sure it’s easy to forget that something we may take for granted is actually very daunting when undertaking for the first time. The good news is that there is clearly a lot of help for first-time buyers and many companies are going above and beyond the call of duty. Obviously, this will result in sales for them but it also demonstrates a commitment and responsibility to the more vulnerable homebuyers in the market whilst playing a part in keeping the housing market moving.

There's a huge range of large and small companies vying for your Awards this year - do you think SMEs are on a fair playing field with large companies when it comes to providing new homes at an affordable level?

Absolutely. We don’t look at the size of the company we look at the work they do. We look at the individual developments, initiatives and examples of best practice which are often at a very localised level. Last year we had a smaller housebuilder win the Housebuilder of the Year which was a fantastic achievement for them as it had previously been won by a national housebuilder.  It’s important to remember that everyone plays their part and its more to do with company ethos and approach than the number of units built.

With all the pressure on you to organise such an event, what do you actually enjoy most from the day?

Without a doubt, I just love seeing the look of delight on everyone’s faces when our lovely host Nicki Chapman announces the winners. You can feel the real sense of pride and joy and you can see how much a win can mean to a whole team and company. Even after the event itself, it’s great also to see the winners shouting about their Awards success and the press coverage and they receive. Anyone that knows me knows that I love my job and the industry that work in and so celebrating the successes of the winners is a definite highlight.

How can buyers vote for their favourites this year [WhatHouse? newspaper is nominated for Best Property Supplement] and when is the voting deadline?

We’ve had a fantastic new website designed this year and so people can vote easily at www.ftbawards.com with a deadline is midnight on 10th April. So I would encourage everyone to get voting as every vote really does count.


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