One-on-one interview: Geoff Pearce of Swan New Homes

Posted 3 September 2014 by Keith Osborne

This week, our regular contributor Marc Da Silva continues his series of interviews with senior figures in the UK housebulding industry by speaking by to Geoff Pearce, executive director for regeneration and development at Swan New Homes.

Where is your firm developing new homes? Swan New Homes primarily develops new homes across East London and south Essex. A large proportion of our work is invested around areas of large regeneration, as it provides the opportunity for many first-time buyers to get onto the property ladder, as well as the chance for existing property owners to progress their way up to the next step of homeownership.

We offer a range of properties, from one-bedroom apartments to four-bedroom houses, in order to appeal to the broad audience that is today’s property market. We are committed to building quality, great value, homes which are finished to a high standard – homes that reflect 21st century expectations and lifestyles.

What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas? There is a huge amount of interest in the London property market. We find evidence of this in our sales leads in the region, particularly in East London which has become a hugely popular postcode in recent years. This is due to the area’s history, with its unique character and vibrant culture, alongside good transport connections and the modern facilities driven by the East End regeneration scheme.

Similarly, in south Essex, we find the market is particularly strong and there is potential for capital growth. With plenty of parks and events throughout the year, this location is particularly popular with young buyers and families.

What types of properties is your firm developing? In East London, Swan New Homes is developing a lot of apartments, while in South Essex, we are developing a combination of apartments and houses. Swan New Homes is finding a lot of demand in these key areas, so we are keen to continue to work here into the future. We are always looking for new opportunities, either to work on new regeneration projects, or straightforward land purchase to develop new private homes.

What projects is Swan New Homes working on and what's in the development pipeline? Swan is currently working on the refurbishment of Bellevue Bow, the last phase of the regeneration of Bow Cross Estate (total 648 units). This 24-storey development represents the final chapter in the award-winning renovation of the three iconic apartment blocks on the former estate and will provide 93 new one and two-bedroom apartments.

Swan is also working on a number of other projects, including:

  • River Place - a large development in Canning Town (437 new homes)
  • Robin Hood Gardens estate regeneration in Poplar (1570)
  • Craylands estate regeneration in Basildon (c.800)
  • Peachey House Ilford (141)
  • Cambridge Road, Barking (240)
  • Repton Court Barkingside (200)
  • Romford (345)

These are all phased developments and, while some phases are already complete, the majority of homes are yet to be built and developed.

How much does a new home by Swan New Homes typically cost to buy? Typically, apartments in East London will cost in the region of £300,000 for a one-bedroom unit and £385,000 for a two-bedroom property. Typically, a three-bedroom house in South Essex is available for in the region of £245,000.

Why should more buyers consider buying a new-build home as opposed to older property? There are many considerations that a buyer should bear in mind when looking at a new-build home compared with an older property. A buyer wants to be assured that their new move is going to be as convenient as possible, so should be checking that their new home will be low maintenance, with a good specification and a high quality of build. It is always worth ensuring that the home has a 10-year property guarantee, to act as a ‘peace of mind’ purchase for all types of buyers – this rule applies to the whole range of buyers, from investors, to first-time buyers, to other owner occupiers.

Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? Absolutely. The value of the property is locked in at the time of purchase, which provides the potential for capital growth from completion. There is often the opportunity to make client choices to personalise your home and, depending on timescale, can also give buyers the time to increase the amount of deposit they put down.

What is Swan New Homes’ USP? Swan New Homes offers an ‘all-in’ product. This means there are no hidden extra costs at move-in – the client will not be charged extra costs to install flooring, appliances and carpets. The idea is that the buyer is able to move straight in, or to let the property immediately. Additionally, Swan is an ethical builder and does not have shareholders, so all profits are reinvested in the group to fund affordable housing projects.

Which of the developments Swan New Homes is currently developing do you think stands the best chance of winning a WhatHouse? Award? Bellevue, Bow – category – Best renovation project. As this is a quality refurbishment project in a great location, and also has an attractive price point both for owner occupiers and investors, we believe that this development may have stood well within the category. Bellevue Bow is the final of three iconic Crossways buildings to be refurbished, completing the scene of a modern and stylish neighbourhood. The project will also see the creation of new transport links along with landscaped public and private gardens. Having recently launched, we have already received a huge amount of interest from potential buyers.

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