One-on-one interview: Mark Mitchell, Avant Homes Yorkshire

Posted 21 July 2016 by Keith Osborne

WhatHouse? speaks exclusively to Mark Mitchell, who heads up one of the major housebuilders in Yorkshire and the north of England...

This week’s exclusive interview with senior figures from UK housebuilding heads to the north to pose the questions to Mark Mitchell, managing director of Avant Homes Yorkshire.

He began his career in the new homes industry in 1998 as a trainee quantity surveyor. Mark joined Avant Homes as assistant quantity surveyor before becoming commercial director in 2006. In 2007, he was promoted to managing director, a role he has held for nine years.

How's the property market in your region right now and can you foresee where it might head over 2016?

The market has shown improvement month-on-month this year and we enjoyed a particularly strong April and May throughout the region which is very encouraging. We continue to trade in line with our forecast and in some cases above our budgeted rate of sale - this coupled with plans for a further five outlets to be live by December 2016 makes it an exciting time for the business.

What kind of homes is Avant currently offering in your region?

We are currently building a selection of two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom semi-detached and detached homes across the region. We have an established reputation for innovative design and specification and our primary focus is on setting a new standard for new build homes and creating a blueprint for the future of new home design.

Do you have a "star" development and if so, what do you think makes it so popular?

Apperley Green​Apperley Green in Apperley Bridge has been a superb performer, so much so we expect to complete the site four months earlier than planned. We’ve constructed and sold 69 units in just 18 months. This development’s popularity can be linked to its proximity to Leeds and Bradford and in particular the newly built railway station which sits close to the development and gives direct access to Leeds city centre, along with the green field surroundings and canal frontage in just 12 minutes.

What is it about your homes and service which differentiates you from your competitors?

We’ve listened to our customers and are designing homes around them and their needs. Taking into consideration modern lifestyles and the way people want to live and how they want to use the space inside their homes is paramount to creating properties of the future. The quality, attention to detail and superior specification that buyers will find in every Avant home as standard also sets us apart and makes us different to other housebuilders.

How have schemes such as Help to Buy and Part Exchange had an impact on your buyers?

Both schemes are great enablers for potential purchasers. Help to Buy has clearly helped at the lower end of our market where people have taken the opportunity to purchaser a larger home than they thought they could initially afford. Part exchange has always been an effective sales tool for us, and is key to achieving our higher average selling prices. Whilst it is offered on all developments we have also started to see a significant increase in part exchange non-dependant sales.

Has the new stamp duty surcharge completely removed your potential buy-to-let market?

This really has had little or no impact for us due to our average selling price currently being at £256,000 and the fact that our product is predominately three-, four- and five-bedroom detached homes, aimed at the owner-occupier.

How might the government's "Northern Powerhouse" initiative affect your region and its homebuyers?

The Northern Powerhouse will help to shine a light on the major cities in the North, Leeds being one of them and a city we are very active in. More investment in the region would of course be a positive thing bringing more opportunity and more jobs, but this in turn means that delivering sufficient housing in both the cities and the suburbs to meet the extra demand, along with a robust infrastructure will be crucial to its success. A perfect example of this is the response we’ve seen at Apperley Green, where recent improved rail links to Leeds city centre has seen demand for homes there soar.

What's in the pipeline for Avant Homes this year?

We are heavily investing in new land in the Yorkshire region to grow the business to its optimum mass. Turnover is budgeted at £100m this year against £59m in 2015, an increase of 69% putting us in a good position for further growth in 2017.

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