Tariq Usmani of Henley Homes

Posted 11 January 2016 by Helen Christie

Marc Da Silva continues his regular series of interviews with senior figures from the world of housebuilding and residential development by posing the questions to Tariq Usmani, CEO of London-based Henley Homes.

What regions does you division cover?

We cover London and the South East – from densely populated inner city areas, to leafy London suburbs and smaller market towns.

What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas?

Like all developers, we have seen ups and downs in the property market in recent years. In the last 12 months, we have noted a continued muted confidence in London’s new build market. Several of our recent flagship schemes have been located in the Borough of Lambeth, which has seen a huge upsurge in demand over the last 12 months and unprecedented prices rises, demonstrating a growing confidence in the market.    

Outside of London, the prospect of Crossrail has had a significant impact on towns such as Maidenhead, where our town centre development, Exchange House, sold quickly, largely off-plan, to a cross-section of buyers.   

Our headline projects, carefully selected by location and price point, always receive a good response, with plenty of early off-plan interest. All developments in our 2013/2014 build programme have sold ahead of target. 

What types of properties is your firm developing?

Our main focus is volume development of new build properties, utilising new technology and techniques to transform brownfield and old industrial sites into thriving award-winning communities. However, we also have an extensive background in the restoration and conversion of listed buildings. Recent projects include the Lumière Apartments in Clapham Junction, which was the redevelopment of Clapham's Granada Cinema into 59 apartments. We have also recently sold through on The Annie McCall in Stockwell – a collection of 30 news homes set in the Victorian Grade II listed former Annie McCall Maternity Hospital. When working on a restoration project, we always aim to retain the original character of the building, whilst incorporating the best in contemporary finish.    

Even some of our new build homes incorporate an element of history. For example, work is currently underway by our construction arm, Reis Construct, at Carlton Gate, a development of 24 apartments and three penthouses on Putney Hill. Here, we have re-imagined an authentic art deco style façade, transforming the original buildings on the site. 

What projects are Henley Homes working on and what’s in the development pipeline?

The final phase at our flagship Kennington development, Baylis Old School is due for completion next spring. The scheme involves the conversion and restoration of the Grade II listed former Lilian Baylis School, where we are creating 149 new homes, a mix of 60s modernist apartments, contemporary new build and family townhouses. Demand has been exceptionally high, both from owner-occupiers and investors, and the development is already over two-thirds sold.   

In the pipeline, we have just acquired Brent House in Wembley. The 1.7 acre site, previously owned by Brent Council, will be redeveloped into c. 265 private sale and affordable homes and a new public piazza. We are also developing offices within the Nine Elms regeneration area, which will incorporate a permanent show apartment, displaying examples of our specification. Also, at various stages in the planning process are 320 homes in E3 and E14 and a further 300 in Cheadle, near Manchester.

How much does a new home by Henley Homes typically cost to buy?

The properties we currently have available range in price from £465,000, up to around £1.6m for a penthouse apartment. 

Why should more buyers consider buying a new build home as opposed to older property?

New build homes by a quality developer will always offer an excellent finish, plus buyers benefit from a 10-year warranty, very attractive for investors and owner-occupiers alike. The high performance of new build insulation and windows also means that new build homes are more cost-effective to run.

Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction?

Buying off-plan is always worth considering – as long as you have confidence in the development, and the developers themselves.

The majority of Henley properties are sold off-plan, often with the aid of a show apartment, so buyers can see the finish they should expect from a Henley product. If purchased early enough, we often offer buyers the opportunity to upgrade or alter certain fixtures and finishes, giving a more bespoke finish. 

What is Henley Homes’ USP?

Our core ethos is to create quality urban design-led schemes, working alongside world renowned architectural practices, as well as utilising the wealth of experience of our in-house designers, who drive innovation in terms of design and finishes. When working on conversion projects, we work closely with bodies such as English Heritage, to ensure the design language of the original buildings remains intact. Henley is driven by design and meticulous attention to detail, as well as excellent and comprehensive aftercare.

Our great mix of buyers, which range from first-time buyers to wealthy overseas investors, frequently comment on our attention to detail and the quality of our finish – praise from buyers is always a great accolade. 

Which of the developments Henley Homes is currently developing do you think stands the best chance of winning a WhatHouse? Award?

We felt it was too early to enter any of our current schemes this year, but we will certainly be entering some of our conversion projects, for example Baylis Old School and Annie McCall, into the 2015 awards.  We hope they will be as well received by the judges as they have been by our buyers!

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