One-on-one interview: Tim Seward of Centra Homes

Posted 16 July 2014

Marc Da Silva continues his ongoing series of Q&A sessions with senior figures in the new homes industry by interviewing Tim Seward, director of property sales and marketing at Centra Homes.

Where is your firm developing new homes? Predominantly we are developing new homes in East London at present, but we also cover the East, the South East, the West Midlands and other parts of the capital.

What are housing market conditions currently like in those areas? We are currently promoting homes in Bow which has proved to be a strong market. It is well connected in terms of transport and facilities, but still relatively affordable. We believe the area is still evolving with new shops, restaurants and bars and people moving into the area which adds to the vibrant and diverse community that is already there to create a great sense of place which buyers really like. We are seeing strong levels of enquiries so the market interest remains good.

What types of properties is your firm developing? Our Tredegar Place development has a range of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

What projects is Centra Homes working on and what's in the development pipeline? We have a pipeline of around 600 private homes currently in development. The 33 new homes at Tredegar Place in Bow are the next to be released followed by 26 three-bedroom houses in Rainham launching in September. We have large sites in Walthamstow and Warwick in the pipeline as well as more homes in Havering, Essex.

How much does a new home by Centra Homes typically cost to buy? That is difficult to answer as we work in a board geographical area covering London, the South East, East Anglia and the Midlands. We tend to focus on homes that will appeal to first-time buyers and families, but we also develop high-end homes if the site and local market support it.

Why should more buyers consider buying a new-build home as opposed to older property? The supply of homes on the market is very limited and buyers need to consider as broad a range of housing stock as possible. New-build purchases come with a number of advantages - the convenience of buying new means buyers can usually just move in and do not have the barrier costs of having to refurbish and redecorate.

With new-build purchases buyers can also avoid the uncertainty of dealing with a vendor in a chain and avoid all the crazy open-house viewings, sealed bids and other madness that has been taking place in the second-hand market.

Is it worth buying property during the off-plan stage of construction? Absolutely, but only if the buyer feels comfortable doing so. It is not for everyone, but developers these days have tools such as virtual tours as well as the traditional show homes and models to enable buyers to get as good a feel for the end product and design as possible. It will also, in many ways, be a slight leap of faith, but if buyers want to get an early choice to secure the exact property that they want then buying early off-plan is the only way to guarantee that.

In the rising market that we have seen over the last year, buyers who secured off-plan purchases a year ago have seen significant value growth before they've even moved in. The market can change so buyers do need to do their research and there will always be those who need to see the end product before they commit and that's their personal choice.

What is Centra Homes' USP? Like others companies operating in a commercial environment we aspire to build an excellent and desirable product that will sell, but we do it with a social conscience.

We're part of Circle Housing group - which is one of the UK's largest housing providers and manages around 66,000 homes. This means we have a lot of scale and heritage behind us.

As a group, we're non-profit making, so any funds generated by Centra Homes are ploughed back into helping us fund housing and services for those in housing need and the vulnerable. We don't have shareholders to pay so we're not just about the bottom line.

We continue to manage our properties after they're sold - most developers move on as soon as the homes are sold and appoint a third-party managing agent. We have our own in-house management services so we take pride in building homes that are well designed, use sustainable materials, meet our green agenda and add to the local community.

Which of the developments Centra Homes is currently developing do you think stands the best chance of winning a WhatHouse? Award? We have just released the three-bedroom penthouse apartment on the 9th floor of our Essence development in Bow. Demand was huge for this development with the other 88 apartments selling quickly off plan.

There are stunning views particularly from the higher floors all over London with apartments enjoying their own balcony or terrace as well as a communal courtyard and roof terrace.

The development is predominantly a sale development with private and shared ownership homes, but also has an element of social rented new homes and commercial units including the provision of a new Tesco. The development is a really smart addition to Bow in terms of design, but also provides a great mix of new housing and commercial space to serve the local community.



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