Being among the first to move into a housing development has many advantages, according to pioneering families
There is an Adam and Eve element to being first to move into a new development.
Developers may talk interminably of cost and profit, but in reality they are creating a new world where babies will be born, knees bloodied, cakes burnt and friendships forged. All over the country as the market thaws, mothballed sites are being unwrapped, new villages are springing out of the ground and the first residents are moving in.
Buying new is often the best option. It means you are guaranteed a completely clean start for your new life, with insulation values no old house can hope to compete with, and you avoid an onward chain. As the major political parties vie to promote new house-building, there will be more of them. The latest figures from the National House Building Council show the number of new homes rose 25 per cent in the first six months of this year over the same period last year.
There are hidden benefits to being first through the door.
Christie and Tolga Huseyin had always wanted to move to Sevenoaks because they liked the café culture, shops and good schools, and thought it would be a lovely place for their children, Myla, three, and Luca, 19 months, to grow up. They viewed older houses but nothing was quite right, so they went to look at Ryewood, where smart modern homes were being built by Berkeley right on the edge of a wildlife reserve. They loved the idea of being modern, and commuting was made easy by nearby Dunton Green railway station which could whisk them into London in 30 minutes.
“Our house was nothing more than a plot of bare land when we first saw it in June last year,” says Christie. Being involved at such an early stage meant she was able to choose all the colour schemes, the kitchen units, floors and tiles. They bought off-plan so also had the pick of the plots.
“This allowed us to buy at 2012 prices and have the potential for a capital increase in the value before we even moved in,” she says. “In a rising market, we would definitely recommend buyers to look at developments before they are completed.”
They arrived in January this year and have started to make new friends, bumping into people at the children’s play area and in the residents’ gym. Once the first 50 houses have been occupied there is to be a meet-the-neighbours party. “I think that when everyone is new, people tend to make more of an effort,” says Christie. “The great thing about Ryewood is that there is a real mix of people living here, lots of young couples as well as families, which means there are other children for ours to play with. And some new babies have been born in the last few months.”
A welcome barbecue, often with a marquee in case of rain, is now de rigueur on most new developments. At Woodberry Park in north London, part of the Woodberry Down Regeneration Project where 4,600 homes will be built in 64 acres, buyers at New River Gardens gathered this summer. Crucially it has a primary school and a dry cleaner. Yolande Barnes, director of residential research at Savills, has long argued that a true community needs dry cleaners, cobblers and corner shops to be really workable and make people feel at home.
In the highly competitive housing market of Cambridge, buyers have a difficult time finding affordable family-sized town houses, so planners have opted for new villages just outside, with park-and-ride on tap into the railway station and the city centre. Trumpington Meadows, three miles south, is still half-built and raw in the landscape, but it will eventually contain 1,200 homes in 360 acres running down to the River Cam.
Four developers are busy creating a sense of place. Skansa says the design of the houses plays an important part in bringing people together. Benches are carefully positioned outside front doors, under covered porches to encourage people to sit, chat to passers-by and watch the world go by. And what community can survive without a primary school and a Waitrose? Both are already open.
“We are working carefully with the Cambridge Wildlife Trust on the new country park, and there will be a community orchard and allotments,” says Jason Colmer, sales and marketing director at Barratts. “Residents will be able to use facilities in the primary school out of school hours as well, to hold parties or salsa evenings.”
There are plans for a secondary school a Trumpington Meadows football team. It is easier, certainly, to remember village life as it was than to create the sepia tint for tomorrow. But they are trying.
Paul and Nicola Smith have lived in Soham, near Cambridge, for years and felt defeated by the sheer paucity of choice in the city. Now they and their children, Megan, nine, and Harry, four, have happily swapped their five-bedroom detached house in Soham for a three-bedroom house built by Barratts at Trumpington Meadows. “It is rare that decent older city houses come up and there is nearly always a bunfight for them,” says Paul.
Paul and Nicola Smith are settling into Trumpington Meadows
For them it offered an easy path. The promise of part-exchange eliminated all their fears about being able to make their sale and purchase dovetail. “It saved us the hassle of putting our old home on the market and finding a buyer,” says Paul. “And it was fast. We signed on March 2 and moved into our new home 26 days later.” They feel the prospects are good.
“Although we have technically downsized we think that putting our money into Cambridge property is a good investment.”
Estate agent David Bentley of Bidwells says prices have already risen five per cent since the development started.
“There were so few of us living there at the beginning,” says Paul, “that we all got to know each other really well, and are really committed to making a new community.”
Benefits of buying new
You don’t have to inherit anyone else’s carpets.
You can choose paint colours and building finishes.
You may see your house value rise as building progresses.
There may be part-exchange deals.
You feel more involved and keen to make friends.
By Caroline McGhie http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/