Good news abounds on the new homes front, both within the various Jackson-Stops new homes teams across the country and in the figures reported by our national institutions. Exeter’s Louisa Hooper, for example, reports such strong demand for one up-market Dart Valley development, she is securing off-plan sales on houses which will not be built until October 2020. Similarly, some 200 miles east of the Dart Valley, houses in the first phase of Surrey’s newest Garden Village, Upper Longcross near Chobham, have sold out ahead of schedule and predominantly off-plan. This impressive result is not, it should be added, wholly thanks to general market forces: design decisions by its developers, Crest Nicholson, such as opting for flexible, partially open-plan layouts, a great variety of styles and finishes, plus exteriors which are strikingly modern without going too far, have generated real excitement and enthusiasm amongst buyers.
These positive local reports tie in with national ones. Mortgage approvals are up (UK Finance) and the confidence of UK house builders is at its highest level since 2017 (Home Builders Federation). For its part, the NHBC reported in August that, in the previous quarter, housebuilders registered the highest number of new homes for 12 years, up 12% on the same period last year.
Breadth of demand
We are seeing a continuance of the trend for rurally-based older buyers within any given region, to sell their ‘rustic pile’ in favour of a brand new, more manageable house close to amenities. These are favoured, too, by buyers moving in, often from the South East, who frequently sell first, then rent and buy at leisure. This is behind the readiness of some to buy the right house off-plan, even if that means waiting for a year to move in.
Meanwhile, at lower price levels, Help to Buy continues to feature strongly, especially with first time buyers. Figures released by UK Finance over the summer show a rise in the number of first time buyers (up 8% on last year) and as a proportion of all buyers. They now outnumber buy-to-let purchases nearly six to one. Structurally, this has to be good for the market.
New build rental growth
The NHBC report also emphasised the extent to which the private rental sector is boosting new home registrations. Historically, large scale private landlords have been a rarity in the UK. This is changing. In London, for example, researchers Molior report that ‘Build to Rent’ units accounted for 18% of Q2 sales across larger London projects. Legal & General’s Affordable Homes business says it will be providing 3,000 homes pa within four years, and the number of local authorities with development companies designed for joint ventures with private developers has risen 57% since 2017. Indeed, Worthing council has signed a deal with the IKEA/Skanska company BoKlok – which specialises in factory-built housing – to build 162 flats there. Such schemes are often testbeds for innovation so, given our positive experience at Upper Longcross and elsewhere, this is something we welcome and shall be watching with interest.