Andrew Brooks features in WhatHouse. Read the latest article here
Andrew Brooks, Managing Director of Bewley Homes
Hi Andrew, please tell us a little about yourself and Bewley Homes.
Bewley Homes was founded in 1991 by my father, Colin Brooks, who stepped down as CEO at the end of last year.
He established it on the principle of creating high quality and aesthetically pleasing homes in highly desirable areas – an ethos which continues to this day and which is embedded within our company DNA and culture and celebrated by our team.
What developments is Bewley Homes currently marketing (eg location, house types, prices etc)?
We are proud to be able to offer a diverse portfolio of property – always in highly desirable locations. These currently include Rothsay Court, Weybridge – a block of fourteen 2 bedroom apartments with prices ranging from £675,000 to £730,000; a selection of 3, 4 and 5 bedroom houses in Earley, Berkshire and ranging in price from £447,500 to just under £600,000; A selection of 2,3,4 and 5 bedroom houses in the quintessential English village of Hartley Wintney in Hampshire which was heralded by The Halifax over a number of years as the best place to live in Britain. Prices start from £385,000 and range up to just under £1 million. We also have several developments which are shortly due to launch including a site of just five 4 and 5 bedroom individual styled detached family houses in the heart of Sunningdale; a selection of 2,3 and 4 bedroom houses in Tetbury; and we are about to commence work on seven additional sites, with a combined total of 833 residential units.
Is there a 'star' development that is currently outperforming the others and what reasons do you see for that?
Changes in stamp duty levies implemented at the end of 2014, alongside the introduction by the Government of schemes including Help to Buy, have contributed greatly to the buoyancy of the market up to £600,000. Certainly, it is at this level that we have seen most activity with high sales volumes for 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses in our Parklands site in Earley. However, that is not to say we have not had success for some of our higher value, larger properties – where desirable locations and high quality are increasingly important considerations to buyers.
You build a great range of homes - do you see the continued promotion of Help to Buy as an essential way to stimulate activity across the whole market?
The ability to access Help to Buy has certainly contributed greatly to helping individuals access private property ownership and sales rates seem overall to be higher at any site which can offer Help to Buy. Our Parklands development of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom properties in Earley has seen an unusually high number of purchasers utilising help to buy – over 95%. This is extremely unusual and there are many examples at other developments we are marketing where buyers who are eligible to use help to buy choose, for their own personal reasons, not to utilise the scheme.
Are marketing suites/show homes/brochures still of great interest to buyers in the digital age and if so, what approach do you take to maximise the interest of buyers up to and after launch?
The digital age has certainly transformed the way people search for property but all too often the technology is used to do the job of a salesperson rather than as the aid it was originally designed as. I believe there remains no substitute for physically viewing a property with an expert sales person who listens to and responds appropriately to any queries a buyer may have. High quality marketing suites and show homes are the difference between a purchaser buying or walking away. Dressing a marketing suite and a show home remains an art form – there needs to be enough to show people how they might like to live but not so much that you are telling them that this is the way they must live. Making something too on trend can alienate certain parts of your market and the bottom line is that you want your property to appeal to the widest number of purchasers possible.
What are Bewley's USPs in today's busy new homes market?
Establishing a unique selling point begins at the start of the overall development process with the acquisition of land in a desirable location – buying a home in the right location remains the most important thing on a purchaser’s wish list. At Bewley Homes, we focus on quality of craftsmanship with a high level of attention to detail, use of high quality products and materials, and use different methods of ensuring that each property is finished to the highest standard upon completion of a sale. We also offer additional peace of mind through our After Care service, which every purchaser has access to for two years after completion has taken place.
Where do you see your regional markets going in 2017?
I believe we are going to see a steady market throughout 2017 as buyers continue to take advantage of the lower stamp duty rates implemented in December 2014 for properties under £1 million, the historically low interest rates and Government incentive schemes. If demand levels continue, it is also likely values will rise a little – perhaps up to 3%.
What does the government need to do to increase housebuilding across Britain?
First and foremost, the disparity between the objectives set out by central Government to meet housebuilding targets and the needs and priorities of local Government and planning must be addressed. This may mean that in certain areas, local authorities along with residents must re-consider Greenbelt boundaries and make moves to ensure the planning process is as smooth as possible.
Secondly, the current process by which planning conditions are discharged needs to be made less time consuming. At the moment, this process can delay the start of construction by up to six months or more and, as a result, delays the delivery of already approved housing.
Another concern is the increasing shortage of good tradespeople entering the industry – a situation which could be reversed with further investment in apprenticeship schemes.
What company ambitions and new developments do you have in the pipeline coming up for sale over the next few months?
This is a really exciting time for Bewley Homes as we have seven development sites we are just beginning work on. Between them, they will provide a total of 833 residential units.
They include Oakham Park in Crowthorne, Berkshire which will offer a range of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, 1 and 2 bedroom coach houses and 2, 3 and 4 bedroom homes. Owsla Park in Whitchurch, Hampshire which will offer a selection of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses. Lea Meadow in Sonning Common, Berkshire which will offer a mixture of 2 and 3 bedroom bungalows; 3,4 and 5 bedroom detached houses; 2 bedroom terrace houses and 2 and 3 bedroom semi-detached houses. The Farthings in Leatherhead, Surrey which will offer a selection of houses. Minley Nursery in Tongham, Surrey which will offer 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses. Reading Gateway in Berkshire which will have a selection of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments and 3 and 4 bedroom houses. Finally, Jubilee Meadows in Walton on Thames, Surrey, the first phase of which will almost entirely offer a selection of affordable housing in an area which has grown increasingly inaccessible and is much needed in the community.