In with the new (build)
Thinking about moving house in the new year but not sure what sort of house should be your home? Muddy weighs in on the old versus new build debate
Hands up: I’ve always been a bit of a period home snob. As a young magazine journalist, I wafted about a Georgian flat in the rather nice part of Islington. As a new mother, we migrated to a Victorian three-bed garden flat in the slightly terrifying part of Islington. Then came the clichéd out-of-town move to the Oxon/Bucks border and a Tudor thatched cottage (atmospheric, small, lots of spiders) and now we reside in a mid-century number with cool open living spaces, one bathroom between five of us and practically zero insulation.
But this is the thing: dream homes are often pictured as quaint cottages with roses around the door, characterful rooms packed full of original features and a mature garden bursting with teeming flower beds. What we don’t see is leaky windows, exorbitant heating bills, miniscule rooms that can’t accommodate modern-day furniture and the requirement of an extra £25k per year to pay a gardener.
Enter the new build. It was something I’ve never considered before now, but I’ve been doing my research and, like electric cars and alcohol-free drinks, I’m coming round to it. So what do new builds have going for them? Spoiler: quite a lot.
You’ll join the eco-home massive
There are 247,000 homes being built each year in England and Wales (although this is under the government target of 300,000 per year) and government regulations mean that every home built today requires double glazed uPVC windows, high level insulation to roof and walls, energy efficient gas central heating and low energy lighting. And while that’s great news for your monthly bills, it’s also a boon for your resale value. According to the FT, eco-homes are going to be top of the agenda for prospective house buyers as we move into the next decade. Millennials and Gen Z are going to expect outstanding eco creds as standard.
You won’t be needing a builder anytime soon
If you have ever innocently taken down wallpaper in your period house and then been forced to embark on a wildly expensive and complex plastering mission, you know where I’m going here (and let’s not even start on the perils of maintaining wychert walls). Old homes are just that – old. They need shoring up, pulling in, sanding down. It is endless maintenance that never gives. Like the Forth Bridge, you start in one room and by the time you’ve finished the rest, you have a cup of tea and start again. You can swerve all that trauma by buying a high-spec new home. Wiring is up to standard, walls and ceilings are insulated and skimmed, and kitchen and bathrooms are top of the range.
You’ll never have to share a bathroom again
My groovy mid-century pad currently has a not-very-groovy one bathroom for a family of five. ‘Not ideal’ is slightly the understatement. The bathroom to bedroom ratio in new builds tend to err on the generous side – five bedrooms to four bathrooms is quite common. Frankly for me that’s palatial. Just imagine the bathing opportunities: “Where’s mum?” “In the bathroom.” “Which one?” “Dunno.” If you keep really quiet, they might not find you at all.
You could be recipient of a sweet deal
Obviously, moving home is unbelievably stressful and completion dates, stamp duty costs, and then finding a sofa that fits (rather than using those garden chairs) can all add fuel to the fire. Some new builds come with incredible deals attached, including having your stamp duty paid, being able to part exchange your old home with the developer and even £5,000 worth of John Lewis vouchers. Near me, CALA Homes, currently redeveloping the Haddenham Airfield in Bucks into Aspen Park (starting price £449,950k – so yes, a very Home Counties development!), is offering a range of options to make the process as easy as possible, such as 5% deposit contribution, a part-exchange service and a Guaranteed Buyer programme so that if your old home doesn’t sell in time for you to move into your new build, CALA will step in as a cash buyer. In a property market as archaic, gazumpy and chainy as ours, to know 100% that your deal will go through is amazing. Like many other new developments, Aspen Park is playing it smart with facilities too – a fantastic playground (the best in the village, according to my kids), a nursery about to open, a Co-op round the corner and a 10-minute walk to the station. What more do you want, a water feature to walk around? Oh hang on, there’s one of those too.
They’re designed for life today (not 200 years ago)
Seventeenth-century cottage stairs were not designed for king size mattresses, just in case you were wondering. And huge, rambling gardens were created when homes had staff, not just two frantic parents tapping away at a computer every god-given hour to put food on the table. Having something designed for purpose – large living-diner, neat, manageable outdoor space and, er… usefully placed plug sockets won’t tick the grand pronouncements about your new exciting ‘house project’ and you’re not going to find some long-forgotten Victorian tiles under the lino or admire 16th-century wallpaintings in your dining room, but lord, it can shave off the stress of everyday life – and right now, who’s not up for that?
Read independent advice from The Homeowners Alliance on what to look for when buying a new home
More info on Aspen Park in Haddenham