The fear of living in a home that looks like everyone else’s puts many people off new-build. However, the credit crunch has forced developers to be flexible.
Today, more buyers are demanding individuality - and getting it. Customers now influence the size, shape and style of their property. Some developers will even search, on a buyer’s behalf, for the right plot.
You can have your say at the build-and-design stage, creating a one-off house to suit your lifestyle. Perhaps you would include a gym, home cinema, air conditioning, a large, open-plan family space or a compact, hi-tech home.
Normally, the earlier you commit to buying a property, the more changes you can make. So you have the most scope if you buy off-plan.
Builders often have their own architectural brand and planning requirements produce some conformity, so it is not the same as buying a loft shell or commissioning an architect to create a house from scratch. But generally, the more expensive the house, the more flexible the builder.
“Yeoman-style" houses in the Kent and Sussex commuter belt and country retreat locations are the speciality of Millwood Homes. Managing director John Elliott says: “Sometimes customers ask us to demolish their existing home and replace it with a bigger and better one. Or we work together to find a suitable plot and then steer the project through planning. It’s as close to a blank canvas as you can get.”
Reclaimed materials achieve an authentic appearance. The homes have gabled, half-timbered façades, leaded windows, grand entrance halls with vaulted ceilings and stone fireplaces, plus “super rooms” for relaxed family living. Detached garages incorporate a self-contained studio, games room or home office. “We’ve put in indoor swimming pools, lifts, dumb waiters and wine cellars, surveillance systems and even a stable block for a collection of vintage cars,” says Elliott.
An initial consultation establishes buyers’ priorities. A deposit of £5,000 is followed by five payments during the build. Millwood’s sites include Oast View at Bearsted, Kent, and Dorman’s Park on the Sussex/Surrey border. Prices range from £475,000 to £1,950,000. Call 01732 770991.
Yoo, a design-led developer building a 650-acre lakeside village at Lechlade in the Cotswolds, allows buyers to purchase a plot and select an architect. Prices range from £775,000 to £2.4 million, with interiors by top designers Jade Jagger and Kelly Hoppen. Call 01367 250066.
Designs for life
On the prestigious Wentworth Estate in Surrey, Millgate (as opposed to Millwood) Homes has two plots with design-and-build service. The finished homes are likely to cost about £6 million. MD David Simpson says: “From start to finish, a project can take up to two years.” Call 0118 934 3344.
Bespoke on a budget
At Stanmore Place in north-west London, where the first phase of 800 apartments and houses has been launched, buyers can “shop” at the on-site interior design studio. Various fixtures, fittings, furnishings, fabric and colour choices are available.
Developer St Edward Homes has teamed up with design company Vogue London to offer a complete design and move-in package with a menu of paid-for items ranging from cutlery to curtains to audio visual gear. Furniture packs cost from £1,500 and starter accessory packs from £500. Apartments are priced from £240,000. Call 020 8952 2853.
Linden Homes builds “bonus rooms” in the attic of new homes and kits them out as home offices, teenage dens etc. At Parkviews, Epsom, three-storey detached houses cost from £524,995. Call 01372 743742.
At Watercolour in Redhill, Surrey, houses range from £247,500 to £450,000. Call 08452 606606.