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In with the new (build)! Ready to ditch the period dream?

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 newspaper journalist, I wafted about a Victorian one-bed flat in south London. We then migrated to a Victorian three-bed terrace house in north London. Then finally came the clichéd out-of-town move to West Berkshire and a Victorian cottage (atmospheric, low ceilings, lots of spiders) and practically zero insulation. You can see a pattern forming.

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 cottage style planting. What we don’t see is leaky windows, exorbitant heating bills, tiny 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. I’ve been doing my research and, like electric cars and alcohol-free drinks, I’m loving the idea of it. My dream is a super-chic pad with picture windows, vaulted ceilings and cloaked in cladding. So what do new builds have going for them? Spoiler: quite a lot.

ECO CREDENTIALS

THE NAN
Buckler’s Park Crowthorne

There are 243,770 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.

Period homes are bursting with character, but green they are not. Little insulation, single glazed windows, the central heating guzzles heating oil and they’re drafty window tunnels in high winds. Of course, you can give the old girl a makeover, but you better have deep pockets. We got quotes for our four-bed cottage and heritage style double glazed windows, an air source heat pump, solar panels came in at about £60k.

CAN YOU FIX IT?

If you’ve 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. Don’t get me started on the spaghetti junction of wires across floors and draped across walls. 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. 

BATHROOM HOGGING

For an old cottage, I’m pretty lucky to have two bathrooms and a downstairs loo. The bathroom to bedroom ratio isn’t bad, but every inch of space has been squeezed out of the building to create them. 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.

EVERY LITTLE HELPS

New England style houses Champlain street Reading Haslams Berkshire
Camplain Street Reading

The property market is hotter than Love Island‘s Hideaway right now. Throw in an archaic system as gazumpy and chainy as ours, a new build could be a safer bet. Some new builds come with incredible deals attached, including having your stamp duty paid and part exchange your old home with the developer. Crest Nicholson Homes, currently redeveloping the Arborfield Green into Waterman’s Gate (starting price £489,000) offers SmoothMove – whereby you simply reserve your new home and they’ll handle the sale of your old house, plus first time buyers can tap into the Help To Buy scheme with a 5% deposit and 75% mortgage and the missing 20% coming in the form of a Government backed loan.

Agent’s top tip: New homes are often bought off-plan, before they are physically built, so get a good understanding of where your home will be, what will be around you and how you access your property. Parking can often be a challenge with new and older properties so, if you need space for a car, make sure one is assigned to the home you purchase and that your vehicle will fit!

LIFESTYLE

Kirsty and Phil weren’t wrong, it’s all about location, location, location… and lifestyle. What do you need now and in the future? Good schools? To be part of a community? Shopping? Countryside? Transport links? Make a list. Like many other new developments, Waterman’s Gate in Arborfield Green and Buckler’s Park in Crowthorne are playing it smart with facilities, too. At Buckler’s Park there’s a buzzy community vibe with access to a new 100 acre country park, bar, restaurant and community hub – and that’s before you even check out the town centre. Over in Arborfield, the popular Bohunt School is within walking distance, there a new cricket pavilion, sports fields and loads of green and pleasant land, Co-op and two nearby pubs. Love celeb stalking (I mean spotting)? Arborfield Studios is just around the corner. Cooey, George Clooney.

MODERN LIVING

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 wall paintings in your dining room, but lord, it can shave off the stress of everyday life – and right now, who’s not up for that? 

STILL NOT CONVINCED?

Little Copse Yateley 5 bed executive home big garden Michael Hardy Estate Agent
Little Copse Yateley

If you won’t compromise on character and think charm comes at the price of layering up cashmere jumpers in the winter, then fair enough. While we might all long for a double fronted Georgian beauty don’t discount a classic built in the 80s and 90s. What they lack in open plan living, they make up for in space. Room sizes and garden tend to be more generous. Take Little Copse in Yateley, on the market with Michael Hardy. Dig out that shoulder padded skirt suit, it’s a bijou development of executive homes with five beds, 26ft living room, with 1/4 acre of gardens and double garage. Offers over £1.2m but low ceilings and poky rooms is not a thing here.

GET QUIZZICAL

Whether you’re buying a period property, older new builds or brand spanking new, don’t be afraid to ask questions. To ensure you’re there’s no surprises, the agents at Berkshire estate agents Haslams have got your back to get into the nitty gritty.

  • How many people are in the chain?
  • Do the sellers need to tie in their own purchase?
  • When are the sellers hoping to move out?
  • Have all the necessary consents been obtained for any work already carried out on the property?
  • What work has been carried out on the property?

BUYING NEW

  • What are the estimated completion dates for this property?
  • Are there annual charges associated with property – ground rent/services?
  • How long is the warranty/guarantee?
  • What is included with the purchase – garden, landscaping, flooring, choices for fixtures and fittings?

Buying or selling? Contact the team at Haslams or Michael Hardy who can help you navigate a tricky property market and help your find your dream home.

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