Property: Buyers go in for old not new

Purchasers looking for a home with an old-fashioned period feel won't settle for any imitations.

It is an irony that many people who live in old houses, and express horror at the thought of buying a new home, are often among the first to say that they would love to build from scratch: "Give us a site and we'll show how we would really like to live." But take them to the homes on offer now and they will run a mile, back to the last century.

Are they prejudiced beyond hope or simply not being given what they want? A recent survey by the Popular Housing Forum concludes that the new homes market in the UK is a niche operation appealing to a small sector of the population.

Some 72 per cent have not bought, or would not consider buying, new homes, and tend to think of them as boxy, cramped and homogenous. While the vast majority of those who took part in the survey opted for a traditional facade, there was a strong demand for a re-think about the way we live.

All good developers will spend time and money on research, but it can be rather like preaching to the converted. If they focus just on their pool of customers, they will be hearing from only 28 per cent of the home- owning population.

"They need to study the occupiers who don't usually buy new homes," says Yolande Barnes, of F P D Savills Research. "These buyers have to be seduced. It is no good just matching the second-hand market, it has to be exceeded."

In leafy Wandsworth, in south-west London, a house that sells for pounds 1m no longer gives cause for comment. Buyers have moved southwards in search of space they can afford, and for a choice of good schools. Generally, this means Victorian or Edwardian, four or five bedrooms, two or three bathrooms, a garden and close to the common.

So a plot in a good street is a rare opportunity to woo buyers away from the old. Thirlstone Homes did their homework. Two red-brick, Edwardian- style, semi-detached houses mirror in almost every respect their neighbours in Lyford Road, with the extra advantage of off-street parking. The high ceilings demolish the usual criticism of feeling like being cramped.

The drawing room is comfortably large and the kitchen runs into a light and sunny family room. At the top of the house, under the eaves, is a study and studio bedroom with bathroom. As a package, these are all features that local buyers would have on their list. But just as it seems to be there, it stumbles and falls.

The "executive home" touch is the spoiler. A top-to-toe tiled bathroom and mirrored bedroom cupboards are more hotel than home. And these are buyers who are likely to want a coal fire, not look-alike gas. They have wet labradors and children with muddy boots but nowhere to put either. It is not that these houses won't sell well, but that they are unlikely to break through the old/ new barrier.

"Everything south of the river gets stamped with the Surrey mark," says Jonathan Seal, of Hamptons International. "London buyers are specialised, and know from experience exactly what they like. They are prepared to pay for houses with good hallways, high ceiling, French windows, wooden sash windows, larders, large south-facing rooms. They don't mind much about formal dining rooms or garages.

"There is no guarantee that the developer you are advising will instruct you in the end. That's the name of the game. It is tempting for some to tell a developer what he wants to hear."

Often the advice can be simple. Margaret McKenna, of John D Wood's Battersea office, has suggested that housebuilders employ a local interior designer, to avoid the inevitable clash of style that can put off buyers attracted to the area.

A great deal of money can be wasted on putting things on floors and walls that typical purchasers don't like. And if buyers find properties overpriced and overrated, it is often because they act on the valuation, but not the specifications. "We might have to say that we can't now sell their property for pounds 500,000 because they haven't done anything we suggested," says John Collard, of Robert Holmes in Wimbledon.

It is not as though buyers in the second-hand market are difficult to read. Estate agents' particulars, and glossy style magazines, give a blueprint at a glance. "You have to create an illusion of old money, of something that has been lived in," says Yolande Barnes. "The bookshelves either side of the fireplace, the fire surround, the sofas facing each other. You see it everywhere. They want period style without the period inconvenience, and not just a complete pastiche.

"Staircases can be wider, and the plumbing and wiring should make for easy living. But new London houses are more difficult to get right than flats. The one thing that really doesn't work is brand name marketing."

At Lyford Villas there is a stone plaque between the two front doors. It reads: "Thirlstone Homes 1998." Surely the last thing any buyers spending more than pounds 800,000 want is to be seen advertising a product, however discreetly.

Lyford Road Villas, priced from pounds 875,000 through agents Robert Trindle (0181-767 2222)

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Chelsea are interested in loaning out Romelu Lukaku to Everton again next season
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series