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)

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Commercial Litigation NQ+

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


    Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

    Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

    Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

    £90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?