Bonanza time for home buyers

More and more properties are being sold with freebies and discounts attached. Christopher Browne looks at some of the perks on offer
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The Independent Online

The handsome porcelain vase that caught your eye on a visit to a friend's house the other day could well have been a free gift with a new home-insurance policy or high-street store card. Each day, as yet another product or service is sold with a giveaway attached, we find ourselves closer to the age of the freebie-filled abode.

The handsome porcelain vase that caught your eye on a visit to a friend's house the other day could well have been a free gift with a new home-insurance policy or high-street store card. Each day, as yet another product or service is sold with a giveaway attached, we find ourselves closer to the age of the freebie-filled abode.

The very homes we are moving into are being marketed with an enticing array of gifts and discounts. Though the purists among us may think that this smacks of gimmickry, it can also be a considerable money-saver.

Not long ago, a group of Thames-side penthouses went up for sale with giveaway Ducati motorbikes worth £13,000 apiece. "It's a great way to attract the high-earning City boy, but it is not an obvious come-on for the more contemplative, artistic type," says David Hollingworth of London and Country Mortgages. "In many cases giveaways are horses for courses, the inducements matching the styles of properties being marketed," he adds.

So what has led to this new bargain- basement approach? The answer is economics and a slowdown in the housing market. "Property usually goes bonkers around Easter and the May bank holidays, but it simply hasn't taken off this year. Developers want to sell properties, and they are having to use lots of incentives to do so," says Hollingworth.

And if the price is right, the customer benefits. You will, for instance, get a free trip to Venice on the Orient Express with one of Crest Nicholson's two- or three-bedroom apartments in the former MI6 building near London's Waterloo station; or, if you prefer, free membership of Quintessentially, a concierge service that arranges holidays, theatre and restaurant bookings.

Fairview New Homes, which specialises in houses and flats for first-time buyers, says it has used offers to attract business for 20 years. Not only will you get all your moving-in costs paid for when you sign up for a studio or flat in their Dartford development in Kent, – the package also includes a five-per-cent deposit and free stamp duty.

The fillip of a fully-paid deposit can make all the difference for a new buyer. Not only will a 95-per-cent mortgage give them a wider choice of lender, it will also attract a lower interest rate than a 100-per-cent one. West London mortgage adviser William Channing says: "A five-per-cent deposit is the best free gift or incentive you can get on a new home. But you must not just take it for granted. First-time homebuyers should try and raise as much money as they can for their deposits. Not only will it reduce their monthly outgoings, but it could also pay off during any difficult periods."

Though he admits many developers' offers are seductive, Channing advises buyers not to fall for the first one they come across. "There may be older properties that are equally good, if not better, on offer, so check out all the other developments in your area. If you have any doubts whatsoever about the true value of a property that has an incentive attached, get an independent surveyor to assess it for you."

A few companies include gifts with refurbished homes, too. Crest Nicholson are selling a group of former police apartments in Putney, south-west London, and paying off the buyers' first six mortgage instalments. And should you buy one of the flats as a buy-to-let, the company will guarantee your first six months' rental payments.

If you want to move to a St James' Homes riverside apartment in Kew, Surrey, you can part-exchange your previous home as part of the deal. The 388-unit development includes apartments, penthouses and four- to six-bedroom houses and has its own themed gardens and health and leisure centre.

On the other hand, you may have been suffering from an overdose of congestion-charge-itis. If so, you will get a three-year reprieve if you move to a Rialto apartment in Leroy St, London SE1. Buyers of the £245,000-£335,000 flats will also get their stamp duty paid. "We want people to move to London's central fringes without having a penalty attached," says a Rialto spokesman.

In Bristol, if you opt for one of Countryside Properties' four- and five-bedroom houses in Royal Victoria Park, you'll get all your carpets and moving-in fees paid for.

But perhaps the most glamorous perk of all is offered by FPDSavills at a new development in Brentwood, Essex. Anyone who decides to buy one of a group of four- and five-bedroom houses will get a new, two-litre Jaguar X-Type saloon.

And, talking of speed, the last 19 buyers of an apartment block built by Berkeley Homes in London's Crouch End were each given a £10,000 discount in a three-hour sell-off last week.

If none of the gifts or perks being offered appeals to you, why not approach the agent and ask for a discount. You never know – it might just do the trick.

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