Locals grab insider deals

Once they used to fight new developments. Now the neighbours get their names down first. Chris Partridge reports

It's deeply frustrating. After weeks of hunting for a new home in an area you like, you happen across a new development that offers all you want. The show house has only been open a day, so you should have first choice. Then you find all the best plots have been reserved by locals who nipped in first, leaving only the ones with the small gardens next to the road and no views.

It's deeply frustrating. After weeks of hunting for a new home in an area you like, you happen across a new development that offers all you want. The show house has only been open a day, so you should have first choice. Then you find all the best plots have been reserved by locals who nipped in first, leaving only the ones with the small gardens next to the road and no views.

The media obsession with property has made people even more watchful for opportunities in their area, according to Tim Willcocks, of Strutt & Parker in Salisbury, who sells many small developments in villages in the Wiltshire area. "We expect to sell about 25 to 30 per cent of a development to local people," he says.

When Willcocks arrived at Manor Farm in Pimperne, Dorset, to discuss selling the houses being built on the former farmyard by Wyatt Homes, he found that locals had already informally reserved the best plots.

"They knew the farmer who used to own the property and had been speaking to the people who bought the land, so they were involved in the development from day one," he says.

Retired history teacher Robert Allan and his wife, Anne, did just that. They lived close by, in Pimperne, and heard about the sale of the old farm buildings from the family that had farmed there for generations.

They needed to move into a smaller house, the children having flown the nest; and the large garden at the family home was beginning to look more like a burden than a joy.

The prospect of moving to a new, low-maintenance house with a smaller garden was very attractive, says Mr Allan. And being involved at the very beginning allowed them the pick of the properties. "When the development went on the market, we were already pencilled in for the house we wanted."

The Allans knew something about the development that anyone simply reading the brochure would not: the houses that had the best views. "Three houses on the edge of the development face 'The View', over a large field and open country beyond," Mr Allan explains.

Getting in first also meant they could change the house design to suit their particular requirements. "We had a couple of sessions with the architect and clawed at the design - they've been frightfully good," he says.

"We wanted two bedrooms with access from the landing to cater for guests, and had a huge cupboard built in, and we got rid of the wall between the kitchen and dining room."

In contrast to the furious local opposition that meets many village developments, Manor Farm got a relatively smooth passage because the original buildings had become an eyesore, Mr Allan says.

The small cluster of cottages have traditional brick or brick-and-flint elevations with tall chimneys and timber 'barn-style' garages. The tiled roofs have a line of characteristic eaves coursing in reconstituted stone tiles, and the Allans' house is even thatched.

The original barns will be restored in the next phase of the development later this year. "The whole appearance of the village has been lifted by the development," Mr Allan says.

Houses at Manor Farm range from £275,000 for a three-bedroom, end-of-terrace design to £635,000 for a five-bedroom detached pad. For details ring 01722 328741.

It is not just home-owners who can benefit from local knowledge. Investors can get to the front of the queue by keeping an eye out in their immediate vicinity.

Based in Kent, Colin and Jacqueline Terry were keen to buy a property to rent, but did not want to put their savings in property a long way away, such as in London. So they went to King's Hill, the new town under construction just down the road. "We live in West Malling so we knew about King's Hill from the start," Mr Terry says.

They were convinced that early buyers at King's Hill would see capital values rise as the rest of the village, including the shops and other facilities, were added to the first residential phases. However, they did not want a thatched cottage but something contemporary and striking. Which took them to Sunley's ultra-modern, environment-friendly development, Lacuna.

The Terrys were on the doorstep when the show house opened and bought a penthouse on the spot. "We put a deposit down within a couple of hours of the show house opening," he says.

The Terrys were particularly impressed with the spacious interior, with a cathedral roof over the living space and two bedrooms on a mezzanine floor behind. As with the Allans in Pimperne, views were particularly important.

"It looks out over the golf course so they won't build on it," Mr Terry says. The flat has been a good investment so far, Mr Terry says: "We have let it out for 18 months without breaks, so we are very happy with it."

Apartments at Lacuna range from £190,000 for a two-bed unit to £300,000 for a two-bed, two-bath duplex. Ring 01732 840256 for details.

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