You need to have a plan

Discriminating house buyers are now demanding decent diagrams. Cheryl Markosky reports
Click to follow
The Independent Online

If someone tells you size doesn't matter, they're lying. Once, buyers only wanted to know how many bedrooms there were in a home, but now we're entering a realm where the talk is of square feet, square metres and even the volume of double-height atriums. Floor plans are de rigueur and we are all becoming architectural experts.

If someone tells you size doesn't matter, they're lying. Once, buyers only wanted to know how many bedrooms there were in a home, but now we're entering a realm where the talk is of square feet, square metres and even the volume of double-height atriums. Floor plans are de rigueur and we are all becoming architectural experts.

It all started at the upper end of the market, says Jo Bishop, of Big Property Marketing (077887 595405), a company specialising in high-quality, easy-to-read floor plans for estate agents. "With increasing use of the internet, people want information immediately and are frustrated if there are no floor plans. Agents are expected to supply floor plans and this is trickling down to the lower end." And what was once seen as a London phenomenon is moving out to the shires.

Savills, Hamptons International and Goldschmidt & Howland employ Big Property Marketing to draw up floor plans. But smaller agents, further downscale, are getting in on the act. Dexters in south-west London produces floor plans, as does HJC Estates in Surrey, selling homes from £180,000 up to £1.5m.

Jay Chitnis, of HJC Estates, says it was one of the first on its patch to provide floor plans in a laminated brochure. "Rather than write reams about each room, floor plans are cleaner and more user-friendly. It is a major selling point for vendors, and buyers think they're fantastic."

Buyers from abroad and developers selling off-plan have influenced this visualisation of space. With only a hole in the ground and nothing to show punters, developers had to come up with clear floor plans.

While floor plans help you work out what you are getting for your money, it can be hard to understand what square footage really means. Roughly, 2,000 sq ft adds up to a typical three-to-four-bedroom house, and anything over 3,000 sq ft is spacious indeed. New flats of 500 sq ft are more akin to a cosy night in for one than a swinging party for 20.

However, there is a danger in simply totting up square feet on your plan. Lulu Egerton, of Lane Fox, Chelsea, says that square footage is fundamental to the way sophisticated global buyers make their initial search. "But outside factors such as condition, which direction the garden faces, number of storeys and off-street parking all equate to the actual market value."

Tom Tangney, from Knight Frank, Kensington, says while the older generation is hung up on number of bedrooms and ceiling heights, analytical young buyers talk in square feet. The truly anal out there might like us to adopt commercial property speak, suggests Tangney. "Zone A is the important shop front and worth more money, compared with cheaper back-room Zone B. Location is all-important - a 2,000sq ft flat in North Kensington is not the same value as a 2,000sq ft house in Campden Hill Gate."

Marie Harrison, who works for upscale German agent Engel & Volkers, making firm inroads into the British market, believes we Brits are ahead of the game. She is educating her Continental colleagues into producing brochures with comprehensive floor plans. "If someone flies out to look at a house and they don't want all the bedrooms on the ground floor, they need to know before they set off."

Downsizers refusing to compromise on space are determining how we might interpret plans in the future. John and Sarah Roberts recently moved from a five-bed house to a three-bed 2,100 sq ft apartment at nearby Roxbury Homes, St George's Court, Surrey (Savills 01483 796810).

"Unfortunately, most developers don't understand that people want fewer rooms, but spacious ones. We were determined to find a home with sufficient storage space, a utility room and large rooms," says John.

If size is important, how best do you get the measure of it? The answer is to calculate the price per square foot, know what is reasonable for the area and read the floor plans, believes Patrick Aschan, of Cluttons, Chelsea. "Floor plans give an immediate indication of how well, or how badly the accommodation is laid out."

Comments