New homes for first-time buyers: what to buy and where to search

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despite the risks and difficulties first-time buyers’ appetite for a place of their own remains intense.

In these uncertain economic times they will be looking for an absolutely outstanding first property more than ever.

Which is just what our New Homes Awards judges are also doing as they start to sift through entries to find the very best options for buyers on the first rung of the property ladder.

Developer incentives for first-time buyers

From £737,000: flats in Fish Island Village in Hackney Wick

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One way that housebuilders can help first-time buyers is by offering juicy incentives, from cashback payments to furniture packages.

To Fish Island Village in Hackney Wick, east London, developer Hill is offering sweeteners worth up to £22,000 to buyers who purchase a three-bedroom flat, priced from £737,000. The deal includes an interior design package, service charge paid for the first two years, plus free broadband for two years.

And that The Streetin Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, Hill is currently offering to contribute up to £12,000 towards deposit costs on flats priced from £272,950.

Meanwhile, in Deptford, south-east London, housing association Peabody will contribute up to £33,375 towards deposit payments at its development, The Sceneclose to the Thames, where prices start from £570,000 for a two-bedroom flat.

Incentives: buyers of a £385,000 home at High Street Quarter in Hounslow will be given £6,000 to put towards mortgage repayments

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Buyers who choose a shared ownership home at Peabody’s Valley House, Charlton, south-east London, will receive a move-in package worth £7,000, including £5,000 cashback. Prices start at £105,000 for a 25 per cent share of a two-bedroom flat.

Barratt London offers incentives on specific flats across its schemes. The buyer of a £385,000 one-bedroom home at its High Street Quarter in Hounslow, west London, will, for example, be given £6,000 during their first year in residence to put towards their mortgage repayments.

What buyers want

Freebies aside, housebuilders also need to offer inspiring design and the promise of a brilliant lifestyle to tempt first timers. This combination of style and substance has long been championed by the Evening Standard New Homes Awards.

Peter Krelle, of Barnard Marcus, says that even as the memories of life in lockdown start to subside, outside space remains a key first-time buyer priority.

“You need not only some form of communal space, but a decent-sized private balcony or terrace,” he said.

“Storage space is also important to many – somewhere to store the bicycle and sports equipment. Superfast broadband is in high demand, not just for those who work from home, but for those who stream.”

Outdoor space: The Scene has homes with balconies near The Thames in Deptford

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Amenities, both on-site and nearby, are a huge draw says Nick Vaughan, of Savills’ residential development sales team.

“Transport, gyms, parks and proximity to boutique independent cafés, restaurants and shops all feature prominently on a wish list,” he said. “In terms of on-site amenities, the provision of co-working spaces or ‘experiential’ facilities is becoming more important.

“Developers are increasingly thinking beyond traditional amenities and looking to provide facilities such as gaming spaces, media and music rooms and wellness facilities.”

Another issue is safety. “Many first-time buyers are single women so security is paramount,” says Michael Zucker of Jeremy Leaf & Co. “An area where there are always plenty of people, with good lighting, close to a bus stop or station in a safe area is a priority.”

Jack Reid, director of Orlando Reid estate agents, says many first-time buyers are after a low-maintenance home they can start enjoying immediately, with no tiresome building work required. They are often willing to overlook downsides if the site is Instagram friendly.

“Most often, if the property offers the ‘wow’ factor, buyers are willing to be further away from the high street and public transport,” he says.

Best areas for first-time buyers

First-time buyers also want to live in a location where outperforming price growth and a return on their investment are on the cards.

In London this could include Southall, still currently one of the most affordable places to buy a new home along the Crossrail line and commute to central London or the City in less than half an hour.

Berkeley Homes is six years into a 25-year project to reboot Southall Gasworks as a new neighbourhood, The Green Quarterfeaturing 3,750 homes, a wetland park, towpaths along the Grand Union Canal, shops, restaurants and a primary school.

In the pipeline are £1 billion plans to transform a former margarine factory site into 2,000 more homes, with offices, shops and a park. Outline planning permission has already been granted to reboot the Maypole factory, plus Sunrise Radio’s former studio, to a design by Assael Architecture.

From £350,000: flats at Gun Hill Park in Aldershot

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Outside of London, the military town of Aldershot, Hampshire, is also enjoying a bit of spit and polish which should see prices rise.

The landmark Cambridge Military Hospital is being redeveloped by Weston Homes, as the £60m centerpiece of a multimillion-pound regeneration of 371 acres of former military land. Homes at Gun Hill Park start at £350,000 for a one-bed flat.

Meanwhile, developer Grainger is spending £230 million on building an extension to Aldershot around Gun Hill Park, on decommissioned military land. By 2030 it will include new schools, local centres, leisure facilities and 4,500 homes, all surrounded by another 272 acres of woodland.

And Aldershot’s slightly drab town center is also getting an upgrade. Two of its dated shopping centers are being torn down and rebuilt around a new high street area.

‘London wasn’t an option because of the prices’

With a baby due in August, Toby and Rebecca Jakeman decided the time had come to get out of their rented flat and into a family home of their own.

Last December, they left their £1,500-a-month maisonette in south London for a new house at Cala at Wintringhamthe Cala Homes development close to St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

“We knew it wouldn’t be an option to buy in London because of the prices,” said Toby. “We would have only been able to afford a small flat, which just wouldn’t be suitable at all.”

Commuter life: Rebecca and Toby Jakeman can get to London by train in less than an hour

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After many hours of research, the couple opted for Wintringham partly because they can get to the capital by train in less than an hour. And their monthly costs as homeowners are much the same as they were spending in rent.

“I had a crazy spreadsheet of locations detailing house prices, nurseries, distance from parents and commuter costs,” said Rebecca. “Wintringham just ticked all the right boxes. The train station is only a 10-minute walk away and there’s an excellent school across the road.”

The couple were also keen to move into a regeneration zone with new amenities on the doorstep. When complete, Wintringham (cala.co.uk) will have a play area, cycle and running routes, shops, a library, a health center and a primary school.

Deptford: ‘Ideal for puppies’

When Ivan Tsokovski and Mikolaj Zalewski began house hunting, room to work from home plus space to keep their lockdown puppy were top of their wish list.

They chose a two-bedroom duplex apartment at The Scene in Deptford, which they now share with their four-month-old cockapoo, Griffin.

Ivan, 31, and Mikolaj, 33, who both work for a pension company, put down a five per cent deposit to reserve their flat and are now enjoying exploring their new neighbourhood.

Mikolaj Zalewski and Ivan Tsokovski are enjoying exploring their new south-east London neighborhood with Griffin the cockapoo

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“Deptford has so many lovely places for walking,” said Ivan. “Our favorite place to go is Deptford Park which is a huge space where Griffin can run around, just a 15-minute walk away, and there’s also a small doggy park locally which is ideal for puppies.”

They are also impressed by the range of local pubs and restaurants plus the good transport links, and they love the flexibility offered by their split-level home.

“Being a duplex, it also means that we are able to separate day and night easily, which is something you don’t get with a traditional apartment that is all on one level,” said Mikolaj.

Prices for two-bedroom apartments and duplexes at The Scene start at £565,000. Visit theScene-SE14.co.uk for more information.

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