House prices in the South East edged up in May, says the latest survey from the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors. The government's decision to abolish HIPs gave supply a boost - and in the new homes market, more and more developers are bringing their schemes forward, especially at the upper end of the market.
Chigwell has long been regarded as a London suburb characterised by prestigious homes. Just 35 minutes from the City and 25 minutes from Canary Wharf, it is among the closest quality areas to central London and is home to celebrities and sports stars from both Spurs and West Ham. Local estate agent Phillip Leigh Associates has sold property to members of both teams over the years. It is now launching a development of five apartments and five duplex penthouses, called Manor Hall, which is reaching completion by Bell City Homes.
Two ground-floor apartments of more than 1,300 sq ft, each with private gardens and two penthouses, each more than 2,000 sq ft and with large terraces, are being released in the first phase. Prices start from £625,000.
Surveyors report that the decision to abolish HIPs has pushed more supply on to the South East market. The net balance of surveyors reporting rises in new instructions moved from three per cent in April to 13 per cent in May. This trend is likely to continue in the near term.
Properties such as Manor Hall may become harder to find as the government acts to stop "garden-grabbing". The growing trend for new homes to appear in place of large private gardens is apparently rife from Bromsgrove to Leeds - but there is a growing debate as to whether this can be considered a bad thing when the UK continues to face a growing housing shortage.
This process became particularly popular in the last few years, with homeowners eager to earn extra money and developers desperate for land. It could also be argued that the selling of gardens to support housing needs has eased developer pressure to build on greenbelt or greenfield land; which in themselves are a little clouded in their definitions.
The need for schemes such as Manor Hall is clear, say developers. A recent poll by Barratt Homes found that nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) of respondents rated home ownership over getting married and having children, pointing to the continued importance of owning a home in the UK psyche.
In support of this, the new housing minister Grant Shapps made a commitment to increasing home ownership which, despite sustained levels of demand, has witnessed a decline in the past few years. The number of home owners would increase, he said, by cutting red tape, encouraging shared ownership, getting banks to ease lending restrictions and, importantly, building more new homes.
In the last few years, the banks have remained for many buyers the biggest hurdle to achieving home ownership. I eagerly await the answer of Mr Shapps' question to lenders about why they continue to refuse loans to those perfectly able to pay them back, in particular for new-build properties.