Have you ever reached for a fresh, clean item of clothing and instead of the scent of fresh laundry felt yourself enfolded in last night’s dinner? If so then you may be a member of one of the many families in this country who are overdue their next house move and could be ready to invest in a new home.
Whichever town or city you live in, it’s clear that the UK housing market has been largely stagnant over the last few years. The worry of being able to afford stamp duty costs, moving costs and an increased mortgage during an uncertain job market has left many of us taking Sarah Beeny’s advice and sitting tight and either extending or improving, rather than hunting out our ideal next home.
Yet now by all accounts it seems the Government and financial markets are keen to kick start the property market. So what will compel families to actually make the move and purchase their next home? What do families want? What makes them buy? And what should house builders and potential vendors be doing to make their homes sell successfully?
The first thing that modern families usually look for is the kitchen. Ideally it should be wide enough to sidestep small children dancing around adults’ ankles at mealtimes, with an informal eating/homework area included alongside. Families frequently state that they would rather have a more open plan kitchen area like this than a separate dining room, which can often become an unofficial dumping ground.
The kitchen should lead directly onto the sitting room, and through to the garden, so that parents can see their children from the kitchen sink. Bi-fold doors leading on to the garden seem to be the in thing at the moment, but French doors are also good as long as there is a direct line of sight from kitchen to garden. The developer Linden Homes has created a good example of this at its ‘Riverside’ scheme in Godalming, Surrey. There’s a wide kitchen, a bay window dining area and a view from the kitchen through the sitting room to the back garden.
The importance of the garden itself is often understated. Most families want a big back garden. Too many new build gardens have just a patch of grass with barely enough room for the obligatory trampoline. Families need space for the trampoline, room to kick a ball around and a deck/patio where parents can quietly observe with a cup of tea/ glass of wine depending upon the season. One developer to have noted this is Shanly Homes, whose ‘Fairlawns’ development in Woking, Surrey is currently marketed as having houses with larger than average gardens. A front garden is nice to have but a drive to park the car in is much more important. Conservatories are also in demand as playrooms, although families won’t be put off if there isn’t one as long as there may be room to put one in at a later date.
In terms of bathrooms, it’s not essential to have three bathrooms in a three bedroom home as some house builders would have us believe. An en-suite is a luxury but it’s not a deal breaker for most families – no-one moves because they want an en suite. However a downstairs loo is a must-have, making potty training and other emergencies so much easier for all involved. Two loos are fine for a three bedroom household –most families would rather have extra storage than an extra bathroom to clean.
Families need masses of storage; for ironing boards, hoovers, brooms – the basic paraphernalia of life. So many existing and new build homes do not factor this in, and it can be a huge deciding factor upon whether to purchase for many families. There should be room for a decent-sized wardrobe in every bedroom, and ideally a larger sized bed in the main bedroom. Families who have invested in a king or super-king sized bed are unlikely to want to part with it, especially considering the number of nights when the whole family still ends up sleeping in one bed.
There also has to be space somewhere in the house to put the washing, so that everyone’s clothes don’t end up smelling of last night’s dinner. It does not necessarily have to be a laundry room, but rather an obvious space where washing can be put while it dries, instead of picking up all the kitchen smells and cluttering up the house. This is crucial in the UK where 70% of the year is damp and/or humid. In Horley, Surrey, homes in the latest phase of ‘The Acres’ development by David Wilson Homes have convenient utility rooms located just off the kitchen dining room.
Perhaps most importantly, however, homes will not sell to families unless they are within reasonable reach of good local schools. For families – or soon to be families – who are not able to afford independent schools, the term ‘Location, Location, Location’ is rather irrelevant, ‘Infants, Juniors, Seniors’ is the far more apposite phrase.
So house builders, vendors – take heed. The clean laundry factor, when considered along with all of the above, may just be the key which unlocks the door to a more robust, proactive property market.