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Modern Mansions: How And Where The Uk's Largest Homes Are Being Built

By Author: Bradley Weiss
Total Articles: 159

In contrast to a shortage of homes in the UK, the modern moneyed-classes are building big again. But perhaps investors find middle class homes more interesting.

England has always been a huge international tourist draw with its country estates and castles. And while the television show “Downton Abbey” has educated millions at home and abroad as to the process by which those 19th century edifices very often became unaffordable to the families who built them - turning into hotels and museums, if not abandoned and demolished - there is a new class of the well-off who are building 21st century mansions to rival their architectural forebears.

Currently in development is one classically styled stone-and-stucco country house in Warwickshire, complete with newly planted woodland and hedgerows, ponds, ditches, an orchard and native wildflower meadows. It contrasts architecturally with the futuristic “Serenity” manse being built near Nottingham, variously described by critics as “an amoeba-like monstrosity” and “curvaceous” and “exuberant.”

Any discussion of these new estates naturally begs the embarrassment of riches matter relative to the homes shortage in the UK. An estimated one million new residences are needed to house the country’s growing population, while only about 150,000 houses and flats were built in 2015. Working to catch up are UK land investment funds targeting areas that need people, workers in particular, who help growing companies compete in a global marketplace. When average-sized houses are near workplaces, the company and its employers are more likely to succeed.

But just as there will always be a need for affordable housing, so too will there be demand for 14+ bedroom estates with every imaginable feature and convenience. Following are some features of size and price that are affecting the UK homebuilding landscape, particularly around London and the surrounding commuter-distance areas:

The biggest homes are in the Home Counties - Savills, the property group, analysed data from the Department of Communities and Local Government to fined that the largest new homes in England and Wales are outside of London in the commuter belt. Leading this group are Surrey Heath (with 200+ square metres of interior space), Elmbridge (190 m2), South Bucks (190 m2), Maldon (165 m2) and Guildford (145 m2).

The smallest homes are in urban areas - Savills’ data analysis also shows the smaller-builds are in areas with the greatest demand outweighing supply, and where most new building is that of flats and few detached homes. From smaller to larger this includes Oxford (58 m2 of interior space), Bournemouth (61m2), Reading (62 m2), Newham (63 m2), and Islington (63 m2).

Rents in Home Counties are rising quickly - As of July 2015 the rental prices in places such as Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex jumped 27% over the same period a year earlier, according to data compiled by Knight Frank. This is attributed to corporate renters (relocated employees and their families who wish to be in the London commuter belt) who make up 47% of tenancies in these areas. The industries fuelling these rises with well-compensated employees include gas, technology and pharmaceuticals.

Some Home County residents are London émigrés - Homesandproperty.co.uk reported in mid-2014 that the rising London real estate prices are providing owners there a chance to move up the property ladder by moving out. Over a year’s period (mid-2013 through mid-2014), 44,000 Londoners traded in their flats to buy larger homes with gardens within commuting distance. For their money (they spent an average of £330,000) the best values were in West Sussex and Medway (in Kent, including the towns Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham).

Strategic land investments by homebuilders and investors are made in the South East as well as elsewhere in the UK. If an area is already at peak valuation the wise investor will try to get an advance on where values will rise next and where homes will be in the greatest demand. That could be in a down-market London neighbourhood, or further out to Home Counties, or even further to places such as Peterborough, or the North West in Cumbria, to Wales and to Scotland. The point is to achieve planning approval where houses are needed.

The strong demand for housing attracts individuals and institutions to invest in building the homes that are sorely needed (the larger estates are presumably funded by their eventual occupants). For an objective understanding of all market opportunities, speak with an independent financial advisor.

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