Friday, 17 June 2011


If you have ventured into the suburbs of London recently, you may have seen signs of a quiet revolution happening. Old houses are being completely knocked down and new ones are being built in their place. The new houses are being constructed with the very finest materials and finishing and some of them are built with gyms, home cinemas, professional wine cellars, saunas, and even swimming pools. Yes, the rich and affluent are seeking the very best that money can buy. The results are houses worth upwards of £3 million.

According to a new study by Lloyds Bank, around 185,000 homeowners in Britain own properties worth more than £1 million. Last year 7,185 buyers purchased property worth £1 million or more, which represents a 50% rise on the previous year.

This new phenomenon has given rise to a new kind of property developer. The first kind of property developer is the owner-developer, who has purchased an old house which has not accompanied the times. They decide to take on the new project to build a new house on the plot. They move the family to rented accommodation for about 12 months, engage an architect, and set about their task. The advantage of this kind of development is that the owner-developer helps design the property themselves, and so the new house suits their requirements. They do not need to sell the property for many years, and so in a sense do not need to worry about this too much at the moment of construction.

The second kind of property developer is the professional property developer. They may operate in more than one area, and they will constantly be on the look out for old properties they can purchase, so they can knock them down and build new ones in their place. The professional property developer understands what the market at this level requires, because that is their job. They know the kind of finishing and requirements that people at this level are looking for. If they don’t they will not be in business for very long.

The third kind of property developer is the amateur property developer. This kind of property developer probably lives in their local area and has seen an opportunity to purchase another old house close to their own. Indeed, it may even be the house next door. They may have built their own house first, and enjoyed the experience.

Luxury Hedonist has seen houses built by all these kinds of developers in Wimbledon and the surrounding areas in south London. Some have been built to the highest standards of taste and style, and some have not. It is probably true to say that people who can afford new houses at the level we are talking about-£3 million and above-are looking for a ‘finished’ house with the best finishing. They do not expect the house to have any ‘flaws’ and they do not expect to make substantial modifications to the house once finished. But many flaws are still being made by some of these property developers. So what kinds of flaws are being made in these properties?

Luxury Hedonist believes that any house at this level needs to be professionally designed, and taken in its context. The context includes the surrounding area, and neighbouring houses. Luxury Hedonist saw several examples of very big houses built on small plots of land, where the surrounding houses are at not at the same house value level. In other words, a big house was newly built to be sold at more than £4 million, whereas all the surrounding newly developed houses in the same road are around the £2 million level. The big house was struggling to sell at its selling price because it was out of sorts and out of context to its surrounding area.
Some of the worst houses were those where owners had added extensions to already big houses to create home-cinemas or gyms and in doing so created an incongruous mess of small rooms and long corridors that do not lead to anything in particular. The problems start when they want to sell the house to somebody else who is not prepared to pay the full price for a house that has a messy layout.

Luxury Hedonist believes that the kitchen is the most important room in the house. It should have the light, the space and unrestricted access to the garden. And yet Luxury Hedonist saw a newly built house in a premier road in Wimbledon with the utility room placed right in the middle of the kitchen, partly blocking the access to the garden! What a disaster! Of course the room could be moved, but whoever did the design, should be quietly shot.

Luxury Hedonist saw another house that did not have proper landscaping for a big property. We all know that flash flooding has become a more frequent phenomenon in the last few years. That means that if you have a basement built you need to take the precautions of preventing water entering the basement in the first place, as well as having the means of dealing with water should it enter the property. And yet the property in question had a steep down drive, which looked like a disaster waiting to happen.

Luxury Hedonist also saw another property which had a fantastic location on the edge of a golf course. The owners had purchased the property to do it up themselves and set about their task. Presumably they had allocated a budget for the improvements, but their circumstances had changed, and they found themselves in the position of having run out of money without having completed the improvements on the property. Unfortunately, the owners had obviously not taken professional advice, and the  ‘improvements’ the owners had made were tacky and were not in good taste at all. The result was a mess, and not surprisingly the owners were finding it very difficult to sell the property at the asking price, or even any other kind of price.

In conclusion, the properties built by the professional developers were generally of a high standard and without flaws. However, this was reflected in the asking price.
Some of the properties built by owner-developers built from scratch were of a very high standard and just as good as those built by professional developers. However, where owner-developers have made extensions to existing properties, the quality was generally not of a good standard, especially where basements were added. Many of the owners obviously did not seek professional help, and the modifications were made on the cheap and it shows.

The properties built by amateur-developers that Luxury Hedonist saw had a number of flaws. The fact that they were amateur-developers showed in poor designs and tacky finishing. Not surprisingly these amateur-developers were struggling to sell their properties for their asking prices (or even reduced prices), despite all the properties being on prime plots in prime locations.

 It all goes to show that building quality homes is not a piece of cake, and building quality properties requires the right combination of professional advice and input, a proper budget, quality products and finishing and an exquisite attention to detail. There is no escaping the fact that people who are purchasing luxury homes nowadays expect only the very best, and only those who supply them will reap the rewards.

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