Friday, December 21, 2012

GUEST POST Why the British say no to new builds

Amy Fowler, who manages and regularly writes about home, lifestyle and legal issues for the Stormclad blog, explains our preference for older houses. 

Britain is being plagued by a housing shortage, yet when it comes to the most obvious solution – building new homes – just one in four home buyers are in the market for a property built within the last decade.

But why are we saying “no thanks” to new builds?

Research at the Future Homes Commission concluded that new build homes feature rooms that are too small, have insufficient storage, and limited natural light. Not to mention the fact that in many new homes, build quality is questionable, with such stand-out features as paper-thin walls, problematic fixtures and fittings, and a risk of condensation and the resulting mould and damp.

What’s more, just like when you buy a new car, a brand new home comes with a premium attached. Want to buy new? You pay more for the privilege.

Yet at first glance these things might not seem to matter. Britain is short on housing stock, so a new home is a new home, right? Who cares if it’s not ‘ideal’, so long as a family gets a roof over their head?

In theory: yes. But are we not storing up problems for the future? Will these homes, built with cheap materials and thin walls, hold up the way that homes of the Victorian era have done? If these homes start to fall apart, what happens to the families in them?

If they own the property, they won’t be able to sell. If it’s council owned, the government has to find another property to move the family into.

Not to mention the impact that unsuitable living conditions can cause in the meantime. Emotional problems caused by cramped living spaces. Stress caused by constantly being able to hear everything your neighbours do, or similarly, worrying that they can hear everything you do. And physical problems caused by damp and condensation.

It’s no wonder that given the choice, most British home buyers are looking for a home with a history. A home that, while it may come with its own problems, has problems that you (in most cases) know about before you move in.

Buying a new home is risky to say the least. Not only will most problems only come to light once the home’s lived in, but in many cases, the future of your ‘local area’ is uncertain too. With new build homes comes new communities, and no one knows what will happen as the community expands and the landscape around your home changes.

What’s the solution? The only one I can see is to build better homes. This current trend of pocket-sized and pocket-priced homes is only a temporary answer. We need to be looking at the bigger picture. We need to build homes for the future of our country and the generations to come.

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