Jo Richards, Head of Sales and Marketing at Hillreed Homes, discusses how the company makes buyers feel like they belong from day one.
Can you introduce the company
Hillreed Homes was, until 2012, a privately owned company of over 35 years standing. Based in Maidstone, Kent, the company flourished by selling houses built in the local vernacular. Kent is renowned for its oast houses and farms all of which have a distinctive façade. The company took this appealing concept and incorporated it in the design of their homes creating properties which fitted in perfectly with the surrounding villages and town.
In 2012 the company was taken under the umbrella of the Persimmon Group the highly successful company which has been trading since 1972.
How do you ensure that you provide your customers with the highest standards of: Design, construction and customer service?
At Hillreed Homes we take pride in all three concepts and over the years have had many examples of owners of a Hillreed Homes, seeking to buy a larger version as their family grew. At Kings Hill near West Malling in Kent, we have built 15 separate developments since its inception, and we frequently see buyers of our homes changing developments, but remaining loyal to the brand.
We realise the need to keep abreast of the changing needs of buyers so, we have changed the interiors focusing on larger kitchens to include eating areas and thereby creating the ‘hub’ of the household. We have looked also at the exteriors and as towns such as Maidstone have grown, have adjusted our external appearances accordingly. Quality of construction is of course paramount, and with modern day insulation and compact, highly efficient boilers, buyers of new homes are living in cosy, easy to maintain properties with low heating bills.
Customer Service is also high on the agenda; after all, word of mouth is better than any advertising. We have a close knit team at Hillreed Homes who have worked together for years so we have a smooth, highly organised section able to deal with any queries customers may have.
What does the buying process with Hillreed Homes involve?
We offer purchasers many different options which obviously include Help to Buy. There is also Part Exchange where we get independent estate agents to value their current home, take the average value and subject to certain terms and conditions, literally part exchange the properties. This enables the buyer to avoid estate agents fees and also secures a smooth and quick transition into their new property.
We also have Home Change, a scheme where we personally get involved, using our marketing skills, to help a home owner sell their current property.
Which awards and accreditations has Hillreed achieved?
Over the years the company has won numerous awards from quality of build and site maintenance to design, environment performances, efficient aftercare service and attention to detail..
Which market trends are you predicting?
Whilst it is always something of a gamble to predict the future, at present we have seen, for a good 12 months, a steady, consistent flow of buyers to our many sites which extend beyond Kent to include East and West Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire.
Whilst Help to Buy remains in situ and the mortgage rate stays exceptionally low, we cannot see any reason for the buoyancy in the new homes market to change. There is a great need for homes in the South East so we have a ready market. We do our homework when purchasing land, and because of our long standing in the local community, understand where and why buyers favour certain areas.
The Government is currently promising to keep, for some time to come, the Help to Buy scheme, so only an increase in the mortgage rate could slow down the current high level of buying and even this is predicted to be only minimal in the short term. Based on these facts we would predict a continuation of this period of transition from the recession with many people taking this phenomenal opportunity to buy their dream home and at the same time benefit from a long term investment. We are also seeing a number of instances where parents are helping with deposits for their offsprings in order to get them on the property ladder.
How has Help to Buy aided the market?
The answer has to be, tremendously. Without a doubt it has allowed those who were unable to secure a deposit, to now proceed quickly in attaining a brand new property. With just 5% to pay it has opened up the market place. Whilst the scheme does not just refer to first time buyers, the bulk of the buyers are in this category and it is interesting to note that with the Government’s input, they are able to secure a larger and more expensive property than they would have been able to do without the scheme.
Often first time buyers purchased one bedroom apartments as it was within their price range but with the new Government incentive, quite a few are going for a larger home.
Do you think that enough houses are being built? Which areas would be ideal for new developments?
Certainly looking at Government figures, there are insufficient homes being built to meet demand however, one has to bear in mind that the land has to be sourced by the developer and planning permission has to be granted before build can begin. These processes take time, often because of genuine concerns by residents already in the area. We are required to fulfil the requests of the local council and often that includes additional roads, open spaces, village halls and many other needs for the local community, so despite everyone’s efforts to bring developments to fruition there are lots of considerations to be taken into account before the first brick is laid.
It is difficult to say across the board where new developments should grow. As a company, Hillreed Homes, does have some larger developments but also we are equally ‘at home’ with building smaller pockets of say five or six homes, which also fill a need for our buyers and do not impinge on the local environment.
“Take responsibility” is at the heart of our working practices. We continually reassess and evaluate our environmental strategy and work closely with the local communities as we take social and environment responsibility very seriously.
The community too is at the heart of what we believe a development today should achieve to truly deliver a desirable place to live. We are committed to ensuing that our developments provide a framework from which a sense of community can develop and we are constantly exploring new opportunities to achieve this.
In the past we have helped to create resident’s associations, mixed use developments and community websites, all of which have helped to create superior environments where buyers really feel they belong from day one. Buyers should have an emotional sense of belonging as well as having physical foundations.