10 Jul 2020

It’s Time to Re-invent the Property Search

Due to the implications of COVID-19, people have been spending more time inside their homes than ever before. With remote working set to become the ‘new normal’ for many, people’s priorities and property requirements are changing. As a result, it is time for developers to expand their house-building horizons to ensure that they are answering buyer’s needs, writes Karen Curtin, Managing Director of Graven Hill.


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In 2019, only 30% of UK employees worked from home. In contrast, over the last three months, the majority of the country has been forced to work remotely, increasing the need for more space around the home in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Many of those who are working in bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms are finding it difficult to separate themselves from work at the end of the day and unable to relax in rooms that they now associate with the office.

For those without gardens, this has been even more of an issue. Weeks of being unable to exercise outside for more than an hour a day has demonstrated the value that having outside space holds, both as somewhere to connect with nature and as a place for children to burn off some steam.

Having the whole family at home 24/7 may also have highlighted a lack of room in general. Open-plan living is likely to become even more desirable, increasing the floorplan of the home and offering flexible space for family activities.

In order to appeal to those exploring the property market, housing developers will need to ensure that they are building new homes with these modern needs in mind. A number of developers, including Graven Hill, a self- and custom-build development in Bicester, Oxfordshire, has taken the lead in creating an alternative approach to housing.

Custom building is the new kid on the block when it comes to UK housing. Unlike a self-build, the internal and external structure of the property is built by a team of professionals, meaning that custom builders do not have to lift a finger. However, buyers do have the option to choose from a range of high-quality fixtures and fittings, providing a greater level of customisation than a standard new build without the responsibility of having to construct the home themselves.

In these changing times, giving buyers the confidence that the home they are purchasing will suit their long-term needs is vital. Nevertheless, that does not mean that practicality should overrule creativity. Custom building offers the best of both worlds, resulting in properties that are both unique and functional.

As well as building homes to fit people’s shifting needs, developers should also treat location as a priority. Recent events have increased the importance of access to open spaces, and having nature on the doorstep has become hugely valuable, even if it is only in the form of a garden or an area of green space nearby.

At Graven Hill, protecting and enhancing the natural environment has always been a key consideration. From tree protection zones to the addition of grassland and hedgerows, the aim is to allow people and wildlife to live in harmony. Boardwalks and cycle routes have also been created, enabling residents to enjoy their surroundings without damaging them.

In addition to changing the way they approach the physical side of developments, developers are finding that they are also having to reassess the way they use technology to market the properties on offer – leading to virtual tours becoming increasingly common. Now that people are aware of alternative digital ways to search for a new home, it is possible that virtual tours will become the norm, at least for first viewings. Access to this extra information, in the form of images, videos and even drone footage, is allowing buyers to make initial decisions on the suitability of a property.

With this in mind, developers should ensure buyers have access to all the details they might need, including floorplans, high-quality images and videos of each home. A virtual map of the site is another helpful feature, allowing potential purchasers to view the exact location of each property.

COVID-19 has changed the way we look at our homes, potentially forever. By reinventing the property buying process, and involving buyers in the creation of their home, there is no reason why people’s long-term property needs cannot be met.

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