12 Oct 2020

Putting Wellbeing at the Forefront of Housing

The coronavirus pandemic has made many of us reconsider our priorities when it comes to how we live our lives. With home working set to become the ‘new normal’ for many, potential buyers are increasingly interested in purchasing a property that offers the full package, including gardens, office space and rural location, as opposed to just great transport links, says Karen Curtin, Managing Director at Graven Hill – the UK’s largest self- and custom-build community.

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A recent report from Rightmove has shown that increased interest in moving out of the cities and into more rural locations is more than just a dream. The property website has stated that buyer enquiries from people living in 10 major cities across the UK, including London and Birmingham, increased by 78% in June and July 2020 in comparison to the same period last year. At the same time, enquiries from residents in city locations looking to purchase homes in village locations rose by 126%.

With more people now working from home and many employers re-evaluating working processes to account for more flexible practices, access to transport links is no longer the number one priority. The focus has instead shifted to the quality of the location, and commuter links are now a bonus, as opposed to a dealbreaker.

The recent launch of Home England’s ‘Building for a Healthy Life’ (BHL) design code has arrived at an opportune time, echoing the thoughts of many who found themselves stuck in their homes with little access to outdoor space throughout lockdown. The requirement to stay at home for two months emphasised a clear link between homes and wellbeing. Bright and airy properties should not be seen as an unaffordable luxury; they should be standard.

Likewise, the natural space around new developments should be considered from the very start, as opposed to at the end of the build. Not only does this help to create a feeling of connection between existing surroundings and new areas, but also encourages homeowners to get out of their homes and explore the area, in turn, positively impacting wellbeing.

It is likely that access to the natural habitats surrounding properties will become an increasingly popular selling point for new-build homes. Open green spaces, pedestrian and cycle paths, community allotments and elevated boardwalks that allow residents to enjoy the local habitats without interrupting them, are all elements that promote health and wellbeing and support sustainable environments. Rather than fall into the background, these aspects should be prioritised in new-build developments.

Similarly, lockdown illustrated the significance of communities and the support that they offer. People are no longer content with living in a property that is purely convenient for work. Instead, quality of life now plays a larger role and access to good quality local amenities is a key part of that. With that in mind, there is a renewed demand for developers and planners to work in conjunction to deliver good quality housing with extra amenities. Community centres, shops, cafes and even local pubs all add to the identity of a place and can make the difference between a lifeless new-build estate and a vibrant community.

However, it goes without saying that regardless of whether the property is perfectly located or has access to the best amenities, it is also crucial that the home itself ticks all the necessary boxes. According to Guild Property Professionals, the importance of a home office has jumped from 12% before lockdown to 21% in just a few short months, while open-plan living areas have become even more popular due to the flexibility that they offer. This is where custom-build new homes come in, offering the convenience of a new-build home with the personal touches that buyers desire.

For those who are looking for a home that reflects their personality and lifestyle, without having to embark in a self-build, custom building is an ideal choice. Unlike a self-build project, there is no need for custom builders to be involved in the construction of their home; this is completed for them. Instead, they can focus on the bespoke elements of the build, including the internal layouts and finishes. While custom building is still relatively new to the UK market, a handful of developers, including Graven Hill, are taking the lead in the delivery of this new approach to housing.

It is clear that the coronavirus pandemic has had a lasting impact on people’s lifestyles and the homes they live in. Therefore, it is essential that the property market sits up and takes note of the last few months and responds with well-made, affordable homes that no longer force people to choose between quality of life and location.

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