Sutton Coldfield Property – Can you afford a sustainable home?
I’ve recently watched the two episodes of Kevin’s Grand Design. Kevin McCloud, the Grand Designs presenter, has previously confined his efforts to observing other people’s attempts to build their dream home. Now he has put his money where his mouth is and has invested in a project to build 42 homes on a new development in Swindon. This development is not just about building a few houses; it is an attempt to build a sustainable “happy” community. Some of the houses are to be sold; can they be sustainable and still fetch the market price?
The sustainable features differed from a standard new build in a number of areas. Each house would have a huge “chimney” which was in effect a ventilation shaft. All the houses would be rendered in “hempcrete,” a highly insulating material which is also carbon neutral. The lofts were insulated with sheep’s wool which is sustainable but also bulky and expensive. Other eco-friendly ideas included a boggy common area that would soak up rainwater, a communal allotment and the concept of parking your car in the garden so that it didn’t clutter up the shared area in front of the houses.
The extra cost of the sustainable elements had to come off the budget in other areas; the kitchens were very cheap and nasty and there were no built in storage areas at all. The net result was that the houses earmarked for sale could not be sold at the break-even price of £160,000. As an estate agent trying to sell one of these houses a few years down the line, I’d have a number of problems. Hempcrete is an unproven product so any surveyor is bound to have issues with it. An upmarket kitchen invariably adds value and makes a house easier to sell. Family homes with no storage space are notoriously hard to shift and off road parking that takes up your garden is never going to work.
I love Grand Designs but if I want a few tips on property developing I’ll stick to Sarah Beeny.
Craig Brown – Estate Agent
Article features in Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield