Marc Da Silva talks to Helen Moore of City & Country.
Name and business title: Helen Moore, managing director, City & Country.
Where is your firm developing new homes? We are currently developing new homes in the South East including, Balls Park in Hertford, Hertfordshire, Bentley Priory in Stanmore, Middlesex, The Galleries in Brentwood, Essex, The Garden Quarter in Caversfield, near Bicester, Oxfordshire.
We are also in the process of bringing forward two new sites, Bristol General Hospital in the heart of Bristol City Centre and adjacent to Bathhurst Basin and the floating harbor and King Edward VII Estate, near Midhurst in the heart of the South Downs National Park.
What types of properties are City & Country building? We specialise in the careful restoration and innovative conversion of historic and listed buildings, creating highly individual homes with a combination of character, stylish interiors and a real ‘wow factor'. Each of our developments provide a wide range of converted apartments, cottages and houses, each set within a wonderful landscaped setting and some also offer very high quality new build homes that complement the listed buildings.
How much does a property by City & Country cost to buy? Our properties at The Galleries range from £250,000 for a two-bedroom apartment to £495,000 for a two-bedroom penthouse.
One-bedroom homes at Bentley Priory start at £595,000 and two bedroom homes start at £685,000.
Prices at Balls Park start from £245,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to £1.1m for a very grand two bedroom Mansion House apartment.
The Garden Quarter, which has received excellent sales success since its launch in June, has homes starting at £165,000 for a one-bedroom cottage and £227,500 for a two-bedroom cottage.
What makes a property by City & Country stand out from the crowd? Each City & Country home is lovingly restored with a great amount of care and attention to detail incorporated into every element of the design and construction. Our expert team of architects, interior designers, craftsmen and builders has a real passion for working with heritage assets to ensure that we create the very possible standards throughout the process.
Our developments allow purchasers to own a piece of history and to live in a wonderful and often grand listed building set in a beautiful landscaped or parkland setting which would otherwise not be possible.
Have you noticed any particular buying trends recently? We have particularly noticed that many more parents are helping their children with their deposit and perhaps some additional capital, in order to overcome the challenges of the high deposit required from mortgage lenders currently.
Is your company currently offering any incentives or discounts to homebuyers? We are currently offering our Aspire incentive at Nightingale Court, The Galleries, Brentwood - our own shared equity scheme, which allows purchasers to own 100% of the property for just 85% of the price. Purchasers simply need to put down a 5% deposit to secure their property, meaning that they could be paying as little as £187,000 for a one bedroom apartment and £208,250 for a two bedroom apartment at The Galleries.
We are also offering NewBuy at The Garden Quarter and The Galleries. The NewBuy scheme, which was launched earlier this year, is aimed at first-time buyers and movers, who, because of the restricted mortgage market and falling house prices, have smaller deposits and insufficient equity to allow them to buy a new home.
Faced with a tough mortgage market and slow housing sector, the government-backed NewBuy scheme makes buying a new home more accessible to many new home buyers. The scheme has effectively re-introduced 95% mortgages back in to the market, meaning that buyers only need a 5% deposit to secure a new home within our historic developments.
Which City & Country development potentially offers the best property investment prospects? All of City & Country's properties are genuinely unique, aspirational and with strong historical connections therefore they not only hold their value in challenging market conditions but they also benefit from excellent capital growth when the market improves. Whilst not generally suited to investors who are looking purely for the very best rental yield, we sell to investors who wish to own a property that will produce a good return in the shorter term but will benefit from longer term capital growth as the development matures and to those who wish to own an individual property in a smart development of which they can be proud.
The Garden Quarter is also an extremely desirable development for investment with prices starting from just £165,000, a lack of availability of good quality one and two bedroom properties and a healthy rental market. The wonderful garden setting with 17 listed buildings in 23 acres creates a truly unique opportunity to purchase a relatively affordable property which will inevitably enhance in value as the development completes and the landscape matures. The development is in a tranquil location yet is close to the famous Bicester Village outlet and Nearby Bicester North Station provides a direct train service to London Marylebone making homes at The Garden Quarter ideal for commuters who are looking for the chance to escape city life and want a heritage home in a tranquil landscaped setting.
What is City & Country's USP? Our key USPs include Innovative and aspirational conversions sensitively created from wonderful historic and listed buildings.
A rare opportunity to own a home which is steeped in history, such as Bentley Priory being the RAF HQ for the Battle of Britain and Balls Park inspiration for Jane Austen's Netherfields in Pride and Prejudice.
Stylish and contemporary interiors to complement and enhance the original period features - creating unique and luxurious homes
Beautifully landscaped, secure and fully maintained settings to enjoy without the expense and hassle of looking after them - ideal for trade downers, lock up and leavers and first time buyers alike.
Has City & Country ever won a What House? Award? Yes, we have won a series of What House? Awards in the last five years including:
2011 What House? Awards, Gold - Best Small Housebuilder.
2011 What House? Awards, Gold - Best Start Home: The Galleries.
2010 What House? Awards, Gold - Best Renovation: Old Saint Michaels, Braintree.
2010 What House? Awards, Silver - Best Small Housebuilder.
2009 What House? Awards, Gold - Best Development: The Galleries, Essex.
2009 What House? Awards, Silver - Best Small Housebuilder: City & Country Group.
2008 What House? Awards, Silver - Best Landscape Design: The Galleries, Essex.
2008 What House? Awards, Gold - Best Renovation: The Galleries, Essex.
2007 What House? Awards, Silver - Best Landscape Design: The Manor, Suffolk.