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In with the new (build)

Thinking about moving house in the new year but not sure what sort of house should be your home? Muddy weighs in on the old versus new-build debate

New builds Essex

Hands up: I’ve always been a bit of a period-home snob. As a young magazine journalist, I wafted about a rented Georgian flat in a leafy corner of Crouch End; migrated to an Edwardian three-bed in Ealing; then snapped up a Victorian semi (complete with all original fireplaces and parquet flooring) in the rural outskirts of Essex in classic DFL style.

But this is the thing: dream homes are often pictured as quaint cottages with roses around the door, characterful rooms packed full of period features and a mature garden bursting with teeming flower beds. What we don’t see is leaky windows, exorbitant heating bills, minuscule rooms that can’t accommodate modern-day furniture and the requirement of an extra £25k per year to pay a gardener.  

Enter the new build. It was something I’ve never considered before now, but I’ve been doing my research and, like electric cars and alcohol-free drinks, I’m coming round to it. So what do new builds have going for them? Spoiler: quite a lot.

You’ll join the eco-home massive

There are 247,000 homes being built each year in England and Wales (although this is under the government target of 300,000 per year) and government regulations mean that every home built today requires double glazed uPVC windows, high level insulation to roof and walls, energy efficient gas central heating and low energy lighting. And while that’s great news for your monthly bills, it’s also a boon for your resale value. According to the FT, eco-homes are going to be top of the agenda for prospective house buyers as we move into the next decade. Millennials and Gen Z are expecting outstanding eco creds.

You won’t be needing a builder anytime soon

If you have ever innocently taken down wallpaper in your period house and then been forced to embark on a wildly expensive and complex plastering mission, you know where I’m going here (and let’s not even start on the perils of maintaining wychert walls). Old homes are just that – old. They need shoring up, pulling in, sanding down. It is endless maintenance that never gives. Like the Forth Bridge, you start in one room and by the time you’ve finished the rest, you have a cup of tea and start again. You can swerve all that trauma by buying a high-spec new home. Wiring is up to standard, walls and ceilings are insulated and skimmed, and kitchen and bathrooms are top of the range. 

You’ll never have to share a bathroom again

My tiny Victorian pad currently has one tiny bathroom to boot. ‘Not ideal’ is slightly the understatement. Meanwhile, the bathroom to bedroom ratio in new builds tend to err on the generous side – five bedrooms to four bathrooms is quite common. Frankly, that seems positively palatial to me. Just imagine the bathing opportunities: “Where’s mum?” “In the bathroom.” “Which one?” “Dunno.” If you keep really quiet, they might not find you at all.

You could be recipient of a sweet deal

Earls Colne Essex

Obviously, moving home is unbelievably stressful and completion dates, stamp duty costs, and then finding a sofa that fits (rather than using those garden chairs) can all add fuel to the fire. Some new builds come with incredible deals attached, including having your stamp duty paid, being able to part exchange your old home with the developer and even £5,000 worth of John Lewis vouchers. Near me, CALA Homes is currently developing a collection of 3-4- and 5-bedroom homes in Audley Chase, Earls Colne, near the picturesque market town of Halstead (there’s also a new development CALA at Beaulieu in Chelmsford, plus future sites planned for Mistley, Kelveden and Great Bentley). Prices at Audley Chase start at £344,950 (yes, very Home Counties!) and CALA is offering up a range of options to make the process as easy as possible, including a 5% deposit contribution (Help to Buy) and part-exchange service. Like many other new developments, Audley Chase is also playing it smart with facilities: not only does it back onto the glorious greens of Colne Valley Golf Club, but the developers have worked in oodles of parking spaces (most plots come with at least two spots each, plus there’s 10 visitor bays), high-spec kitchens and bathrooms (hello, integrated everything) and navigated a scenic 5-minute walk-through to Earls Colne’s historic high street – cue a trad butcher, baker and coterie of character-filled pubs. Families with young ones will love the plethora of quality schools on their doorstep, too, with nearby Halstead (9 minutes’ drive away), Colchester (20 mins) and Chelmsford (35 mins) boasting some of the county’s top grammars and independents. Oh, and did we mention the beauty spots? Unlike most new developments, Audley Chase is surrounded by rolling fields and lapped by the River Colne, so long country walks and leisurely waterside picnics officially come as standard. 

They’re designed for life today (not 200 years ago)

Seventeenth-century cottage stairs were not designed for king-size mattresses, just in case you were wondering. And huge, rambling gardens were created when homes had staff, not just two frantic parents tapping away at a computer every god-given hour to put food on the table. Having something designed for purpose – large living-diner, neat, manageable outdoor space and, er… usefully placed plug sockets won’t tick the grand pronouncements about your new exciting ‘house project’ and you’re not going to find some long-forgotten Victorian tiles under the lino or admire 16th-century wall paintings in your dining room, but lord, it can shave off the stress of everyday life – and right now, who’s not up for that? 

Read independent advice from The Homeowners Alliance on what to look for when buying a new home. More info on Audley Chase in Earls Colne.

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