House buyers create their own ‘grand designs’ with Hertfordshire developer

Savvy house buyers are creating their own “grand designs” by snapping up quality homes from a leading Hertfordshire developer and having them built to their own bespoke requirements.

Home seekers are queuing up to buy homes from Taylor French Developments, based in Tring.

Demand is such that the award-winning firm has had to draw up a waiting list to notify disappointed house hunters, who previously missed out on buying one of its homes, about future schemes.

Managing Director Steve French said:

“Some people have said to us they want to buy one of our homes and will wait for us to buy land in their area.

“This is very unusual in this climate but what we are offering them is practically a self-build house without the aggravation of having to deal with sub-contractors and suppliers, as we do it for them. It makes sense.”

Buyers who exchange contracts at early stages of construction can instruct the architect to make significant changes to the design and specification.

Interest soared in Taylor French’s previous two house-building schemes, with 15 families vying to exchange contracts on just five stone properties in Paulerspury, Northamptonshire.

All the homes, which cost between £300,000 and £450,000, were bought within weeks of construction work starting.

A three-bedroom detached cottage, located on the village green at Little Horwood, near Buckingham, was also snapped up before the construction team had even stepped foot on site.

Taylor French recently started work on a small development in Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire. Although building is not due for completion until the end of next March, two of the houses have already been sold and there has been massive interest in the rest.

The Castle Gate development comprises two three-bedroom semi-detached houses, one three-bedroom detached house and one four-bedroom detached house, all of which are designed to a high specification. Prices range between £285,000 and £375,000.

Anyone buying soon will be able to take advantage of Taylor French’s bespoke building and design service.

Steve believes this service is key to the company’s success, as it has seen its turnover double year on year since 2008.

Working with the architect, home buyers have had en suites removed or added, internal walls changed, one had an extension added (subject to planning approval) and another completely changed the design of the back of their home, removing the wall and replacing it with glass panels.

“Buyers can get a bespoke home with us, even when it is part of a larger development,” explained Steve.

“It’s not just giving them a few choices for kitchen units and a selection of bathroom tiles. It really does mean they can have the home they want, to the budget they choose. So, in a development of five houses, it is highly unlikely that any two will be the same.”

What makes this service so unusual is that buyers do not pay extra for the service.

Upon exchange of contracts, a schedule of all costs is drawn up by Taylor French’s Director of Construction Brian Ball and buyers then have the freedom to make changes, if they want them.

Some buyers have saved money by requesting the removal of internal walls, while others specify a budget to make their new home truly original. The buyer is always in full control of the budget and will never have extras imposed on them if they do not ask for them.

“They have a schedule of costs every step of the way, so they can make changes as they go along and see where the money is being spent,” explained Steve. “If they have a £10,000 product wish list and the changes they want cost £12,000, we work with them to make sure that it remains within their budget.”

Steve said: “The last two developments we’ve done have all sold prior to formal marketing. I don’t know of any other developer who has done this in the current climate.

“We have gone from strength to strength and we believe this is because we are a very streamlined company – we don’t have huge offices or hordes of people. We have a very talented team and we are very competitive when it comes to building costs.”

Taylor French recently won the Best Large Development award in the Central Region Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Excellence Awards.

The company is currently building in 13 locations in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.

It now plans to increase the number of properties it develops in the south east region every year, from 100 to 250.

Taylor French specialises in buying and developing smaller pockets of land – anything from a single plot up to a maximum of 60 homes.

Although about 80% of its work is with creating good quality affordable homes for housing associations, it also develops homes for private buyers.