PHPD visited established construction company Create Group to find out how this experienced Blackpool-based builder has approached its first new residential development.
With over a decade of experience in the construction business last year Create Group diversified into the residential new-build market setting up a new division, Create Homes. Viewing residential as a good avenue to grow its business, the company is now in the process of building its first development close to the company’s base in Blackpool. Named Ash Meadows, the site in the semi-rural village of Inskip is most notable for the mature Ash tree which stands at the heart of site. Subject of a preservation order the tree has become a focal point on the site plan and is the inspiration for the name of the development.
Whilst the move into the residential market is part of a growth strategy for the established nationwide construction company, it is also one which is personal to Managing Director of Create Homes Gill Mathison. A native of the region and a mother she was particularly keen on building new family homes in the local area. “I wanted to do something local and something that is close to my heart,” she explained.
After conducting extensive research into the needs for new housing in the area the company purchased the site in Inskip in 2015. Already featuring outline planning permission, once completed, Ash Meadows will feature 27 two- three- and four-bedroom homes across eleven different house designs – all of which Gill helped create along with Baldwin Design Consultancy.
At the heart of the company’s plans lies a desire to build new family homes that feature quality throughout. Create Homes believes that by focusing on quality this initial residential development will be a first step in the creation of a desirable house building brand in the local area.
To help build its own brand Create Homes is incorporating a number of established brands into the standard specification of its homes. Aligning Create Homes with other strong brands, explained MD Gill Mathison, is a key part of establishing the company as a builder of quality homes in the region. She noted, “Brand values are really important. Certain brands say quality to me, and they say choice and they say durability.”
In the kitchen the company has specified Bosch appliances including a double oven, four-five ring gas burner, integrated fridge freezer and dishwasher as standard. In the bathrooms and en-suites owners will find white sanitaryware by Vitra, chrome shower fittings and taps by Vado and extensive tiling to the walls with Porcelanose ceramic wall tiles. Gill explained, “we are building a brand, and we need to surround our brand with good quality products.”
The company has also extended its idea of incorporating strong brands into its homes into another area that Gill sees as vital, the heating system. Perhaps drawing on her own experiences as a mother she explained, “There is nothing worse than your heating doesn’t work, that is a fundamental thing for the family.”
The company has specified a Worcester Bosch heating system and highlights this point in its sales literature. Gill continued, “I wanted a brand that people recognise. People feel a comfort in the quality.”
High standard specification
Close attention has also been paid to a wide variety of details it believes will make a difference for buyers. Gill explained, “One of the things I wanted to do was to make sure the standard specification is a lot higher than normal.” Turf at the front and back of each home is included in the standard specification, as are power sockets featuring USB charging and windows in all of the en-suites.
Gill continued, “The standard spec has got to be a really good standard so customers don’t feel they have to upgrade.” Other standard features include block paved driveways, low energy LED light fittings, security alarms and BT points located throughout the home linked via CAT-5 cable.
With a focus on creating family homes, Create Homes has also sought to ensue storage is available in all rooms, detailing the storage areas in its house layouts. Gill noted, “Storage is a key issue, every room has some form of storage.”
Homes at Ash Meadows will also feature details like recessed pointing in the brickwork as the housebuilder believes this kind of detail has an impact on potential customers. Gill explained why such close attention had paid to all the details, “We want to make a legacy and create a really good brand so people that move in go ‘wow, this is great.’”
Keen to build not only quality new homes but also a strong relationship with the local area Create Homes has kept both the local authority and local people informed of developments throughout the process. It has used letter drops and local meetings to engage with residents and a recent pre-launch event at a local hotel saw many local people in attendance enquiring about the development.
All nine of the new-home designs have been named after boroughs of Wyre – the name of the Local Authority in which the development is situated and the company has also discussed schooling arrangements with the local school and created a new bus stop.
The show home at Ash Meadows will be opened in February 2017 and the company already has a number of off-plan sales and a considerable level of interest from both its main target market – families moving out of the Preston area to a more rural location – and from residents of nearby villages looking to move into a new home. To help in the sales process it is working with established local Estate Agents, Reeds Raines who offer an ‘Assisted Move’ service to make the moving process easier for buyers.
Looking to the future Create Homes is already assessing other land opportunities close-to-home for further residential development where it plans to build not only more new homes, but also its brand of quality family homes.