ver the last few months I have read the various announcements regarding the UK housing market with interest; in particular, February’s story on the decade-high number of first-time buyers.
On the surface, UK Finance’s figures look positive for the property market, but without an increase in new homes, this increase is likely to be short-term. As is now widely agreed, the UK needs more new housing in order to meet public demand for more routes to affordable homeownership.
Modern Masonry recently conducted a survey of 2000 British adults to gauge their thoughts on the UK housing market. The findings indicate a healthy appetite for new homes but a distinct lack of awareness about how Government is going to increase stock and simultaneously offer quality, value-for-money houses.
According to the Bank of England, interest rates are likely to rise. As an inevitable consequence, lending terms will become more stringent and fewer people will be able to afford large mortgages. Many more will be priced out of the market. Furthermore, the increase in the resale of formerly buy-to-let properties is a temporary fix, as only a finite number will be freed-up. In fact, in many respects, it is no fix at all as we also need more rental homes.
Our data showed that almost one-fifth of respondents (17%) will be looking to rent on their next move. Interestingly, one in 10 of over 55s will be looking to rent their next property. We mustn’t disenfranchise this important part of the housing mix in our aim to make the market more favourable to first-time buyers.
It is encouraging to see that a significant number of people have realised their homeowning aspirations through the Government’s Help to Buy loan (134,558 between 2013 and 2017). However, our survey also indicated that just over half the public polled (51%) were unaware if they were eligible or lacked knowledge about the scheme. Perhaps more needs to be done to raise awareness of this initiative and other options for first-time buyers (such as the shared ownership model).
Masonry is the primary building material in over 80% of UK new-build housing and provides a good value and energy-efficient solution. The masonry industry has increased production to meet current demand and is well placed to increase capacity further to meet the demand from the intended 300,000 new homes per annum.
In pursuit of an increase in housing numbers, the quality, performance and longevity of homes must be paramount. We need to use robust and durable materials that will last well into the next century if total housing stock is to increase in the long-term. As you will expect, we are a vocal supporter of the Government’s pledged house-building policy; however, the country’s need for cost-effective and long-lasting houses must not be forgotten in the dash (for trying) to increase numbers.
It’s easy to become complacent when we are familiar with housing lasting over 150 years, but the resistance to moisture and rot, resilience to fire and robustness of masonry should not be taken for granted. First-time buyers want their investment to retain its value, and UK plc need a growing housing stock.
There’s no doubt that the British take their homes seriously. If we’re not putting up shelves, mowing the lawn or staining the fence, we’re no doubt watching Grand Designs explaining to each other knowingly why that space-age carbon-neutral windmill will never come in on budget. But when it comes to what we really value in a home, the picture becomes more complicated.
Last month we published an in-depth report, ‘A Dream Home: An Exploration of Aspirations’, squarely focused on finding out both the house buying aspirations of the British public and their perceptions of which qualities are intrinsic to the concept of the home.
The document reveals a number of interesting findings. In an industry where the public’s voice is not often heard, this research aims to give clear insight into what UK buyers and renters think.
What do buyers and renters look for in a new home? When asked to choose multiple attributes from a large list, energy efficiency (93%), premium sound insulation (92%), robust construction (92%), low insurance premiums (89%) and ease of modification (72%) scored highly.
Homebuyers also need to see value for money: cost of energy bills (49%), cost of running (48%), cost of purchase (46%), lifespan of the home (34%) and durability (32%) are all significant concerns.
Alongside the tangible impact of reducing bills, well-heated spaces also add to the less measurable quality of cosiness – an attribute that was cited by a considerable number of respondents as the thing they love most about their home. Additionally, people expect their residences to be safe. This includes high levels of fire resistance (94%) and flood resilience (87%).
Respondents also required the assurance that an abode is protected from negative human impacts such as bad neighbours and excessive noise (66%). As such, it is unsurprising that quiet was considered an important factor by 91% of people. All these considerations are inextricably linked to the types of material used within residential construction.
A high proportion of people highlighted both the short-term and the long-term value of masonry.
Most felt these materials are of the highest standard (88%) and the most flexible when it comes to extensions or modifications (71%). A high proportion of people also singled out masonry’s thermal performance (88%) fire resistant qualities (71%) and energy efficiency (62%).
Less than 1% consider pre-fabricated, modular homes to be built from the most robust building material and only 3% think timber is a strong solution, compared to 80% who feel masonry offers the most robust homes.