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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

Hands up: I’ve always been a bit of a period home snob. As a young magazine journalist, I wafted about a Victorian flat in a rather nice part of Wimbledon. Then came the clichéd out-of-town move to the Herts/Cambs border when we had a baby to an 1840s postcard-pretty cottage (atmospheric, cosy rooms, lots of spiders and nowhere near enough headspace for my 6 foot 4 husband).

But this is the thing: dream homes are often pictured as quaint cottages with roses around the door (my current house is actually called Rose Cottage with said roses round the door believe it or not), characterful rooms packed full of original features and a mature garden bursting with teeming flower beds. What we don’t see is leaky windows, exorbitant heating bills, miniscule 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 moving to our ‘dream’ cottage, 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 going to expect outstanding eco creds as standard.

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 The Holiday-style cottage currently has two bathrooms (not bad for the 1840s), but no such thing as an en-suite, so the middle of the night bathroom trip involves falling down a couple of higgledy-piggedly steps and bumping your head on a low ceiling. ‘Not ideal’ is slightly the understatement. The bathroom to bedroom ratio in new builds tend to err on the generous side – five bedrooms to four bathrooms is quite common. Frankly for me that’s palatial. 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

Cala at Wintringham new build house
CALA at Wintringham

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 are currently developing the CALA at Wintringham site in a prime location on the outskirts of St Neots, Cambs (with an impressive 21 different house types starting from £236,950k) as well as a site called Saddlers Lea in Newmarket, Suffolk (with 79 plots to choose from with a starting price of £429,950).

new build house interiors
Photography of the Oatvale from.a previous CALA development

CALA is offering a range of options to make the process as easy as possible, such as 5% deposit contribution, a Guaranteed Buyer scheme and a part-exchange service, so that if your old home doesn’t sell in time for you to move into your new build, CALA could step in as a cash buyer. In a property market as archaic, gazumpy and chainy as ours, to know that your deal will go through is amazing. Like many other new developments, CALA at Wintringham is playing it smart with facilities too. There will be two schools with space for just over 700 pupils aged 3-11 (one of which has already opened), a Civic Square for exhibitions and markets, a variety of shops and a cafe, health services, a library and places of worship, a community centre, a fantastic-sounding nature-inspired playground, and commercial spaces, and all just a 10-minute walk to the station with direct trains into Cambridge and London. What more do you want?

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 wallpaintings 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 CALA at Wintringham in St Neots here and Saddler’s Lea in Newmarket here.

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