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In with the new (build)

Spring's prime time for trading in your home for something bigger, smaller, different-er. But should you go for period or modern? Muddy weighs in on the old versus new debate.

Having grown up in a rambling Victorian house in Manchester, complete with Arctic temps and squads of spiders, I used to envy my friends’ warm, tidy, modern homes, and vowed that’s the kind of home I’d go for once I was all grown up. Skip to fresh out of uni and what did I do? Yep, bought me an old, damp but gorgeous Georgian maisonette in North London’s Kentish Town, complete with eight-legged flatmates. The roof leaked in my bedroom, but I could never find out where from, and there was a fat crack (so wide you could see daylight through it) running along the corner of two walls in the living room. But I was young and fearless, so I stuffed the crack with newspaper, and never gave the front part of the house collapsing another thought. Fast forward a couple of decades and three house moves, and I’m in another period house. This time an Edwardian one, dripping with character and also black mould.

And this is the thing: dream homes are often pictured as quaint cottages with roses around the door, or characterful high-ceilinged 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, and the requirement of a full-time gardener or two.  

Enter the new build. It’s something I haven’t considered since my childhood days up North, 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 the Government’s Future Homes Standard demands that by 2025, all new homes built in the UK will have “world-leading levels of energy efficiency”. This means that new builds will be designed with triple-glazed windows, low-carbon heating systems such as a ground-source heat pump and wall, floor and roof insulation to limit any heat loss. 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’ve 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 Fourth 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 newly skimmed, kitchen and bathrooms are top of the range.

You’ll never have to share a bathroom again

My period-packed house with huge, lofty rooms comes with the Edwardian must-have: an itsy-bitsy bathroom, suitable for a family of one at most. The bathroom to bedroom ratio in new builds tends 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 in for a sweet deal

Obviously, moving home is unbelievably stressful and completion dates and stamp duty costs can all add fuel to the fire. Some new builds come with incredible deals attached, including having your stamp duty paid. One such developer, CALA Homes, is currently redeveloping in Café Fields, sitting close to the River Rib in the village of Puckeridge. With starting prices at £560k (we are talking tres desirable commuters ville here), 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.

Schools, shops and other nice stuff on the doorstep

Placing itself at the luxury end of new developments, Café Fields has gone for quality not quantity, with 58 plots. The homes come in a choice of 12 designs, one of which even has the period-style asset of a basement, but this one is large and bright, with a proper ceiling height – hello, home gym! Café Fields also has all the desired amenities on its doorstep, such as fantastic schooling (including two outstanding schools and a nursery), a couple of pubs, tea room, pharmacy, petrol station, garage and a GP. What more do you want – historic market towns with indie shops, trains into the city in under an hour, and a Grade 1 listed castle close by? Tick, tick and tick. Hertford and Ware, with boutiques, bars, restaurants, riverside gazebos, parks and Hertford Castle, are less than 10 miles away. And you’ll find more of the same in Bishop’s Stortford, which is even closer, at around seven miles from Puckeridge.

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

Early Edwardian kitchens were not designed for socialising, just in case you were wondering (ours was not much bigger than the intsy bathroom). And huge, mature gardens were created when homes had staff, not just 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 (complete with shiny-new integrated Bosch appliances), study, proper-sized sleek family bathrooms, 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 by God, it can take lots of stress out of everyday life – and right now, who’s not up for that?

More info on Café Fields in Puckeridge

CALA has other nearby developments, such as Arlesey Grange and Comice Meadows. The latter features the Icknield Collection, CALA’s select portfolio of five-bedroom detached homes, nestled in a secluded cul-de-sac. And keep a lookout for future sites in Hertfordshire, including land at North Hertfordshire College’s Hitchin campus and Mangrove Road in Hertford.

Read independent advice from The Homeowners Alliance on what to look for when buying a new home

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