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Property: How to buy off-plan like a pro

Country houses: This Bracknell scheme includes a landscaped park

BUYING a new build ‘off plan’ is a popular way to get on the property ladder. It can give buyers who needn’t move in straight away a viable option with benefits: you get first choice, selecting your preferred layouts and finish.

There can be financial incentives, too. ‘By the time you move in, you may find your house is worth more than you paid for it,’ says Jon Hall, sales director at developer Mount Anvil. And with new builds frequently arriving in clusters on large developments, housebuilders may compete to entice you with offers like paying the stamp duty or legal fees, or throwing in a furniture package. While buying a new house unseen may feel a risky decision, you can do your homework (see How to buy off-plan like a pro, below) to make the right decision.

You’ll need a deposit, which may be more than five per cent as Help to Buy isn’t always available. You must be flexible: delays can occur. And read the small print. The contract will include two completion dates — the projected finish date, and the date by which the housebuilder must have finished work. This will be crucial when applying for a mortgage.

All that said, off-plan purchasing can offer a great opportunity to get a box-fresh home. Here are some of the best recently-launched developments around London, at various prices.

Priced under £200,000

You’ll be Hooked: These Hampshire flats are just 300m from Hook station

At Bleriot Gate, Addlestone, Surrey, So Resi’s contemporary one and two-bed apartments have spacious living areas with full-height windows and a balcony or terrace. Addlestone station is 44 minutes from Waterloo. Shared-ownership buyers can get 25 per cent of a one-bed for £63,750. soresi.co.uk/find-a-property/addlestone

Another So Resi development on the Waterloo line is at Hook in Hampshire: 300m from a station, which is an hour from Waterloo. The one and two-bed flats, in a range of layouts, each have their own allocated parking space. Shared owners can get 40 per cent of a one-bed from £86,000. soresi.co.uk/find-a-property/hook

Within a mile of Acton’s Crossrail and Zone 2 stations, Notting Hill Genesis’s Aviator Place includes selected plots with Help to Buy London. Prices start at £150,000 for 40 per cent of a shared-owner one-bed. nhgsales.com

Strawberry Star Homes’ Lu2on (pictured above), near Luton airport, will feature amenities including a gym, private roof terraces, restaurants and bars. Prices start from £185,000. lu2on.com

Barratt’s Chapel Gate in Basingstoke is converting an art deco factory into designer apartments with period features, available to buy off-plan — with Help to Buy, to boot. Prices from £199,995. barratthomes.co.uk

Priced £200,000-£300,000

Bracknell, in Berkshire, does a fine job of balancing town and country. London Waterloo is an hour by train, and Reading is just over 20 minutes away — but Berkeley’s Woodhurst Park development has a landscaped country park within it (pictured top). A range of new off-plan homes there are available to buy, and selected properties are available with Help to Buy. Prices start from £265,000. berkeleyhomes.co.uk

Ashberry Homes’ Victoria Gardens in Wouldham, Kent, has 20 plots available to buy off-plan. Part of Peters Village, the development will consist of one and two-bed apartments and two, three, four and five-bedroom houses (pictured above). Its residents will enjoy idyllic countryside vistas and views out to Peters Pit Nature Reserve, a site of special scientific interest. Prices start from £282,995. ashberryhomes.co.uk/victoria-gardens

Another Berkeley development, Princes Chase in Leatherhead, Surrey, will provide buyers with a choice of 76 new homes, attractively located in a secluded position close to the sought-after villages of Oxshott and Stoke D’Abernon. The properties will be a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments, as well as two to five-bedroom houses. Leatherhead train station is a five-minute drive away and offers direct links to London Waterloo in approximately 45 minutes. Guide prices start from £280,000. princeschase.co.uk

Berkeley’s Highwood Village is on the edge of the pretty West Sussex market town of Horsham. The four-bedroom show home opened last weekend to showcase the stylings of the one and two-bed apartments and three, four and five-bedroom family houses. Prices start from £300,000 for a two-bed flat. highwoodhorsham.co.uk

Priced £300,000-£400,000

Sky-high living: High Street Quarter and Three Waters (below) both feature lofty living

Barratt London has just unveiled its marketing suite at High Street Quarter, Hounslow, where 528 high-quality homes have been launched off-plan. The development includes a 27-storey residential tower and underground parking for 120 cars, plus bike storage and electric car charging points. Prices from £344,000 for a one-bed. barrattlondon.com/highstreetquarter

Just launched, Three Waters is a collection of 300 new homes, 109 of them affordable, located in E3 at the confluence of three waterways — Bow Creek, the River Lea and Limehouse Cut. The one, two and three-bed apartments will be set over three buildings, with a first phase of 150 private homes. Prices start from £371,500 for a studio flat. mountanvil.com

Priced £400,000-£500,000

Gratton Chase, Dunsfold, is a collection of 25 contemporary two, three and four-bed houses. The three-bed showhome is available to view. Just off the A3 in leafy Surrey, Dunsfold is 20 minutes’ drive from Godalming train station, which is roughly 45 minutes from Waterloo. Guide prices start from £425,000, with Help to Buy available. vanderbilthomes.co.uk/development/gratton-chase

Ballymore has launched the 30-storey Douglass Tower (pictured above) at Goodluck Hope on Leamouth Peninsula, in between the River Lea and the Thames. The Tower’s one-bed, two-bed and ‘suite’ off-plan apartments have custom glass and metal panels that can be moved to form contemporary winter gardens. The apartments and lofts — with views over the river and city — are priced from £436,000. goodluckhope.com

Priced £500,000-£750,000

Storey Homes’ Birch Meadow is a new community in the quintessential North Hertfordshire village of Barkway. The new collection of 12 three, four and five-bedroom homes launched off plan this month. The properties have larger than average gardens and off-street parking as standard. All properties come with an electric vehicle charging point. Barkway is five miles from Royston for trains to Cambridge in 20 minutes and to London King’s Cross in about an hour. Prices start from £510,000. storey-homes.co.uk

Property expert: How to buy off-plan like a pro

LONDON’S many and various new builds can make buying off-plan a great investment. But you need to know what you’re doing, writes Jo Eccles.

First, choose where you want to buy and peruse the schemes nearby. Bigger developments have lower rarity value, which might affect rental yield or re-sale price. Also research the developer: how high is their build quality and how responsive are they during the post-build defect-reporting period?

If you’re buying as a rental investment, beware the stated estimated yields. Rental market supply and demand may be very different at the time of completion, so it’s prudent to cut the estimates by 25 per cent.

Choose your unit carefully: study plans to understand different locations and views. As developers release units in phases, you can negotiate on unreleased properties. A good relationship with the developer and agents can give you a real edge.

Price is a major consideration, and developers can be more open to offers at certain times of their financial year, or as they come to the end of a particular phase. Remember to negotiate on fixtures and fittings, too: you might be able to get a kitchen upgrade or wardrobes in all bedrooms thrown into the price. Good luck!

Jo Eccles is director of award-winning SP Property Group, sppropertygroup.com