Harrow One, HA1
Set in the heart of Harrow, this development by Hill and Origin is so new that, rather being on-site, the sales suite and show home are round the corner, opposite Harrow-on-the-Hill station.
Hand sanitiser greets visitors to the suite and there are constant reminders about safety. ‘Roundels on the floor mark two metre distancing and the furniture’s carefully arranged,’ says Connie Coyle, Hill’s senior marketing manager. ‘Appointments are pre-booked at intervals of an hour apart with no more than two people viewing together. Paperwork’s done digitally, surfaces are cleaned frequently and we’re offering everyone a mask and gloves — though there’s no obligation to wear them — and asking them to use sanitiser.’
My viewing starts with a short interactive presentation about the development — where 119 private sale studio, one and two-bed homes are spread across two buildings — The Moore and the Byron — then I’m led to the show home.
This is a mock-up of a one-bedder in the Byron, the taller building, with far-reaching views from the balcony that opens out from both the all-in-one living room and the bedroom. Although a good size, I’m unaccompanied so can move freely around the apartment and Connie’s waiting by the front door to show me out, following a final spritz of sanitiser. A virtual tour’s been launched and, social distancing aside, the entire experience is very similar to what you’d expect when buying off-plan. Just don’t forget your hand cream.
■ Prices start at £285,000 and London Help to Buy’s offered, harrowone.co.uk
Stonelea Gardens, Leyton, E11
I only needed to venture as far as my laptop to begin my guided tour of Peabody’s Stonelea Gardens, as it took place virtually via Zoom.
After watching a short drone video in order to familiarise myself with the development’s layout, location and convenience — an 11-minute walk to the Tube and with easy access to the City, Canary Wharf, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford City — I clicked on the link.
Then, I introduced myself to David Slade, head of digital marketing at Peabody. He guided me through the two-bed shared ownership show apartment. His description of the 360-degree tour as ‘fully immersive’ was pretty accurate as I was talked through the property at my own pace, room by room with plenty of time to ask questions, though many were answered by clicking on highlighted spots in each room that give comprehensive information on fittings and flooring.
The tech is by Matterport, one of the leading providers of virtual tours, and one of the best bits is that it allows potential buyers to take measurements within rooms, so they can check, for example, whether there’s space for a sofa. Interactive walk throughs are offered on the website but to get the full benefit of a personalised tour, register your interest and book an online viewing appointment with the sales team.
■ Two and three-bed shared ownership apartments at Stonelea Gardens start from £132,000 for a 30 per cent share of £440,000. Viewings currently take place online, and are only offered in person to buyers who have already reserved a home, peabodysales.co.uk
Bower & Barnabas, Woodside Park N12
Even covered in scaffolding, it’s immediately obvious that this is a very impressive scheme. Bower, the first phase of new-build homes, has sold out and the second phase, Barnabas, comprises 21 one, two and three-bed contemporary apartments in a restored, locally listed late Victorian church. All are different and feature high ceilings and period details such as exposed stonework and fluted columns.
I was here to meet Cameron Smith, sales director of developer Cullen & Davis, for a one-to-one viewing of the ground floor show home. Apart from the fact that we greeted each other without a customary handshake, everything seemed almost pre-Covid normal until we arrived at the front door to the apartment and I was asked to don a mask and disposable gloves.
At 1,200 square feet and with a huge, open plan kitchen/living/dining space and three double bedrooms, standing two metres apart didn’t pose a problem, but there are other options for prospective purchasers who prefer to remain more socially distanced. ‘We can meet buyers outside and give them a pin code enabling them to enter and view the apartment on their own, then deal with any queries,’ explains Cameron. Alternatively they can book a one-to-one viewing, whereby they let themselves in then activate a Facebook/WhatsApp portal to connect through to a sales agent, ensuring maximum safety for everyone. Virtual tours are also available.
■ All apartments include an underground parking space. Prices start from £550,000. Cullen & Davis is donating £5 to nearby North London Hospice for every virtual viewing registration, bowerandbarnabas.co.uk