In recent months, I’ve been sung to by Paloma Faith in a £20m penthouse on the South Bank, fed by a Michelin-starred chef in a new Earl’s Court development whose owners will have a fleet of Aston Martins at their disposal and swum in a glimmering black tiled residents’ pool in the shadow of Tower Bridge.
Central London’s latest glitzy new residential developments are scaling new heights of luxury to entice buyers. And in such central locations, there is no shortage of takers – many of them overseas investors who may never be on the same continent as their trophy purchase.
Much nearer to home, there are swathes of people who would describe the height of luxury as something far more down to earth. For many bright 20something graduates who are back in their childhood bedrooms, successful 30-pluses longing to move on from living with mates, even 40+ professional couples with teenage kids who are finding London’s rental market too pricey for a family of four, luxury is simply owning your home.
They may aspire to have the basement pool and home cinema one day. But actually, after years of paying to live in someone else’s property, there is nothing that beats the bursting pride of knowing what you now have is all yours to keep – however badly it needs improving. Anything you hate, you can change. And adding value, as Phil and Kirstie have told us for a decade, is the best way to climb up to the next rung of the ladder.
Home ownership gives you freedom – and responsibility. It gives you flexibility – and security. There’s no one to turf you out because they want to sell or who ignores your calls to fix the leaking drainpipe.
It is also endlessly exciting to just walk around your newly-acquired territory thinking, like some megalomaniac Bond baddie, ‘It’s all mine’ – even if that elation is mixed with the marginal terror of having joined the mortgaged masses.
No one’s pretending buying your first home is easy. Many new buyers – in London, particularly, where the average deposit is nearly £70,000, according to Savills – dip into the parental pot. Others use schemes such as Help to Buy for new-builds properties (which gives you 25% – or 40% in London – towards the cost, interest-free for five years) or shared ownership, where you own a percentage of the property and pay rent on the rest.
Prepare to be flexible over location, open-minded about décor and patient with the paperwork and often painfully protracted and frustrating buying process. And if you’ve seen just one too many dingy, over-priced bedsits, then new-build offers big advantages for first-time buyers, thinks property commentator Kate Faulkner. “Lower mortgage interest costs, lower heating bills, more choice as everyone is chasing doer-uppers and you can negotiate extras such as flooring… All of this is a game-changer in my view,” she says.
My friend Donna is with her all the way. She and her husband, both 34, have just bought their first home, a newly-built four-bed detached house in Maidstone for £355,000. “We immediately realised it’s what we want at our stage in life with two young children. We’ll buy the old cottage in the country when we retire. For now, it’s a relief to know that everything is new, works and won’t need replacing any time soon,” she says.
And after 11 years of renting, she’s able to revel in being house-proud for the first time. “Two months after moving in, I stare at different parts of the house for ages and I’m still discovering new things. I like working out what I want to spend money on now too – now that it’s mine to spend money on and not someone else’s.”
That, many would agree, is the definition of luxury.
Image 1: Located in Hailsham, East Sussex, Woodacres is a collection of two, three and four bedroom houses. Prices start at £215,000. To enquire contact Fox & Sons on 01323 843554.
Image 2: Pienna Apartments at Alto in Wembley Park, a new 19-storey tower next to the world famous stadium with 133 apartments costing from £415,000. tel. 020 3151 8601, www.alto-apartments.com
Image 3: KewSide, a new riverfront development from Notting Hill Sales at Kew Bridge where shared ownership apartments are available from £174,000 for a 40% share of a one-bedroom property. Full-ownership one-bed flats start at £500,000 (0208 357 4444; kewside.co.uk)
Image 4: Ninewells will consist of 270 beautiful new homes, located within a 12 minute cycle from Cambridge city centre. Prices for a one bedroom apartment will start from £345,000 (0808 178 9063; hill.co.uk).
Image 5: Emerald Gardens, have nearly an acre of landscaped gardens at the heart of the Alto development and views over the Wembley Stadium arch, have one-bed flats from £305,000 (0203 151 8601; northwestvillage.com).
Image 6: These Scandinavian-inspired apartments in The Nordic Quarter by Network Living in Colindale, North London, are available to buy in various ways, including under the shared equity scheme, where buyers can purchase 80% of the market value and borrow the remaining 20% interest free for five years. One-beds, at full market value, start at £265,000. Ir you can buy a 35% share in a one-bed flat from £88,200. 0203 376 6455. Alternatively, visit:www.nordic-quarter.co.uk .