What house? Interview with the experts

Lauren from Shepherds Bush Housing Association on helping people buy a first home through Shared Ownership

Lauren Parfitt from Shepherds Bush Housing Association tells us about her approach to helping people get onto the property ladder and her own personal experience of buying through Shared Ownership.

Lauren, please tell us a bit about your role at Shepherds Bush Housing Association?

I wear many hats within my role currently, which keeps me on my toes, and I thrive in roles such as this. I have been brought in to introduce my personal experience as being a shared owner, but also the combination of my agency and housing association background to help create a seamless transition and increase brand awareness. My day-to-day therefore includes – but is not limited to – onsite sales, marketing, plus working on the brand and getting further into the awareness of the brand within the industry, our social platforms, and working internally to write up new policies and procedures, all whilst introducing a new CRM system. We have just welcomed new members of our team, following the initial success of our Waterside Heights development, which means I am kept very busy in a good way.

SBHA launched the Be West sales brand back in December, what was the thinking behind this?

Be West is the independent brand for Shepherds Bush Housing Association (SBHA) and operates within the four boroughs of west London, offering a more specialised and tailormade experience. We aim to offer services that we are aware our customers want, such as pet-friendly developments as standard and residents never needing to pay ground rent, which creates more of a focus around lifestyle in our homes and decreasing any unexpected or hidden fees. Furthermore, the focus is on offering a professional service whilst keeping a social heart, working closely with SBHA and local authorities to ensure we are all working towards helping as many people as possible find their homes.

We believe that buying a new home doesn’t need to be that stressful, we want to cut the jargon and pave the way for an effortless experience. We offer truly impartial advice and support from genuine experts, who put your needs above all to help you get you settled in your new home and onwards to a brighter future. We wanted the brand to be able to hold its own in the competitive industry, whilst creating a blank canvas to give SBHA a fresh start. West London is a great position for the brand due to the vast wealth in the area, whilst it helps provide a more standardised offering of private and Shared Ownership homes.

Be West is seeking to focus on providing a great customer journey, how will you be making sure this happens?

We believe that buying a new home doesn’t need to be stressful; we want to cut the jargon and pave the way for an effortless experience. The fact that I happen to own a Shared Ownership property myself further adds to the focus on customer journey, as it is taking away from what my experience was like. We also carry out reviews and input the feedback we receive into the service we offer.

Waterside Heights

It sounds like you have a busy few months’ ahead – what’s in the pipeline?

We have a 107 homes goal to achieve across our current and upcoming schemes. The developments include:

  • Waterside Heights: situated on the grand union canal, a majority of the apartments come with allocated spaces, and all with outside space. A 100% affordable development of 65 Shared Ownership apartments, plus 25 homes for affordable rent, this is the first major development to be launched under the brand, Be West.
  • The Apex: an off-plan development in partnership with the local authority. The block is named Mowlam House after Mo Mowlam who was known for her toughness and courage.
  • The Vale: our regeneration project coming soon, The Vale was originally a semi-detached property constructed by Brown Brothers Engineering in 1934, manufacturer of aircraft parts, and the building served as their west London storage and distribution centre.
  • aW4ken: coming soon to Chiswick, this development comprises 1 and 2 bed homes situated within walking distance of Chiswick House and Gardens, Kew Green, Gunnersbury Park and Chiswick Rugby Football Club and Sports Ground.
  • Renaissance West: located in Acton this development is coming soon, homes are starting from £439,500 full market value.

And how have the schemes that have launched been performing so far?

So far we are in our twelfth week at Waterside Heights and our sales rate there is 3.17 sales per week, which puts us at 50% sold next week – fab news! We also have The Apex in its second week of launch, which should be at 50% sold off-plan there by next week.

Are you expecting a surge of interest from buyers while we still have the Stamp Duty holiday in place?

I think yes and no on this, to be honest. We have sites that are built complete in time for the Stamp Duty holiday and this is a real deal breaker for some of our purchasers; however, we are also seeing that a lot of buyers are willing to wait for the right home, as they have spent their lockdown saving away and are ready to upgrade. With a lot of first-time buyers this is their only realistic purchase option, as having the deposit needed to buy on the open market at a younger age is practically impossible.

The Apex in Fulham has a fascinating history that links back to the roots of social housing, can you give us the potted version?

A limited collection of 12 two-bedroom homes available to buy through Shared Ownership, The Apex has been architecturally designed with flair and inspiration in a 60s Modernist style, in keeping with surrounding Clem Atlee Court. We have taken a needs-first approach to selling – marketing entirely off-plan. With homes due to complete in Autumn 2021, the organisation is working closely with the local Council to determine those most in need of an affordable route onto the property ladder within the local area. This will ensure that the Apex genuinely meets housing need in the area. Clem Atlee Court, a well-known west London housing estate named after the former Labour prime minister who pioneered social housing, the Apex is surrounded by history. Each building within Clem Atlee Court is named after a prominent Labour MP; the Apex is also known as Mo Mowlam House – a Northern Ireland labour MP, she was responsible for the signing of the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998. Recognising that buying a home off-plan can be daunting – particularly for a first-time buyer – our website is filled with information on the Apex to help ease any nerves, from clear and precise floor plans to price breakdowns for individual plots.

The Apex

Are there incentives such as Shared Ownership being offered here?

The Apex presents a unique opportunity to buy in Fulham, where average house prices have exceeded £1million; prices for homes at The Apex start from £165,000 for a 30% share of a two-bed apartment, with a minimum deposit of just £16,500 as a 10% deposit.

What are the benefits for people purchasing property under the Shared Ownership scheme?

There are so many, but they include:

  • Affordability without needing a large deposit.
  • A house that is a home – you will never have to leave behind your furry family members.
  • More ownership of your money – there’s a freedom in knowing you are not wasting money on renting in London.
  • It allows you to settle, making it feel like you are a more permanent member of the community.
  • It gives you the opportunity to get a much larger, or much better-located property for 1/3rd of the cost.
  • As the scheme is government funded, we are controlled by certain regulations, such as the inability to mark-up our property prices. Homeowners will always buy what the property is worth precisely.
  • It provides homes in areas which are otherwise too expensive for most to afford on the open market, such as Fulham.
  • It creates independence for first-time buyers, whilst providing an unlimited amount of support, as we are aware how daunting the process is (myself first hand).
  • Professionals available to support and help at all times in areas such as the financial advice services which is free!

And finally, what’s your top tip for a nervous first-time buyer?

More of a recommendation: speak to someone you trust. Your sales consultant is there to help and offer friendly and impartial advice. Our financial advisors are recommended knowing first-hand what a high quality of service they provide, and are on our developments every Saturday, so people can feel safe and open up, ask for help and even just advice – and you may be surprised to learn you can afford a home that you never thought you could – at a cost that’s cheaper than renting!. I always say, I can only help you if you tell me the full story and are honest with me. I will most likely be the person the new homeowners speak to most regularly during their course of purchasing, so trusting your consultant during that time will only benefit you.