Steven Simpson: Looking to the future to create new homes of tomorrow
Steven Simpson from Cruden Homes (East) examines what lies ahead for the housing market, the challenges faced and meeting changing customer needs.
Just last month Cruden Homes was amongst the winners at the annual Homes for Scotland Awards. Awards are always welcome, but they mean even more during times of upheaval and uncertainty, so to receive the top accolade of ‘Home Builder of the Year - Large’ along with ‘Development of the Year - Small’ was an aptly timed honour.
The past year or so has been testing for the housing sector. Difficulties arising from unprecedented global events have included site shutdowns, staff shortages, high material costs and ongoing supply chain issues, yet completions have continued despite these challenges. And while apartments in urban areas have been slower to sell, the industry currently cannot build fast enough to keep pace with demand for homes in suburban and edge-of-town locations.
With stock levels currently very low as developments continue to sell out, it is hard to accurately predict what lies ahead for the housing market, but rising fuel and food prices and steadily increasing mortgage rates will undoubtedly impact sales during the second half of this year as the cost of living truly begins to bite. For first time buyers, for whom little help is now available, it is going to become very difficult to get a foot onto the bottom rung of the property ladder and sales further up the ladder could be set to slow too as a result.
Yet even when taking the most realistic view of the situation, the industry is optimistic. Demand remains favourable, forward order books are strong and thanks to the lessons learnt during Covid, we know that build programmes, customer service and marketing can all flex very quickly to take account of change.
It was our ongoing drive to meet the needs of customers that led us to develop the award-winning Muirwood Gardens in Kinross, a new type of community for over-55s from our ‘Juniper’ brand, where high quality homes are ‘future-proofed’ using clever design and subtle technology. And it is also why we are now creating a portfolio of standard house types, designed to complement our ongoing bespoke and niche developments. Doing this will allow us to compete in a highly competitive and volume driven marketplace and give more buyers access to the high standards of build and finish that we strive to deliver.
We will also continue to emphasise the importance of community, whether that’s through a Club House for residents at Muirwood Gardens, or by rolling up our sleeves and helping to spruce up playgrounds and Scouts huts as we have done at Longniddry Village and at Meadowside in Aberlady. And our ‘fabric first’ approach will continue to see us exceed building standards for green energy and efficiency, helping to make our homes both comfortable and economical to run.
We’re currently involved in some of Edinburgh’s highest profile, net zero carbon developments, including Fountainbridge, where we are carrying out a landmark regeneration of the historic brewery site. But while some national infrastructure improvements are still needed in order to make a switch to green energy seamless, the sorts of measures that we are already taking, including air and ground source heat pumps, green/blue roof solutions and installation of electric vehicle charging points, are no longer technologies of the future, but are part of a tool kit of products and systems that will make homes more sustainable and minimise fuel bills. We recognise how important this is for our customers, now more than ever.
And doing the right thing, for our customers as well as for the environment, is part of the ethos that we share with the New Homes Quality Board, the recently introduced framework for ensuring a more customer centric experience to the new home purchase process and for overseeing how developers and home buyers can resolve issues.
So, while the economic outlook may be uncertain, our sector continues to positively evolve and we feel strongly that the housebuilding industry in Scotland is well equipped to continue delivering high quality, energy-efficient homes in the months ahead and Cruden, with our 22 consecutive years of profitable trading and a track record of a highly agile business model, is well placed to weather whatever lies ahead.
- Steven Simpson is managing director of Cruden Homes (East)