As well as doing the regular visits to the housing developments that HemingwayDesign are involved in I have been visiting developments that have been shortlisted for this year’s Building For Life Awards (www.buildingforlife.org.uk). You would think that in a depressed housing market like we have been experiencing then developers would be busting a gut to put their “best face forward” to potential customers.
When we owned Red or Dead and had shops around the world we experienced a number of consumer spending downturns. We made sure that all our shops looked at their best. We ensured our sales teams put extra effort into presentation, used the time that was available from lower customer flows to ensure that the stores were spotless, window displays were enticing.
My experience the last few weeks is of house builders failing to understand what it takes to “put their best face forward” to potential homebuyers. Whilst they have prudently slowed down their build rates or stopped building altogether many have stopped keeping their shop windows tidy. Completed phases are seeing their “management” cut back. New paving and borders are blighted by weeds, grass isn’t cut, trees damaged by builder’s vehicles are left on the lean, there are unfinished pavements. Whilst the sales team sit in their show homes worrying if they will have a job in a few weeks, selling their current national average of 0.25 properties per week per site (yes that’s 1 property a month!!!!) it must look as if the brand owners have abandoned ship. Cutting costs across the board maybe tying a tighter noose around their necks than the credit crunch is already tying.
With up to 50 percent of new mortgages in the 24 months leading up to the downturn being to the “buy to let” or “buy to leave empty” investor, a customer who is hardly going to be demanding in terms of liveability of developments when they are not going to live there, could it be that some house builders, in their embracing of an “easy” investor market, have forgotten how to sell to people who are actually going to live on one of their estates? The ones that have may not come out the other side of this downturn.