Abby Malton, head of residential development sales for Savills in Reading, talks to Tim Wickham about the buoyant market for new homes in the area, downsizing and the rising popularity of bungalows.
Savill’s Reading office began handling sales of new residential homes in 2015. Abby Malton expects 2018 will be her team’s busiest year to date.
“We already had our development and planning teams set up in the Reading office, so my appointment in 2015 was the last cog in the wheel to get the new homes business up and running,” she said.
The need for a dedicated new homes team serving the area was highlighted when Savills was previously instructed by Titan Developments to sell apartments in the refurbished Garrard House, near Reading station. At the time, a lot of the work had to be handled by Savills’ Sunningdale office.
Hit the ground running
Malton was enticed to Savills from Hamptons, where she’d covered new sales across west London and Kent. “I live in Wokingham, so the move to Savills was the first opportunity for me to work on my home patch,” she said.
“Starting a department from scratch was a big challenge for me and has been exceptionally exciting,” she added. “Looking at what our team has achieved in just two years is a source of great pride for me.”
Malton’s team comprises Dee Kehoe, team administrator and site sales managers Penny Brooke and Carlos Garcia. Their first major project was acting for Bewley Homes selling 85 units at Parklands in Earley, near Reading, that are now fully reserved.
Expanding to meet growing demand
The team is currently busy on two major developments on the outskirts of Reading. They are handling the sale of 272 units at Shinfield Meadows with Bovis Homes, and 39 units for Bewley Homes at Lea Meadows in Sonning Common.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Malton is now looking to increase headcount in her team. “We’ve got quite a lot of potential business in the Reading area and in Newbury, and we’re working on other new opportunities,” she said.
A lot of those opportunities come when Savills’ Reading development team sells land or buildings, and when clients discuss options with its planning team, with leads passed on to Malton. “Normally, I get involved at an early stage by helping with potential pricing for a scheme and advising on the best mix of units,” she said.
Having Savills’ extensive real-estate experience on tap helps the Reading office to go a bit further for its customers, as Malton highlighted: “I was recently in a sales meeting with a purchaser whose first language was mandarin. I contacted our China desk in London so a colleague could help with the negotiations to help make sure they received the best possible service from us.”
Downsizing and Help to Buy
Malton is excited by the potential of the downsizing market. “Bungalows at Lea Meadows have been generating the most interest on that site. Downsizers usually want to bring a lot of stuff with them from a larger property, so designing in lots of storage space makes bungalows more attractive.”
Savills’ Reading office recently sold Beechcroft Development’s complex of 27 properties in Theale aimed at the over 55s. “Getting into retirement living is a smart move for developers,” she said. “Independent living in older age is a key lifestyle consideration. Many older customers are cash buyers who have paid off their mortgages.”
Another increasingly influential factor on market sentiment is the Government’s Help to Buy shared ownership scheme. “Most of our customers in Reading at the moment are first-time owner-occupiers using Help to Buy. One of the first things I encourage developers and clients to do is register for the scheme.”
Malton feels levels of demand last seen in 2015 could be returning to the area, although probably not with the massive price hikes witnessed back then. “We took more reservations in January than in any month last year.”