Homebuyers are spending an average of £3200 and up to £30,000 on optional extras and upgrades, according to a Homes survey of 30 housebuilders – including the top 10. But what are they buying with their money? Here are the 10 most popular extras
1. Kitchen appliances
Last time Homes carried out its survey of optional extras two years ago, flooring topped the table, but this time around upgraded and/or integrated kitchen appliances emerged as the top seller. Their popularity is a consequence of the shift to more open plan living areas; now that kitchens are on display they have to look good and some survey respondents highlighted stainless steel as the most popular finish to show off. The range of appliances on offer goes beyond the basics of fridge, cooker, washing machine. Westbury offers an integrated espresso machine in its Solutions range and Bellway reports that many users of its Bellway Bespoke service want dishwasher upgrades. Westbury is now looking at capitalising on buyer interest by offering a kitchen design service.
The reason for flooring’s popularity is practicality: buyers don’t want the inconvenience of installing floor coverings after move-in. Textured carpets in natural colours were cited as having greatest buyer appeal, alongside Amtico, timber and ceramic tile.
3. Wall tiling
Many housebuilders are now offering half- and full-height tiling as an optional extra, and upmarket tile brands feature in some housebuilders’ ranges. Full height tiling is not a low-cost item, with some housebuilders citing a charge of about £500.
4. Granite worktops
Granite worktops in the kitchen are a perennial favourite. “Like leather seats in a BMW, they are perceived as adding long-lasting value,” said Natalie Brewin, sales and marketing director with Linden Homes. Some housebuilders are trying to tempt buyers with alternatives, however, like London’s Greenwich Millennium Village, which is offering glass worktops in its latest release of homes.
Lighting packages are now available in a variety of styles and additional light fittings are popular both internally, and for the benefit of security, externally. Lighting controls are a feature of homes higher up the price range. “The 5 amp ring main is hugely popular,” said Christine Tiernan, sales and marketing manager with Laing Homes Thames Valley.
Taps, shower fittings, towel rails and spa baths were all highlighted by survey respondents. When housebuilders were asked what they had recently added to their lists of optional extras and upgrades, most respondents said bathroom mirrors and accessories. “People see a bathroom as a place to relax and unwind so they want them to be as luxurious as possible,” said Morris Homes.
7. SocketsThis is one of the cheapest items on a housebuilder’s optional extras list, with a pricetag of around £35. BT points are also popular. The technology to go with the sockets is not being so widely taken up by buyers yet, although Sunley Estates says that a home entertainment centre is its best selling optional extra and Laing Homes Thames Valley says televisions set into the wall are adding a wow factor that has tempted people to buy both homes and TVs. Some survey respondents said that technology is being considered for future additions to their ranges, with Linden Homes looking at central locking.
Many housebuilders still don’t provide turf to rear gardens as standard, but put it on the list of optional extras. Others are now taking a more creative approach and offering a limited range of garden design packages or the services of landscape gardeners. David Wilson Homes has recently added garden furniture, sheds and decking to its Expressions range in response to a high level of enquiries. Decking is a common recent addition to housebuilders’ optional extras range, reflecting its fashion status.
One of homebuyers’ biggest criticisms of housebuilders is that they don’t provide enough storage in new homes, but many now offer the chance to buy more. “Our feedback suggests purchasers require optional wardrobes, especially as we are now able to offer a contemporary-look wardrobe at a fraction of the cost of a retailer’s,” says Virginia Jones, Homestyle co-ordinator with Laing Homes Thames Valley. Bellway Bespoke’s North-east division has just added Japanese-style frosted glass wardrobe doors to its range, while Berkeley Homes has recently added both bathroom cabinets and alternative wardrobe doors and interiors to its range.
10. Fireplaces/fire surrounds
Contemporary designs have helped to boost the demand for fireplaces. Persimmon’s Finishing Touches range includes stone surrounds and traditional fireplaces, and marble is among the fire surround options in Countryside Properties’ Selections range. Ward Homes’ new Visions catalogue of choices and extras includes 14 fire surrounds.