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Abbotts Walk Residents

Following the late notice council street meet yesterday, it was clear we need a means for fellow residents to discuss concerns and the idea of a mailing list mentioned.

I’ve had a look at the option of extending this website to do that function, but it looks trickier than i thought and an email list could easily stop working if there are lots of side discussions and people start unsubcribing as their mailbox gets filled with conversations they’re not interested in. So..

I have set something up on Facebook instead, a Facebook Page & a Facebook Group. I realise not everyone is on Facebook, and i’ll apologise for that, but it looks the easiest technical solution that will cover the majority. Sorry.

My view (and i’m willing to be talked around) is for the Page to have general notices, e.g. if the council send something. The group will be a closed group for residents to discuss their issues/thoughts/concerns etc.

The links are:

Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/abbottswalk/

Page https://www.facebook.com/abbottswalk

The group posts are unmoderated (and hopefully can be kept that way!). To join the group I am thinking it should be verified by postcode (so not necessarily your full address) to make sure it stays a focused residents group. If you think that seems too secretive/draconian, then happy to think about that.

Please note, this is not an attempt by me to lead a residents group. This is just to technically facilitate getting something off the ground My view is that it needs to be a much looser for a while, whilst relationships are built and a general understanding of where everyone is coming from. That said, I care passionately about the development and our home and intend to be active in ‘protecting’ it (if you hadn’t already gather from the blog.

On that, this blog has actually now mostly served its purpose, which was to keep Redrow honest during our purchase and warranty period (it’s amazing what a bit of social media pressure can achieve). So can look at turning Abbottswalk.com in to a community website, so a bit more open for non-Facebook users, but that will take some time.

Buying a New Home?

This isn’t really specific to Abbotts Walk, but some thoughts about going about buying a New Build Home having now been through the process:

DO your research

A house will probably be your largest ever investment. It definitely pays to spend the time researching what you can about this investment. The only person with only your interests at heart is likely to be yourself!

Examine any plans carefully, the local authority may even have the plans that were submitted and approved online.

Check any Section 106 / adoption agreements to know what payments have been agreed to the council for what service provision. Will the road be managed by highways or will you have to pay a management company to look after it. Similarly with drainage and other utilities.

Check wider plans for the local area. One development we looked at had early plans in progress for an ‘Energy Station’ that would be incinerating household refuse from across the county less than a km away. The energy company claim that the temperatures would destroy any odours, but we certainly weren’t going to take the risk.

A useful website to start: Snagging.org

DO use a camera/smartphone

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with information when looking at buying property, so it can be a good idea to have a camera to take photos you can refer back to in your own time and also compare if you’re looking at different developments.

You may even ‘get away with taking photos of the plans. Our plans were whizzed in front of our noses during one meeting, that we probably had less than 15 minutes with them. Would you remember where that plug socket in the kitchen is, where the radiators are placed/connected.

DO keep records

Make notes along the way of calls and conversations. You may never need to refer to them, but will be glad to have the records if you do.

Email is a good way of having a written record. I tended to follow up key telephone calls with an email back to the sales office, summarising anything that had been agreed

DO read the restrictive covenants

Most developments have restrictive covenants which limit what you can do with your property. Do you need a transit van for work? You may find there’s a restriction on light goods vehicles being parked on site.

You might also want to get written agreements for variations up front, e.g. does a shed count as a temporary building or need permission from the management company. Or permission for a conservatory, even if you might not build it for another 5-10 years.

DO get a professional to ‘snag’ the property

The final stages and moving are always going to be hectic. It’s worth ‘offloading’ the snagging to a third party who can concentrate purely on inspecting the house, can see it without rose tinted spectacles and knows what to look for or not. Personally, the cost seems relatively small to the overall investment. Particularly, once you’ve done your research and read all the horror stories.

DON’T use the developer’s recommended conveyancer

You want to make sure the conveyancer is acting in Your interests and not in the ‘pockets’ of the developer. Not that they necessarily are, but do you need that nagging doubt. The developer cannot force you to use their professionals (refer to the Consumer Code for Homebuilders)

DON’T think the sales person is your friend

There’s nothing wrong with being friendly and personable with the sales person, but remember their interest is in selling the house, meeting their numbers and getting their commission/bonus. You’ll only be dealing with them for a set and relatively short period of time.

Conversely, if you can’t get on with the sales person, see if there is someone else you can talk to. Most sites have multiple sales people, particularly if they’re open 7 days a week. We refused to deal with our first sales person when it seemed like he was doing us a favour by selling us a house.

DON’T sign anything without reading and understanding what you’ve agreed

Sounds obvious, but it can be hard sometimes when you’re sitting opposite a sales person who is just waiting for you to sign the bit of paper. Make them wait!

DON’T be fooled by the Show Home

If they’re smart, the show home should be their best work and pristine. Some developers use various interior design tricks to make spaces look larger, e.g. toddler beds in children’s rooms, ¾ size sofas, etc.

That said, we also saw a show home where the quality of the joinery was horrific, skirting seemed to consist of filler and the shower tray surround was falling off.

The show home may also have options, that aren’t standard fitment, e.g. chrome switches, additional tiling. These should be marked/flagged as options in the show home itself so you may be able to complain if they’re not on your home when you were expecting them. You did take a photo right?!

DON’T get too down!

10s-100s of thousands of new homes are built each year. You’ll have read the horror stories and complaints on the internet forums. It’s hard to know how many other silent sufferers are out there and how many people have been satisfied with their new homes. There definitely are horror stories, and the best thing is to be aware and informed. So you know what to look out for, what to expect and how to deal with things if and when things aren’t quite right.

DO enjoy your new home, you’ll have earned it.

Buying a New Home isn’t always the ‘walk in the park’ people think it might be. They are built by human beings in the elements, not by robots in a controlled factory, so there will ‘normally’ be some things that aren’t quite right. Hopefully, with a good developer and site, it will just be superficial things and they’ll deal with it professionally and promptly.

Off to School! Pt 2

Following on from my previous post on School Catchments, the time has come, September 2014 Reception Year applications opened on the 1st November. Scary!

We’ve had a look round a few of the schools and formed some of our own opinions. We’ve not looked at the new Westgate Junior school yet, but do feel that whatever they might say during an open event, there will be a lot of unknowns.

However on the technical side of things, the application system on Hampshire County Councils website seems relatively straightforward.

I’ve tabulated some of the admissions data from previous years for the closest schools to Abbotts Walk below.

School Distance* In Catchment for Abbotts Walk 2014Intake Accepted out of catchment Furthest Distance place offered
2012 2013 2012 2013
St Bede’s CofE Primary 0.84 miles Yes 60 No No 0.41 0.78
Westgate Junior School 1.18 miles Yes 60 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Kings Worthy Primary School 1.12 miles No 60 No Yes (2) 0.86 2.08 
Weeke Primary School 1.15 miles No 60 Yes No 0.76 0.51

*Measured as straight line distance on Google Maps from Worthy Road.

Off to school

For any parent, the local schools and catchment areas are key factors in deciding where to buy.

So the good news, Abbotts Walk is currently in the catchment area for St Bede Church of England Primary School which has just received an Ofsted Outstanding rating in February 2013.

The bad news, St Bede’s is oversubscribed and so Hampshire County Council held a consultation:

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/winchesterprimaryplaces

The outcome of this was a proposal to extend Westgate Secondary School to provide primary places starting in 2014. So Abbotts Walk is now in dual catchment for St Bede’s and the new Westgate Superschool from 2014. Guess what year our little one will enter Reception.

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/archive/2013/03/20/News+%28hc_news%29/10300606.More_details_emerge_on_Winchester__super_school__plan/