Property special - Old versus new

Old versus New

The central belt is awash with new property developments. We check out some of the best and weigh up the pros and cons of buying a new build

For many property buyers these days, draughty old flats in need of repair just won’t cut it. Luckily there are plenty of shiny new options available across Scotland’s central belt, from swanky waterfront developments such as Coalhill in Leith to sleek glass and chrome pads overlooking Glasgow Harbour, while new buildings are springing up along the Clyde and in the Merchant City. In Edinburgh the hype is all about Quarter Mile, a new development planned on the site of the former Royal Infirmary, due for completion in 2012. One bedroom flats start at £235,000, penthouses cost £800,000 and there’s a 24/7 concierge service to complete the look.

The benefits are obvious. Buying off-plan can save you money while allowing you to specify fixtures and fittings from the outset rather than spending money changing the décor. Developers offer great incentives for early purchases and, without the uncertainty of blind bidding (a frustrating feature of our offers-over system), the buying process can be relatively stress free. But not everyone is convinced. While a brand new build may look finished, new owners can find themselves plagued by nagging problems. Moreover, if apartment living doesn’t quite live up to expectations, making a quick sell without losing out financially can be tricky.

New build flats initially appealed to Craig Heighton, a 33-year-old software development manager from Glasgow, who relished the thought of private parking, all mod-cons and no more dusty closes that needed cleaning. But he found it wasn’t all he had hoped. ‘The place was unfurnished when we first saw it but when we put furniture in it disappeared before our eyes,’ he says. ‘The walls were made of light plasterboard so noises carried through the flat and from others and the doors were literally made of cardboard. I should know; I put a knee through one accidentally.’ So, on his next house search, tenements went back on the agenda. Now he lives in a one-bedroom Victorian flat in North Kelvinside with 12ft ceilings, bay windows and period features.

Lucy Graham, 27, moved into a new build in Edinburgh earlier this year and, two months on, says she’s living her dream home. ‘I was able to specify fixtures and fittings, including the kitchen cupboards, the worktops and the tiles, which would have cost thousands to put in myself. I always knew I would buy a new build; a scruffy old tenement just doesn’t hold any appeal for me.’


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