Here's the article in full:
First Time Buyers magazine - Spotlight on Liz Benson
Liz Benson is the Head of Sales & Partnerships for VIVID. The organisation was formed through a merger between Sentinel Housing Association and First Wessex in April 2017. Liz has worked for the team for over 15 years and has seen many changes in both the housing market and customer expectations. Liz is very proud to work for a company that truly believes in building more homes to help change people's lives; a company that makes homeownership a reality.
VIVID is Hampshire’s largest provider of affordable homes. It operates across 20 local authorities and works with top builders and local companies to ensure their bright and modern homes cater for all customer requirements. VIVID offers a range of tenures for customers, including shared ownership, private sale and market rent. The organisation aims to build 1,200 homes each year, with 40% being available for either shared ownership or private sale. VIVID is currently rated 19th in Inside Housing's ‘Top 50 Biggest Builders’.
Last year VIVID worked with Phil Spencer of ‘Location, Location, Location’ fame and this is what he had to say about the team:
"I really like what you guys do, and your whole approach to the very important and relevant issue of our housing market is absolutely first class! Hampshire is lucky to have you!"
What are your recent developments and what have you got coming up?
We’ve already secured planning for 2,167 shared ownership and private sale homes over the next five years. These will be on 48 developments throughout Hampshire - and we’ve only just begun! We’re more than confident that we’ll reach our objective to build 1,200 homes per year. And importantly, we’re building in areas that people want to live – but without our range of tenure options wouldn't be able to afford.
Our vision is ‘More homes, bright futures’ and we understand that as well as building more homes, they need to be the right type of home, offered at the right type of tenure, in order to support our customers’ wellbeing.
What are your thoughts on shared ownership?
I don't think I can give a better endorsement of the shared ownership product than the fact that two members of our Sales team have purchased homes using the scheme! One of them has actually used the scheme twice. They brought a flat and when their circumstances changed, sold it and purchased another shared ownership home.
Realistically, with house prices as they are, lots of our customers wouldn’t be able to afford a mortgage, or be able to save for a deposit to buy on the open market. Statistics show that the average deposit required for a home in the South East is approximately £23,000. However, the beauty of buying a shared ownership home is that you only have to save a deposit for the share you’re buying. So, as a rough guide, if you’re buying a 25% share in a two-bedroom house in Havant that costs £205,000, you may only require a 5% deposit of around £2,562. This is much more achievable for the average customer and makes owning their very own home a reality.
I've heard a few rumours over the years that the shared ownership product is great to help people into their first home, but that homes can then be difficult to sell. I think this comment is unfounded and this is reflected in our business. Not only has VIVID sold 301 new-build homes in the last nine months, but we’ve also helped 186 previous buyers purchase further shares in their property. Nearly half of these customers have now purchased 100% of their home; we were the stepping stone that helped them along the journey to buy their home; in their own time, when they could afford to.
I think it’s also worth noting that not many housing initiatives or products have survived over 30 years, virtually unchanged, like the shared ownership has. This speaks volumes to me.
What advice can you give to first time buyers looking to buy a home?
There’s that saying that buying a home is one of the top three stressful things you’ll do in your life. I think our homes sell themselves, so my team focus on making the customer experience as stress free as possible! This is why we take a digital approach to selling; 90% of the transaction with each buyer is electronic, so customers can communicate with us in their own time when it suits them; after work and at the weekend. We also help source solicitors and financial advisors. We really guide our customers through each step of the process, letting them know what to do and what happens next. This is how we achieve an excellent customer service rating and, on average, move customers into their new home within just one week of it being built.