Usually the show home is the property everyone wants to buy but the last one the developer wants to sell, as it is such a powerful marketing tool.
Smitten buyers sometimes succeed, and good luck to them: more often than not the show home is the development’s best property in terms of space, floorplan and view.
As well as getting an individually designed home ready to move into, the buyer may get extra fixtures and fittings such as a spectacular one-off chandelier — or even a commissioned piece of art at a discounted price.
Show homes tend to reflect the mood of the times and the state of the property market. “Indulgent luxury” and “ultra-glam” were strong design themes up until last year, but today there is a move towards domesticity and warming comfort.
However, a counter reaction is bringing back the decadent Twenties cabaret and burlesque styles, says the British Interior Design Association.
And with eco-friendly matters uppermost, also look out for the innovative use of recycled and re-formed materials such as linoleum and concrete.
Boyd Building: visit nhgsales.com for Royal Albert Wharf shared-ownership flats (S Saunders)
“Everyday” show homes fitted out with affordable furniture, paints and materials from high street chains and specialist local shops are also striking a chord with first-time buyers.
Stockists’ details are available, enabling them to “get the look”, as at Library House in Brentwood, where one-bedroom flats with a Habitat design package cost from £249,950. Call 020 3143 5888.
Some builders play it safe because bold design can provoke a love-it-or-hate-it “Marmite” reaction.
Clean lines with different textures — glass, stone, stainless steel, leather, laminates and wood — is a common design stamp, with developers taking inspiration from a location’s context and character, and sometimes offering choices.
At London Square Bermondsey, the developer picks up on the district’s industrial history.
Loft-style flats have butler-style sinks in white Corian, matt black window frames and sliding lighting tracks. Buyers can choose from several wooden floor and bathroom tile finishes. Prices from £550,000. Call 0333 666 4343.
Apartments at Royal Docks West, postcode E16, claim to be a “refined interpretation of rugged waterside living”.
Designers Johnson Ribolla have used linens, sea grass matting and distressed timber to capture the area’s seafaring past, enhanced by a colour scheme of greys and marine blues, with cane furniture and woven fabric headboards.
Even outside space follows the theme, with metal and cord furniture, green glass bell jars, and planting of reeds and grasses. Two-bedroom flats cost from £590,000. Call Mount Anvil on 020 3883 7238.
At former Denham Film Studios in Buckinghamshire, where 224 new homes are being built, show flats feature burnt orange and black velvet sofas and dining chairs, akin to old-fashioned cinema seating. Two-bedroom flats start at £405,000. Call 0300 456 9997.
£77,500: 25 per cent of a one-bed flat at The Denham Film Studios (lqpricedin.co.uk)
THE CASE FOR SPACE
Intelligent space planning is another welcome trend. Developers are employing architects to plan room layouts rather than merely getting an interior designer to “dress” show homes by choosing fabrics and furniture.
One outcome is New York-style apartments where you enter the property direct into an open-plan area, rather than reaching the living space via a cramped hallway. This works particularly well in high-rise flats with floor-to-ceiling windows as it accentuates the sense of space.
Developer Apt Living has pioneered a new concept: maximising space by minimising the things we don’t need. So its homes have no wide hallways or free-standing baths; instead 10ft-high ceilings, smart storage, big views and the services that make your life easier.
At its Gunnersbury Park project, sleek Scandi-style flats have floor-to-ceiling glazing and internal Crittall windows that act as room dividers and allow light to flood through.
Space above kitchen cupboards is used for high-level open shelving, built-in bench seating has concealed storage and there’s a bespoke desk/dresser. Radiator-free flats are comfort-cooled.
Resident amenities include a cinema room, roof terrace, gym, lounge and bike storage. From £330,000. Call Savills (020 7409 8756).
Some developers offer sale-and-leaseback deals: they sell the show home but enter into a contract with the buyer to use it for marketing purposes for a set period, for example 12 months, while the rest of the development is built out.
This can be a convenient and cost-efficient option for buyers who are happy to delay moving in. You get a furnished home and maybe a landscaped garden.
There are no maintenance worries, you receive a regular monthly income and by the time you move in, the property could well be worth more than you paid.
A four-bedroom detached show house with 2,330sq ft of space is for sale priced £754,950 at Summerswood in Crawley. As an added bonus, this house comes with a stamp duty paid deal — or £27,747. Call Martin Grant Homes on 01293 665115.
Three-bedroom townhouses at Elmington Green, by Bellway Homes in Zone 2 Camberwell, have had input from the local arts college and also reflect the diverse local community and the Burgess Park nature reserve.
So, large energising colours of green, deep blues and soft greys, with tropical jungle prints and a bespoke velvet bed in menthol green can be all yours for £699,995. Call 020 3092 9967.
SHOW HOME FITTINGS ARE A HUGE BONUS FOR ME
Shared owner: Shauna Bull bought 40 per cent of a Royal Albert Wharf show flat (S Saunders / Digital Nation Photography)
You can purchase a show flat even if you are a shared-ownership buyer.
Shauna Bull, 27, put down a £24,000 deposit and paid £189,000 for 40 per cent of a two-bedroom apartment in Docklands that was on the market for £472,000.
She works for a software company based in Shoreditch and travels regularly. Her father lives in east London and her mother in Ireland, so the location of the Boyd Building, Royal Albert Wharf, near London City airport was perfect.
“Ever since leaving university my goal was to buy a home,” she says. “I’d been saving for several years, but prices kept rising and more than once I thought it would not be possible. Shared ownership meant I could afford a second bedroom, which is great because I have lots of international friends from the time I studied abroad.
“And because it was a show home, it came with all the furniture — a huge bonus as I had none of my own.”