WhatHouse? Awards 2016

It is that time of year again – the time to tour the sites, polish the flagships, unearth the hidden gems and enter your very best homes into the industry Oscars – the WhatHouse? Awards.

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The Awards are now in their 35th year and have undeniably played their part in helping to drive up standards, with winners setting new benchmarks for quality of construction, architecture, community and public realm.

Housing continues to dominate domestic headlines, be it the chronic undersupply of new homes, continuing planning and land use issues, or the acute skills shortages. Whatever the hurdles, be they lack of labour or shortage of funds, it is imperative for the industry’s reputation that standards of build are maintained and enhanced. These prestigious accolades also encourage lenders to fund developers behind award-winning schemes and are great recruitment drivers for new staff.

The WhatHouse? Awards honour enterprising, customer-focused housebuilders and housing associations, large and small, working alongside an equally innovative supply chain, providing outstanding products and services, to produce top quality housing, across the price range.

The Awards always attract a great mix of entrants, from established names building big numbers, to new kids on the block starting out on their housebuilding journey – a journey fraught with difficulty for start-ups, which is even more reason to encourage their participation and shout their credentials to the homebuying public as well as to their industry peers.

A disappointing aspect in recent years has been the lack of entries from some of the volume builders. I am reminded of one large housebuilder having a Ratner moment, admitting his company did not enter the awards because they didn’t believe they had a cat in hell’s chance of winning anything, such was the dull uniformity and blandness of their products. Understandably the focus is on the bottom line for shareholders not the top shelf of the trophy cabinet, but with housebuilders still getting criticised for their lack of design flair and innovation, it needs the biggest beasts in the field to step up and show that quality can be delivered in volume.

One disgruntled delegate from the record 1,700 guests who attended last year’s Awards ceremony emailed from the train back to Yorkshire, having read the judges report and seen the majority of winners having come from London and the South East.

There are fewer entries from the rest of the UK and one wonders why. Is the Awards marketing message not getting beyond the Watford Gap? Is there a PR void that needs filling with regional and local builders less aware of housebuilding’s greatest prizes being up for grabs, no matter your size, reputation or postcode?

It is time for the Northern Powerhouse to up its marketing game and showcase more of its developments, be they small projects or large-scale regeneration schemes. We regularly have winners from Scotland and the North East, Wales and the West Midlands, but clearly we need more taking part, in it to win it.

The annual ceremony is in the heart of London’s Mayfair, not because of some perceived southern bias and geographical convenience, but simply because Grosvenor House hotel has for decades been the home of the Awards and the biggest party in housebuilding.

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Our Awards sponsors are all leaders in their fields and best in class, hugely committed to and responsible for the success of the new-build market and their support is invaluable, alongside the great work of our prestigious panel of judges.

It is not just the Awards that go from strength to strength, but WhatHouse.com – the UK’s leading new homes portal. WhatHouse.com has partnered with the HBF to manage all aspects of its new-homes.co.uk website across all platforms to dominate natural search results for new homes.

The management has been transferred to WhatHouse.com to create a powerful partnership exclusively dedicated to selling new homes with unrivalled expertise and industry knowledge to promote UK housebuilders and the benefits of building and buying brand new. All HBF members can advertise their properties free of charge, irrespective of any additional portal advertising.

WhatHouse.com is gaining considerable traction in the new build market, with rapidly growing lead engagement levels and conversion rates from a qualified audience. The combined pedigrees of the two portals provide a great opportunity to really drive pre-qualified new homes leads, while promoting the benefits of buying brand new.

WhatHouse.com – with the strongest brand in new homes – provides an unrivalled online marketing platform for the WhatHouse? Awards, ensuring both trade and consumer know where to go for all they need to know about the quality of new homes and where and how to buy the best.

Of course the other leading media platform for the new homes industry is Show House and this category triumphed for an unprecedented third successive year at the recent Property Press Awards in the Magazine of the Year category.

The WhatHouse? Awards are highly respected symbols of prestige and excellence, giving winners the ultimate sales and marketing edge over their competitors and informing buyers they are purchasing from Britain’s best housebuilders.

A new category this year is Best Public Realm, embracing every aspect of public realm in terms of landscaping, parks, open space and facilities for local residents. Public Realm includes commissioned works of art or cultural attractions and other innovations by housebuilders to enhance the public space in and around their new developments.

There’s that word again: Enhance. The build quality and architectural integrity are key, but so is what comes with it and the community the scheme is helping to create, thinking about the people before, during and after a purchase. That is how great homes are built, but also how great brands are built.

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