Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction Title Pic

Customer Satisfaction

Greens Park homes are snapped up on recommendation…

With a career spanning some 35 years, Bill Green has seen a lot of changes in the residential parks industry but like all successful park owners he knows that customer satisfaction is key. Bill explains: “I always say to prospective purchasers, ‘Don’t ask me, my job is to sell homes. Go and have a walk around the park and chat with the residents to find out how they feel about living here.’ The people who live on your park are the best advertisement for your business.” As a young man, Bill spent many years working in Canada before returning to the UK and investing in rental parks. Today, Greens Park Homes owns two residential park home estates: the Wolds Retreat in Lincolnshire, and Pine Hill in Cambridgeshire. An exclusive, luxury estate for the over 50s, Green’s flagship park, Wolds Retreat, is set in 40 acres of beautifully-landscaped Customer Satisfaction - Bill Greengrounds in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds. Tranquil and scenic, the surrounding countryside is full of outstanding natural beauty and wildlife, and is popular with walkers, cyclists and bird watchers. The Roman town of Caistor is situated just a couple of miles away and provides many visitor attractions, shops, restaurants, fishing, and a choice of golf courses. Bill originally bought the site as a holiday lodge park 15 years ago but decided to apply for planning permission for a change of use to residential after repeated requests from customers wanting permanent homes. “It took over a year to get the planning permission in place,” explains Bill. “Our original application was refused and following a visit by the Secretary of State, and a number of agreed conditions, we were granted the licence.”

MINIBUS SERVICE

Two years of re-development later and the Wolds is now a shining example of a park planned with the customer very much in mind. At the centre of the park, a three-acre carp fishing lake is a popular attraction and there is a Customer Satisfaction Title Picminibus service to Caistor (one of the conditions of the planning permission) for residents. “We have a large site here but have deliberately chosen not to cram in as many homes as possible,” says Bill. “We have permission for 60 homes but the land could easily take 100 or more. We wanted to retain a feeling of space and privacy. On a lot of parks the homes are laid out in rows, which feels like an army camp! Our plots are twice the size of those at most other parks and dotted around the parkland in a freeform and natural way.” Out of the 60 homes, 25 are already inhabited, and the remaining 35 pitches are available for sale, including five show homes.

STEADY STREAM

Customer Satisfaction 4“We are very lucky to have a steady stream of enquiries,” says Bill, “but the attractiveness of the park really sells itself. Each home has a block-paved driveway for two cars and many have sheds, decking and even garages. Visitors to the park are always surprised at the size of the properties saying they are larger and better equipped than their traditional brick-built bungalows. All homes on site are also set up for mains utilities, which puts the control back into the resident’s hands and helps keep their expenditure low. This way is more economical for the home owner and the park owner too.” Having pre-booked slots with the major manufacturers is a key selling point, which expedites the process for buyer and seller. “There can be as much as a year long wait on many parks,” explains Bill, “but we have moved a cash buyer in as little as six weeks from home order before now. On average, from point of deposit to moving in date is two to three months for most of our residents.” Greens’ second park is Pine Hill, situated in a pretty location in open countryside between St Ives and Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire.

This site has been in the Green family for 50 years, originally being used for temporary accommodation for Council tenants. 15 years ago, Bill and his four sons, who all work in the family business, set upon a complete renovation of the park including new roadways, the provision of mains utilities, and major landscaping. Pine Hill now boasts 48 residential park homes; all are occupied and are quickly snapped up on the rare occasion that one is up for sale. Greens Park Homes is currently in negotiations to purchase a third park in the East Customer Satisfaction 5Anglian area and Bill says that they are always looking for interesting opportunities to either invest in existing parks, or land that is ripe for housing development. Like most Park Operators, Bill expresses some frustration with the limitations of the current planning framework and legislation. “The parks industry is steadily being cleaned up and rogue operators are thankfully few and far between nowadays,” says Bill, “but the negative profile of parks in the public eye still needs some work.” “Sadly, it’s a lot easier to get permission to develop holiday parks with many unwitting customers buying ‘holiday homes’, mistakenly thinking that they can live in them all year round. Making it more difficult to open residential parks, means not only a shortage of homes for the 50+, but prevents the mainstream housing market freeing up larger ‘brick and mortar homes’ for families and younger people. Things are moving forwards, slowly, but there is still a long way to go,” adds Bill.

Quality Benchmark

Quality Benchmark

The number of homes at Birch’s Parks ranges from 20 plots to over a hundred.

The number of homes at Birch’s Parks ranges from 20 plots to over a hundred.

Jane Herbert meets the team behind Birch’s Park Homes…

When Charles Birch Sr saw the opportunity to expand his caravan sales business into the park homes market in the early 1970s, he would not have foreseen that this was the start of the Birch’s brand we know today.

Now, synonymous with the highest quality homes in some the most desirable locations in England, Birch’s Park Homes are one of the UK’s leading operators in luxury residential developments.

As Chairman of Birch’s Park Homes, Charles Birch Sr has long since handed over the day-to-day operation of the Cambridgeshire-based business to his sons Charles and James Birch. With a growing portfolio of ten parks across Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Hampshire, Somerset, and soon Essex, Birch’s Park Homes are renowned as a luxury operator but as a family-run business, like to keep their feet on the ground. “Our business has grown so much over the years and we are constantly expanding and looking for new opportunities,” explains Managing Director Charles Birch. “It’s not just about growth though. We like to be the best we can be. Attention to detail at every level is an important part of the Birch’s brand. We are continuously working with new products, new landscaping and new ideas to push forward our business and make our next park better than the last.”

CLASS LEADERS

The number of homes in Birch’s parks varies considerably from under 20 select plots to over a hundred in their largest parks, but the emphasis is very much on quality over quantity, regardless of size. Class-leading homes (often designed in partnership with Birch’s themselves) placed amidst careful landscaping to maximise residents’ privacy and security are key to each overall park design.

Bluebell Woods on the outskirts of the beautiful city of Cambridge is typical of a Birch’s development. Opened in 2007, this small, gated estate offers just 16 high-specification homes in a pretty, woodland setting. All Birch’s parks are aimed at retired and semi-retired people with residents generally required to be aged 45+.

Key to the success of many of Birch’s ‘boutique-style’ developments is their stunning locations. Sandbanks, in Clevedon, Bristol, is an exclusive development of just 23 contemporary homes on a private, gated estate. Opened in 2009, the park has been expertly designed to make the most of the spectacular seaside setting, ensuring that every home benefits from magnificent views over the Bristol Channel to the mountains of Wales. Additionally, each home boasts a stylish glass balcony from which to enjoy the incredible views. Indian stone paths wind around the landscaped terraces and lead to private access to the bay below and a lovely coastal walk to the Victorian seaside town of Clevedon, just 13 miles from Bristol.

New to the Birch’s portfolio is another brand new waterside development. The Estuary will be launched in March 2017 and will offer the highest standard of park homes, each offering unrivalled marina views over Hamble, one of England’s finest spots for sailing and watersports. According to Charles, interest in the limited number of homes available is already “at fever pitch.” With prices starting from around £300,000, The Estuary will offer truly luxurious park home living.

View of the patio of one of the homes at The Tides development in Somerset.

View of the patio of one of the homes at The Tides development in Somerset.

PUSHING BOUNDARIES

Pushing the boundaries of the park homes business and its reputation is central to Birch’s vision. “In the past, park home living has sometimes suffered from a poor reputation due to a handful of unscrupulous operators,” says Charles Birch. “Thankfully, the tides are changing. We like to think that our unique brand of parks, our partnerships with quality manufacturers and our emphasis on exclusivity is all helping to change the perception of park living. At Birch’s, we genuinely believe the potential for the park homes sector is limitless and we want to keep Birch’s at the forefront.” Charles says Birch’s aim is to grow their park portfolio so they have a “park in every county in England.” Acquisition is a key part of their future expansion plans. “We’re actively looking to acquire new parks at the moment. Residential parks, caravan or camping sites… We’re keen to get any parks with additional development opportunities on the Birch’s radar,” says Charles. Having outgrown their existing HQ in Waterbeach, Cambridge, Birch’s are also in the process of constructing new offices and looking to expand their team of staff from 20 to considerably more. A new website is currently in development and Charles, James and the team are working on a number of exclusive projects that will ensure Birch’s profile in the park homes business and property world only continues to rise.