Homes are where the heart is for head of Keepmoat division

Keepmoat is expanding across Yorkshire to provide homes for first time buyers. Lizzie Murphy meets Ian Hoad, director of the new Leeds office.

15 April 2016 ....... Ian Hoad, operations director and head of the new Leeds division of housebuilder Keepmoat in Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson

Ian Hoad is having a dilemma.

The new head of Keepmoat’s West Yorkshire division is moving his family from Doncaster to Wakefield but the former gets you more bang for your buck.

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“It’s a challenge,” says the married father-of-one. “There is a noticeable difference between the South and West housing market. I’ve fallen in love with three properties in Wakefield and I’m trying not to look at them in case they go before I’ve sold my house”.

Hoad, 35, is making the move following his promotion to head up the new West Yorkshire division of Keepmoat. The company, which builds affordable housing aimed at first-time buyers, has an office in Wath-upon-Dearne, near Rotherham, but its aggressive expansion plan for West Yorkshire led to the opening of a new Leeds office this month and a move for Hoad.

Keepmoat has big plans to build 500-600 homes a year in Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees and Wakefield.

“We see it as a prime area where we can do very well,” says Hoad. “The saturation point at Wath was around 650 houses a year which is about as high as we can go. Our target over the next five years is to reach 1,000-1,200 units across Yorkshire.”

Keepmoat has just agreed a landmark deal with Leeds City Council and Strata Homes to build around 1,000 new homes on brownfield land to regenerate three neighbourhoods in the east of the city.

The deal, which should create 200-250 jobs over the life of the project, aims to transform communities in Seacroft, Halton Moor and Osmondthorpe with an investment of £142m.

Keepmoat and Strata have worked together on a number of projects across the region. Keepmoat specialises in two and three-bedroom homes for first-time buyers, while Strata builds three and four-bedroom family homes.

“It’s a massive deal,” says Hoad. “For us to win that scheme at the same time as we opened the Leeds office is a fantastic result.”

In the 12 months to March 2015, Keepmoat had a turnover of £262.4m from the sale of 2,133 homes, up from £209.8m in 2014 and accounting for 24 per cent of the Keepmoat group’s £1.09bn turnover.

The Leeds office employs 30 people, which is expected to rise to about 45 once Keepmoat is hitting its 500-600 homes a year target.

Hoad is also director of the Sheffield Housing Company, which sits within the Keepmoat group and is also run from the Leeds office.

Besides the Leeds deal, other Keepmoat projects in West Yorkshire include 501 homes on land at the Seacroft hospital site in Leeds for which it is currently seeking planning permission, along with Strata. It is also planning another 100 homes in Middleton, Leeds. In addition, it is working on 150 homes across two sites in Wakefield. It is also building 500-600 homes in Bradford.

“The housing market is very strong at the moment,” says Hoad. “When I joined Keepmoat in 2009, the market was very tough but we are seeing very strong sales rates across Yorkshire, particularly West Yorkshire.”

Research by charity Shelter predicts that first-time buyers will need to earn £64,000 to get on the property ladder in 2020. But Hoad says Keepmoat is still selling new two-bedroom homes for under £100,000.

The average sales price across all its houses is £125,000. “I’d like to think we’ll still be affordable and people will be able to buy our products in the next five years,” he adds.

Hoad describes the Government’s Help to Buy scheme as a “fantastic success” and adds that he expects its commitment to starter homes to have a positive impact on sales once the details are finalised.

However, a few months ago, research by the Royal Institute of British Architects sparked a debate about the rise of ‘rabbit hutch’ homes as buyers increasingly face living in tiny new builds built below comfortable standards.

New-builds in Yorkshire and the Humber were the smallest at an average of 904 sq ft.

Hoad says some of its houses are designed to larger standards. On its Wakefield sites an average two-bed house is 850-950 sq ft. In Sheffield the houses are up to 1,000 sq ft.

“We engage with our partners to build larger footprints where that is a key issue,” he says. “Under the new deal in Leeds the plans have good garden sizes with a drive down the side. Working together with Leeds, we would make sure the environment is not like that (too small).”

Hoad began his career in housebuilding after leaving school in Doncaster at the age of 16.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do but then I got a job at Haslam Homes (which later became Keepmoat) and it didn’t take me long to realise I wanted to be the MD of a housebuilding business,” he says.

He moved up through a number of firms including Henry Boot, Fairclough Homes and Elite Homes where he became development director.

Hoad was made redundant in 2008 after Elite was bought by Bovis but six months later got the job at Keepmoat as technical manager, working his way up to operations director.

“I’ve had a technical background but the role here is running the entire operation,” he says.

“The experience I’ve had as operations director over the last 18 months has stood me in good stead but notwithstanding that it’s a challenge having the safety net taken from underneath you.”

So what is Hoad looking for when it comes to looking for his own home?

“I’d be happy to have a new build,” he says.

“I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise but I’m waiting to see what’s out there. I’m not hooked on either.”