Carl Leroy-Smith

April’s newsletter & this week’s links

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We held our first Property Drop-in evening this week, which went well. There was some good wine and conversation — so much so that I’ve lost my voice and have had to rely on a Stephen Hawking app to speak to people.

During the evening, I presented current build and refurbishment costs, which are set as the industry standard rates per square metre. This information will be formally published next week, marking the beginning of our quarterly updates on the cost of house extensions and improvements. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile here’s an encouraging insight: the cost of building works on your home is actually decreasing when allowing for inflation. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been using four case study projects to monitor the cost of building. I received an updated price for one of these case studies this week. Initially estimated at £127K in September 2022, the works would have been around £137K today to keep up with inflation. However, the estimate came in at a surprising £130K. This is largely due to the falling cost of materials.

So, with that good news, I’ll wish you a good weekend and hand you over to Lisa for the April newsletter. It includes our usual builder of the month, wine features, and more on the Property Drop-in evening.

The list you’ve been waiting for

Next week we’re launching our list of CARL Architect-approved builders and newsletter subscribers get a sneak preview. The list contains 10 construction companies working in Hampshire and the South Downs area, including Portsmouth, Fareham, Petersfield, Chichester and beyond.

We’ve worked with all of these companies for several years and they’re good people who do quality work. Frankly, we think it’s worth its weight in gold.

Speaking of recommended builders…

Builder of the month – Huxley Developments Ltd

“The best bit about what I do? When our clients say to us, we love this!”

Meet Rafe, owner of Huxley Developments. What started as a child’s passion for Lego is now a successful construction company operating across Portsmouth, Hampshire and the South Coast. Read on the website.

When I spoke to Rafe this week, what came across the most was his enthusiasm and affability. He laughs a lot. He works hard and he enjoys what he does. Clearly the kid with the Lego still has a passion for building things.

His dad was also a builder and as a teenager, Rafe spent several years helping out and learning by getting hands on, then at 18 he was apprenticed to another local builder. Rafe credits him for taking him under his wing and becoming a real mentor. And when things weren’t going well, Rafe repaid him by sticking with him.

“I came in at the high and saw everything at the low. In the end it was just the two of us working hand-in-glove, but I learned how to do everything well and I learned how a business operates. Eventually I was ready to go it alone.”

Still only 29, his years of experience and knowledge have given him the edge. He now has a close knit team and he’s in a position to choose the kind of jobs they take on. Later this year, team-Huxley are building a brand new home in Guernsey, a job that he describes as a traditional house at first glance with some ultra-modern features like partial glazed roofing. When I suggest that Guernsey is quite the commute, he laughs and tells me it looked like an interesting build, and he couldn’t resist. But that’s only half the story.

A good businessman, he knows that a job like this will open doors to other projects and bring in more bespoke work. Not that new builds come up often enough to stop him from taking on extensions, conversions and remodelling jobs, as his portfolio reflects. Recently he’s done some commercial projects but confesses that his heart is firmly with residential clients and delivering for homeowners.

“It sounds corny, but the lads really get a kick out of putting a smile on the faces of our clients, we love it when people are thrilled with the transformation.” We can’t argue with that. So what does he do when he isn’t building houses? He laughs again.

“I’m a builder and a dad, that’s it! The company is named after our third born son, Huxley, and we now have four children under 10 so there’s no time for anything else!”

Find out more about Huxley Developments Ltd and check out their portfolio of work.

Our property event

Attendees at our event

Image credit: Penny Plimmer Japics Photographic.

An architect, a builder, an estate agent and an interior designer walk into a bar… Just kidding. We WERE the bar, with wine kindly supplied by Wines by the Sea and Crushed & Cured.

As Carl mentioned, we were thrilled to welcome people to our first property event, and a few people even agreed to be in a photo (we had to lock the doors first). The evening was about gathering several property professionals under one roof, providing homeowners with an opportunity to talk them in one place.

We had overwhelmingly positive feedback, which means we will organise a second event later this year. If you have any suggestions for the kind of people you’d like to see at an event like this, we’re all ears.

And if you were hoping to attend but found yourself glued to the Pompey match instead, you can still contact any of the professionals who were at the event:

– Kevin and Alana, top guys from building company Now Build It: contact details on the builders list.

– Jay Pyper, a brilliant kitchen and bathroom fitter, who you can reach at designsupplyfitting@outlook.com 07595 673215

Emma Kelsall, a brilliant local interior designer.

– Neil Maxwell from Fry & Kent estate agents.

– Helen, who kindly hosted us in her fabulous shop, Tiled.

Wines of the month, by Lucy at Wines by the Sea

Happy April! I feel we’re now at the point of desperation with the weather to turn a little sunnier and warmer. This month, in the hope of Spring being just around the corner, I’ve chosen three wines which I would pair with spring time seafood dishes:

April wines

1. Oscar Terret Bourret, South of France – £15.50

With notes of white fruits and explosive freshness, this lesser known grape variety really hits the spot and is the perfect pairing for oysters.

2. Insula Rose, Corsica – £13.50

This light and easy drinking rose is fruit forward but also crisp and refreshing, from the French island of Corsica but bottled in mainland France. Great with seafood salads or prawns.

3. Saint Clair Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand- £20.75

Aromas of ripe red berries are interlaced with spice and blackcurrant bud. The palate is full and rich, with flavours of vibrant red berries, layered with warm, spiced fruit and savoury oak through to a silky finish. Great with poached mackerel or fuller-flavoured salmon dishes.

All wines are available from me at Wines by the Sea, Albert Rd, Southsea.


That’s almost it other than to sign off with another selection of links we think might interest you.

  • I think Lucy would approve of this recipe for salmon & asparagus en croûte to pair with those wines.
  • If your palate leans towards bubbles, why not book a spot at Fizzfest, an annual event now in its 10th year, showcasing and celebrating some of Hampshire’s finest vineyards. This year at The Grange.
  • This week I had the pleasure of meeting one of Southsea’s own top creatives – check out these beautiful designs by Freya Rose.
  • Apparently April is when we all go garden-crazy, and as the owner of a small (read tiny) garden, I’m all about making the most of my little space. What do you think of number 4?
  • I love that Southsea has not one but two little independent cinemas, with Southsea Cinema and  No.6.

Ready to talk?

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