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Country property market gets stronger

"Overall, last year (April 2010 – March 2011) was a record year for The Buying Solution with transaction levels up more than 40% from the previous year.

"This is definitely not the time to buy ‘badly’ and we are finding that buyers are increasingly seeking representation from us, not only to find and secure a house at the correct value but also to ensure that a high level of due diligence is carried out on their behalf."

Regional team commentary:
The Home Counties (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, South Oxfordshire, West Sussex)
Nick Mead, Associate in the Home Counties region for The Buying Solution, said: "The better weather has, to a certain extent, reinvigorated the market. Transaction volumes have increased, largely as a result of realistic views being taken by both buyers and sellers, and we continue to see competition for best-in-class properties. For example, we recently acted in the purchase of a good period house in Peaslake, Surrey, which hadn’t been on the market for 30 years. Several potential buyers were interested, and it was purchased for in excess of £4million without going on to the open market.

"Looking forward, we expect market conditions to be largely benign. Possible factors such as anticipated interest rate rises, tax changes and wider economic uncertainty could have an impact, but it is likely to be marginal. Some notable recent launches, including Brightwell Park near Watlington at £5million, will be bellwethers for the state of the market this year."

The Southern Region (Wiltshire, West Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset)
Bobby Hall, Partner and head of the Southern region, said: "As expected, the first quarter of the year has been fairly quiet, however, with the arrival of spring we’re seeing some high quality houses being launched to the market amidst heightened activity. Notably, The Ham, Wantage, a magnificent Grade II Listed property for sale with a guide price of in excess of £6million and Walton Canonry in Salisbury, a superb Grade I Listed house that is also being marketed with a guide price of £6million. Now is the time when we expect to see classic manor houses and old rectories coming to the market and we have a number of clients who are actively looking to purchase."

The Central Region: (Gloucs, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Northants, Herefordshire, Worcestershire)
Luke Morgan, Partner and head of the Central region, said: "The £3-£5million market has been fairly quiet this year due to a limited amount of supply. In addition, there has only been one sale above £5million in the whole region so far this year. This is largely because those purchasing at the upper end of the market are doing so for lifestyle reasons rather than necessity and as such, there is not the pressure to buy – these buyers won’t consider a purchase unless the house is absolutely right. However, we are now starting to see the market come to life. Of particular note is The Dower House in Maugersbury, a stunning village house situated close to Stow-on-the-Wold, which has just been launched onto the market with a guide price of £4.4million.

"While the £3million and above market has been fairly quiet, we have seen substantial activity in the £1.5-£3million price range. This is mainly people downsizing from their large family homes and buying a smaller house, not only for something more manageable, but to release equity for their grandchildren. These buyers fall into two camps; the ‘locals’ who have a tight area of search as they do not wish to spread too far from their friends and family, and those from wider areas such as Kent, Surrey and Yorkshire who have retired and want an edge of village house within a short drive to a bigger town."

Top end country houses, estates and land (£8million+)
Mark Lawson, Partner, top end country houses and estates said: "Although we are now in April, it is still too early to be really clear about the strength of the top-end country residential market because it has not really been tested. There are quite a large number of properties available off-market and very privately but hardly any are on the open market, so there have been very few transactions since October 2010. There appears to be a reasonable demand, but only for the best quality houses and at realistic prices. The top-end country residential market has not yet followed the lead of London because there is still not the demand outside the immediate Home Counties from international buyers, who are fuelling the top end London market. Interestingly, whilst London surges ahead, it will not be long before the country looks reasonable value again, at which point I expect the country market to reignite.

"Contra to the above, the agricultural land market has never been stronger with record prices being paid across the country – figures in excess of £10,000 per acre have been paid for big blocks in the Shires. All acreage sizes are selling well but demand is stronger for bigger units which are self sufficient. For example, in excess of 500 acre blocks and preferably more, which are in incredibly short supply; in particular, there is demand for bare good quality arable land without a residential element. Demand is being driven by neighbouring farmers (who are finally making some money, due to commodity prices), investors with nowhere else to put money that is considered safe with a bright long-term future, and significantly, tax-driven purchasers wanting to benefit from the advantageous tax treatment of working farmland."

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