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A tale of two halves in the UK property market

…and international money flooding in, the country market, in most cases, has been somewhat subdued with less on the market to purchase, and buyers adopting caution.  I believe that 2012 will be linked inexorably to the economy. A volatile stock market does create nervousness, however at the same time; it can encourage investors to look to property because it is deemed a safe bet in the long term.”

Regional overview:

Home Counties (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, South Oxfordshire, West Sussex)
Paul Frost, buying consultant in the Home Counties, comments: “The north Surrey market has largely been driven by international money this year, in particular, Russian, Middle Eastern and Chinese buyers, mainly on the Wentworth Estate and St George’s Hill. The latter saw record levels being achieved with sales such as Treetops, a new build mansion, for £12m over the summer.  St George’s Hill properties are reaching new heights in both sheer scale and price to suit the international buyer. Meanwhile, there has been less activity above £2m in the towns and villages that tend to attract UK buyers. There is still demand from buyers coming out of London, perhaps with the view to securing a property before the September 2012 school year, but there is not a lot on the open market.  Where there is property on the market, we often see an imbalance of around 10% between buyer and vendor price expectations; there is little pressure on sellers, yet buyers look at various factors, especially the global economy, and believe that prices are likely to fall, so unless they find their perfect house at the right price, buyers are prepared to wait.”

The Southern Region (M3/M4 corridors: Wiltshire, West Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset), Bobby Hall, Partner and Head of the Southern Region, comments: “Contrary to the quiet and stale market that is being reported, we have seen generally good activity in the southern region territory. The £1m-£2m price bracket has seen most activity this year, although some marker properties at the upper end have also sold, albeit when guided at a sensible price.  We’ve seen some houses that were originally launched in 2010 which, now with up to 20% taken off the original guide price in 2011, have sold. 

“Alternatively, and with a fresh view on guide pricing, a number of houses which launched in 2011 with an intentionally low guide price have encouraged competitive bidding and sold well. The most exceptional illustration of this was the much talked of sale of West Wyck House, West Wyck, Pewsey, which was launched at £2.75m in June. After approximately 45 viewings over two specific viewing days, four or five parties entered a competitive bidding situation ending with a sold price of circa £7m. 

“There doesn’t seem to be a distinct line of form in the current market as the supply of quality houses is not consistent.  Recently, Craven Lodge, a house being built in a neo-Georgian style in Inkpen, and guided at £2.35m, was quietly offered to the market for a few weeks and was going to be withdrawn to be completed over the winter. Suddenly there are now three interested parties, so it might well sell before Christmas. Conversely, other houses at this level have been offered to the market since the spring and are failing to sell for a variety of the traditional reasons – road noise, price, proximity of neighbours, and gypsy’s!”

Cotswolds & Central (Gloucs, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Northants, Herefordshire, Worcestershire)
Jonathan Bramwell, Partner and head of the Cotswolds and Central region, comments: “The most active part of our patch this year has been the northern section between Oxford and Banbury in the £1m to £3m price range. This area attracts more needs driven buyers who are usually moving due to schooling, but still need to commute into London.   The improved Chiltern Line train service which has shortened train times by up to 10 minutes into London Marylebone has certainly made this area more popular, especially for those working in the City.   The Central North Oxford market is also still performing well with many more international buyers entering this market.  We now view this as an outer suburb of Prime Central London with the best addresses in good condition attracting around £1,000 sq ft.  
“We are finding the Cotswolds market a lot tougher as there is less demand from discretionary buyers who are looking for weekend properties.  Therefore, realistic pricing is essential towards achieving a successful result.  Examples of these are Trillgate Farm, Slad (asking price £1.75m) and Mill Farm, Dumbleton (asking Price excess of £2.5m). The latter attracted competition from a number of parties and achieved well in excess of its guide.  The market in excess of £3.5m remains much more difficult – these tend to be lifestyle purchases so there is no urgency to buy unless the buyer feels it is perfect, or a good deal.   An example of this is Warneford House, Nr Edgeworth (asking price of £6.5m) which came to the open market in September, and is one of the nicest houses I’ve seen in my career and in one of the most tranquil settings in the Cotswolds.  Therefore, it was not surprising to see it sell in competition."

Estates / land
Mark Lawson, Partner, Country Estates and land, comments:  “The top end of the residential country estate market beyond the Home Counties has been slow this year, particularly where a large portion of the estate’s value has been residential (rather than land).  There are a number of large residential estates still in the open market yet to attract buyers.  The situation has been different closer to London, where buyers have been predominantly international, and there have been some significant sales – many privately off market. This includes the reported sale of Park Place at Henley for the rumoured figure of £140m – a record in the country, as well as a handful of private sales over £20m.  Open  market  sales include that of Cherkley Court at around £20m, and more recently, the infamous Updown Court, rumoured to have sold for £36m – much less than its original asking price.

“Land prices peaked in some cases at in excess of £10,000 per acre for bare, arable land in the middle of year – they have dropped back slightly but appear to remain stable at levels of between £6,000 and £8,000 per acre depending on the quality and location.”

Prime Central London
Rachel Thompson, buying consultant for the London team, comments: “The London market has been incredibly active with record prices being achieved. A lot of people are investing in property rather than the stock market – they would rather a 3% yield than invest in the stock market which has been so volatile recently.

“The £1m-£3m market is busy with UK buyers purchasing for investment or for children, whilst we have found that international buyers are more prominent in the £4m+ market.  Meanwhile, the ‘trophy asset’ market is shrinking, with less available to purchase. Notably, buyers from the Middle East have purchased best-in-class properties in the very best addresses to build valuable portfolios and these buyers are definitely not in the market to trade as these are long-term investments. This means that the availability of property in Prime London addresses is contracting year on year, and this scarcity is also a contributory factor in price rises ahead of other market sectors.”

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  1. With the European debt crisis worsening and stocks tumbling with no market confidence I would have thought the UK property market would see increased activity as the UK is not part of the Euro so slightly removed from the problems. IT is clear to see the super rich are using prime property as an investment, however the lower end of the market is probably dampened by a weak ecnonomy.