Prop­erty com­ment

As buy­ers look to pro­tect the value of their in­vest­ment in un­cer­tain times, Carla Passino finds the most re­silient lo­ca­tions in the English coun­try­side

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Edited by Ara­bella Youens

Carla Passino finds the ar­eas where house val­ues will hold

WHEN the fu­ture looks un­cer­tain, prop­erty buy­ers of­ten worry about pro­tect­ing the value of their in­vest­ment. Con­se­quently, says Lu­cian Cook of Sav­ills Re­search: Ôyou tend to find a flight to qual­ity ev­ery time there’s mar­ket stress, so prop­er­ties that are free of blights and are sit­u­ated in es­tab­lished lo­ca­tions are go­ing to be more ro­bust. The Cotswolds is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of an area that’s go­ing to per­form more strongly.’

Ob­vi­ously, no lo­ca­tion is ever en­tirely bul­let­proof. Nonethe­less, some places tend to be more re­silient andñwith the ex­cep­tion of some pop­u­lar sec­ond-home des­ti­na­tionsñ they usu­ally have two fac­tors in com­mon: easy ac­cess to ex­cel­lent pri­vate schools and good trans­port links. ÔIF these key pa­ram­e­ters are right and the price is right, there will al­ways be a mar­ket for your prop­erty and that’s what you want,’ says Tom Hud­son of Mid­dle­ton Ad­vi­sors.

Winch­ester, Al­res­ford and Stock­bridge, Hamp­shire

Since 2008, Winch­ester has been one of the big­gest suc­cess sto­ries in the south of Eng­land. House prices in the city cen­tre have grown by 10%, ac­cord­ing to Ed­ward Cun­ning­ham of Knight Frank, with vir­tu­ally ev­ery type of prop­erty ris­ing in value.

Ôwinch­ester has al­ways been pop­u­lar. The con­nec­tion to Lon­don is ex­cel­lent and the schools are sec­ond to none, with preps such as Twyford, The Pil­grims and Princes Mead, plus Winch­ester Col­lege, St Swithun’s and, in the State sec­tor, Pe­ter Sy­monds, which is a very well-re­garded sixth-form col­lege.’ How­ever, the city has be­come even more at­trac­tive in re­cent years, af­ter the high street was im­proved. ÔIT has bet­ter cof­fee shops, bou­tiques and restau­rants. You can walk every­where and every­thing is on tap.’

For those who would rather live in the coun­try­side, both Mr Cun­ning­ham and Ed­ward Heaton, of search agents Heaton & Part­ners, rec­om­mend Al­res­ford. ÔIT has a lovely high street with Ge­or­gian build­ings, lots of great shops and ex­cel­lent butch­ers, plus the Perins School.’ Ac­cess into Lon­don is via Winch­ester and Southamp­ton air­port is within easy reach for in­ter­na­tional travel.

West of Winch­ester, Stock­bridge is another op­tion, ac­cord­ing to Mr Cun­ning­ham. It has a high street full of shops, delis and restau­rants, ac­cess into Lon­don via Winch­ester or An­dover and the hugely pop­u­lar Far­leigh School is 12 min­utes away.

Hen­ley-on-thames and the south­ern Chilterns

The south­ern Chilterns are an ex­cel­lent choice for buy­ers look­ing to safe­guard their in­vest­ment. Ôthe area has seen rel­a­tively stable house prices through var­i­ous down­turns, with the Òbest in classó al­ways per­form­ing, re­gard­less of the eco­nomic back­drop,’ says James Shaw of Prime Pur­chase.

Here, the Thames winds its way through coun­try­side pep­pered with pic­turesque brick-and-flint cot­tages, an­cient farm­houses and pop­u­lar vil­lages that host a raft of mar­kets, mu­sic and lit­er­ary fes­ti­vals and high­level sportñthe Gars­ing­ton opera fes­ti­val and the cricket matches at the Worm­s­ley es­tate are just two of the many events on the lo­cal cal­en­dar. Plus, adds Mr Shaw, Ôin­ter­est­ing to­pog­ra­phy en­sures scope for walk­ing, cycling, run­ning and, if you’re brave enough, river swim­ming’.

The south­ern Chilterns are per­fectly sit­u­ated for easy ac­cess to Lon­donñ via the M40 and rail­way sta­tions at Read­ing, Twyford and Did­cotñ as well as to Ox­ford and Read­ing. School­ing op­tions are just as am­ple, from the Or­a­tory School in Wood­cote to Mouls­ford Prep and Cran­ford House, both near Walling­ford, Queen Anne in Caver­sham, Ru­pert House and Shiplake in Hen­ley and Radley Col­lege and Abing­don School in Abing­don.

Hen­ley, with its re­gatta, beau­ti­ful Ge­or­gian build­ings and a crop of good shops and restau­rants, is the area’s nat­u­ral fo­cus. How­ever, says Mr Heaton, Son­ning has sprung to na­tional at­ten­tion in the past cou­ple of years, first in 2014, when it be­came home to Ge­orge and Amal Clooney and, more re­cently, when Theresa May, who also lives there, be­came Prime Min­is­ter.

Other pretty vil­lages in­clude Cookham, North and South More­ton and Brightwell cum Sotwell plus Faw­ley and Northend in the idyl­lic Ham­ble­den val­ley.

There’s only one draw­back. ÔA sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of the best stock will trade off-mar­ket and pri­vately be­tween ac­quain­tances, es­pe­cially in tight-knit com­mu­ni­ties such as The Hase­leys,’ warns Mr Shaw.

King­ham to Great Tew, Cotswolds

Tra­di­tion­ally, the Cotswolds is con­sid­ered one of the most ro­bust lo­ca­tions in the UK. Vil­lages such as Od­ding­ton, Lit­tle Tew and King­ham are at­trac­tive be­cause they’ve held their value over the last down­turn or out­shone the rest of the mar­ket, ac­cord­ing to Frank Speir of Prime Pur­chase.

King­ham, in par­tic­u­lar, is ‘the ul­ti­mate su­per vil­lage’, ac­cord­ing to Luke Mor­gan of Strutt & Parker. With the Wild Rab­bit and the King­ham Plough pubs and Dayles­ford Or­ganic, it has ex­cel­lent foodie cre­den­tials and peo­ple who move to the area rarely want to leave. ‘When we do have some­thing for sale there, it flies off the shelf. We have peo­ple on our books ask­ing to be in—and only in—king­ham.’

Ten miles to the east, Lit­tle Tew and Great Tew are also highly soughtafter, es­pe­cially now that good school­ing and easy ac­cess to Lon­don, which have al­ways been draws for buy­ers, com­bine with ex­cel­lent food and a thriv­ing cul­tural scene.

‘The Falk­lands Arms is a gor­geous thatched pub, a real high­light of the vil­lage,’ says Mr Mor­gan. ‘The sup­per­club pizze­ria is fan­tas­tic: it’s run by an Ital­ian and his English wife, who turn their barn into a gas­tro-feast. The Great Tew es­tate holds pop fes­ti­vals, such as the Corn­bury Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, where Fatboy Slim hangs out. And the cherry on top is Soho Farm­house, sit­ting right on the edge of Great Tew.’

De­mand here is as healthy as ever. ‘We have more buy­ers around than at this time last year and they’re more fo­cused,’ says Claire Owen of The Buy­ing So­lu­tion. ‘The is­sue is lack of stock: it’s been a prob­lem for the past 18 months.’

As a re­sult, cau­tions Prime Pur­chase’s Mr Speir, buy­ers should bear in mind that prices in this area ‘are more likely to be over­in­flated than else­where’.

The Sur­rey Hills

When asked about ar­eas that are most likely to hold their value, Kather­ine Wat­ters of The Buy­ing So­lu­tion has no hes­i­ta­tion in pick­ing Guild­ford and the sur­round­ing vil­lages, such as Sham­ley Green or Bram­ley. ‘There’s al­ways a mar­ket for prop­er­ties there, even when things feel a lit­tle unset­tled.’

Buy­ers are drawn to the com­bi­na­tion of fast con­nec­tions into Lon­don and great schools—the Royal Gram­mar School, Guild­ford High, Tormead and St Cather­ine’s, to name just a few—with scenic coun­try­side, ex­cel­lent qual­ity of life and the area be­ing an AONB. ‘Peo­ple are in­creas­ingly wor­ried about plan­ning and the AONB des­ig­na­tion re­as­sures them that this area is less likely to be de­vel­oped in the fu­ture, so it will main­tain its beauty.’

With de­mand usu­ally strong, a chronic lack of stock en­sures prop­er­ties hold their value. ‘Com­pe­ti­tion for the good houses in these lo­ca­tions is al­ways stiff,’ notes Paul Frost of Prime Pur­chase. ‘Buy­ers need to know the mar­ket and be right on the curve or they’ll miss it.’

New­bury and the North Wessex Downs

Bobby Hall of The Buy­ing So­lu­tion grew up in west Berk­shire and he be­lieves that the ‘very sim­ple rea­sons’ that drew peo­ple to this area in the past will con­tinue to un­der­pin this mar­ket in years to come. ‘They come here be­cause it’s a stretch of beau­ti­ful coun­try­side that’s out­side Lon­don, but very com­mutable.’

The North Wessex Downs are pep­pered with at­trac­tive mar­ket towns, such as Hunger­ford—a charm­ing place with great an­tique shop­ping, ac­cord­ing to Knight Frank’s Mr Cun­ning­ham. Many vil­lages also have fine ex­am­ples of Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture ‘and that’s not go­ing out of fash­ion any time soon,’ says Mr Hall.

He adds that ‘prep schools are the other part of the jig­saw’ that draws peo­ple to the area: Cheam, El­stree and Hor­ris Hill near New­bury are es­pe­cially pop­u­lar. ‘No mar­ket is com­pletely in­vul­ner­a­ble, but we al­ways have trans­ac­tions here. I saw no re­duc­tion in the num­ber of peo­ple com­ing to me as a re­sult of Brexit and that’s telling.’

Fur­ther west, Ken­net Val­ley vil­lages such as Chilton Fo­liat and Rams­bury have good-qual­ity pubs and very good pri­mary schools, with good preps such as Pinewood within a 20-minute drive, ac­cord­ing to Char­lie Wells of Prime Pur­chase. ‘They are com­mutable, but, cru­cially, also have sus­tain­able shops, such as butch­ers and bak­ers.’

Above: Stock­bridge on the Test is a solid op­tion for Hamp­shire buy­ers, with its pretty pubs and high street. There’s al­ways a mar­ket for prop­erty in vil­lages such as Bram­ley in Sur­rey


Top: Hen­leyon-thames re­mains the jewel in the crown of the south­ern Chilterns, thanks in no small part to the re­gatta. Above left: Dayles­ford Or­ganic con­tin­ues to draw food­ies to the Cotswolds. Above right: Rams­bury in Wilt­shire is ru­ral yet com­mutable from Swin­don or Hunger­ford

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