The es­tate buy­ers

They are few in num­ber and largely far beyond the pocket of most coun­try-house buy­ers, but, with a clutch of in­ter­est­ing es­tates com­ing to the mar­ket this au­tumn, who will be the likely buy­ers? Ara­bella Youens finds out

Country Life Every Week - - Property News - Edited by Ara­bella Youens

THE per­fect coun­try es­tate for a mod­ern gentle­man look­ing in 2016 would lie within two hours’ drive from the west of Lon­don—the most sought-after area be­ing the arc from the M1 to the M3—and it should have long views free from any de­vel­op­ment blights, 1,000 acres of mixed farm and amenity land and a beau­ti­ful pe­riod and ide­ally not too large Ge­or­gian house in rea­son­ably good con­di­tion.

It doesn’t end there. For a real ‘gold stan­dard’ es­tate, ac­cess to a high­qual­ity mar­ket town is ‘im­per­a­tive’, be­lieves Mark Law­son, head of ru­ral es­tates for The Buy­ing So­lu­tion (07721 894347). ‘Ar­eas such as Chip­ping Nor­ton, Stow-on-the-wold, Hunger­ford, Marl­bor­ough, Al­res­ford and Winch­ester are al­ways pop­u­lar.’ Fur­ther­more, the main house must be free of foot­paths and bri­dle­ways, the land needs a few hun­dred acres of ma­ture wood­land for sport as well as to add in­ter­est to the view, there should be a river with good-qual­ity fish­ing and ‘enough cot­tages for staff but not too many to be a bur­den,’ he adds.

It will come as no sur­prise that gems such as these are few and far be­tween and, when they do ap­pear on the mar­ket, they can com­mand many mil­lions. Prop­erty Vi­sion’s Philip Har­vey (07799 133650) says the buy­ing agency bought two such es­tates in 2015 with price tags of £15 mil­lion and above. ‘Given the paucity of sup­ply, that was a very good year for us.’

Although, at these price lev­els, a cynic might as­sume that those in the mar­ket would largely be made up of in­ter­na­tional buy­ers, the truth is, rather re­as­sur­ingly, quite the op­po­site. ‘It’s a largely do­mes­tic mar­ket,’ as­serts Char­lie Wells of Prime Pur­chase (07500 818272). ‘Yes, we’re cur­rently see­ing in­ter­est from Mid­dle East­ern, Amer­i­can and a few Rus­sian buy­ers, but, in our ex­pe­ri­ence, the buyer would typ­i­cally be a very suc­cess­ful English­man with a young fam­ily,’ says Mark.

‘They can be very young,’ agrees Philip, whose clients have typ­i­cally sold their busi­nesses or had what he calls an ‘in­come event’ in their late thir­ties and want to put some of that money into a coun­try es­tate. ‘Equally, we’ve seen neigh­bour­ing es­tates come for­ward to buy for their chil­dren. These days, among those who can af­ford it, pri­mo­gen­i­ture no longer pre­dom­i­nates in suc­ces­sion plan­ning and, if a fam­ily has two chil­dren, they want to buy for the sec­ond child.’

Sport is a fur­ther mo­ti­vat­ing force be­hind the es­tate buy­ers, but it’s not just about hav­ing fun in the field, be­lieves Char­lie. ‘Shoot­ing is the num­ber-one hobby that a rich man takes up, but, what­ever the back­ground, one of the spin-offs that all shoot­ing peo­ple love is the con­ser­va­tion as­pect that comes with man­ag­ing the land. You can plant woods, leave field mar­gins, re­in­state ponds and im­prove habi­tat and this all cre­ates a great feel­good fac­tor.’

One of the shifts that has been ob­served among buy­ers these days is that the es­tate has to, says Philip, ‘make sense’. Fol­low­ing a gen­eral trend that per­vades the coun­try­house mar­ket at ev­ery level, all buy­ers are look­ing at the cost of up­keep and fac­tor­ing in the po­ten­tial cost of main­te­nance work be­fore step­ping for­ward to bid.

He con­tin­ues: ‘They’re ex­cep­tion­ally savvy. Some es­tates on the mar­ket to­day look great value. There’s a re­ally big house, a few hun­dred acres and an ask­ing price of “only” £8 mil­lion, when a mod­ern box set in only a few acres just down the road is sell­ing for £6 mil­lion. How­ever, with a lit­tle dig­ging, you might dis­cover that the 20,000sq ft house re­quires quite a lot of restora­tion work at be­tween £200 and £250 per sq ft; then, there might be a con­cern about vil­lage de­vel­op­ment creep­ing in and you have to ask if will it be worth £15 mil­lion once you’re fin­ished?’

Is­field Place near Lewes, East Sus­sex, was re­launched in May 2016 by Strutt & Parker with a guide price of £7.15m and found a buyer

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