Look to fresh fields and pastures
You may be surprised at the number of really good houses coming to the market
WITH the shadow of Brexit hanging over the marketplace, a climate of uncertainty is likely to be the norm for some years to come. Meanwhile, memories of the early 2000s boom and the crash that followed it are fading fast. With young investment bankers no longer part of the scenario, in 2017, the country property market will be dominated by four groups of buyers: downsizers looking to move before it’s too late; full- or part-time commuters moving to the country for schooling or lifestyle reasons; British expatriates keen to take advantage of favourable sterling exchange rates; and international buyers who still see Britain as a safe haven in a world gone mad.
This is the time of year when countryhouse agents invariably complain about ‘a chronic shortage of new properties coming to the market’. However, the experience of the past two years suggests that lack of supply may be less of a problem in 2017, say Strutt & Parker, which agreed three times the amount of sales above £2.5 million between January and June 2016 compared with the same period of 2015 —which, in turn, had seen double the amount of sales in that price bracket compared with the year before.
In reality, there is probably no shortage of houses on the market— what it is short of is houses priced at levels that buyers are prepared, or can afford, to pay, taking account of the high cost of moving. That’s not to say that vendors should roll over and take the first offer that comes along, but if they’re serious about selling in 2017, they may have to accept that the house they bought 10 years ago—and have almost certainly spent loads of money doing up —may well be worth no more than the price they paid for it.
On the other hand, many vendors are also buyers and what they lose on the swings, they can often gain on the roundabouts. Downsizers in particular may be surprised at the number of really good houses cur- rently for sale at about, or just below, the dreaded £2 million Stamp Duty threshold.
Edward Church, who heads up Strutt & Parker’s operations in Kent (01227 473700), quotes a guide price of £1.85 million for elegant, Grade Ii-listed The Dower House (Fig 1) in Boughton Road, Sandway, near Lenham, which he describes as ‘the perfect downsizer’s house… a true oasis in a modern world, a country estate in miniature’—precisely the concept that Eric Akers Douglas, 3rd Viscount Chilston, had in mind when, in 1952, he chose the most beautiful part of his family’s Chilston Park estate as the setting for the house of his retirement.
Designed for the utmost privacy despite its proximity to the main, château-style estate house, which it strongly resembles, this unique rural retreat stands in a commanding position within more than 13 acres of wonderful formal gardens and lush green lawns running down to a lake and comes with numerous outbuildings, including an aviary that once housed the Viscount’s exotic collection of birds.
After his death, the estate was split up and sold off and, in 1987, songwriter and composer Eric Woolfson —possibly best known as the inspir-
Fig 1: The ‘perfect downsizer’s house’: The Dower House in Sandway, Kent, has an intriguing history, especially for music lovers. £1.85m