Look to fresh fields and pastures

You may be sur­prised at the num­ber of re­ally good houses com­ing to the mar­ket

Country Life Every Week - - Property 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

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