Renovations in great demand as buyers seek out a country idyll
Buyers are flocking like sheep to country renovations. Sharon Dale reports.
THE market is slow, buyers are cautious and some For Sale signs have hung around so long they’re in danger of being listed.
But one sector is booming, so much so that cash buyers are queueing up, bidding wars are being sparked and properties are being sold within weeks.
Country renovation projects are more popular than ever before and the more derelict the property the higher the interest.
Ragged Ray – a tumbledown cottage in Kilburn – had lost its residential occupancy and the National Park is adamant it cannot be used as a home, yet it attracted 1,000 telephone calls to Robin Jessop’s estate agency in Bedale and sold at auction for £62,000.
Stocking House Farm at Scawton, near Helmsley and High Ash Bank Farmhouse, near Bedale, both needed renovation and were recently sold within weeks by Jessops after attracting over 60 viewings each.
Red House Farm and Low Gill Cottage in Rosedale, near Pickering, are also exciting a staggering amount of interest.
The farmhouse, which needs complete renovation, comes with 10 acres and stables and has a tempting guide price of £200,000 to £250,000.
The semi-derelict cottage, on the same site, comes with seven acres but has no gas or electricity and relies on a long drop toilet.
It has also lost residential occupancy after being uninhabited for over 20 years, hence the low guide price of £45,000, though the National Park seem to be in favour of relisting it as a home with a possible local occupancy clause if it needs to be completely rebuilt.
Tom Watson, of Cundalls in Malton, which is selling the North York Moors farm as a whole or in three lots, says: “The interest is unbelievable, but these houses are in a beautiful, secluded location. They’re like something out of Heartbeat.
“We’ve sent out 300 brochures and had well over 200 viewings, with interest from as far away as Cornwall, Surrey, Scotland, Manchester and Norfolk.
“We have shown families, young couples, retired couples, developers and locals round.”
Many of the above are romantics, who dream of leaving the rat race for a new life in the country, but rescuing a remote wreck can be fraught with difficulties.
Funding is the major issue. Unless you have cash or a huge deposit, banks may be unwilling to lend. Even if you have enough to buy a renovation project, make sure there is plenty left in the pot.
Tom Watson reckons that Low Gill Cottage needs at least £100,000 spending on it, while the farmhouse needs about £150,000.
Even if you are a cash buyer and don’t require a survey to satisfy a lender, it is always worth getting an expert opinion. At least then you know exactly what you are buying and can calculate how much it might cost to renovate.
A survey might also save you a small fortune.
David Hornsby, a surveyor who specialises in historic buildings, says that many buyers assume they can see that “everything needs doing”, but there can be some hidden horrors.
“One of the most challenging jobs that I have had was the survey of a Grade two star listed timber framed manor house, which had been vacant for the best part of 10 years and required a major upgrade,” says Doncaster-based David.
“A provisional purchase price had been agreed at just under £1m and clients buying the property for cash only decided to have a survey at the last minute on the advice of their solicitor as they had taken the view that the property appeared to be sound.
“After all, it was still standing after 500 years and they accepted a significant amount of expenditure was required to provide cosmetic upgrading, so what more could a survey possibly tell them that they didn’t already know about the property?”
After inspecting the house David revealed that the lower half of the timber frame had been replaced by machine-sawn softwood timber and had decayed in parts, and asbestos was lurking under an external plaster render.
He says: “In short, the property was not worth anything like the original agreed purchase price and there were significant hidden costs.
“Thankfully, my clients withdrew from the purchase.”
Sally Coulthard, a seasoned renovator of period properties, agrees that knowledge is power when it comes to old properties.
She says: “Anyone thinking of tackling a restoration project needs to understand the intricacies of period properties. It’s dirty and exhausting, but the joys of restoring an old home far outweigh any setbacks.
“Not only do you get to work on a house filled with character, but renovated period properties regularly command significantly higher prices than new builds of the same size.”
But she admits that finding a project is becoming increasingly difficult.
“When my parents bought their first renovation project 30 years ago, a Victorian townhouse, most people thought they were mad. Phrases like ‘millstone around your neck’ were often quoted at my parents, who cheerfully ignored the naysayers. They bought in the late ’70s when period properties were still viewed with disdain – no-one wanted draughty old houses when they could have modern, shiny new boxes.
“Something happened in the ’80s – people started seeing the potential in period properties again and it became the done thing to find a ‘project’, especially in the countryside.
“True renovation projects, today, are like hens’ teeth. That’s why they generate so much interest. It’s getting harder and harder to find an untouched property – most of the renovation projects these days are putting right the mistakes that overzealous ‘restorers’ did in the ’80s – ripping out sash windows and putting in hideous UPVC double glazing for example.
“Barn conversions are similarly hard to find – there was a rash of them in the ’80s, many of them poorly conceived and renovated – and it’s only now that we realise that historic buildings need a much more sensitive approach of conservation and minimal restoration.”
Sally suggests one of the best ways of finding a country restoration project is to get to know a good estate agent and let them know you are in the market for a property.
“Be specific as possible and keep in touch on a regular basis – they might just tip you off that something is coming on the market if they think you are a serious buyer. That’s how we found ours.”
David Hornsby is a surveyor specialising in historic buildings, tel: 01302 371723.
IN NEED OF RENOVATION: Red House Farm, above, and Low Gill Cottage, below left, in Rosedale, near Pickering. Guide prices: £200,000 to £250,000 and £45,000. Contact: Cundalls, Malton, tel: 01653 697820, www.cundalls.co.uk. The properties are for sale by auction on November 8. The farmhouse comes with 10 acres and the semi-derelict cottage with seven acres. There is also the chance to buy the pair with another 76 acres to run as a stock farm. The guide price for the whole is £400,000 to £450,000.
PROJECTS: From left, Low Gill Cottage in Rosedale (see caption above). The Hayloft at Glasshouses, near Pateley Bridge comes with permission to convert into a three-bedroom home. It has a 1.65 acre paddock. Price: £200,000. Contact: Dacre, Son and Hartley, tel: 01423 711010, www.dacres.co.uk. Barn for conversion at Park Grange Farm, Leyburn, North Yorkshire. Price: £170,000. Contact: Charltons, Richmond, tel: 01748 822525, www.charltonsestateagents.com. There is a potential to create a three-bedroom property with stunning views over the surrounding countryside and towards Penn Hill. The traditional, stone-built former barn has planning consent for conversion and comes with a third of an acre of land.
TUMBLEDOWN: Dean Hall, Sneaton, near Whitby. Guide price: farmhouse, outbuildings and six acres, £425,000, with the chance to buy 33 extra acres. Contact: Cundalls, Malton, tel: 01653 697820, www. cundalls.co.uk. Auction on November 5. This semi-derelict property has been re-roofed and made watertight.