Dream of house in country keeps buyers searching for right move
Robin Jessop has spent the last decade selling the country idyll and even now there is no shortage of buyers. Sharon Dale reports
WHEN Robin Jessop decided to specialise in beautiful rural property he prayed that he had found the right niche for his fledgling Bedale-based estate agency.
He worried away one and a half stones in weight in his first eight weeks of business until relief stabilised his metabolic rate.
There appeared to be a burgeoning market for roses round the door, splendid isolation and the good life.
That was 10 years ago when 50 per cent of buyers came from out of the area. Now the figure is 75 per cent, which proves that escaping to the country, or at least to a pretty little town within striking distance of fields, is still a dream that many of us have.
The figures could rise further as the internet allows us to work from home and improved transport links bring rural idylls closer.
“The A1 upgrade will make a big difference. You can already get from Bedale to Leeds in 45 minutes and you are up in Teeside in half an hour.
“In fact we had a couple who moved from Wakefield to Kirklington recently. It is quicker for them to get in Leeds from there than it is from Wakefield,” says Robin, who sells everything from cottages and barns to working farms over a patch stretching from the Vale of York to Coverdale, Swaledale, Wensleydale and Nidderdale plus the market towns of Thirsk, Bedale and Northallerton and the Yorkshire Coast.
“Buyers are also coming from further afield. Last year we sold a property in Thoralby, near Leyburn, to someone from New York and we sold another to some people in Hong Kong who wanted to retire to the Dales.”
He founded the company that bears his name in Bedale in 2002 after deciding to go it alone.
His family were in farming and he grew up in Carthorpe, but after a geography degree, he qualified as a chartered surveyor and worked as a land agent and auctioneer for a firm in Northallerton.
“Foot and mouth disease affected that line of work and I had been thinking of setting up my business. It was a big leap of faith but my accountant encouraged me to do it,” says Robin.
His farming background plus his valuing and auctioneering skills have been a winning combination.
He often uses the auction method of selling for residential properties and says that it has much going for it, especially these days when chains can easily break down.
“The benefit for the seller is that when the hammer comes down, the property is legally sold to people who have finance in place
“An auctionable property has to be something individual, something that is in limited supply but has high demand. Buyers especially like something that needs work, something they can put their own stamp on.”
The auctions have generated some surprises along the way like Church Farm at Swainby, near Northallerton.
The Georgian farmhouse had a small caravan site and four acres, with a guide price of £750,000. It made £1.94m and this was in July 2008, when sales and prices had slumped.
“It was phenomenal. It was in the National Park so we knew there would be a lot of interest but we had bidders from Ireland and even from New York.”
Recent work has included land valuations for compensation payouts resulting from the A1 upgrade.
“I’ve done a lot land compensation work over the years for the Kielder project and various road schemes, so not much has changed there,” says Robin, who has just been elected chairman of the Northern Group of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers.
There have been changes over the past few years and some for the good. Farmers, who were struggling just a few years ago, are faring much better
Land prices have risen to the point where they can now compete with the lifestyle buyer for farms.
“In 1981 agricultural land was £1,000 to £2,000 an acre. Now it is between £5,000 and £10,000. A farm with 250 acres was £500,000. Now it is £2.5m. The land market is the firmest it has ever been. Produce prices are good and there’s a feeling of confidence. Now farmers are now out bidding the lifestyle buyers.
“The lifestyle buyers still have their pick of the less viable farms with a smaller house and 10 to 15 acres and we often sell farms in lots now, so the land is available separately, ” says Robin, whose daughter Sarah now works in the business.
The off-cummed ’uns have pushed up prices and first-time buyers often have to compete with those who want holiday homes and still they keep coming. In fact, one recent buyer from Leeds arrived in a helicopter to view a former dairy farm.
On the strength of this kind of demand, Robin opened another office in Leyburn two years ago headed by Tim Gower.
“It has been a challenging four years but we don’t have the kind of highs and lows they have elsewhere and there is no shortage of buyers,” he says.
“Sellers have to be realistic though and some are seduced by agents overvaluing. We stick to our guns and say what we believe a property is worth and that is not always what people want to hear. I can think of a couple of properties that are over-priced by £200,000 and have languished on the market. If the price was right they would’ve sold.”
RURAL RETREAT: The natural beauty of Wensleydale attracts buyers from all over Britain and beyond. Far left: Buckley Grange at Ellingstring, near Masham, £425,000; left: Seata Barn, Askrigg, £380-£420,000, www.robinjessop.co.uk