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

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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