Guest houses be­come prime prop­erty in York­shire hotspot

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Ed­ward Water­son

“POR­RIDGE, prunes or corn­flakes?” marked the start of ev­ery day spent on a childhood hol­i­day at a guest house near Black­pool. Things have moved on a bit since Mrs Hornby’s break­fast of­fer­ing.

Now, the of­fers on the ta­ble, rather more juicy than a bowl of prunes, are com­ing from peo­ple who want to buy the prop­erty and move into it as a fam­ily home.

The trend isn’t con­fined to the cities but it is par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able in places like York, where large fam­ily houses near the city cen­tre are in short sup­ply and strong de­mand. There’s also a plen­ti­ful sup­ply of guest houses to fill the void.

The odds have been stacked against guest houses and be­dand-break­fasts for years but it’s get­ting worse.

Ask any­one who runs such a busi­ness and they’ll tell you it’s in­cred­i­bly hard work and not a life­style that suits ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially if they have a fam­ily.

More re­cently, bud­get ho­tel chains have been of­fer­ing rooms at half the price, to an in­creas­ingly con­sis­tent stan­dard. They may lack char­ac­ter but they’re usu­ally de­pend­able and well geared up for the in­ter­net guest. What’s more, they’re mul­ti­ply­ing like rab­bits.

Not only is the whole game be­com­ing much more com­pet­i­tive, it’s also be­come harder for an in­di­vid­ual to find the fund­ing for a pur­chase which may well ex­ceed £800,000.

Time was when this came from the pro­ceeds of a house sale or re­dun­dancy but those days have gone.

Put sim­ply, it all comes down to price. Guest houses fell in value by around 20 per cent from their 2007 peak. House prices, too, fell back. But whereas the res­i­den­tial sec­tor in cen­tral York has bounced back to sur­pass its pre­vi­ous peak, busi­ness premises have re­cov­ered more slowly and are still some 10 per cent down on seven years ago.

That makes for a big gap that in prac­tice gives fam­ily houses a pre­mium of 10-20 per cent over the busi­ness use for the same build­ing. No won­der that when the time comes to hang up the No Va­can­cies sign, own­ers are keen to talk res­i­den­tial.

Al­most with­out ex­cep­tion, the buy­ers are well-heeled fam­i­lies who have sold up in the coun­try and are join­ing the stam­pede into the cities. They’re look­ing for large houses within walk­ing dis­tance of the city cen­tre – just the sort of at­tributes found in a guest house. It’s per­fect pe­riod ac­com­mo­da­tion and more of­ten than not there’s even park­ing for the Porsche.

Streets such as St Marys, in the Bootham area of York have been trans­formed. Five years ago there were just four houses in fam­ily oc­cu­pa­tion. Now it’s twelve and count­ing. The scaf­fold­ing’s up, the skips are out and most of the re­main­ing guest houses are for sale.

Plan­ning per­mis­sion will be re­quired for the change of use and al­though that isn’t usu­ally con­tentious, it’s al­ways a good idea to have it in place be­fore go­ing to the mar­ket. Oth­er­wise you may find your­self with an anx­ious few weeks wait­ing for an ex­change of con­tracts while this is sorted out.

Once you’ve moved in, don’t for­get to take down the guest house sign and do make sure the pre­vi­ous owner re­ally did can­cel that book­ing for the party of Ja­panese tourists over the Bank Hol­i­day weekend.

Cre­at­ing the ideal home isn’t al­ways easy, es­pe­cially if you don’t want eight en-suite bath­rooms, but if you ac­cept that as part of the deal, re­mov­ing par­ti­tion walls isn’t so time con­sum­ing or ex­pen­sive.

At least you’re pretty much start­ing with a clean sheet and if the build­ing has been starved of in­vest­ment, the cost of ma­jor re­pairs will be re­flected in the price.

Does it mat­ter if we’re los­ing guest houses and gain­ing fam­ily homes? By and large this trend is good news. Houses are be­ing re­turned to their orig­i­nal uses, own­ers are get­ting more money and buy­ers are happy to pay them a pre­mium. Eat your heart out, Basil Fawlty.

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