Nice house, all right, but it’s the name that counts…
Get the address of your property just right and watch would-be buyers flock to your door. Fact or flight of fancy? Anna Tyzack reports
If I were to change my house’s name, it could fetch a higher price – or so I’m told. My tiny basement’s official address is the busy Chelsea Embankment, even though its front door is on the much more desirable Tite Street, formerly home to Oscar Wilde and John Singer Sergeant.
“The Embankment is a busy road so it might be good to plug Tite Street,” says Paul Gransbury, of Knight Frank, Sloane Avenue.
Agents advise clients to change house names regularly. Not to something obscure and quirky but, according to Keith Allen, of John D Wood, Lymington, to something “round, established and English”. Mr Allen has lived for the past 20 years in Garden Cottage, although it is officially registered as 3/4 The Gardens. In a recent research of Land Registry figures by Mouseprice.com, The Cottage ranked as Britain’s most popular house name, with the Old Rectory leading the over-£800,000 category and the Coach House topping the £350,000 to £800,000 bracket. The Barn, The Stables, The Granary and The Old Vicarage follow closely behind.
Names are all about associations, says Crispin Holborow, head of Savills country department. “The Old Rectory sums up the Georgian or Victorian ideal of summer afternoons, fetes, village life. It is about the lifestyle. The Cottage is the most English name. It is an encapsulation of the outside of the house and the inside.”
Meanwhile, The Coach House conjures up images of high ceilings, exposed brick work and interesting shaped windows and doors.
Name changes can raise the profile of a property. “There are lots of singlenamed properties and a name change helps to define them and make them appear prestigious,” says Mr Holborow. Savills is currently selling Manor Barn in Laytham, North Yorkshire, a five-bedroom barn conversion, previously called Willowfind. “Manor Barn seemed more appropriate, with Manor Farm next door,” says owner Deborah Plater. “I felt we were putting integrity back into the property.”
Names such as The Cottage can appear farcical when applied to new homes, so developers tend to use the names of famous architects or aristocrats for new builds. In the same survey, Wentworth House was revealed as the highestvalued new-build property, with an average worth of £1,393,367. “Wentworth is a well known name internationally,” says Mr Holborow. The original Wentworth House was the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam, whose roots date back to the Battle of Hastings.
Ahouse’s name can speak volumes about its occupant. “An address can define your position in society, or on the rich list – everyone knows Eaton Square or Cadogan Square,” says Mr Gransbury. “A buyer might be put off if the associations surrounding a property’s name are wrong.”
Name-changing is not to be taken lightly. “I think that it is bad luck, like changing the name of an animal, unless there is a very good reason,” says Jeremy Musson, architectural editor of Country Life.
It is also difficult to say how much value a name change will add. “It is still the same property when people go to see it,” says Mr Gransbury.
Charlie Wellbelove, of Hamptons International, is adamant that a name can only add to a home’s desirability, not to the actual value. “Calling a house something it isn’t is not going to help it,” he says.
A new name can even work against a sale. “Sometimes adding ‘Manor’ detracts from a property as people imagine something grander and larger than they see,” says Mr Holborow.
As people clamour to change their house’s name, or push it from the corner of one street to the end of another, agents advise them to get friendly with their local postmaster. Once a property has been issued a number, it will always form part of the address. But a name can be added or changed by applying to the local council; only names likely to cause offence, or already in use or forbidden by a restricted covenant, will be refused.
Meanwhile, would-be buyers can avoid disappointment by investing in an Ordnance Survey map and A to Z before dashing off to view castles in the air – or basements on Chelsea Embankment.
For information about changing the name of your property, contact your local council.
Named and framed: (clockwise from above) The Cottage, The Old Coach House and The Old Rectory (see right)