In search of a chic second home? Zoe Dare Hall discovers what’s on offer in Salcombe and beyond…
In these credit-crunch times, a holiday home hardly figures on the list of necessities — a fact that is forcing developers in second-home hotspots, such as the South Hams, in Devon, either to put projects on ice until the market picks up or, for those who are ploughing ahead, ensure they have something exceptional to offer.
This is something Richard Knowles, UK director of Benton Property Holding, has learnt the hard way. “You have to hold your nerve and not cut any corners because if it’s not absolutely perfect, you won’t be successful,” says Knowles.
His latest project is at Fallapit Estate, a Grade II-listed manor house set in 22 acres of private woodland in East Allington, 15 minutes from Totnes and Salcombe, where his company is also converting the faded Marine Hotel into a boutique hotel, designed by Richard Rogers, with 25 managed apartments costing from £1.5million.
At Fallapit Estate, Knowles may have taken on a project that was filled with wet rot, dry rot, bats and a bell-tower that collapsed in the first week on site , but the results will be spectacular.
The estate has a colourful history. Sir Edmund Fortescue, whose family owned the estate from the early 14th century for 400 years, was the last to hold out against Cromwell, retreating back to Fallapit with his troops in the English Civil War.
In its new incarnation, Fallpit combines strikingly chic interiors — the specification is on a par with Benton’s previous project, 131-132 Park Lane in Mayfair — with one of the most soughtafter settings for a holiday home in the country.
In fact, nearly a quarter of the UK’s holiday homes are in the South-West, and Salcombe, in South Devon, is the second favourite holiday home location in the South West after Sandbanks, in Dorset. It is also tops Savills’s list of most expensive locations, based on average prices (see box, below).
“If you went 20 miles in either direction, this kind of project wouldn’t work,” says Knowles of Fallapit. “But the South Hams is it. It’s the best location you can possibly find for a second home. Owners will have the run of the 22 acres of grounds, which were among the best gardens in the west of England in their time, with 400-year-old oak trees and rare specimen trees from South America.”
The manor house, formerly a boys’ correction school, was in a state of decay when Benton bought it three years ago. “If we’d left it another three months, it would have been past saving,” says Knowles.
Now, there are eight two- or three-bedroom apartments in the manor house, where the original plastering, 16th-century panelling and Gothic windows have been painstakingly reconstructed, for sale from £525,000 to £900,000.
There are 24 newbuild houses in the courtyard, starting at £350,000 for a one-storey, one- bedroom property, and there will be a singlestorey house in the estate’s walled garden, with its own pool, costing £960,000, all through Savills.
Early buyers will also benefit from membership of Dartmouth Golf Club, access to an on-site lifestyle concierge and they can skip the 20-year queue for a mooring in Salcombe marina.
The first properties, in the old manor house, will be complete next month, with the entire estate ready by September. Yet Savills has only just launched the scheme. “People are not buying off-plan. That has very much been affected by the economy,” says Julie Drake, of Savills. “If you had viewed the house last September, you wouldn’t have been able to visualise what could be achieved.”
Peter Dilling, co-owner of Fallapit Estate, adds: “It is a challenge selling in the current market and everything will take longer to go, but typical secondhome owners are people who don’t borrow more than 50 per cent.”
Prices in the South-West rose by 11 per cent last year, compared with 9 per cent on average in the UK, and Knight Frank expects this year’s market dip to be less severe in the South-West than in the rest of the country (-1 per cent compared with an estimated -3 per cent), due partly to continued demand from downsizers and second-homers.
Properties in what Knight Frank’s Liam Bailey calls “coastal honeypots” will always be in demand, such as the new phase of nine spa apartments at Dart Marina, in Dartmouth, with furnished one-bedroom flats from £495,000, or 16 clifftop apartments at Prospect House, near South Hallsands in the South Hams, from £320,000. Knight Frank is selling 10 apartments at Water Meadows in Cockington, near Torquay, with views across the Torbay coastline, from £245,000.
“Interest is still there among people who had holiday homes on their horizon, particularly Salcombe, with its lovely necklace of sandy beaches, or Dartmouth, with its marina and leisure facilities,” says Jane Summers, of Knight Frank. “Anything with sea views or a quick walk to the beach is still in demand and communal facilities are a big draw, rather than properties that have too much land to maintain.”
Richard Marchand, of Marchand Petit estate agency in Salcombe, reports a new surge in interest. “The second-home market has burst into life for us. Last week, we made five sales of up to £2million,” he says, citing the launch of At The Beach in Torcross, a beachfront hotel, now converted into apartments costing from £285,000.
Paul Hales, 42, a restaurant owner, and his wife Alison, 37, a doctor, from Leamington Spa, in Warwickshire, have shunned anywhere abroad in favour of their six-bedroom house — a converted bed&breakfast — overlooking Salcombe harbour.
“We got a good deal as people want one of the pretty two- or three-bedroom cottages down the road and our house was almost too big. The average four-bedroom house in Salcombe costs about £450,000 and we paid only slightly more than that,” says Paul.
“We wanted a bolthole we could go to with our kids, where my wife can go on her own and where we have lots of friends with holiday homes,” he adds.
“Salcombe is a very friendly, sociable place and everyone has boats. You need a speedboat there to head off for the day, around the bay to Dartmouth or over to Burr island. Salcombe is such a desirable holiday-home location, but it’s also a good base for the future.” Fallapit Estate, www.fallapitestate.com, Savills 01392 455721 Marchand Petit, www.marchandpetit.co.uk, 01548 844473 Knight Frank, www.knightfrank.com, 01392 848844
Top-notch: Kingsbridge estuary, Salcombe, Devon (above and below, left); panoramic view of the Fallapit Estate (below); the estate’s garden house and pool (bottom)