Run-down, but not out

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

It’s not just a fairy tale, de­signed to tease hope­ful house­buy­ers. There re­ally are “re­duced-rate prop­er­ties” in the West Coun­try, wait­ing to be trans­formed from ram­shackle homes to re­spectable res­i­dences.

“There aren’t as many as there used to be,” says Martin Lamb, of Sav­ills es­tate agents, in Ex­eter. “But if you’re pre­pared to look, you will find them. At the mo­ment, there are many fam­i­lies look­ing to sell up in London. For the same money, they can get some­thing a lot big­ger and bet­ter down here.”

One ex­am­ple is West­port Lodge, at Cricket St Thomas, in Som­er­set. The five-bed­room dower house has seen bet­ter days. It is on the mar­ket for £1mil­lion. In Lamb’s es­ti­ma­tion it needs another £250,000-£750,000 to bring it up to scratch. Once the builders have moved out, though, you will have a clas­si­cally pro­por­tioned coun­try home. It’s set in two acres of park­land with a kitchen gar­den and two-bed­room flat in­cluded.

Tak­ing on a past-its-best­be­fore-date house does in­volve a lot of work post-pur­chase. Just ask David and Ju­lia Lit­tle. They found a two-bed­room water­front home on the Es­planade in Fowey, in Corn­wall, and then spent a year car­ry­ing out re­pairs and im­prove­ments.

“When we came here in 2008, the house was in a very tatty con­di­tion,” re­calls David. “It’s the old­est house on the Es­planade, and it took us 12 months and a lot of money to re­store it. We have a new kitchen, a con­ser­va­tory and ex­tremely ex­pen­sive De­labole slate on the roof.

“There again, I have a sail­ing back­ground. I wanted to live by the sea and there is a panoramic view here, right across the es­tu­ary. Best of all, we’ve got a moor­ing right out­side our front door.”

Also, co­in­ci­den­tally, their home shares the cou­ple’s sur­name. It’s called The Lit­tle House (pic­tured right), and was named after an un­re­lated Mrs Lit­tle, who bought the prop­erty back in 1945. The cur­rent Lit­tles’ house is on the mar­ket for £950,000. It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that West Coun­try prices are still ris­ing at only half the rate of London prop­erty. The Royal In­sti­tute of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors has pre­dicted six per cent growth here, against 11 per cent in the cap­i­tal.

This means that if you spend £500,000 im­prov­ing a wreck in Devon or Corn­wall, you may only in­crease the prop­erty’s value by that much. “Buy­ers will ex­pect the end value to match their level of in­vest­ment,” warns Ben Davies, of Sav­ills, in Truro.

And, if you work in London ev­ery week­day, you’ll have to put aside a fair amount of money per year for your train ticket. That’s at least £18,000 a year (£36,000 first class) if you are trav­el­ling from Bod­min Park­way, and £9,000 (£18,000 first class) from Bath.

All the more money for your restora­tion fund, there­fore, if you don’t have to travel to town ev­ery day. And all the more time to su­per­vise the work on a prop­erty such as The Ham, in Dundry, just six miles from the cen­tre of Bris­tol.

The good news, is that this is a four-bed­room pe­riod house with two acres of land – and a guide price of £500,000-£600,000. It also has mar­vel­lous views across to the Clifton Sus­pen­sion Bridge.

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