Run-down, but not out
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.