Brexit still the watch­word for ru­ral es­tates and the su­per rich

A tiny per­cent­age rise in res­i­den­tial and agri­cul­tural net in­come and 121 house sales in the Lon­don prime mar­ket hasn’t got the na­tion danc­ing in the streets, muses Ru­pert Bates

The Field - - Letters -

Es­tate bench­mark­ing is not some an­cient ru­ral craft, with car­pen­ters chis­elling out words on wooden seats: “Here slept his Lord­ship on sev­eral oc­ca­sions af­ter one too many drams on the moor”.

No, es­tate bench­mark­ing refers to an an­nual sur­vey of English es­tates by sav­ills and on the ba­sis we’ll cling to any good news amid the most feral of po­lit­i­cal cat­fights in liv­ing mem­ory, it is re­fresh­ing to learn that there was a small rise in net in­come – a whole 0.3%, to be pre­cise.

Res­i­den­tial and agri­cul­tural as­sets re­main the key rev­enue gen­er­a­tors. “Many own­ers have been giv­ing re­newed fo­cus to op­por­tu­ni­ties for di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion,” ex­plains Ian Bai­ley of sav­ills.

“Many pri­vately owned es­tates are look­ing to new trad­ing busi­nesses as a source of ad­di­tional rev­enue and as a means of man­ag­ing down the risk of the im­pact of Brexit on farm in­comes.”

Bai­ley stresses that with the changes in UK agri­cul­tural pol­icy, it is im­por­tant for landown­ers and man­agers to un­der­stand the im­pact of the demise of di­rect pay­ments on their fi­nances as well as ten­ants’ fi­nances.

Ru­pert Clark of sav­ills says the re­silience of ru­ral es­tates heav­ily ex­posed to farm­ing will be es­pe­cially tested as Brexit plays out, with “sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tion to come in the way land is farmed and man­aged”.

Mean­while, in a land far, far away – from your cor­re­spon­dent, at least – in a state called Lon­don su­per-prime, Knight Frank tells us that the to­tal value of £10 mil­lion­plus trans­ac­tions in the sec­ond quar­ter of this year was £707 mil­lion, nearly a quar­ter up on the same pe­riod in 2017.

the num­ber of prospec­tive buy­ers in this ex­alted price range has risen, too, as have view­ings. Ven­dors may be look­ing to bail be­fore Brexit, with pur­chasers sniff­ing out bar­gains amid the mind- and mar­ket­numb­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions, or there is a depth of pocket that no Kafkaesque chaos can touch.

Price re­duc­tions have trig­gered some ac­tiv­ity but po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty is still curb­ing de­mand, says tom van strauben­zee of Knight Frank. this also sug­gests there is pent-up de­mand to be re­leased when, or if, cer­tainty rides into town.

“the weak­ness of ster­ling re­mains a big de­mand driver, as well as the fun­da­men­tal that Lon­don re­mains a place peo­ple want to live and work. should there be a prag­matic out­come to Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, I be­lieve we could see the mar­ket pick up no­tice­ably,” says Paddy Dring of Knight Frank.

Con­sid­er­ing there were just 121 hous­ing trans­ac­tions in the Lon­don su­per-prime price range dur­ing the year to last June, that note of optimism will not ex­actly have the na­tion danc­ing in the streets. I, for one, need one too many drams and a lie down. Mark my bench, would you?

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