UK country house property market has a Spring in its step, according to property finders

The market for country properties in the UK is recovering although there are few transactions at the top end of the market with buyers seeking the advice of search companies so that they can secure what they want at the right price, it is claimed.

According to The Buying Solution the market for properties in the £1.5 million to £3 million market in the central region of the country is particularly strong and the agricultural land market is exceptional with record prices of £10,000 per acre being achieved.

‘We have seen a cautious start to the year but activity is growing rapidly as the markets come out of winter hibernation. Overall, April 2010 to March 2011 was a record year with transaction levels up more than 40% from the previous year,’ said Philip Selway, managing partner of The Buying Solution.

‘This is definitely not the time to buy badly and we are finding that buyers are increasingly seeking representation from us, not only to find and secure a house at the correct value but also to ensure that a high level of due diligence is carried out on their behalf,’ he added.

In the Home Counties, the area covering Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, South Oxfordshire, West Sussex, Nick Mead, says that the better weather has, to a certain extent, reinvigorated the market. ‘Transaction volumes have increased, largely as a result of realistic views being taken by both buyers and sellers, and we continue to see competition for best in class properties,’ he explained.

His office recently acted in the purchase of a good period house in Peaslake, Surrey, which hadn’t been on the market for 30 years. Several potential buyers were interested, and it was purchased for in excess of £4 million without going on to the open market.

‘Looking forward, we expect market conditions to be largely benign. Possible factors such as anticipated interest rate rises, tax changes and wider economic uncertainty could have an impact, but it is likely to be marginal,’ he added.

Spring should see some classic manor houses and old rectories coming to the market, according to Bobby Hall, partner and head of the Southern region for the company. While in the central region of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire the market is also coming to life.

‘Whilst the £3 million and above market has been fairly quiet, we have seen substantial activity in the £1.5 million to £3 million price range. This is mainly people downsizing from their large family homes and buying a smaller house, not only for something more manageable, but to release equity for their grandchildren,’ said Luke Morgan, partner and head of the Central region.

'These buyers fall into two camps; the locals who have a tight area of search as they do not wish to spread too far from their friends and family, and those from wider areas such as Kent, Surrey and Yorkshire who have retired and want an edge of village house within a short drive to a bigger town,’ he explained.

At the top end of the market, properties and estates worth £8 million plus, there have been very few transactions since October of last year, according to Mark Lawson, partner, top end country houses and estates.

‘The top end country residential market has not yet followed the lead of London because there is still not the demand outside the immediate Home Counties from international buyers, who are fuelling the top end London market. Interestingly, whilst London surges ahead, it will not be long before the country looks reasonable value again, at which point I expect the country market to reignite,’ he said.

However, the land market has never been stronger, he said. ‘All acreage sizes are selling well but demand is stronger for bigger units which are self sufficient. For example, in excess of 500 acre blocks and preferably more, which are in incredibly short supply,’ he explained.

‘In particular, there is demand for bare good quality arable land without a residential element. Demand is being driven by neighbouring farmers, who are finally making some money, due to commodity prices, investors with nowhere else to put money that is considered safe with a bright long term future, and significantly, tax driven purchasers wanting to benefit from the advantageous tax treatment of working farmland,’ he added.