It’s ironic that the financial meltdown that hit the second-homes market for six at the end of last year should now be a major incentive for buyers to re-enter the fray. In Cornwall at least, the market for pretty coastal cottages is showing signs of a thaw. Truro-based Lillicrap Chilcott report the sale of picturesque, Grade II-listed Fern Cottage at Port Isaac better known to millions of TV viewers as Doc Martin’s home and surgery for around the £550,000 guide price. February 14 was another red-letter day for the Cornish agents, who exchanged contracts on six houses on that date, among them Treviso at Feock, a traditional waterfront cottage which sold for ‘well over £600,000’, against a guide price of £695,000.

Rather more problematic in recent months has been the market for large coastal houses in the West Country, where the mantra has been ‘neither a vendor nor a buyer be’. But here, too, there are signs of the logjam easing as several notable houses hit the market, some for the first time in a generation. As Rick Marchand of Marchand Petit in Salcombe, Devon (01548 844473), explains: ‘The market for second homes in the South Hams, which are essentially discretionary purchases, has been exceptionally slow of late. Now, suddenly, we’re seeing a marked increase in the number of enquiries from cash-rich individuals who are taking the attitude that their money is earning next to nothing in the banks, so why not invest it in a property and enjoy holidays in this beautiful part of the world? Alternatively, they can get a better return from letting their holiday home than they would from cash left sitting on deposit.’

Mr Marchand is confident that the launch onto the market of local landmark La Baranca in Cliff Road, Salcombe, at a guide price of £1.75 million, will whet the appetite of discerning buyers who have been quietly sitting on the sidelines. The pretty Edwardian holiday house, which virtually guards the entrance to Salcombe harbour, has a large drawing room, a kitchen/dining room, 3–4 bedrooms and two bathrooms, and spectacular views of the estuary, the harbour mouth and out to sea. ‘Houses such as La Baranca only come on the market once in a blue moon, and we believe that buyers won’t want to miss out,’ Mr Marchand adds.

One of the reasons why the best West Country coastal properties come to the market so rarely, says Martin Lamb of Savills in Exeter, is that many people who buy them as second homes in their forties and fifties end up living there full-time in their sixties and seventies. Only after that will they consider moving to something smaller. Such is the background to the sale of one of Devon’s most enchanting coastal properties, Rock Vale at Redlap, near Dartmouth, at a guide price of £3m through Savills (01392 455755) and Lus-combe Maye (01752 872417).

Rock Vale sits in a secret Devon ‘coombe’ about a mile from the entrance to the River Dart, on the footprint of a former farmhouse that burned down in 1939. This site remained untouched for almost 60 years, when the present owners bought the valley with its 29 acres of land, and created the 4,514sq ft stone house, faced largely with its own quarried stone and surrounded by tropical gardens and farmland, with views over pasture and woodland to the sea. It has three reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms, three bathrooms and a shower room. There’s also a period three-bedroom cottage, plus out-
buildings, workshops and stores.

The magnificent, Grade II-listed Old Vicarage, on the banks of the River Fowey at St Winnow, Lostwithiel, Cornwall, was a major casualty of last year’s market collapse, when an immediate deal, agreed at around the original £5m guide price, subsequently fell out of bed. The house was taken off the market, but will be relaunched in next week’s COUNTRY LIFE at a reduced guide price of £4.25m through Knight Frank (01392 423111) and Savills (01872 243200). Built in about 1740, with extensions and remodelling done in about 1800 by Robert Walker, the classic Georgian former vicarage has been the much-loved holiday home of its London-based owners for the past seven years.

‘The Old Vicarage is a cracking house, whose owners have spared no expense in renovating it, even to commissioning Martin Lane Fox to create its terraced gardens,’ says Jonathan Cunliffe of Savills. The main house, with its views of the Fowey estuary, has a reception/staircase hall, three reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, master and guest suites, four further bedrooms and two further bathrooms. There’s also a two-bedroom staff cottage, and its five acres of landscaped grounds include a swimming pool, a tennis court, and a summer house.

Grand coastal houses in north Norfolk have been among the hottest properties in England in recent years, before everything came to a halt last autumn. But, amid rumours of a £3m sale concluded locally in recent weeks, Paddy Pritchard-Gordon of Knight Frank is hoping that the pristine, 5,480sq ft Coast House at Blakeney, north Norfolk, launched last week by Knight Frank (020–7629 8171) and Sowerbys (01328 730340) at a guide price of £2.85m, will buck the current trend. Designed by leading local architect Robert Lord and built of traditional brick and flint by master builders A. J. Cooper of Calthorpe, this perfect coastal retreat has three light-filled reception rooms, a large kitchen/dining/family room, master and three guest suites, plus three bedrooms and a family bathroom.

The Coast House has more than half an acre of gardens, with jaw-dropping views to the sea across the famous Blakeney marshes, with their ever-changing bird-life and vast open skies.