Londoners who came to breathe the clear air of the Chilterns at the back end of last year, but left with their hands in their pockets, have returned in force since the turn of 2014 and are now on a mission to buy. ‘Last year, Londoners accounted for one in four viewings in the Chilterns, but few got round to buying and most sales were agreed with buyers from elsewhere in the UK or overseas,’ says Andrew Cronan of Savills in Beaconsfield.
‘Since January, however, the mood has changed completely. Londoners already account for more than 50% of the viewings that have taken place so far and most appear determined to buy in the area this year.’ Mr Cronan attributes the recent surge of interest, mainly from London-based families, to two main factors.
Firstly, the sustained high level of prices in the capital means that they can’t afford to upgrade to the size of house they need in London. Secondly, according to Savills’ research, prime-property prices in the Chilterns are forecast to outperform prices in both central and outer London by 2018. In the south of the region, this trend can only be enhanced by the completion, scheduled for 2019, of the £42-billion Crossrail project, which will link Maidenhead and Heathrow directly with central and east London.
The picturesque Hambleden Valley, to the north of Henley-on-Thames in leafy south Buckinghamshire, has long been a magnet for millionaires and movie-buffs alike. The pretty brick-and-flint cottages and 14th century St Mary’s church in Hambleden village are quintessential images of England that have been beamed around the world through films- from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968 to Nanny McPhee Returns in 2010-and TV series such as Band of Brothers and Poirot.
The Cottage on Pheasants Hill, £1.95m, Savills
Fresh to the market, at a guide price of £1.95 million through the Henley office of Savills (01491 843000), comes a Hambleden ‘original’, The Cottage on Pheasants Hill. Perched high on the hill and protected by woodland, with views from its landscaped, terraced gardens over the Hambleden Valley, the charming 3,268sq ft house has been stylishly restored and extended by its current owners over the past 10 years. It now boasts three main reception rooms, a family/cinema room, a kitchen/ breakfast room, a large master suite, three further bedrooms, a family bathroom and an underground garage built into the side of the hill.
Although the vast majority of sales in the Chilterns last year were of houses priced between £750,000 and £2m, Christopher Dewe of Knight Frank highlights a dozen country houses in the region that were sold by his firm for more than £2m in 2013.
North House sold for around its £2.95m guide price
One of the most appealing was the secluded, five-bedroom North House at Hambleden, which stands in 3.8 acres of landscaped gardens and grounds overlooking the Hambleden Valley, surrounded by historic private estates. Offered for sale with planning consent to improve the internal layout by incorporating the adjoining coach house, North House found a buyer at about the £2.95m guide price.
The Henley-on-Thames offices of Knight Frank (01491 844900) and Savills (01491 843000) are handling the low-profile sale-at a guide price of £5.5m-of striking Beechwood House near Henley, Oxfordshire, which stands in a glorious wooded setting within an easy half-hour’s walk from the centre of town, via sought-after no-through Lambridge Lane.
Beechwood House, £5.5m, Savills and Knight Frank
Designed ‘from the inside out’ in the style of a Lutyens ‘butterfly house’ to maximise the impact of its Chilterns views, Beechwood House was built in the 1960s, extended in the early 1990s and substantially refurbished by its current owners in the past 10 years. The house, set in eight acres of lovely informal gardens that roll gently away to the north and east, offers some 5,400sq ft of elegant living accommodation, including a vaulted entrance hall that leads, via a circular reception hall, to three main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, master and guest suites, three further bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The excellent service provided by Chiltern Railways that links towns and villages between Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon and Aylesbury with London Marylebone station is particularly popular with a new type of Chilterns home buyer, says Mr Dewe. These are young, trendy, highly motivated workers in IT and media-related enterprises, based in and around Baker Street, Bloomsbury and Soho, who need to be at their desks five days a week, but still want to enjoy a family life.
‘They can be seen pouring out of Marylebone station at eight o’clock every morning and, with towns such as Beaconsfield only 19 minutes away and a wide choice of excellent independent and state schools to choose from, buying in the Chilterns is a no-brainer for many of them,’ adds Mr Dewe.
The Beaconsfield office of Knight Frank (01494 675368) quotes a guide price of £2.25m for historic The Old Rectory on the edge of the village of Monks Risborough, within walking distance of the British Rail halt in the village itself, or a mile from Princes Risborough mainline station (37 minutes from Marylebone with Chiltern Railways).
The Old Rectory, £2.25m, Knight Frank
For sale for the first time in 30 years, the delightful Grade II-listed former rectory, which dates from 1670, has evolved over the years into a splendid family home with more than 8,000sq ft of living accommodation designed to suit all ages. Included are entrance and staircase halls, five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a study, a studio, a master suite, five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sewing room, a gym and a one-bedroom staff flat. The Old Rectory’s 1.5 acres of beautifully maintained gardens are a joy and winding its way through the garden in front of the house is a sparkling small stream, fed by a natural Chilterns spring.
Peterley House, £2.45m, Knight Frank
Another interesting family house being sold for the first time in three decades is roomy Peterley House in the Buckinghamshire village of Little Kingshill, high in the north Chiltern Hills but well south of the proposed route of HS2, the future of which has yet to be resolved. Great Missenden, Amersham and Beaconsfield are all within easy reach and offer frequent railway services to Marylebone, with journey times varying between 24 and 43 minutes.
For sale through Knight Frank (01494 675368) at a guide price of £2.45m, Peterley House stands in 14 acres of mixed-use land that includes its own cricket pitch (currently rented to Amersham Cricket Club), stabling and storage barns.
The house, which needs some updating, has two main reception rooms, a snug, a vast kitchen, five bedrooms and three bathrooms.
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