* We are now accepting entries: please download the Favourite House entry form here or email your nomination to favourite_house@ipcmedia.com

We all have a favourite country house.  It may be an idyllic vision, with elegant proportions admired from afar, a childhood home that remains perfect in your memory or you may be fortunate enough to be living in a much-coveted home. Now there is an opportunity to nominate your favourite house for a new national award.

This October, Country Life, in association with Savills, the leading estate agency, will be launching an award to find England’s favourite country houses. We will be inviting nominations from all over the country, to celebrate a unique part of English life.

To launch the award, Country Life will be inviting a number of celebrities to talk about their own favourite country houses. Actor and author Julian Fellowes, who has agreed to be one of the judges for the competition, reveals that his own favourite house is Highclere Castle. ‘Designed by Sir Charles Barry in the first years of Queen Victoria’s reign, Highclere is an extraordinary Gothic statement of English aristocratic confidence. Standing in that great hall, or walking through the library – one of the finest rooms in the country – it is impossible to resist the sense that Britannia, in those days anyway, did indeed rule the waves.’

Arabella Youens, property editor of Country Life, says: ‘Time and time again, people I meet tell me of the great pleasure they derive from leafing through the pages of Country Life dreaming about owning one of the picture perfect country houses advertised each week. This award is inspired by those readers and is a celebration of the extraordinary breadth and wealth of country houses – both new and old – that are scattered across the English countryside.’

Crispin Holborow, head of Savills Country Department says: ‘We are delighted to be supporting this award and it will be fascinating to see which houses are put forward and the reasons for choosing them.  

‘There is something about the English Country House which provokes great emotion and it is always interesting to understand what buyers find so inspiring, be it a sense of history, setting, tranquillity, or on occasion, cutting edge contemporary design.’

The award

Nominations will be invited for privately-owned family properties in a rural setting (to include villages). As well as taking into account elements such as views and layout, the judges will be looking at the aesthetic appeal of the building, the setting, and its convenience for modern life. Houses can be of any era, from medieval to 21st century. Property on the market will not be eligible for entry.

A form to enter the competition will be published in Country Life on October 27, 2010. The closing deadline for nominations is Wednesday, November 24. A list of finalists will be published at the end of January, with the winner and runners-up announced later in the spring.

* We are now accepting entries: please download the Favourite House entry form here or email your nomination to favourite_house@ipcmedia.com

Please note: Houses for sale will not be eligible for entry

The importance of ‘kerb appeal’

Savills asked 33 of their agents across the country to rank the importance of 10 factors to buyers for a prime residential property in the £1.5m to £3m price bracket.  

  • In just under three quarters of cases, the external appearance and character of a property ranked as the most or second most important features of a property, at this end of the market.
  • The setting and the extent and quality of the grounds were ranked as the two next most important factors.
  • The condition of the property was by comparison much less important. “The external appearance of a country house is of paramount importance and contributes to the emotional connection that people form with properties,” says Crispin Holborow, Head of Savills Country Department. “Buyers will often make their decision on whether to buy or not based on their very first impression as they approach the house. Architectural style is also an important factor. You can see that the condition of the property isn’t an important factor. Often this is because buyers welcome the opportunity to put their own stamp on their country home.”
  • The results also show some important distinctions between the country house market and the prime markets of the prime London suburbs, the likes of Hampstead, Wandsworth and Esher in Surrey. “In these suburban areas the quality of schooling and communications are considered to be highly important” says Lucian Cook, director of research at Savills. “Here buyers are often have young families and need day to day access to the employment markets. By contrast in the country house markets buyers are often in later life stages with greater accumulated wealth, buying at a time when children have either left or a settled at a school that will see them through to university. For these buyers factors such as privacy and security are by comparison more important.”