During the recent economic turbulence, it has become increasingly important to get the price right for a country house to maximise its sale potential. As Rob Jones-Davies of Middleton Advisors explains: ‘Previously, it had been possible to test the market at one price, and if there were no takers, simply revise it and the property would still have a fair chance of selling second-time round, but this isn’t the case any more.’ So how can vendor and buyer establish what is the correct price? For identikit houses on a modern housing estate, this can be a relatively simple comparative exercise. For country houses and estates, it’s trickier, but an adapted form of this method may be used.

‘In London, prices can be checked by the value per square foot for the area. This method has been adopted in other places where there is a degree of uniformity, such as the Wentworth Estate in Virginia Water or St George’s Hill. Outside these areas, other issues come to play a part,’ explains Savills’ Crispin Holborow. Every agent tries to find comparison points to build up an idea of what a property is worth. Despite this, as Nick Ashe of Property Vision admits: ‘Sometimes, it comes down to gut feeling and experience.’

Beyond the obvious factors, such as number of bedrooms, are many less conspicuous ones, including the name of the house: ‘The Old Rectory is worth more than 29, Acacia Road,’ explains Mr Jones-Davies. ‘Even minor points such distance from a telephone exchange for internet speeds can have an effect.’ Once you’ve added up the positives, you need to subtract the negatives. For example, for a house blighted by road noise, ‘you could easily subtract 25% from the overall value,’ says The Buying Solution’s Luke Morgan.

Mr Morgan is rare in that he describes the pricing process as ‘a science’, whereas most call it ‘an inexact science at best’, and some even admit that ‘there is little science to it’. So how accurate can any guide price be? Most agents reckon to get it to within 10%, and the lower down the price range, the more accurate the figure, as there are more obvious comparable properties to base judgement on.‘But the only way to really know is to price the house conservatively and put in place a full campaign with a launch in Country Life and follow it up with local and national advertising,’ reckons George Bramley of Strutt & Parker. ‘This gives the best opportunity of finding the true market value. If any of the important steps in marketing are missed, they may result in not achieving the best price.’

‘Most houses are realistically priced,’ believes The Buying Solution’s Robin Guild. ‘But there is often an element of hope built into a figure everyone believes their house is better than the others. However, a property on the open market will find its level.’ Every buyer ascribes their own value to aspects of a house. ‘Equine enthusiasts with large horse boxes value being located close to a major road network,’ points out Mr Jones-Davies. When a house with rare, prized features captures imaginations, it can lead to the sale price vastly exceeding the estimate. Recently, a country house with a guide of £4 million sold for £8.3 million. Another sold for £7 million, having started with a guide price of £2.5 million-it’s said that five bidders took the price up to £5 million and two remained to take it to its selling price.

However, warns Mr Morgan, buyers need to be cautious: ‘A property in Oddington, Gloucestershire on the market for £2.8 million recently sold under competition for about £3.3 million, but needs £1 million of renovations. Even with that work, the house would struggle to reach what it will owe.’
‘Buyers make their minds up within the first five minutes of viewing the property. They should then ask the selling agent for the rationale behind the asking price. A good agent will back up it up with examples of houses selling at this level,’ counsels Rupert Sweeting of Knight Frank. ‘Alternatively, the buyer should employ an agent to advise them.’

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