Classic country houses still on the market

There is only a handful of buyers who are in the market for a house with 22,000sq ft, explains David Froggatt of Jackson-Stops office in Chipping Campden (01386 840224), which perhaps explains why a suitable buyer for the magnificent Brockhampton House near Bringsty in Worcestershire has yet to come forward.

Launched in Country Life on May 18 with a guide price of £5.75 million, the house, which has 13 bedrooms, a suite of imposing reception rooms and an enormous kitchen with separate breakfast room, has had sniffs of interest, but has yet to secure a new custodian. ‘It’s a really lovely house on the Worcestershire/Herefordshire borders, which is owned by the National Trust,’ explains Mr Froggatt. ‘The vendors purchased the lease 15 years ago when the house was falling into disrepair and they embarked on a major programme of restoration, from top to bottom.’

One of the sticking points has been the fact that, despite the size of the house, it only comes with eight acres of land. But that is both a problem and a benefit, depending on the way you look at it, believes Mr Froggatt. ‘A lot of people have said that they want more land, but, on the other hand, it’s set in the middle of 1,200 acres of National Trust land and is completely protected. It overlooks the park-it just doesn’t own it, which for those who don’t want the hassle of maintenance could be a massive advantage.’

Brockhampton House has a guide price of £5.75m

The Mansion at Storthes Hall Park, in Kirkburton, West Yorkshire, has also stumbled through a number of false starts when it comes to sales since launching on the market in 2008. The reason, again, has been a question of land, believes agent James England of Carter Jonas’s Huddersfield office (01484 842105). A spectacular Grade II-listed Georgian house, principally built in Ashlar cut stone under a slate tiled roof, it sits in 12 acres of beautifully maintained grounds. However, up until now, a small valley of about 45 acres running close to the front of the house has ruffled the feathers of would-be buyers. ‘It has been a big factor in a lot of buyers’ minds-they don’t like uncertainty and, when buying a house like this, want to both protect their environment and their view,’ explains Mr England. ‘So the vendors decided to buy the valley, a negotiation that we have just completed.’

The office plans to relaunch the house in the New Year and is confident that this new parcel of grazing land will be the key piece of the jigsaw puzzle that will lead to a successful sale: ‘It now ticks all the boxes. It’s a mini estate or a great equestrian property and will have a much wider market appeal.’ The house, originally on the market for £4m before being reduced to an attractive £2.955m will retain its current guide price when it relaunches next year.

The fact that Harlington Manor in Harlington, Bedfordshire, is within walking distance of the Thameslink station giving access to the City in 40 minutes should have been enough to secure its sale. Unfortunately for the vendors, this hasn’t been the case. After launching unsuccessfully with another agent, Tim Pearse of Strutt & Parker in Harpenden (01582 764343) took on the house in June this year and shaved £200,000 off the guide price reducing it to £2.2m. One of the oldest properties locally, the house, which belonged to the Wingate family from the 14th to the 19th century and once received Charles II as a guest, stands in the middle of the village. ‘And some people have seen this as a disadvantage,’ explains Mr Pearce. ‘It’s very much a village house, so doesn’t come surrounded with its own land and just has a big garden with plenty of useful outbuildings.

With buyers who are looking for rural isolation, this obviously isn’t the house for them, but for someone moving out of London who needs the convenience of a very easy commute, it’s ideal.’

Although accepting that the market for a house like this is limited, Mr Pearce says it’s just a question of joining the dots to find a suitable buyer to take on this manor house, which comes with a substantial nine bedrooms, two kitchens, two garages and a range of outbuildings. Knight Frank’s Rupert Sweeting is unequivocal when it comes to explaining why certain properties haven’t flown off the sales shelf this year. ‘Most houses that have been on the market for a while and haven’t sold at this time of year can be put down to one factor-overpricing in the first place.’ He has a clutch of houses around the country that have undergone sensible repricing recently, which should, he hopes, secure their sales.

The fine, seven-bedroom Georgian Bartletts in Holyport, Berkshire, launched quietly on the market about two years ago. Approached down an attractive lime-tree driveway, the house comes with a two-bedroom cottage, extensive lawns, kitchen and formal gardens and an outdoor swimming pool as well as excellent equestrian facilities extending to stabling, groom’s accommodation, and stores and seven acres in total of grounds. ‘It’s a really lovely property and is now reasonably priced at £4.5m,’ believes Mr Sweeting. Whiteshoots House in the popular Windrush Valley is another example. The house, which is just a mile from one of Gloucestershire’s most well known towns, Bourton-on-the- Water, has seven bedrooms, an indoor swimming pool, gardener’s three-bedroom cottage, various outbuildings and a tidy 36 acres of land. ‘This really is a wonderful package, and now that the price has reduced from £2.75m to £2m, it’s being marketed at an attractive price.’

The perfect Christmas present

Still to find a suitor is the magical Hanley Hall near Malvern, Worcestershire (right). ‘It’d make the perfect Christmas present for someone,’ believes Jonathan Bramwell from Savills (020-7016 3780). ‘With its panelled rooms, huge inglenook fireplace and the mist that rises off the lake in the morning, it’s a perfect spot to enjoy the winter.’ The house, with a guide price of £2.25m, which dates from the 16th century, stands in 18 acres and has six bedrooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a drawing room, a morning room and a sitting room, and outside are several outbuildings that could be converted subject to planning permission. The reason for it stalling? ‘The fact that it’s in Worcestershire-for anyone who needs to be in touching distance of London, it’s a step too far. I can see it’ll drag someone there who isn’t looking in that part of the world, but this just doesn’t exist in the Cotswolds, or if it did, it’d mean another £1 million on the price tag.’

The agent’s view

2010 has turned out to be a year of two halves, explains William Marsden- Smedley of Prime Purchase (01962 795035). ‘The first was characterised by a lack of supply largely due to the election and hoo-ha surrounding that. This meant the good-quality houses that did come sold for more than I expected. I spent quite a long time stalking a house that was priced at £3.75m-a tad too high, in my opinion. We eventually agreed at £3.5m and we then got gazumped at £3.75m.

Then, in the second half of the year, when the supply started to creep back on the market and with the election behind us, I think people began to get a bit windy about the economic climate. This has brought about some great opportunities for buyers: one house I had my eye on was marketed in the spring at £2.8m and was worth every bit of £2.75m and I told my clients so. As the months progressed, the vendor got desperate and, after sales fell through, we were able to buy it for £2.3m-a great price.’ Nine times out of 10, the reason why things are sticking is price. Some agents are still clinging to prices that were achievable in the spring, but are inappropriate for the market today.’