The beaches of East Anglia have exerted a pull on those seeking a break from daily toil ever since the Victorians invented the idea of taking a seaside holiday. And, of course, being the Victorians, they not only started a trend, but purpose-built a whole town designed to provide for those on holiday, complete with a boating lake Capability Brown would have been proud of.
Indeed, Thorpeness is still a Mecca for people visiting the area today, and although the notion of creating holiday destinations from scratch went out of fashion with Butlins, the town still manages to quadruple in population during the summer months.
But for those looking for peace and quiet on a more permanent basis, the Suffolk Heritage Coast is a popular place to start. Closer to the capital than the increasingly overrun South-West, it is a seaside area with good period property and lots of sunshine, which is a perfect recipe for those seeking a second home. As a result, the market has seen considerable growth over the past five years.
Aldeburgh, Southwold and Woodbridge are three of the mains hotspots for coastal property and good period property does exist along this stretch of coast: many of these family houses were built in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. ‘Although Woodbridge doesn’t actually have coastal views, the market there is still very healthy, and you’d easily pay £1 million for a five-bedroom family house even there,’ according to William Sadler from Bidwells in Ipswich.
Felixtowe is also growing in popularity, and Bidwells (01473 617743) are currently offering 1, The Courts, very close to the sea front with views of the sea. The property is a modern house with five bedrooms and an enclosed garden, and is offered for £650,000.
But naturally, what really commands a premium here is views out to sea, and supply is nowhere near meeting the demand for these houses. As with many other country-house hotspots, agents accustomed to a somewhat sluggish market a couple of years back are still reeling from the tidal wave of City bonus-fuelled house-hunters arriving, keen on a slice of country life. ‘You’ll pay a premium of 30% for a good location, and millions for a detached house in a hotspot with a coastal view,’ according to Tom Orford from Savills in Ipswich. As a result, there is a great shortage of good beachfront property. ‘We brought some properties onto the market earlier than we had planned to because everything started earlier this year,’ continues Mr Orford. ‘Now it has all been sold, there is very little else coming on at the moment. We sold an unconverted water tower with a guide price of £175,000 for £407,000, in days.’
Savills (01473 234800) also just sold an exceptional town house in Southwold with sea views in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is exactly the type of thing people are after, for more than £1 million.
Where traditionally buyers came to Norfolk and Suffolk from Essex and the surrounding area, it is now London money driving up prices. Mr Orford estimates that about 95% of people he locates property for come from London, as money from Essex no longer stretches far enough.
And, unsurprisingly, considering they are in Constable country, many buyers who come here to relax after a hard week take up painting. ‘I don’t know why? perhaps it’s the light?but I’ve seen many people coming into the area keen to pick up an easel and watercolours, and get painting,’ says Mr Sadler. A vibrant art scene still exists in the area, centring on Snape Maltings near Aldeburgh, which puts on many well-regarded art exhibitions, as well as concerts, talks and guided walks throughout the year. And although residents may never quite achieve the reputation Constable enjoys, it can’t be a bad feeling to think that once you’ve found the perfect house, you have the rest of your life to capture that perfect moment as the sun sinks beneath the horizon.