Given the importance of London buyers as a force in the Cotswold property market, you might expect to see demand falling off in that part of the country as house-hunters wait for the unrest in the City to subside. What is actually happening is quite the reverse, says Atty Beor-Roberts of Knight Frank in Cirencester, who has enjoyed his ‘busiest August ever’, completing deals on no fewer than 12 houses priced between £500,000 and £1.25 million. And with 700 potential purchasers chasing the 60 Cotswold properties on his books, the situation seems unlikely to change in the immediate future.
As the Cotswolds rides the crest of a wave, houses such as elegant Amberley Court, at Amberley, near Minchinhampton for sale through Knight Frank (01285 659771) at a guide price of £3.25m will not hang around for long. Built for a prosperous clothier in about 1640, with two wings added in the early 1800s, the house, according to Pevsner, was the model for Beechwood in Mrs Craik’s novel John Halifax, Gentleman. With five/six reception rooms, eight bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a lodge, a heated swimming pool and 4.25 acres of lawns, woodlands and paddocks overlooking the Woodchester Valley, Amberley Court, listed Grade II, is still a squire’s dream. This was not always so, it seems: in 1936, a previous vendor advertised the house in Country Life with the plaintive postscript ‘any reasonable price accepted’.
One reason for the shortage of good country houses in the Cotswolds is that people who manage to buy there are always reluctant to move on. The vendors of the early-18th-century Old Rectory at Elkstone, for which Savills (01285 627550) quote a guide of £3.25m, have lived there since the early 1990s. Built as the rectory to Elk-stone’s Norman church of St John the Evangelist (said to be the highest in the Cotswolds), the imposing four-storey house was extended by the Gloucestershire architect Francis Nibbett in 1847, and has three main reception rooms, an orangery, six bedrooms, three bathrooms, a guest cottage and 4.6 acres of landscaped gardens and grounds.
Another reason for the shortage, says Stephen Perks of Hamptons, is that so many country houses are part of private estates, so never appear on the open market. And such is the pressure on prices exerted by London buyers that traditional Cotswold people are being forced ever further westwards, even across the border into Herefordshire, Mr Perks laments. Hamptons (01993 824546) are seeking offers over £1.5m for the early-19th-century Alexander House in the village of Greet, a mile from historic Winchcombe, on the north-west edge of the Cotswolds. Refurbished throughout by the present owners, the house has four main reception rooms, a garden room, eight bedrooms and five bathrooms, and three-quarters of an acre of ‘exceptional’ landscaped gardens.
Even if the worst happens and the slow-down in the London market leads to a full-blown recession a scenario which few experts anticipate the ever-optimistic Sam Butler of Butler Sherborn reminds us that the Cotswolds was the last area to be affected in 1990/91 and the first to recover when the property market picked up in 1994. ‘London buyers see the Cotswolds as a safe haven for their families, and more and more of them are prepared to downsize in the capital to buy up here.’
The ‘professional mover’ is another Cotswold phenomenon which has helped to maintain the relentless upward pressure on house prices, in which context unspoilt Penn House at Oakridge Lynch, near Stroud, is an ideal subject for improvement, Mr Butler suggests. Built as a cottage in the early 1700s, Penn House, listed Grade II, was extended in the 1930s and again in recent years; it now has planning consent to alter the accomodation with the addition of an L-shaped extension at the eastern end. It currently has three reception rooms, five bedrooms, two bathrooms and 1.25 acres of gardens and grounds, and is for sale through the firm’s Tetbury office (01666 505105) at a guide price of £900,000.
Edward Bagnall of Humberts in Stow-on-the-Wold (01451 830383) sounds a single cautionary note amid the general euphoria. ‘A succession of five interest-rate rises this year has made buyers less inclined to rush in with their heads down, and we are having to work a lot harder to clinch a sale, although as yet there is no sign of vendors lowering their prices,’ he points out, adding, ‘although I think they may have to, eventually.’ In the meantime, Mr Bagnall recommends tranquil Lane House in the pretty Gloucestershire village of Kineton, eight miles from Stow, at a guide price of £895,000. Originally three Cotswold cottages, the house has four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, four bedrooms, three bathrooms and lovely views across rolling fields to the wooded valley below.