A late-season run of prime country-house sales has Hampshire estate agents if not exactly dancing in the aisles, then at least striding out with a spring in their step. A series of high-profile deals concluded in recent weeks appears to confirm the latest research from Savills, which shows Hampshire, with ‘value-growth’ of 9.7%, heading the league of South-East commuter hotspots in terms of recovery from the market low point reached in March this year.
This is followed by Berkshire (+5.5%), Essex (+4.4%), Cambridgeshire (+4.3%) and Kent (+4.2%). ‘In a market still heavily dependent on cash purchasers and clearly influenced by limited stock, prices for the best 10% of country houses (worth on average £1.4 million) have been boosted by more than 13%, whereas the bottom 10% (worth on average just £621,000) have lost 4.3% of their value,’ comments research director Lucian Cook.
With many country houses still under offer, actual sale prices are hard to pin down, but there’s no doubting the new wave of confidence emerging at the top end of the Hampshire market. Demand for properties valued at more than £5m surged in September and October, says Ed Cunningham of Knight Frank’s country department, citing the example of the 175-acre Devermere estate at Stoke Charity, near Winchester, within the ‘golden triangle’, bounded by the M3, the A34 and the A303.
The estate, with its handsome main house by Sir Ernest Newton (previously known as Norsebury House), was launched in mid September at a guide price of £9.75m, and is now under offer to a London buyer. Similarly, nearby Micheldever House in pretty Micheldever village launched in Country Life on October 7 at a guide price of £3.5m through Knight Frank and Savills has also gone under offer.
Encouraged by the reappearance of even a few well-heeled London buyers, a handful of hitherto uncertain Hampshire vendors has decided to seize the day, and put their houses on the open market now, rather than wait until next spring. Today’s Country Life sees the launch of the classic Georgian Steventon House at Steventon, near Basingstoke, at a guide price of £4.5m through Savills (01962 841842).
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Jane Austen lived at Steventon, where her father was rector for more than 40 years, from 1775 to 1800, during which time she wrote Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. Built to replace her father’s rectory in the early 1800s, the present house was sold to the 2nd Duke of Wellington in 1855, and remained as the rectory until 1930 when the parishes of North Waltham and Steventon were amalgamated.
Impeccably refurbished by its current European owners, Steventon House, listed Grade II, stands in 59 acres of gardens, parkland, paddocks and woodland, and has four main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, three bedroom suites, three further bedrooms, a family bathroom, three attic rooms, a coach house and a two-bedroom cottage.
Having seen Wyck House at Alton, and Upham House, at Upham, near Bishops Waltham, go under offer in recent weeks at guide prices of £5.5m and £3m respectively, Strutt & Parker hope to find autumn buyers for two charming smaller properties, both of whose owners are seeking to downsize.
The first, Grade II-listed Triggs, is a delightful 17th-century former farmhouse with Victorian and later additions, which stands in 2.1 acres of gardens and grounds between the villages of Crondall and Crookham, on the Hampshire/Surrey borders. For sale through Strutt & Parker (01256 702892) and Savills (01252 729000) at a guide price of £1.75m, Triggs has three reception rooms, six double bedrooms, three bathrooms, a superb kitchen/breakfast room, a listed barn, a swimming pool and a tennis court.
The same office of Strutts is joint-agent with Knight Frank (01256 350600) in the sale of The Farm at Mapledurwell, three miles from Basingstoke, at the reduced guide price of £1.6m. Set in more than three acres of gardens, grounds and paddocks, the 18th-century farmhouse has been extended by its current owners to provide three reception rooms, a conservatory, a kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms and five bath/shower rooms. Period outbuildings include a timber-framed barn, and a gym/games room which doubles as a swimming-pool changing room.
‘I’m staggered at the way things have turned around since the top end of the market evaporated at the end of last year,’ exclaims Philip Blanchard of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Winchester, who maintains that London bankers, always a staple element of the Hampshire country-house market, were simply ‘too embarrassed to be seen spending’. But this time round, he says, they’re driving hard bargains and owners of over-valued houses have been forced to cut their prices significantly in order to achieve a sale.
Many well-off Londoners buy second homes in Hampshire, only to find that they’re too busy to use them. That’s the scenario behind the recent launch of idyllic Black House Farm at Hinton Ampner, near Alresford, at a guide price of £1.95m through Jackson-Stops & Staff (01962 8744299). Set in 17 acres of glorious gardens, grounds and paddocks, and surrounded by National Trust woodland, the unspoilt, 16th-century farmhouse has two main reception rooms, a kitchen/dining room, four bedrooms and two bathrooms. There’s also planning consent to convert a nearby courtyard of period farm buildings to a ‘fascinating’ second house.
Meanwhile, in the north of the county, the Newbury offices of Jackson-Stops & Staff (01635 45501) and Strutt & Parker (01635 521707) are handling the sale of elegant Knowl Hill House at Kingsclere, at a guide price of £3m. Built around a medieval farmhouse, Knowl Hill, listed Grade II, has evolved over the years into a substantial country house, set in 33 acres of land, with extensive listed outbuildings which include a party barn and a pool house/gym. The main house has four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, eight bedrooms, four bathrooms and views over Watership Down.
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