Vast empty beaches, pretty Georgian villages, a smattering of Michelin-starred restaurants and the launch of a clutch of good houses on the market are sure to draw buyers to the north Norfolk coastline this spring, believe local agents. Long gone are the memories of the havoc wreaked by the floods in December last year (when Royal West Norfolk Golf Club, Brancaster, was severely inundated) and, now the sun has come out, there is growing optimism in the air.
Among the best houses and cottages in the highly desirable villages that dot the prime coastline-from Hunstanton to Wells-next-the-Sea-the effects of the credit crunch have done little more than stagnate the market, but the signs so far this year suggest that this could be about to change.
‘A shortage of supply has been a problem for the past few years and that has depressed the appetite of buyers,’ believes Ben Marchbank of Bedfords in Burnham Market (01328 730500). ‘However, in the past couple of months, enquiries from potential buyers have been building and we’re launching several good houses onto the market this spring, which will test the strength of these leads.’
Much of the stock of local housing is made up of cottages, with the occasional Queen Anne farmhouse and Georgian Old Rectory, but the latter is pretty rare. ‘We’ve got a fantastic rectory coming on in May, which is in a very popular village on the coast,’ says Mr Marchbank. ‘Houses like this come to the market once a year if you’re lucky and I’d guess that only two or three have sold in the past six or seven years.’
Max Sowerby of Sowerbys (01328 730340), who has 20 years’ experience in the local market, is feeling in an equally optimistic mood about the spring selling season. ‘I’m pleased to say that the market is looking good. In a way, we’ve always been quite well protected from the market storms here because a lot of people who have bought in the area don’t need to sell. The money is generally coming from London, as people are realising that the increased equity in their own property will buy them a house in Norfolk-a sum in the region of £600,000 will buy you something lovely on the coast.’
For those familiar with the East Anglian road network, the drive to the north Norfolk coastline from the centre of London on a Friday evening might invoke dread in any but the very foolhardy, but there is (some) good news. ‘They’re widening the A11 around Thetford and there’s a new bypass around Elveden,’ explains Tim Stephens of Chesterton Humberts in Norwich (01603 661199). ‘That’ll shave 20 minutes off the journey.’
This improved access means that a family currently based in Cambridge could move up to north Norfolk, taking advantage of some of the excellent local schools, including Gresham’s. ‘Until now, the market at the top end has largely been dominated by people coming from London and the Midlands, who often will buy a holiday home here first and then might move full-time to retire,’ comments Tim Hayward of Jackson-Stops & Staff (01603 612333).
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