Country houses for sale

Pricing correctly drives country house sales

According to Ed Sugden of buying agents Property Vision, fewer purchasers are looking to buy a country property in February 2012 than there were at the same time last year-up to 40% fewer in some areas. So vendors must get their pricing right if they want their property to get a second look-or even a first look, for that matter.

‘With second-home buyers unlikely to figure much in 2012, in my view, only three types of property will attract buyers. These are houses of exceptional quality, family homes within driving distance of a popular prep school and previously unsold houses that have had their prices reduced sufficiently for buyers to feel they’re getting a really good deal. In fact, purchasers now expect value for money whatever they’re buying,’ Mr Sugden says.

James Grillo of Chesterton Humberts stresses the good sense, in the current market, of getting the price right first time round. He cites the example of exquisite, Grade II-listed Postern Heath, near Tonbridge, Kent, an immaculate, six-bedroom, Georgian house built around a 16th-century core, with a converted oast house and 171⁄4 acres of gardens, paddocks and orchards. The property was launched on the market last summer at a guide price of £2.6 million for the whole, which, given the state of the market in Kent last year, was ‘far too high’, Mr Grillo admits.

Having reduced the price to £2.4m in September to little effect, it was decided that the best way to demonstrate the true value of the property was to split it into lots. So Postern Heath was relaunched at £2.25m for the whole, broken down into £2.1m for the house and £150,000 for the land. ‘After 44 viewings, the property is now under offer,’ a relieved Mr Grillo reveals.

A year ago today (Property Market, February 23, 2011), I extolled the charms of historic, Grade II*-listed Playford Hall, near Ipswich, Suffolk, an enchanting, moated, late-Tudor house built in the 1590s for local grandee Sir Anthony Felton. Set in a natural amphitheatre of 29 wooded acres on the edge of Playford village, the house has spectacular gardens laid out by Lady Aitken in the 1960s and lovingly nurtured by its present owners, Mr and Mrs Richard Innes, who have lived here for more than 40 years.

Having failed to find a buyer at a guide price of £3.25m for the whole, this architectural gem is being relaunched by joint agents Savills (020-7499 8644) and Strutt & Parker (01473 214841) at a revised guide price of £2.45m for the house, minus the two gate lodges, which are offered separately at £500,000 for the pair. ‘This is a very special place, and only the price has stopped it selling so far. The gate lodges are far enough away from the main house to have little impact on its privacy were they to be sold separately. Meanwhile, the new price structure will open up the property to a wider audience,’ comments Carl Eastwood of Strutt & Parker.

Last week’s Country Life saw the launch onto the market of elegant, Grade II*-listed Rochfords in the picturesque village of Wormingford, on the Essex-Suffolk border, at a realistic guide price of £1.4m through Carter Jonas (01787 882881). When owners Dr Russell Cowan, a specialist physician at the private Oaks Hospital in Colchester, and his wife, Gill, moved to Rochfords with their young family 21 years ago, they happily envisaged spending the rest of their lives there. But now that their children have flown the nest, the combination of ‘too much space and too much garden’ has finally persuaded the couple that downsizing to something smaller will allow them more freedom to do other things.

Built in the 15th and 16th centuries as a yeoman farmer’s house, timber-framed Rochfords was gentrified in the Queen Anne style in the early 18th century by the Everards, local textile industrialists; maps from the era show the house surrounded by a dense patchwork of well-tended fields. The addition of a north-facing extension in Victorian times, and another in the 1960s, boosted Rochfords’ status as a family home of distinction.

In fact, Dr Cowan reveals, the eminent Modernist architect H. T. (Jim) Cadbury-Brown, who died in 2009, aged 96, claimed to have been the last male child to be born there, in May 1913. Thanks to its location in prime commuter territory (Liverpool Street via Colchester is a short 46-minute train ride away), and with two good prep schools on the doorstep, Rochfords has much to offer a busy 21st-century family. With its 21⁄2 acres of romantic, partly moated grounds and pleasantly rambling accommodation-five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, 6/7 bedrooms, three bathrooms and various utility rooms-this is a house for living and entertaining in, inside and out. ‘Better still,’ says Dr Cowan, ‘it’s a wonderfully calming house to come home to at the end of a worrying day at work.’

The owners of pristine, Grade II*-listed Burston Manor on the edge of Roman St Albans,Hertfordshire, are also seeking to downsize, after 30 years in residence. Buyers weren’t forthcoming last year at its original guide price of £1.75m, so they’ve responded to market pressure by relaunching the house at a substantially reduced guide of £1.5m through Strutt & Parker (01727 840285). Ideally placed for St Albans’ many excellent schools and fast commuter links to London,
the delightful, timber-framed manor house was originally built in the early 12th century, altered and extended in the 15th and mid 17th centuries, and refronted in the early to mid 1800s, according to its English Heritage listing. In perfect order throughout, it stands in 21⁄2 acres of sheltered, part-moated grounds, and has four main reception rooms, a kitchen/
breakfast room, five bedrooms and three bathrooms.

If location is everything, then Rectory Farm House at Taplow, in fashionable south Buckinghamshire, has it all. The realistic guide price of £1.5m quoted by Strutt & Parker in Pangbourne, Berkshire (0118-984 5757), for this beautifully restored, five-bedroom Victorian farmhouse, was enough to produce a buyer in a matter of weeks. The house overlooks the green at the heart of Taplow Conservation Area, with the church, the cricket club, the village reading room and the Oak and Saw Village Inn a short walk away. To the north, the National Trust-owned Cliveden estate provides wonderful wood-land and riverside walks, and to the south, the village of
Bray offers two Michelin-starred restaurants, the Fat Duck and the Waterside Inn. What more could you wish for?

Families with children bound for schools such as Bryanston, Sherborne, Downside, Millfield and St Mary’s Shaftesbury can enjoy complete tranquillity at Long Copse, near Shaftesbury, Dorset, which has just been relaunched by Symonds & Sampson (01258 473766) and Jackson-Stops & Staff (01747 850858) at a reduced guide price of £895,000. Built in the Art Deco style in 1938, the house stands in 11.2 acres of extensive gardens and picturesque bluebell woods, with spectacular southerly views towards Cranborne Chase.

Owned by the same family for many years and now in need of updating, it has four light and airy reception rooms, a snooker room, six bedrooms, three bathrooms, outbuildings and a floodlit tennis court. ‘Given the current differential between London and country prices, there is everything to play for at Long Copse, which offers exceptional value for money for this part of Dorset,’ says selling agent James Wilson of Jackson-Stops & Staff.

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