Country houses for sale

Property by the sea commands serious premiums


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This July, perhaps more than any other in over a decade, more of us are turning our backs on the Mediterranean and looking to the British seaside for the long break. The winning formula of promising Met Office forecasts, avoiding the somewhat ignoble act of removing one’s shoes for airport X-rays and the relief of not finding oneself at the mercy of fluctuating exchange rates has sent bookings at British hotels soaring.

This means that those who have long invested in a house on the Cornish, Devonian or even Norfolk coast are feeling smug. Not only do they have an instant solution for a ‘staycation’, but house prices in key coastal hotspots around the country have matched if not surpassed the growth achieved in prime central London, and, providing the view is right, won’t suffer in the downturn.

According to research by Savills, property values in the Cornish resort of Padstow have grown by an astronomical 493% over the past 10 years. Those in Cley-next-the-Sea in Norfolk have increased in value by 230%. Average house prices in Sandbanks, the headline grabbing spit that reaches into Poole Harbour, are the highest of all the coastal hotspots at more than £800,000. Director of research Lucian Cook explains that the focus for coastal hotspots remains in Devon, Cornwall, Poole, north Norfolk and Suffolk. ‘Elite locations with limited supply have become
magnets for rich second-home buyers. The consequence has been dramatic house-price growth.’

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Unlike the coastline of the Mediterranean, finding ‘frontline’ properties on the south coast is difficult, regardless of how large the budget. The stock is made up mainly of fisherman cottages and unsympathetic 1960s houses. Added to which, houses remain in the same family for generations, further limiting supply.

According to Robin Gould of buying agents Prime Purchase, most people’s search begins in Devon. ‘Chichester and the Solent shore are great for sailing,’ he says, ‘but the beaches are mostly shingle. You don’t really get a big sweep of sandy beach until Studland Bay, and the village of Studland has limited supply. But people are put off from buying there as it takes a long time to go anywhere west of Ringwood.’

The most ‘fertile hunting ground’, therefore, is from west Dorset to south Cornwall, ending at the Lizard Peninsula, where prices start to decrease. ‘It’s simply too far for many people,’ says Mr Gould. When the A30 delivers buyers into Cornwall, the divide is very simple the yachties turn left to the south coast around St Mawes, and the surfers stay right. Meanwhile, in Devon, the majority of the interest lies around the popular sailing town of Salcombe and the inlets along the south coast, but some are promoting the north-coast village of Croyde as a future hotspot.

Views, views, views

Locations in Cornwall dominate the list of ultra-prime coastal hotspots in the UK. Savills have used the county to establish what level of premiums are attached to properties closer to the shoreline (see graph). In an analysis of 12,000 houses sold during 2008, houses located within 100m (330ft) of the shoreline cost an average of 61% more than those located more than a mile from the coast. That premium remains as high as 52% for properties within 100m (330ft) and 250m (820ft) of the coast, but falls off dramatically thereafter.

The premiums that buyers will pay for water frontage know few bounds. Last year, Mr Gould was acting on behalf of clients who were interested in buying an ‘unremarkable’ 1960s house in Salcombe, Devon. One had to cross a road before reaching the beach, but the views were wonderful. ‘The bidding was so heated that my clients backed out at £5 million.’ This isn’t unusual. Jonathan Cunliffe, who runs Savills’ Truro office, tells of two houses in the same village, on either side of the road.

The dated bungalow on the shore fetched £3.5 million when it sold in 2007, whereas the superior house on the other side of the road is on today for £1.95 million with an offer below this level.

Coastal hotspots

Rock, Cornwall
Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire
North Berwick, East Lothian
Woolacombe, Devon
Southwold, Suffolk
Abersoch, Gwynedd
Porthgain, Pembrokeshire
Sidmouth, Devon
Lyme Regis, Dorset
Swanage, Dorset

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