Good schools, convenient transport links, idyllic location: these criteria usually top a country-house buyer’s checklist. But what about food? Research by Knight Frank suggests that a Michelin-starred restaurant, a prized delicatessen or a farm shop can affect sales, and even push up prices.
Take the legendary Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire. Since it won its third Michelin star in 2004, property within a two-mile radius has soared in price by 33%-20% higher than the average price increase for the south-east of England. Great Milton, home to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, has seen a 70% rise since 2001 (compared with 58% for the South-East) and prices in Pad-stow, where Rick Stein has four restaurants, grew by 105% in the same period, against a 74% average for the South-West.
Interest in food is such that when Charles Bladon of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Sherborne, Dorset (01935 810141) started marketing Lower Ware, a handsome, £2.25 million villa in Lyme Regis, he made special reference to a local restaurant-Hix Oyster & Fish House-in the brochure. He did so with good reason: according to statistics by Home.co.uk, since Mark Hix opened his restaurant in 2008, property prices in Lyme Regis have risen by an average of 22%. However, Mr Bladon sees other factors driving this buoyancy. ‘We also have Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with his farm and deli in Axminster and The Wild Garlic in Beaminster run by Masterchef winner Mat Follas.’
On a broader note, he explains that the price rises in the area are linked to the fact that ‘more people are fed up with London and are coming to live in Dorset, where they can manage their hedge funds and work from home. Ironically, the restaurants and delis make the area feel more like London, which newcomers want.’ However, Mr Bladon believes that the interaction between supply and demand remains the critical factor that supports or depresses values. ‘Ultimately,’ he says ‘prices are affected by the shortage of stock. There’s an endless supply of cottages and big houses in Dorset, but there aren’t many family homes.’
In the Cotswolds, too, there is little doubt that farm shops and good restaurants bolster the region’s appeal, but the jury is out on whether they have any impact on local property prices. Sam Butler of Butler Sherborn (01993 822325), who is selling a delightful three-bedroom stone house in Kingham, near the organic heaven of the Daylesford farm shop, at £485,000, believes that ‘whether it’s Daylesford, The Fox Inn at Oddington or the The Feathered Nest in Nether Westcote, good food is a plus to those living in the area’.
Daylesford’s appeal is such that ‘a lot of agents now quote the distance to the shop beside journey times to the stations on property particulars,’ comments Toby Harris of Strutt & Parker. The demand to be near is ‘certainly very strong’, although, he adds, ‘it would be hard to say that prices are directly affected by proximity to the shop’.
Savills agents believe that, in the Cotswolds and elsewhere, good food outlets have underpinned (rather than boosted) values in the prime markets. According to Jonathan Cunliffe of Savills in Cornwall (01872 243 200), the ‘gourmet effect’ has been key to the area’s success in recent years. However, establishments may just reinforce higher prices in already desirable areas. Mr Stein has recently opened a deli and restaurant in Falmouth, but prices in the town are already high and the town thriving.
‘Perhaps the Rick Stein effect is supporting values and protecting these places against the downturn better than other areas.’ That is most certainly true in London’s Clerkenwell, where St John, the Michelin-starred restaurant famous for its British cooking, opened in 1994, just as the area was stirring as a result of an influx of young designers and architects. ‘Prices seem to have held or even increased,’ says Carl Davenport of Chesterton Humberts (020-7357 7999). ‘Five years ago, I would have priced a two-bedroom flat at £500,000. Now it’s £800,000.’
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