Could this be the year that the Surrey country-house market finally hits the gas pedal? In the old days, whenever the London market hit a purple patch, Surrey estate agents rubbed their hands in glee and waited for happy vendors from Wandsworth, Battersea and Clapham to come rolling down the A3 in search of good schools and a nice house in the country. But it’s working out differently this time round.
Some owners living in south-west London are still waiting for the widening price differential between London and the country to reach a ‘tipping point’ before finally making up their minds to move. Others, who have already sold their London houses and are living in rented accommodation in south Surrey, have been sitting tight as they wait for the perfect country house to come along. But with more good houses set to launch onto the market than have been seen in the area for several years, renters are gearing up to take advantage of their position on the frontline.
Michael Parry-Jones of Surrey agents Grantley (01483 893939) explains: ‘At the end of 2011, sellers of houses in the south-west of London continued to move to Surrey, but, instead of buying, decided that renting a house in the area would be a sensible choice. Since the turn of the year, however, those buyers have become anxious to find the right house to buy, and are out there ready to make decisions. Typically, the most active sector of our market is the family house in the £1.5 million to £2 million range, and a number of houses launched in recent weeks have each attracted more than 20 viewings, resulting in competitive offers. The main issue at the moment is getting the price right.’
At this level of the market, buyers coming out of London with visions of a Georgian country house in their heads tend to find themselves settling for a façade of a different era. One Surrey house that appears to reconcile aesthetic ambition with budgetary constraints is Yew House at Munstead, near Godalming, an elegant, Queen Anne-style house set in almost two acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, for which Grantley quote a guide price of £2.1m. Originally part of the adjoining Munstead House estate, family home of the Jekylls, Yew House, built in 1963, has been impeccably refurbished by its present owners to provide a 46ft, open-plan main reception room, a conservatory, a kitchen/breakfast room, four main bedrooms and three bathrooms, with planning consent to extend.
Another house of character with Jekyll connections is the Old Coach House at Munstead, built in the 1870s as the coach house to Munstead House, and converted to residential use in the mid 1960s. For sale through Grantley and Knight Frank (01483 565171) at a guide price of £1.95m, it stands in 2.8 acres of secluded gardens and woodland on high ground overlooking the Thorn-combe Valley. Cleverly extended by its owners, who have lived there since 1988, the house has three main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms and three bathrooms. A large party room, built in the Arts-and-Crafts style in 2000 and linked to the main house by a covered pergola, can also be used as secondary accommodation.
The Arts-and-Crafts style of architecture is synonymous with country houses in Surrey, where Georgian originals tend to be rare and expensive, says Andrew Giller of Savills in Guildford (01483 796820), who is also encouraged by the number of London families trickling southwards out of Wandsworth and Clapham. Sporting families that like to entertain in style, and all year round, will be impressed by what’s on offer at secluded High Barn (pictured) at Sutton Place, near the picturesque village of Abinger Hammer-currently for sale through Savills at £2.95m. Attractions include a superbly equipped Mark Wilkinson kitchen, indoor and outdoor dining facilities, a swimming pool, tennis court and stables, indoor and outdoor advanced-link sound systems and a 2,000-bottle wine cellar.
Built in the Arts-and-Crafts style in the 1930s, the substantial, 6,846sq ft house has been updated to 21st-century living standards, but without compromising the charm and quality of the original, the agents say. Set in 31⁄4 acres of terraced gardens and grounds surrounded by woods, the house has five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a guest annexe, a gymnasium and a steam room. With ‘lots of lovely houses coming to the market in the coming months’, Nigel Mitchell of Knight Frank in Guildford is equally positive regarding the prospects for the top end of the country-house market in south Surrey this year. Buyers determined to secure their Georgian dream should consider impressive, Grade II-listed The Old Rectory (at West Horsley, six miles from Guildford, which is for sale through Knight Frank at £3.75m.
Built in the classic Regency style for the Rev Charles H. S. Weston in 1819, The Old Rectory stands in 11.3 lovely acres of landscaped gardens, paddocks and ponds, on the edge of this popular commuter village, a few miles from the main motorway network and 45 minutes by train from London Waterloo. Beautifully renovated in recent years, the 5,380sq ft former rectory boasts fine, well-proportioned rooms, including five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a splendid orangery, five bedrooms and three bathrooms. Outbuildings that have been leased long-term from the National Trust include garaging, a large barn currently used to house vintage cars and two loose boxes.
Knight Frank (01483 565171) and Savills (01252 729000) offer ‘true country living’ within easy
commuting distance of London, at Broomfields, near Frensham, in the Surrey Hills, four miles south of the Georgian town of Farnham and 15 miles from Guildford. A guide price of £4m is quoted for the substantial, 6,230sq ft main house, with its converted four/five-bedroom former coach house, set in 42 acres of extensive gardens and grounds, including a tennis court and swimming pool, woodland, pasture and a lake.
The main house, which is unlisted, dates from the 16th century, with Victorian and more recent additions. It enjoys magnificent southerly views over the surrounding hills, and has accommodation that includes a reception hall, four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, various utility rooms, a large, open-plan master suite, five further bedrooms, three bathrooms and two attic rooms with potential for conversion.