Surrey has pretty villages, attractive market towns and glorious countryside, but the notion that the local property stock may be worth twice as much as Kensington and Chelsea’s still sounds shocking. According to Lucian Cook of Savills, however, this is precisely the case. At the end of last year, Surrey ‘was the most valuable county in the UK, with housing stock worth £132 billion that’s twice the value of Kensington and Chelsea, three times the value of Cornwall and 48 times the value of Rutland’.
The principal reason for this is simple: a road. According to Mr Cook, the A3, which links London to Portsmouth via Guildford, acts as a corridor down which wealth flows into the countryside. ‘We’re seeing quite a lot of international overspill from London,’ says Richard Winter from Savills. ‘It’s really a very exciting, vibrant market at the top end.’
As a result, the county’s values have grown solidly over the years, and even in these uncertain times, they respond faster than the rest of the country to changes in the London market. In 2010, says Mr Cook, Surrey was more buoyant than the rest of the South-East, with trans-actions at 67% of their pre-crunch levels, compared to 60% across the entire region. He adds that the county has four out of the 10 villages with the greatest number of £1 million-plus sales in the past four years-East Horsley, West Clandon, Bramley and Wonersh. According to Paul Frost of The Buying Solution, Surrey as a whole is now ‘pretty much back to the peak prices of 2007′.
However, the market is increasingly shaping up differently in the northern and southern halves of the county. In the north, a continuous influx of buyers, together with high land prices, have created
a constellation of luxury houses with relatively small plots-the exception being the 730-acre Langley Vale estate in Epsom, for which Strutt & Parker (020-7629 7282) are seeking offers in excess of £8 million.
These modern properties appeal to commuter families, who appreciate the easy journey into London, the local schools and the facilities-the northern Surrey borough of Elmbridge topped Halifax’s quality-of-life survey in December 2010 for the third consecutive year. But they also meet the sophisticated standards of overseas buyers. As a result, says Tim Hubbard of buying agents Property Vision, M25 villages such as Esher, Cobham, Oxshott and Weybridge have become increasingly cosmopolitan in the past five years.
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Among the most sought-after locations are the Wentworth and St George’s Hill estates, which draw very affluent buyers, often from overseas. ‘In the past 12 months, almost 20 properties have sold on these estates for more than £5 million,’ says James Cleland of Knight Frank. By contrast, English buyers are looking to the south of the county, according to Mr Hubbard, partly because they’ve been outpriced by the influx of international money, and partly because they want family homes with more land in a rural community close to good schools. According to Mr Frost, the prime villages in the south are Shamley Green, Bramley and Wonersh, which offer period houses, space and a traditional setting within an AONB.