1. Road noise
Country-house owners up and down the country are cursing the advent of satellite-navigation systems. If you spot a transport lorry with a foreign number plate in your village, you can bet it wasn’t simple map reading that guided him there. However, Jonathan Bramwell from Savills points out that road noise affecting the enjoyment of a property will depend on who is buying it.
‘For City people looking for a weekend home in the country, I can understand why they’d be put off by road noise, whereas everyone knows that if you live somewhere full-time, road noise fades into the background.’
Buying agent Charles Birtles adds: ‘A house on a busy road halfway up a hill with lorry engines being revved up as they ascend will be worse than one on a busy but flat road. Also, a house situated due north or east of a motorway will be more affected than one to the south or west due to prevailing winds.’ Think before you buy a house near a busy road: it can reduce the value.
2. Flight paths
These are regularly cited as a common blight, but as long as the house isn’t too close, planes can be easily blocked out.
Houses with neighbours on the doorstep or impinging on your privacy in the house can often put off buyers.‘The thought of listening to their lawnmowers/dogs/arguments is a major concern for people who are searching for privacy above almost everything else,’ explains Edward Sugden of Property Vision.
However, things can be done to lessen the impact. ‘We had one client for whom this was a problem, but he solved it by planting a row of pleached lime trees-at a cost of £30,000-which completely obscured the other house,’ says Mr Sugden
It’s worth bearing in mind that, for some, the reality of splendid isolation is less attractive than the dream-especially for those who are leaving the city for the first time.
Although it’s possible to live with a slow train passing within hearing distance of the house, an intercity connection is a deterrent for everyone. Buying agents advise checking both the passenger and freight time-tables-the latter often travel at night and can carry more than 40 wagons-and arranging to view houses when trains are passing. ‘Freight trains and trains sounding their horns can be an irritant. However, this is something we investigate as part of our due diligence,’ says Philip Selway of The Buying Solution.
5. Livestock farms
Piggeries and poultry farms are probably the worst offenders, so think about the prevailing wind directions. However, if you have land that you don’t want to manage yourself, it’s useful to have livestock farms nearby as the farmers will often use the land to graze animals in exchange for a lamb for the freezer and fences being mended, points out Mr Sugden.
6. Rights of way
Rerouting a right of way that goes past your front door may require action by the local authority, a court or a Government department, or even an Act of Parliament. ‘This can be lengthy and expensive, with no guarantee of the eventual outcome,’ says Saskia Arthur of Boodle Hatfield. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, however. And on the bright side, if you have horses and not much land, proximity to a bridleway can be a big plus.
7. Electricity pylons and wind turbines
Some people are quite romantic about wind turbines, but others consider them to be just as much of a blight as electricity pylons-and they are noisy. Pylons emit a constant humming sound, and there are perceived health concerns about living near them, so they are best avoided.
8. Flood plains
‘The associated risks of living on a flood plain have been well documented in recent years,’ says Mr Birtles, but as long as the insurance taken out by the previous owners is transferable, this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. ‘Be aware that insurance premiums have a nasty habit of going up rather than down.’
9. Land owned by the Ministry of Defence
Those living around Salisbury Plain know a thing or two about nighttime exercises when Chinook helicopters buzz overhead. During the day, disturbance is likely to be limited to noise from firing ranges and artillery gun practices. The exercises are an intermittent, rather than constant, noise, so most will happily compromise. ‘This is particularly true of clients who are ex-military-they often take no offence at helicopters or military activity,’ adds Mr Selway.
10. Unknown quantities
Hugo Thistlethwayte of Prime Purchase says that sometimes it’s the uncertainty of a new blight-a new development, road and rail improvements such as the new HS2 line, or the coastal pathway-that is far more damaging than one already in existence.