Country houses for sale

Buyers’ Advice – fixtures and fittings

Experienced buyers are well versed in the art of including furnishings in the sale price for a value below the market price during final negotiations. Ensuring that extras are thrown in during these closing and often heated stages of the buying process can seem overly carping to the untutored. However, requesting certain items is a useful bargaining ploy, can make life more comfortable during the first few weeks in a new house, and, sometimes, can be an ingenious way of uncovering treasures sellers unwittingly include within the asking price. There are a few rules to consider. Remember that anything not included in the list of fixtures and furnishings is fair play for the vendor to remove. It’s unusual, but not beyond the realms of possibility, that a vendor will rip out everything, including the kitchen sink, if an agreement isn’t in place. As a general approach, ask for whatever catches your eye usual candidates include curtains, carpets and white goods but bear in mind that heavy goods or bespoke furniture are often hard to move and difficult to rehome and can, therefore, be rich pickings.

Obviously, if you’re trying to knock the price down, there’s little point in demanding that extras are included in the sale; it will only result in antagonising the vendor. Serena Brown of Browns Estate Agents in Guildford has heard all kinds of appeals for articles most of us would barely register, let alone put on our wish lists. ‘The boys always try to get sit on tractors and trailers, and I’ve had people fall out over loo roll holders and even a £35 lampshade. In the end, I went out and bought another one simply to keep the peace.’ Interestingly, emotions run particularly high over chimneypieces, which are counted as part of fixtures and fittings. Beware that some vendors show tremendous zeal for keeping them; a few have been known to replace expensive ones with something cheaper.

The idiosyncratic requirements of buyers and sellers don’t always cause problems. For instance, one country-house vendor insisted that the sale included the six chickens, four ducks and donkey who was on his last hooves. Fortunately, the new owner was an animal lover and was happy to let the menagerie continue to roam the land next to the property. Vendors can contribute to a smooth sale by adopting a spirit of co-operation. Peter Young from John D. Wood & Co advises his sellers to include fitted carpets: ‘They’re more trouble than they’re worth to remove and it shows goodwill.’ Good deals can also work both ways, believes Mr Young, who once negotiated a further £50,000 on top of the guide price for his client if he left behind some rather plush curtains for a cash rich, time poor American banker, who wanted to be spared the ordeal of trekking around interior design shops. ‘People will pay a 5% to 10% premium for a house in good order that’s been tastefully kitted out.’ Look for homes furnished by skilful designers, such as the stylish two-bedroom flat in Mayfair’s Mount Street that sold recently for substantially more than the £1.8 million asking price through Jackson-Stops & Staff 020 7664 6646;

The interiors were by the eminent Scandinavian design school of Svenskt Tenn, with Matisse-like fabrics and contemporary wooden furniture and although the owners found it hard to part with their collection, it set the tone when potential buyers came for viewings. ‘The contents were specially chosen for the flat,’ says Dawn Carritt of Jackson-Stops & Staff, ‘and it’s an enormous boon to walk in and not worry about doing anything, particularly in a London pied-à-terre.’ This assumes, of course, you share the same taste as the owner, which might not always be the case. The Mount Street buyers didn’t take on thefurnishings and furniture, although Miss Carritt believes it helped them ‘think outside the box’. A designer’s touch is also evident in Abingdon Road, Kensington, W8, in a colourful conversion of a 1950s terrace with a suspended steel staircase and electric-blue kitchen by designer Colin Childerley. A canny buyer will benefit from owning this £3.9 million home, ‘an art form in its own right,’ says Alasdair Seton-Marsden of Mountgrange Heritage 020 7937 9976;