There are emotional reasons for taking the plunge into the equestrian market, but also sound financial ones. Not only will you save on livery fees, but also, if you have money available and are prepared to ride out the financial storm, you have prospects of future returns. Good quality equestrian homes are rarer than gold dust in times of plenty, but now there are fewer equestrian professionals out to buy because ‘buyers reliant on equestrian income through horse sale and riders backed by sponsorship deals really are feeling the pinch,’ says Rupert Coles of Batcheller Thacker.
Zoe Napier of Fenn Wright Country and Equestrian believes the market will pick up in the New Year, and those who wait might miss the opportunity. But, more importantly, ‘trends over the past 30 years show a steady increase in property prices, so, as long as buyers aren’t looking for a quick buck, they can make a sound investment in property’.
The long-term value of a decent horsey home is more solid than most. ‘They’ll always offer something special, as they’re of interest to the equestrian sector as well as the residential one,’ explains Gemma Burtt of Bidwells. However, quality is key to preserving value over time, and, in the case of equestrian properties, this means quality of the yard and outriding, as well as of the house itself. ‘Only buy the best,’ says Chris Boreham of Dreweatt Neate. ‘Look for the best ,facilities in the best locations.’ If you aren’t horsey, think twice before buying an equestrian home purely for investment.
Although equestrian facilities can often be put to other uses, not everyone is into horses, and therefore the future resale market of your home may be compromised. And the jury is out among agents as to whether renting out yard and manège is worthwhile. But Diana Andrews of Churchill Country & Equestrian adds: ‘Getting a regular monthly income from land, yard and cottage will allow the purchase of a whole property to someone who can’t otherwise afford it.’ On the other hand, says Buccleuch John Sale’s Diane Brady, equestrian buy-to-let investors ‘may quickly become disillusioned unless they have some experience of horse owners, livery, and the demands that can be made on them’.
Finding a top horsey home
● Look at locations with equestrian eyes. This means closeness to competition venues and riding schools, plenty of off-road hacking and easy access to a good road network for a bulky horsebox or trailer
● The yard should be well constructed and tidy with scope for future scaleability, preferably within easy reach of either the main house or a groom’s cottage for the security of both horses and tack. You can either buy a ready-made yard, or go for a farm with outbuildings to convert, but, in the latter case, bear in mind that the local authority will need to grant planning permission
● Too many facilities can deter future purchasers, who may not want to pay for something they might not need, says Matthew Allen of Fisher German. Instead, focus on fewer but better, professionally built facilities, such as an all-weather outdoor school and the holy grail of all equestrian buyers an indoor school (which can easily convert into something else if you ever resell to non-horsey people)
● Plenty of land, which must be well draining (chalk is among the best soils for equestrian use), well fenced and with a fresh water supply (note that the British Horse Society recommends mains water over natural supplies for welfare reasons). The minimum is an acre per horse, but the more the better because ‘the children grow up and ponies will need replacing with something a tad bigger,’ says Miss Napier, who suggests a minimum of four acres.
Rein in your own equestrian property
● Shere, Surrey Medlands Farm is a one-of-a-kind equestrian property, which has stables, a dressage arena and 40 acres. £2.495m (01403 700222; www.churchillcountry.com)
● Teignmouth, Devon Five-bedroom Lea House has a tennis court and swimming pool, plus a ‘pristine’ stable complex with seven boxes. £1.75m (01392 215631; www.struttandparker.com).