House names matter. The right one makes your property more saleable; the wrong one can hinder a deal. Some agents, such as Stephen Parry of Sotheby’s International Realty, believe that ‘without question, names can add value to residential properties, as they can create prestige’. Prime Purchase’s Jazmin Atkins is more cautious: ‘Whether a name actually adds a monetary value is debatable.’ However, she continues, ‘it certainly adds cachet. In London, numbers can bring distinction-take One Hyde Park, for example-but in the country, it’s all about the name’.
Naming houses began with the gentry and spread to the masses. Many early names were functional- Mill House, The Forge -and when the habit extended further, properties were often still named after a distinguishing feature. In 1765, a Court of Common Council Bill stipulated that every house built in the capital had to have a number and street name. However, many county houses remained known solely by name. The power of a name is simple. As Robert Theobald of Fulfords notes: ‘We all prefer some form of individuality, rather than being just a number.’ Plus, adds Mr Parry: ‘People will specify that they’re looking for an Old Rectory or The Manor House, and these sell extremely well.’ Mark Lawson at The Buying Solution suggests that ‘something as simple as changing Manor Cottage to Manor House, providing it could pass as such, could attract a buyer. Many buyers initially search online and may overlook “cottage” if they’re looking for something grander’.
Indeed, manor is a particularly popular name- one village in Suffolk has Manor House, The Manor, Manor View and even Ronam (manor spelt backwards). Names that reflect an attractive location, such as The Willows or The Green, are also sought after. But beware changing tastes: the floods of recent years have meant that Riverside Cottage is no longer as attractive as it once was. Sarah Broughton of Prime Purchase explains: ‘The most sought-after names remain those based on historical uses within the community, such as The Hall, The Old Rectory or The School House.’ Rose Cottage has also always been a favourite, and now competes with the simple ‘The Cottage’ in surveys to find the most common house name. Conversely, says Mr Theobald, too personal a name can be a turn off, for example, ‘those named after the occupants, such as when Shirley and Tony live in a house they’ve called Shirlton.Some popular names such as Windy Corner and Windy Ridgeare also an obvious no-no when it comes to helping sell a house’.
Foreign place names can also repel. A name that records where the occupants met or holidayed may not work for others. ‘Different names appeal to different nationalities,’ points out Mr Lawson. ‘Internationally themed names such as Shangri- La are more likely to attract overseas interest than from within the UK. Anything with a name of an unfavourable holiday destination, such as Faliraki, tend not to add value.’ Mark Charter at Carter Jonas’s Oxford office agrees: ‘Oxfordshire’s most rooted residents will often avoid anything associated with the “Costas”-Casa del Sol and Villa de Maria can turn off the same type of buyers that are inclined to avoid houses with numbers.’
So how can you change your property’s name if you have the ‘wrong’ one? If your house has a number, making a change is straightforward. Because number and street name define the property’s address, the owners can add or change the name as they please, so long as the number is shown within the house’s boundaries and used as part of the address. If the property only has a name, however, making a change is more complicated, as the owner has to get permission from the local council and Royal Mail. This will be refused if the proposed name is deemed confusing-for example, if it’s the same or similar to a local property or landmark. One couple who changed the name of their house to sell it was comedian Billy Connolly and his wife, Pamela Stephenson. A few years ago, they wanted a discreet, off-market sale of their house near Windsor, but as the selling agent Jonathan Bramwell, now at The Buying Solution, remembers: ‘He had renamed it Gruntfuttock Hall and I advised them that people are likely to tell friends if they receive details of a house with a name like that. So we changed it back to Forest Lodge and did a quick private sale to an international buyer.
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