With London prices cooling, agents are suggesting that now is a clever time to sell, while the enormous gap between town and country still holds
Oliver Knight of Knight Frank’s research department confirms the deeply negative impact of the recent Stamp Duty increases on the upper end of the country house market, with the latest Land Registry figures showing that, between January and July this year, there have been 35% fewer sales of houses valued at more than £1.5 million outside London, compared to the same period last year.
‘With the average country-house price still 14% below its 2007 peak and top end prices in London on average 34% higher than their previous peak values, this means that buyers looking to swap the city for the country are able to get a lot more property for their money and take advantage of the relative “discount” that currently exists,’ he affirms. However, as ‘heady’ changes to ‘steady’ in central London, time may be running out for buyers hoping to make the most of the differential between house prices in the capital and those in the country.
The latest report from Douglas & Gordon, which has 18 offices in key areas of the capital—from Battersea and Clapham to Pimlico and Westminster—suggests that prices in the south-west area slipped by 0.5% in the third quarter of 2015, with the value of properties priced at more than £2m ‘flat-lining’ as the market continued to digest Stamp Duty rises. ‘My advice to those considering a move out of the city is simple—get on with it,’ says sales director George Franks. ‘There’s a sense of complacency among London homeowners, who are under the impression that they have the luxury of selling whenever they feel like it—this is no longer the case. Country properties at the higher end of the market are being snapped up and there’s no guarantee that London prices will rise in the vendor’s favour.’
Already there are signs that at least some buyers are prepared to get off the fence and make decisions, says Nigel Mitchell of Knight Frank in Guildford—a regular first stop for families moving out of London: ‘For the first time in many moons, we have seen a flow—if not a flood—of new buyers who are prepared to put their £3m to £4m London house on the market and buy in the country, but only if they perceive the country property to be sensibly priced.’
‘This “new” market is completely driven by vendors who are serious about selling,’ adds Mr Mitchell, who cites the immaculate Lamberts at Hascombe, near Godalming in the Surrey Hills, as a prime example of the value for money to be found in the country compared with London. Originally for sale with another agent at a guide price of £5m, Lamberts is now on offer through Knight Frank (01483 565171) at a guide price of £3.6m and is already attracting interest from London buyers. Set in more than five acres of landscaped gardens, with a heated swimming pool and a tennis court, the 6,178sq ft house boasts four/five reception rooms, an orangery, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms, two dressing rooms and five bath/ shower rooms.
Lamberts also has secondary accommodation, a gym and a period barn and must compare favourably with the best on offer in leafy Chiswick, W4, for example, where Knight Frank (020–3757 6230) quote a guide price of £3.25m for a charming, 2,880sq ft, five-bedroom, semi-detached Victorian house in leafy Thornton Avenue, six miles from central London and 10 miles from Heathrow.
Aware that London’s house party may be coming to an end, some London homeowners who were planning to move to the country, but couldn’t quite decide when, have finally decided to take the plunge and put their houses on the market, reports Robin Chatwin of Savills, whose remit covers the traditionally fast-moving area between Richmond and Dulwich.
Despite fears that a slow-down in London might delay the sale of their house in the capital, several clients who have found the house of their choice in the country and don’t want to risk losing it are prepared to commit to an early exchange on their new purchase, with a delayed completion in June or July next year. This will allow them time to sell their London property and still be sure of being installed in the country in time for the next school year.
Reflecting another current trend in home-buying habits in the capital, the owners of an elegant, five-bedroom family house in Alleyn Park, Dulwich, SE21, close to Dulwich College and its prep school, are planning to sell at a guide price of £3.35m through Savills (020–8673 4111)—and, not wishing to sever their London links completely, intend to buy a smaller house in Notting Hill, as well as a country home in Gloucestershire.
Lifestyle, a better quality of life, a good choice of schools and improved communications are among the reasons why London buyers want to move to counties such as Surrey and Hampshire, although most are now disinclined to pay a premium for an unmodernised property merely to put their own stamp on it, says Barclay Mcfarlane of Strutt & Parker in Fulham (020–7731 7100).
With London prices stalling, those who no longer need to be in town full time are increasingly aware of how much more they can get for their money in counties such as Northamptonshire, Rutland and Lincolnshire, where the price differential can be put towards other outgoings, such as school fees.
For instance, a typical house in Fulham with 1,600sq ft of living space currently costs about £1.7m— a sum that could buy the owner a quintessential old rectory in the Cotswolds in the current market. Isn’t that what you call a ‘no-brainer’? Mr Macfarlane is currently involved in the sale of three classic Fulham houses for thirty-something owners with young children who are moving to the country, either for more living space or to be closer to their families.
The first of these, a 1,668sq ft, three storey, Victorian terraced house in Mimosa Street, SW6 (above) close to Parsons Green, is under offer at a guide price of £1.695m. The second, a 1,539sq ft, five-bedroom house in Rosaville Road (below), SW6, between Munster Village and the Fulham Road, is on the market at £1.75m.
The third, a recently renovated, 2,067sq ft, four-bedroom house with a south-west facing garden, a short walk from Parsons Green, has found a buyer at a guide price of £2.395m.
But even London homeowners who can’t envisage a full-on move to the country can buy more space for the price of a pad in SW6 by moving only slightly further west to Wimbledon Village, SW19. Here, the owner of a three storey house with an integral garage in the gated Chapman Square development opposite Wimbledon Common, has put her house on the market at a guide price of £1.75 million through John D. Wood & Co (020– 8944 7172), with a view to moving to Lymington, Hampshire. Built in the late 1990s, the house has two reception rooms, a kitchen/dining room, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, private and communal gardens, a garage and off-street parking.