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21st December 2017

A review of 2017 and looking forward to 2018

The very top of the market has continued to be very fickle and the vast majority of sales seem to be basically off market with little or no publicity. This makes is almost impossible to detect a market trend let alone know whether a property has indeed sold for the best price. It is more a question of brokering a deal at a level where both vendor and purchaser are prepared to treat.
The difficult sector has been and may well continue to be those wanting to downsize from substantial country properties. The market for top end country properties has been slim and comes down to two critical factors 1) correct pricing and 2) if the property is something a purchaser particularly wants and sees as a once in a lifetime opportunity. At this level it takes determination on the part of the agent and a resolve from the vendor to “hang on in there”. The problem is particularly hard for the elderly wanting to downsize where time may not be on their side and they are keen to be able to take the next property step sooner rather than later. One thing is certain while sales are being achieved predicting the time scale in more an art than a science.
The traditional family country house has performed unexpectedly well despite all the political and financial uncertainty. There is a feeling that long term property is a good investment and families first and foremost want a roof over their heads. Location continues to be of upmost importance with schools and commute to work key factors. There have been fewer properties coming to the market this year and the lack of choice has resulted in some properties Lovelwood House in Lillingstone Lovel, Buckinghamshire with a guide price of £950,000 going to best bids and exceeding the expected price.

The lack of housing for first and second time buyers looks set to underpin the market for years if not decades to come. There is no shortage of new buyers entering the market and this gives a solid platform for the market. Stamp Duty (SDLT) has probably stopped people moving house so frequently and there are no signs that anything more than a minor tinkering with the rates likely in the immediate future.
The high level of SDLT has encouraged more people to think about buying a property with a view to undertaking the restoration themselves and provided this is their main residence it is a great way to potentially make a capital gain over time. Briar Hill Cottage in the Cotswolds was a case in point, it went to best offers and sold well over its asking price of £695,000 with ten parties bidding for the property.

Ironically, smaller historic house and new builds remain strong sectors of the market for very different reasons. There is one group of buyers love properties that have all the most up to date bells and whistles and the thought that everything is brand new. In the sector of the market are those who like the opportunity of owning a slice of the country’s heritage for all its quirkiness and realise that you cannot put a price on history. One of the oldest and cutest houses sold close to its £700,000 asking price during 2017 was Palace Cottage at Charing. It had been restored by the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust and formed part of the ancient archbishops’ palace at Charing. It was part of a scheduled ancient monument and Listed Grade I. The property dated from the 13th century and would have been standing when Henry VIII stayed at the palace on his way, with his 5,000 courtiers, to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, in modern terms a state visit, which nearly bankrupted the exchequer.
For the past 15-20 years agricultural land prices have outperformed almost most of the rest of the market, however Brexit and the uncertainties it has thrown up regarding subsidies and export markets have seen agricultural land prices drop though one can’t help but feel this may only be temporary as we may have to rely on more foods being home grown rather than imported.
As for the future there will continue to be regional differences and again communications and employment will play an important part in how house prices move. We also think that buyers will become far more “green” in their outlook. Purchasers are starting to think ahead about heating bills and the environment. Although few buyers say they heed the EPC graphs we are aware of new owners are far more likely to boast about the energy efficient heating and insulation. This is no long a fad and something just for the green brigade. Savvy downsizers in the Cotswolds recently bought Paddock House guide price £1,475,000, with an EPC of B and look forward to lower fuel bills.

Dawn Carritt
21st December 2017
020 7664 6646