Buyers to cash in on London prices and head for the countryside in 2012
The call of the countryside will intensify in 2012 as people look to move out of London to capitalise on the value offered by rural property, in search of stability and a better quality of life, according to Jackson-Stops & Staff, the national estate agents.

Dawn Carritt, director of the London country house department of Jackson-Stops & Staff, which has 42 offices nationwide, predicts that buyers will cash in their equity in London homes and look for homes in less expensive areas where there are good schools and safe communities. She said: Those who are prepared to move away from the highest priced areas will find opportunities to purchase good properties while investing less. This should be helpful to areas where house prices have dropped as a result of the recession.

Communications and technology now makes it far easier and acceptable to work in more rural locations. People may look to release some capital yet continue to see property as a good long-term investment when other securities such as blue-chip shares or bonds may have a rough time in the coming months. Traditional bricks and mortar remain a safe haven when times are tough. We have a finite amount of land, we are not building enough to meet demand in the medium-term and, traditionally, we are a nation who aspire to be home owners.

East Anglia could well benefit from London prices, according to Tim Dansie, director of Jackson-Stops & Staffs Ipswich office. He said: The country house market is dependent on a strong London market and with the global issues and the Eurozone crisis, London is being seen as a safe haven and will continue to enjoy price rises here. Londoners armed with this equity will be able to spend it in the country.

People are seeking stability and a rural lifestyle in a village community can offer a haven from the turbulence of the past few years. The Hollies just outside Oxford offers country living just outside a main city. Rural and village houses and cottages under 500,000 such as 54 High Street, Ecton have proved the most buoyant sector of the market in 2011 in the East Midlands, according to Quentin Jackson-Stops. I expect that trend to continue in 2012.

In the South West, Ashley Rawlings, of the Dorchester office of Jackson-Stops & Staff, believes that a fall in country values will prove attractive to London buyers. He said: The most active market in our region is currently the 500,000 to 1 million, where upsizers and downsizers meet. James Wilson, of the Shaftesbury office of Jackson-Stops & Staff, also predicts that 2012 could be the year for buyers from London to capitalise on the relative cheapness of country property. He said: Country values have fallen markedly against London house prices. We can offer good schools, good access to London and the South-west, with our proximity to the A303. Old Glyn Arms in East Melbury is a listed conversion that offers good value for money. Substantial country houses have been selling well through the Taunton office of Jackson-Stops & Staff.

Brian Bishop, director, said: I would expect the upper end of the market, 1.2 to 3 - 4 million, to continue to be reasonably active. This year we have sold almost all of the big houses ranging from 1.2 to 4 million reasonably quickly and all close to their guide price.Buyers have been a mix from London and local people. An example of a country house within the 1.2 to 4 million price range is Monkscombe House, a six bedroom Grade 11 listed property in Wiltown near Curry Rivel.

The "schools factor will continue to drive sales in 2012 in commuter-belt Kent, according to Alastair Hancock, director of Jackson-Stops & Staffs five offices in the county. He said: Families will continue to seek out areas within the catchment areas of good state schools or move out of London in search of good state and private schools. We are expecting the market up to 1.5million to be the most active, particularly in good commuter areas.

In affluent Surrey, Alan King, partner of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Dorking, said: Younger families should be bold enough to move up, given that prices have eased back by some margin over the last three to four years. Average prices are down by 9 per cent which, coupled with attractive mortgage deals, should encourage buyers. The value of property as a hedge against inflation in the medium to long term should not be ignored.

The Olympics is expected bring investment in key areas such as Weymouth where sailing events will heighten interest. Ashley Rawlings, of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Dorchester, said: A recent improvement in the road infrastructure has facilitated access to this part of the coast and there has been a surge of interest from investors hoping to capitalise on this. The spotlight on Stratford should create interest within commutable areas in Essex and East Anglia, according to Tim Dansie in Ipswich. We will see spikes in country house rentals on a short term basis but should also bring interest and influence on the country house market.