How to move

Intense demand in the middle and upper country house markets has out-lasted the stamp duty holiday, lockdowns and winter. Volumes have only slowed because of a lack of supply. This makes it even more of a sellers’ market and thus even more frustrating for the legion of would-be home movers, waiting for a market not dominated by buyers without a dependent sale. Waiting, though, is not in their best interests.



Selling in order to buy, is always something of a dance. As both a seller and a buyer, the market can only ever be partially in your favour, so holding out for the perfect time rarely makes sense, even before factoring in the unpredictable preferences of whoever you sell to, and buy from. It is, though, a co-operative dance: all involved want to trade, so a fund of goodwill is there. Create enough flexibility, and your offer might be more attractive to a seller than that of, say, the cash buyer who wants possession by the end of the month. Indeed, looking at feedback from our offices around the country, it’s clear that the majority of sales do still involve buyers who themselves have related sales. How do they do it? Here are the essentials:

West Sussex £1,750,000 guide (Midhurst)

Get real about your move
A clear plan will reveal how realistic your expectations are and any steps – such as checks on property title and eligibility for finance – that must be taken along the way. Being well prepared encourages buyer interest, helping to attract competing bids and thus the best buyer for your circumstances. It’s also hard to overstate just how important it is to choose a good conveyancer: more sales than ever are failing, or taking literally months longer than expected, because of legal service delays.

Get a buyer
Without a buyer, you can’t buy, and no seller (or agent) will take your interest in a house, seriously. Ideally, you want a buyer willing to pay a top price and fit in with your timing. Right now, your chances of this are good, because it’s a seller’s market.

Get flexible
There are two main ways to do this. The simplest is to sell first and move to a rented house with a flexible term (see next article). If – like most – you regard renting as possible but unattractive, the next best thing is to have exchanged contracts with your buyer, with a delayed completion. ‘Completion in six months or less by mutual agreement’, has proved a winning formula with many of our country house deals. It gives your buyer certainty, whilst putting you in just as strong a position as most buyers in rented accommodation. If exchanging contracts without a purchase is also a step too far, do not despair. Sellers will take your offer very seriously, if your lawyers can confirm that your sale is 100% ready to exchange, and your timing fits with theirs. Of course, you might need to offer a little more.


Overall prices are still rising, but not by as much. This is how markets work: they are cyclical. Over time, capital growth is remarkably similar, nationwide. Regional and property-type cycles do differ in their timing, though. If you are lucky, you can move when the house you sell is at the top of its cycle and the one you want to buy, is at the bottom. Right now, for example, the differential between a more rural country house with an acre or two and, say, a two bedroom house in Wimbledon, or a flat in Pimlico, has rarely been smaller. For rural downsizers looking to move to the city, the timing must be close to ideal.

Yorkshire £1,500,000 guide; 2 acres (Harrogate)


Recent changes in lifestyles have not all been about the pandemic. Technology had already been making working from an office at home quite normal. Adult children have been living at the parental home for longer, making separate space vital for many, and Airbnb has created a financially attractive, accessible tourism market. A good annexe, or converted outhouse, facilitates all of these things. Demand is thus high, so it’s worth exploring the potential for creating such a space, if your property does not already have it.


Our offices have seen a huge increase – more than 60% – in the volume of more expensive country house sales, many of which have far more land than their new owners have ever enjoyed. Some of these are shown on these pages. Buyers often worry about their lack of experience: “I’ve never had more than a roof terrace”. Others query the benefits of owning land they won’t personally use. In practice, maintenance tends to be easy (productive land is in demand and can always be rented out) whilst the key benefit of ownership is arguably the greatest one of all: control.

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