The state of the country house market: Autumn 2010

Noseley Hall, Leicestershire (Image: Knight Frank)

Noseley Hall, Leicestershire (Image: Knight Frank)

Throughout September, the increasing weight of each week’s ‘Country Life‘ magazine heralds the starts of one of the busy periods for launches of country houses.  As an relatively unscientific barometer it would appear that the market is doing well with some impressive estates and houses being offered up to tantalise the armchair enthusiast and serious purchaser alike – but a few houses are still proving difficult to shift.

The September 1 magazine provided a summary of the successes of the year-to-date with glowing reports from estate agents who, despite some fears in January about an uncertain year ahead, are happy to highlight their successes.  The article quotes Crispin Holborow of Savills who rightly points out that ‘best in class‘ houses will always sell quickly and for above their guide price if the right buyers start competing.  He cites Ropley House in Hampshire which sold at over it’s guide price of £4.25m, as did the grade-I listed Shanks House in Somerset which was offered with 70-acres for £5.5m, but their biggest success was the coveted Chadacre estate in Suffolk with 680-acres which reputedly sold for more than double it’s £10m asking price.  Other houses such as the elegant grade-I Worlingham Hall – regarded by Norman Scarfe as ‘the most beautiful house of manageable size in Suffolk’ – also sold over it’s guide price of £3.9m.

Other houses sold close to their guide include Peatling Hall in Leicestershire (mentioned on this blog in July) which was offered at £4.75m, whilst the stunning Compton Pauncefoot Castle in Somerset suffered from an unfortunately timed launch in September 2008 at £17m which knocked buyer confidence meaning that it hung around until Febuary 2010 before selling at £15m.  Others had to drop their prices or accept being sold in lots with Kiddington Hall in Oxfordshire selling for £15m to Jemima Khan once the rest of the 2,000-acre estate had been sold (originally offered as one for £42m), whilst Fillongley Hall in Warwickshire has yet to find a buyer even after selling 400- out of the original 500-acres originally offered when it went on the market in 2005 (£3.5m, Savills).  Pusey House in Oxfordshire, which was originally launched with 643-acres but when featured as the lead property advert in the September 15 magazine it was offered with just 67.

So who are the awkward squad?  Grade-I listed Noseley Hall in Leicestershire is still with Knight Frank with the same acreage; though now at £12m rather than the original £14m asking price, and Iver Grove in Buckinghamshire, a pocket Palladian gem, is still being offered (again with Knight Frank) – though mysteriously with no price, so probably less that the £4.5m guide in February 2010; and way down from it’s original price of £6.5m when it was first launched in 2007.  Up country, Yester House in Scotland is still available despite having had it’s price halved from £15m to £8m since the original launch in August 2008.

So, although the property market does seem buoyant, it does seem that some are struggling.  Perhaps the flurry of launches will bring an influx of new buyers who may take a renewed interest in the harder-to-sell properties, but they equally may well wonder why they are still available and pass them over.  It seems that some owners who are keen to sell are being flexible, either dropping the price or selling in lots, but for owners who refuse to budge the market may take a very long time to rise to meet what they think their property is worth.  It seems flexibility is still a vital attribute whatever rung of the property ladder you are on.

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About Matthew Beckett - The Country Seat

An amateur architectural historian with a particular love of UK country houses in all their many varied and beautiful forms.
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11 Responses to The state of the country house market: Autumn 2010

  1. Andrew says:

    Another slow mover is the Category A listed Torosay Castle with about 880 acres on the Isle of Mull for sale since April for£2.8m. Chris James’ family has owned the castle since 1865 and it is also open to the public (http://www.torosay.com). It was completed in 1858 and designed by David Bryce, who also designed the Bank of Scotland building on the Mound and the massive Fettes College in Edinburgh, not to mention completing the Hamilton Palace Mausoleum for the 11th Duke of Hamilton.
    http://residentialsearch.savills.co.uk/property-detail/264641
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/gallery/2010/oct/01/snooping-around-property#/?picture=367217824&index=4

  2. Stephen says:

    Has Iver Grove been sold? I saw it on Primelocation.com a month or so ago at £3,750,000 but it has now disappeared from there and the Knight Frank website.

  3. Andrew says:

    Stephen, usually if sold, the websites will display “under offer” for at least a week before removal. If no one saw this, or any press on a sale, then Cluaran Bridges may have withdrawn Iver Grove from the market.

  4. Andrew says:

    Rightmove last showed Iver Grove for “Offers in Excess of £3,500,000″, but noted that “Knight Frank, Country Department have removed this property. It may now be sold, under offer or temporarily withdrawn from the market”. Google cached search last showed it on the Knight Frank website on 9 September for £3,950,000 unsold.
    http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-13533813.html

  5. Andrew says:

    Of course the ultimate slow burner is the government-owned Apethorpe Hall and 45 acres in Northamptonshire for £4.5m since 2007 (http://apethorpehall.smithsgore.co.uk). Compulsorily purchased by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) in 2004 for over £3m, with English Heritage spending more than £4m on restoration, with a further £20m needed, with the pending financial losses questioned as being avoidable (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/3353320/Saved-but-at-what-cost.html). Surprisingly, this is the only time in the compulsory purchase power’s 20 year history that they have been used to save a country house. They were threatened to be used on one other occasion in 1993 by the Department of National Heritage, precipitating the agreed sale by the owners of St Ann’s Hotel, which occupied half of John Carr of York’s Crescent in Buxton in Derbyshire, built in 1779-89 for the 5th Duke of Devonshire (http://www.buxton.uk.net/buxtoncrescent.htm). Northern Ireland’s first compulsory purchase order was issued in 2008 on the stables of Sion House in County Tyrone (http://www.sionmills.org/Default.aspx?tabid=128), although its clock tower did collapse before the process was completed (http://www.sionmills.org/Default.aspx?tabid=121).

    • Stephen says:

      The enabling development proposed by the development company that bought Apethorpe and then was compulsorily bought out involved splitting the house into twenty seperate properties. Something that Telegraph piece omits which makes me wonder if the developers know the Barclay twins.

  6. statelyhomes says:

    Regarding your comment about Noseley Hall, that it “is still with Knight Frank with the same acreage; though now at £12m rather than the original £14m asking price” the £12m price now only comes with 937 acres, instead of the original 1,264 acres for £14m. I assume they have withdrawn/sold about 327 acres comprising the three north-western blocks, shown on page 29 of the original brochure, but as Knight Frank didn’t re-issue the brochure with the revised acreage, I can’t be sure.

  7. Andrew says:

    Pusey House in Oxfordshire, owned by Felicity Loudon (nee Cadbury) and launched last June for £27m, was withdrawn from its selling agents websites this week, perhaps for a Spring relaunch. Ironically, her step-brother, Joel Cadbury (both children of Peter Cadbury), was apparently looking at buying Cherkley Court in Surrey for £20m to convert into a hotel and golf course (presumably with the adjoining Tyrrells Wood Golf Club, which has its clubhouse in Tyrrells Wood House). It’s a pity they couldn’t do a deal together, but big-sister’s price may have been just outside Joel’s budget, although he could buy only part of the Pusey estate land, but the nearby Carswell Golf Club may not be as conveniently close or prestigious.

  8. RCB says:

    Iver Grove has been sold to a family who are investing the time and love that the place really does need after all these years.

    • countryhouses says:

      Hi RCB – many thanks for the update. Iver Grove is one of my personal favourites so I’m delighted that it has the right owners. Hopefully, the Georgian Group might be able to organise a tour at some point as it is such a beautiful example of the near-urban villa of which all too many have been lost as towns and cities expanded.

      Matthew

  9. Andrew says:

    Pusey House in Oxfordshire is back on the market this week after its summer withdrawal, for £21m with 75 acres, compared to its original £27m with 643 acres in June 2010. Lets see if the reduced price and land helps; but if you’re going to spend over £20m on a country house, you may as well buy the full estate with it.

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