The economics of selling a country house: Kiddington Hall

Kiddington Manor, Oxfordshire (Image: Country Life)

An article regarding the sale of Kiddington Hall in the Financial Times has highlighted that the asking price of a country house when put on the market is not the amount which will end up in the buyer’s pocket.

When grade-II listed Kiddington Hall was launched on the market in September 2009, the price tag of £42m reflected its status as one of the most important houses to be offered since the sale of Easton Neston in 2004.  The main house was built in 1673 and sits in the centre of it’s 2,000-acre estate in Oxfordshire, with parkland designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. The house was remodelled in the 1850s by Sir Charles Barry in his trademark Italianate style which included the creation of a large courtyard and extensives terraces in the gardens.

The beautifully elegant house is being sold by Erik Maurice Robson, whose father bought the house for £115,000 in 1950. The sale was court ordered to fund his £8m divorce settlement, and valued his freehold interest in the house and estate at just £16m. This article states that this value is what remains after “excluding furniture, capital gains tax and sale costs”.  Mr Robson has now asked the court to reduce the value of the settlement as, due to a fall in property values, his interest is now worth only £13.18m.  This seems a remarkably small amount to be able to realise from such a high asking price and perhaps emphasises that a country house is not the pot of gold many imagine it to be.

Full story: ‘Stately home at heart of divorce appeal‘ [Financial Times]

9 thoughts on “The economics of selling a country house: Kiddington Hall

  1. Andrew March 8, 2010 / 13:21

    The figure of £16m net for “Mr Robson’s freehold interest” in the Kiddington Hall estate would imply that he is only a part owner of it, perhaps with another family member, and hence will receive only about half the sale proceeds.

    For example, if the estate sold for £40m, then deducted from this would be estate agents and legal fees (no more than £1m) and capital gains tax (under £7m, being 18% of the £39m less its market value when inherited in 1982, say £2m, assuming no private residence relief). Hence, net after tax proceeds would be about £32m, with his share being half, i.e. £16m.

  2. countryhouses March 8, 2010 / 13:36

    It’s certainly a possibility but (and I’m not a lawyer in any way) I’m not sure a court would order a joint family asset be sold unless it was with the agreement of the other family member (which perhaps he has).

    If there is no other family interest, your figures do raise some interesting questions as to just what the other costs are and why Mr Robson is only receiving approximately a third of the sale price?

  3. Stephen March 9, 2010 / 02:00

    Has he mortgaged it at some point or used part of it as security for something?

  4. Andrew March 9, 2010 / 06:09

    It seems unlikely that a financial institution would advance £26m on a £42m property, and not force a sale before his divorce proceedings. If it was a security, you would expect Robson to be selling the other asset first, before his home.

    Given that Mr Robson’s mother, Baroness Robson of Kiddington, only died in 1999, Mr Robson may have inherited half of Kiddington Hall when his father, Sir Lawrence Robson, died in 1982. Alternatively, Mr Robson may have inherited all of the house and its gardens, but only a third share in the Kiddington Manor estate, along with his two sisters (now married and living away from Kiddington Hall). As the Robsons appear to have been living in Kiddington Hall, the capital gains tax on their share of the sale will only be on the value of the 2,000 acres of land and not on the house (per the private residence relief provisions). The family probably felt that they would maximise the value of the estate by trying to sell it as a whole, rather than splitting the house off separately.

    However, given that there were no buyers of the 2,000-acre estate as a whole for near the asking price of £42m, the house and only 466 acres are now for sale for £15m, and under offer. This probably represents Mr Robson’s personal share in the Kiddington estate, and will minimise the amount of capital gains tax now payable. Hence, if sold for £15m, less the sale costs and capital gains tax on the land, the net sale proceeds would be about £13.18m.,-1.40297&spn=0.001493,0.004117&t=h&z=19

    For better quality photos of the house, see:

    • countryhouses March 9, 2010 / 13:11

      Thanks Andrew – I’m definitely deferring to your expertise on this one!

    • Stephen March 9, 2010 / 20:34

      A few weeks ago, I saw the farm and village houses part of the estate on sale for £26M “under offer”, so maybe the farm part has already been sold.

      • Andrew March 11, 2010 / 12:14

        Unlikely, because the original 2009 sale press release stated that the non-Hall part of the estate would not ‘be sold until a buyer has first been found for Kiddington’s historic core’. Interestingly, the ‘core’ Hall lot had an original asking price of £17.5m and is now down to £15m. Although, the Strutt & Parker website is today now showing the Hall as being ‘Sold’ (i.e. exchange of contracts, rather than settlement), so the rest of the estate may soon follow, but not before the Hall sale is completed.

        The original 14 Sep 2009 Country Life press release for the Kiddington Manor sale –

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