Sunday 9 January 2011

Bankers Buy into the Country

Anne Ashworth in The Times
January 8 2011
A house in Fulham, or the chance to get in touch with your inner farmer?

That is the dilemma facing the banker in possession of a bonus and in 2011 many are expected to take the latter route out of the capital to a farmstead, surrounded by a few rolling acres — and with a local to do the dirty work.

Demand for such homes is expected to be strong in the early part of the year, according to Catherine Penman, head of research at Carter Jonas, the estate agents, with the would-be members of the country set keen to strike a deal before the new 5 per cent rate of stamp duty on £1 million-plus pads is introduced in April.

Ms Penman says that buyers, many of them with cash, began at the end of last year to prowl those parts of the shires that are within a commutable distance of London. This has led to a firming of prices around locations such as Newbury, Winchester, Andover and Basingstoke, with good train services to the capital.

The Carter Jonas farmhouse index, published today, shows that the typical price of such a property with five bedrooms, five stables and set in five acres, in the vicinity of Newbury is now £2.35 million. Ms Penman argues that the low supply of residences that fit the bill should support such valuations.

A five-bedroom farmhouse in the village of Glinton, near Peterborough, with an asking price of £1.75 million has just gone under offer. Its comforts include a boot room, a snug and a 34ft kitchen and breakfast room with an Aga — the piece of kit that embodies the dream of the bonus buyer whether he is buying in Fulham or a less metropolitan safe haven.

But Ms Penman adds that the outlook for the rural idyll is not uniformly bright. The Carter Jonas index, like other surveys, highlights a growing North-South divide. Ms Penman says that in the North there was a general decline in interest in December, with the firm’s offices in this region recording a “noticeable slip in asking and offer prices”. Only farmhouses around Kendal in Cumbria were exempt from this trend. The typical five-bedroom farmhouse in the Northern region now changes hands for £1.25million.

Five acres may be sufficient for the bonus recipient who does not have a house in town or the funds for a retinue of staff.

But the highest paid workers in the Square Mile and Canary Wharf and the international set who want to be county set, with the wherewithal to maintain a portfolio of homes, increasingly want land and lots of it. The minimum is between 40 and 50 acres, although 30 will suffice, as Francis Long of Hanslips, the buying agents, explains. Buying agents scout out homes for the wealthy, those who tend to be short of time.

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