What's in store for the country market this year?
13 January 2017
One of the biggest challenges for a buying agent working in the country, as opposed to London, is a geographical one. The starkest comparison between our London and country buying arms is the actual number of chimney pots. A tour with a client in the country, which would typically last six hours because of the distances one has to travel, may only consist of three or four viewings and a fair amount of small talk in the car. Whereas it is not unheard of for our cousins in London to organise a chauffeur-driven tour about town, taking in 15-plus properties in one go, with their attention wholly-focused on the client rather than one eye (and ear) on the Sat Nav.
On the plus side for buying agents in the country market, there is a good selection of quality buyers at all price levels. The issue is that property values are being underpinned by a serious lack of supply – caused by vendors concerned that they will not be able to achieve the price they want.
It might seem obvious but price really is key. Even some bighted properties - whether that is by road noise, close neighbours or a secondary location - are selling well as long as they are priced very sensibly. Consequently, the best in class when priced correctly will generally receive competitive interest and often end up selling over the guide price.
Whether those buyers moving to the country are just looking for a large garden or 20/30 acres of fields, the desire to control and own a view tends to be high on the list of priorities. Buyers from abroad are partly motivated by a level of currency play but we would be foolish to suggest that this is underpinning the country market as even those buyers are still looking for value.
There remains good demand for agricultural land, particularly if it has an amenity value as well, such as attractive countryside, steep or rolling ground, which lends itself to shooting, equestrian-based activities and in an ideal world, some form of water such as lakes or rivers. However, as with residential properties in the country, the farming market is susceptible to incorrect pricing. Each property should be looked at on its own merits and analysed as a one-off as market forces and local buyers will ultimately dictate the final price. It is impossible, although many do, to put a price per acre on arable or pastureland in a broad-brush way covering a region.
The reforms to stamp duty at the end of 2014 have had a much bigger impact on the country market than Brexit. However, the uncertainty on future agricultural subsidy payments once we leave Europe may have an impact on land values, although there is lack of clarity at this stage. There is an air of caution among clients and Brexit is certainly part of the discussion but at the moment it isn’t affecting people’s appetite to buy. Once it becomes clearer what Brexit will mean, then it may more obviously affect people’s decision making although of course this is likely to be a decision that affects the London market as much as it does the country.