Posted on 17th April 2015

Rise of the Cut Price Stately Home

Martin Williamson, Head of Residential Property

While it could be argued that Februarys dip in house prices are something of a blip, as discussed in my recent column on the property market in Richmond and the Dales, there is a trend that is arguably more significant. At the very top end of the market, there are the stately homes with their sweeping drives, majestic facades and ancestral attributes that anyone with a spare £1million or so might want to own. Yet, super-sized homes, particularly those of the ancestral variety, are remaining on estate agents books for a longer period of time than most.

There is currently a downturn in the popularity of these most aspirational of homes; or if they are viewed, it is frequently by developers whose stated objective is to turn them into apartments. However, that comes with its own issues in turns of planning permission; more of that later.

One of the main barriers to owning a stately home, aside from the fact that very few mere mortals can dream of affording one, are the huge on-going costs of keeping it all going. From roof maintenance to heating costs, the price tag should be borne in mind.

As a well-established law firm, we act on behalf of clients from the bottom to the very top end of market, including those seeking to sell a stately home. One such client is Jane Harris who is selling Snow Hall, her 16, 5551 sq. ft. family home near Darlington. The house has been tastefully renovated by her late father and stepmother in the 1980s and the gardens re-designed at the same time. A previous owner had tried to convert the hall into apartments but had run out of money. Janes parents had Snow Hall divided into seven self-contained residences, although the selling agent Strutt and Parker says it could easily be converted back into one home.

Jane is seeing more interest in her property following a re-marketing exercise, which has set out the undoubted attractions of the property, and its versatility. Many stately home owners are not so fortunate and they arrive at the realisation later in the day that their properties need to be converted into smaller residences in order to be made more saleable.

In general terms, cash-rich buyers tend to view country estates in relation to their proximity to London and to other attractive cities, such as York and Newcastle. It also helps if a property is already commercialised, at least in part. It will help if parts of the estate are rented out, particularly if there are adjoining properties that could be sold separately. There will always be a greater number of buyers prepared to spend a quarter of a million on a part of a property than sink a million or so into a much larger stately home with all the associated costs.

What of the issue of planning permission and stately homes? The key issue is whether a property is listed or not. There are numerous restrictions to the development of listed properties, including the requirement to get building consent before any alterations are undertaken. I will outline the pitfalls and the benefits of buying a listed property in next weeks column.

For further information contact Martin Williamson