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What’s the ideal estate?

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Knight Frank
London and Country specialist property buying agents
03 Oct 2016  |   Mark Lawson

Buying a house using a buying agents

There remains strong appetite for the very best in class estates, these would be within two hours of London to the west, unblighted and have 1,000 acres of mixed farm and amenity land, and a beautiful period, ideally not-too-large Georgian house in reasonably good condition. For an opportunity so rare it is likely that buyers would have to, and must be prepared to pay premium prices.

The interested parties would predominantly be successful British buyers but there is always interest from a few international individuals particularly keen on the sporting and amenity side of estate life. Currently there appears to be more interest from Middle Eastern countries than other regions of the world which we suspect is as a result of increased tension in the region and the long-term desire to own a ‘trophy asset’ that can be used in the summer months and during the shooting season.

Most sought-after estates are located in an arc from the M1 to the M3. They would have good communication links back to the capital but still be within pretty, unspoilt and rural countryside. Good access to a high quality market town is imperative, areas such as Chipping Norton, Stow on the Wold, Hungerford, Marlborough, Alresford and Winchester are always popular. The ‘perfect estate’ would need to be quiet and private and with no foot paths affecting the house and park (there will be foot paths across the land, but ideally as far away from the house as possible).

The ideal estate size would likely be between 1,000 and 2,000 acres with 1,000 acres of good quality arable land and a couple of hundred acres of mature grass parkland, perhaps a few hundred acres of woodland, ideally mature and well laid out for sport as well as providing an attractive landscape and view. Other qualities would include a river with good quality, chalk stream fishing and lake in the park. The land would include enough cottages for staff but not too many to be a burden, perhaps between five and ten cottages with appropriately sized quality farm buildings.

There is less of a desire for very large, old houses. Preferably there would be an eight bedroom Georgian house in mature parkland setting with a long winding approach drive. There would be lots of original period features, but ideally the house would be in good structural condition with up to date M&E.

It is worth pointing out that an estate like the one described above is like finding a needle in a haystack and invariably there will be compromises to be made on one or more aspect.

Buyers

There are rafts of buyers, national and international who desire such a country estate. In our experience the buyer would typically be a very successful Englishman with a young family. Having said this, there is interest from all nationalities and currently we are seeing Middle Eastern, American and a few Russian buyers.

Prices

An estate like this could be anything between £20m – £70m depending on the location and size. They very rarely come to the open market and are more often sold and bought privately.

As the price range increases so does the likelihood of a vendor wishing to sell confidentially. In almost all cases they take advice from a selling agent but choose to offer their estate to only a handful of carefully selected individuals. By offering property privately, vendors avoid publicity and in many cases we are invited to look around before an owner has even told his own family. Sometimes the vendor would prefer to tell his friends and family only after a deal has been concluded as he is able to say “he was approached with an offer he couldn’t refuse” which saves the embarrassment if he was in a position where he had to sell. A private sale means only a few visits rather than reams of viewings where many people may just be being nosy. If a private sale fails there is always the back up of going to the open market with a fresh launch so the property does not look like it is “old news.”

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