Ramsbury: One of Wiltshire’s Best Villages

Ramsbury is an extremely pretty, pre-medieval village steeped in history and tradition, set in the picturesque and unspoilt Kennet Valley in the heart of the Marlborough Downs.

We consider it to be one of the best villages in Wiltshire for several reasons: it has a good number of attractive period village houses, it’s well connected for trains to London (from Hungerford, Newbury or Swindon stations) and it’s almost equidistant between the two market towns of Hungerford and Marlborough. The M4 motorway (Junction 14 or 15) is within a 10-minute drive; Heathrow Airport is a little over an hour. Unfettered by traffic noise (there is one B-road running through the centre), the countryside around the village is rural and tranquil with those interested in country pursuits having the opportunity join one of the local shoots or fish in the River Kennet.

It has many of the elements that today’s buyers look for in a village: a thriving primary school, a large modern surgery, shops, a post office and a wide range of clubs, societies and services. There are two pubs, the best of which is The Bell, an excellent country pub serving a range of Ramsbury Brewery ales and vodka amongst other things, and where visitors can also get a bed for the night. The Bell has also recently opened a coffee shop, Café Bella, at the back of the pub. There is also an excellent farm shop (Cobbs), just ten minutes’ drive away.

Importantly, the village has a thriving community spirit which is due to come together at the end of next month for Ramsbury Week (21 to 29 May) with various activities including the Ridgeway Walk, where local resident (and lead organiser of the event) Tim Eliot-Cohen, his wife, daughter and their friends will be taking part in a 50-mile walk along Britain’s oldest road, the Ridgeway, in three stages (18, 19 and 20 May). The Buying Solution are sponsoring the walk which is raising funds for a new pre-school in Ramsbury.

The week will culminate in the Ramsbury May Ball on 27 May held at Hilldrop Farm, by kind permission of Tim and Emma Eliot-Cohen. The evening, which The Buying Solution is also sponsoring, will start with a cocktail party, followed by a three-course dinner and dancing. Tickets are £95 per head for tables of ten and available from Ian Smith (ian@ramsburyweek.co.uk). Again, the event is raising money for the village’s new pre-school.

Need to know: buying information

Properties in and around the village are attractive to potential buyers due to the schooling and easy commutability. There are plenty of quality schools to choose from for children of all ages including Ramsbury Primary School, Stepping Stones, Pinewood, St. Gabriel’s, Cheam and Horris Hill.

Many of the properties in the village of Ramsbury are Listed with a predominance of period and unspoilt houses which are centred around the village square.  The core of the village boasts mainly Georgian properties, with a sprinkling of Victorian houses, on the outskirts you will find more of the new builds which do not damage the old and traditional aesthetic.

The profile of buyers in Ramsbury has remained constant over the years consisting mainly of local families with children and a few weekenders at the top end of the market. However, the one fairly transient group of buyers are the families who have children at Marlborough College who tend to remain in the village for the 5 to 10 year educational period and then move on again.

Prices in the Ramsbury area generally hold as there is an undersupply with plenty of demand to be in one the area’s most sought after villages; the best houses seldom come to the market. If you are looking to build then be prepared for strong competition for plots or knockdown rebuild opportunities where you create your dream home.

General guide to prices:

3+ bed cottage – £500,000 to £700,000

4/5 bedroom period house with a garden – £1,500,000 to £2,000,000

A substantial country house with 5+ acres and outbuildings in excess of £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 and usually more.

 

The most popular country prep schools for TBS clients

A multi-ethnic group of elementary age children are playing soccer together at the park. A child is dribbling the ball up the field.

Tens of thousands of children failed to get into their first-choice primary school on national offer day in England last year; in London, where demand for places is highest, one in six families didn’t get a place for their child at their preferred primary. For those unlucky families, a number will consider moving out of London to be near a good, country prep school.

At any time of year, however, at least half of our buyers who are moving out of London to the countryside are motivated by schools. As London independent day schools become more and more competitive–with children as young as four and five being subjected to weekly tutoring for 7+, 8+ and the dreaded 11+ exam (often said to be more stressful than A levels), the option of extracting children from the hot-house environment and letting them have a more well-rounded education with sports and extra-curricular activities on the doorstep becomes ever more appealing.

One of our key recommendations for clients who want to make just one move is to look within the triangle formed by Hungerford, Newbury and Oxford. From there, you’re within an hour of some of the most popular public schools in the country, as well as some of the best prep schools.

These are the most sought-after prep schools for The Buying Solution clients in the countryside:

OXFORDSHIRE, COTSWOLDS & SURROUNDING AREA

Summer Fields School, Oxford

Why? Traditional boys’ day and boarding prep school

 

The Dragon School, Oxford

Why? World-famous co-ed day and boarding prep school

 

St Hugh’s, Faringdon, Oxon

Why? Much talked about day, flexi- and weekly-boarding co-ed prep favoured by parents wishing to avoid Oxford city traffic

 

Cothill House, Abingdon, Oxon

Why? Traditional, family-run boarding school for boys

 

Abingdon Prep, Abingdon, Oxon

Why? Well-respected day and boarding boys’ prep in easily-accessible countryside

 

Beaudesert Park, Minchinhampton, Glos

Why? Happy, day, flexi- and weekly boarding co-ed prep school

 

Kitebrook, Glos/Oxon borders

Why? Family-run, small and friendly co-ed day and boarding school

 

Dean Close School, Cheltenham, Glos

Why? Co-ed, all-through day and boarding school with an excellent drama department

 

Cheltenham Prep, Glos

Why? Co-ed day and boarding school which feeds into both Cheltenham Ladies & Cheltenham College

 

Winchester House, Brackley, Northants/Oxon/Bucks borders

Why? Day and boarding prep school which offers a broad curriculum including a ’tinker shed’

 

Bruern Abbey, Bicester, Oxon

Why? Day and boarding prep school for boys with dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties

 

Moulsford Prep, Wallingford, Oxon

Why? All-boys day and boarding prep school set in 30 acres which is popular with London commuters

 

Godstowe, High Wycombe, Bucks

Why? Day and boarding prep school for girls which feeds into Wycombe Abbey

 

Caldicott School, Farnham Royal, Bucks

Why? Excellent, boys-only day and boarding prep school

 

The Beacon, Chesham Bois, Bucks

Why? Good, boys-only day school

 

SOUTHERN COUNTIES (HAMPSHIRE, WEST BERKSHIRE, WILTSHIRE, DORSET & SOUTH OXFORDSHIRE)

Cheam School, Thatcham, Berks

Why? Oversubscribed co-ed day and boarding school

 

Elstree School, Newbury, Berks

Why? Boys-only day and boarding prep school set in 150 acres

 

Horris Hill, near Newbury, Berks

Why? Traditional boarding and day prep school for boys

 

Ludgrove, Woking, Berks

Why? Traditional boys’ boarding prep school

 

Farleigh School, Andover, Hants

Why? Fashionable, co-ed boarding prep school with a traditional Catholic history

 

Twyford School, Winchester, Hants

Why? Traditional co-ed boarding and day school

 

Pilgrim’s, Winchester, Hants

Why? Academic boys’ choir school which offers day and boarding

 

Churches College, Liphook, Hants

Why? All-round co-ed day school in the heart of the South Downs

 

Dunhurst, Petersfield, West Sussex

Why? Co-ed day and boarding feeder prep school for Bedales

 

St Margaret’s, Calne, Wilts

Why? Co-ed day and boarding prep which feeds girls to St Mary’s Calne

 

Pinewood School, Shrivenham, Wilts

Why? Friendly co-ed day and boarding school

 

Port Regis, Shaftesbury, Dorset

Why? Co-ed day and boarding school with excellent facilities

Inside Track: The country house market this spring

Cotswolds property

After many months of speculation, an element of clarity has emerged in the past few weeks with the Chancellor publishing his Spring Budget and Mrs May triggering Article 50, thereby starting the process for Britain to leave Europe. While it remains to be seen what the latter may bring, the fact that there was no revision of the Stamp Duty (SDLT) arrangements introduced by George Osborne, as some had hoped, means that more buyers and sellers are accepting the new reality and instead of delaying things further, they are choosing to get on with their lives.

According to the latest figures from Knight Frank, the volume of new buyer enquiries in the prime country house market rose by 3% annually over the year to March and viewings were 11% higher. So far this year, transactions are up against figures from 2015 and 2014 (there was a sales spike the first quarter of 2016 ahead of the introduction of additional SDLT).

This increased appetite is backed up by The Buying Solution’s enquiry levels which are double what they were this time last year. Clients are much more motivated to ask for our help, in part because they’ve reached a point where they’ve waited long enough to see what’s on the horizon politically and economically and want to get on and make the move but also because some have had a go at securing a property they like independently and found that it’s an extremely competitive environment out there.

Such is the shortage of supply of top-quality country houses that we’re doing even more transactions off market. It’s all about access. If you’re on your own at this level of the market, you’re often quite a way behind most buyers as, generally speaking, whenever we reach competitive bidding in the markets we operate in, half of the interested parties could be represented by buying agents.

Just this week, we have agreed two purchases for clients off market–one of which involved a client who had been chasing a property for a year and a half. Often, because of the supply shortage, it’s the vendors who are holding up the process: they can’t find where they want to move to and with interest rates not going anywhere there’s very little urgency on their part. In this scenario, the vendor had finally found the right house and our client was lined up in the wings after we’d already carried out all the due-diligence on the property and been liaising closely with their solicitor. We were therefore able to exchange a contract very quickly, which often makes our client the preferred purchaser. It goes further than that as we are often the key to unlocking a forward chain when the vendor is trying to secure their next house. These sellers are often reluctant to openly market their property because if they lose the opportunity they may have to wait a year for the next to become available. They are also concerned that they face an uphill battle as they need to sell to buy. This can be countered by having a cash buyer all lined up to purchase their property and this is where we can provide the solution.  A selling agent is likely to consider this party as a rock solid buyer as we can provide them with the comfort that they are backed by our client who will perform.

Another reason that the market is competitive is that it’s not limited to demand from within the UK. Particularly in the farms and estates market, where it’s smart to invest money in land because of wealth planning, there is now an increasing appetite from overseas buyers in the country market. When you add the currency play into that mix, with the sterling weak against other major world currencies, it’s an attractive time for them to secure a property in the UK.

The TBS crystal ball is definitely showing a continued lack of supply in the market this spring so we are preparing our clients for this and warning them that they are likely to face competition and to be prepared to pay a premium for those that are deemed to be “best-in class”.

Things to consider before buying a Listed Property

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While buying a house can be daunting and stressful at the best of times, what if your dream home purchase came with the responsibility of owning a piece of Britain’s history? For nearly half a million home owners in the UK this is a reality if they own a Listed Building, in other words a building that has been judged to be of national importance in terms of architectural or historic interest. Whether it’s a chocolate box cottage, a city town house or a sprawling country estate, the joys of owning a small part of our heritage can be immensely satisfying and rewarding. Listed homes are usually lovely to look at and are full of character and history and this is what attracts people to them in the first place. There can be downsides however. Below are some key points to consider before buying a Listed Building.

1. Altering Listed properties can be difficult so make sure you really like what is there when you purchase as it may be what you are stuck with. If you are thinking of making changes after you purchase then make sure to consult a really good architect (have a look at Country Life magazine’s list of 100 best architects) or planning advisor who is used to dealing with listed buildings and they have a good relationship with the Conservation Officer within the Council.

The law requires that Listed Building Consent be granted by the Local Planning Authority  in conjunction with English Heritage for any alterations which affect the character of the listed building. The controls don’t normally extend to replacing the bathroom suite or kitchen units but most other alterations will require consent. If in doubt, speak to the Listed Property Owners Club, your Local Planning Authority or your dedicated buying agent.

2. Remember it is usually easier to make additions to listed houses than to demolish or change anything existing. So if you want to add an extension or indoor pool which doesn’t alter the main property it is likely to be easier than removing an original feature, however small, even if it’s a fireplace or internal wall. If a feature is specifically mentioned in the official Listing document you haven’t got much of a chance in changing it so check this very carefully (these can be found online at imagesofengland.org.uk).

Grade I and II* are the higher grades which represent only the top 7% of listed buildings. Most buildings are listed Grade II. The main difference is that if you apply for listed building consent to make alterations, greater weight will be given to preserving the architectural and historic significance of the more highly graded buildings.  English Heritage will also be consulted on these applications. It is worth bearing in mind that all buildings are listed with a view to preserving their character, whatever the grade.

3. Check any works carried out by the current or previous owners have been done correctly and with appropriate Listed Building Consent. If the property on site does not correspond exactly with the plans on the Consents you, as the new owner, may be the one who has to reinstate any previous works. Beware of Enforcement action.

You need to be aware that there is no time limit to when a local planning authority can require unauthorised alterations to be reversed. Consequently new owners can be required to remedy alterations made by previous owners. It goes without saying that you need to be very cautious if you suspect alterations have been made without consent.

When a building is Listed the whole building is protected, inside and outside. In fact statutory protection extends to the building itself, anything attached to the building and any building within the curtilage of the building.

If it transpires unauthorised changes have been made to the property by a previous owner, very few insurance companies will cover you for this. It is therefore important to have suitable cover in place when you purchase your listed property.  We often recommend the following firms:  R K Harrison; Hiscox; NFU Mutual and Weatherbys Hamilton.

4. You will probably buy the house in the summer so make sure it is going to be warm enough in the winter! Old windows can often leak like sieves and gaining consent for double glazing is usually not possible.

5. Be prepared for larger insurance premiums if the property is listed similar to if it is thatched. When insuring a listed home, look out for the small print. With any insurance quotes you get, make sure you read the policy and check exactly what you will be insured for as many people make the mistake of being under insured – a policy obtained from an online comparison site is unlikely to be sufficient. Check that the provider will cover the full cost of a rebuild to the conservation officer’s standards should the situation arise.

The Listed Property Owners’ Club is Britain’s only advice service dedicated to helping members get the most from their homes by providing detailed guidance, information and support for just about every conceivable issue associated with ownership. A reputable buying agent will also have good knowledge of these issues and make introductions to appropriate experts to avoid clients inheriting these problems.