Property Lottery: How I’d spend my winnings

Harry Gladwin, Head of the Cotswolds Region for The Buying Solution, reveals how he’d spend his lottery winnings

You’ve won the lottery! Your wealth advisor has recommended how much you should put away to pay for necessary and important elements such as saving for your children’s education, pension, investment and charitable donations. They have allocated £3.5m of the pot to invest in property.

Where would you buy?

I grew up in Chipping Campden in the North Cotswolds and today, I live with my wife and two children just north of Chipping Norton. With my lottery money, I’d probably look towards the north-eastern end of the Cotswolds, that part which tips out of Gloucestershire/Oxfordshire and into Warwickshire, and, specifically, around the villages of Whichford and Ascott. It’s far off the beaten track of tourists and the rolling countryside is relatively unspoilt—much of it won’t have changed over the past 50 years and yet it’s still accessible.

I’m at the stage in life where I still need to get to London on a fairly regular basis. As my children grow up, they’ll want to be near towns with facilities. From the eastern Cotswolds, it’s both easy to head into Oxford on the A44 or get on a train to London—there are stations in Moreton-in-Marsh, Banbury and Oxford Parkway. Driving to London is easy too, with journey times of about 1h 30 mins. This area is also extremely handy for Soho Farmhouse which is a great place to meet friends, play a game of tennis or go to the gym.

And what would you buy?

I see so many beautiful homes in my job, however, I’d try and find a site to build my own house. Style-wise, I’m open to whatever the site would lend itself too: I’ve seen good examples of both contemporary houses and traditional new builds and, lately, planners seem to prefer designs that are in keeping with the surroundings with an element of innovation. The position would be important and I’d want to build something that maximised the opportunities to enjoy views over the Cotswolds.

The challenge will be finding a site — they are few and far between, especially within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If a site with a few acres came to the market, I estimate it would cost at least £1.5m to buy and I’d need the same again to build a house. As a family house, I imagine it would be about 4,000 to 5,000 sq ft with enough entertaining space to have friends over but without being too large. I’d like a tennis court as I’m a keen player and some grazing for ponies and sheep.

And what about the change?

If I had anything left over, I’d buy a bothy in Scotland. Much of my family is scattered from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. It would be great to have somewhere where we all convene. I particularly like the Cairngorms and as my wife is Canadian, owning somewhere in the Highlands is about as close as we can get to British Columbia while remaining on British shores.

TBS in The Daily Telegraph – Look beyond the varsity cities to the brain belt

Oxford and Cambridge are just the start of the Government’s huge development plans.

Since the Boat Race began in the 1820s, Cambridge crews have won 82 times against Oxford’s 80.  It is not the only arena in which the two universities compete, of course:L  the Times Higher Education World University Rankings has placed Oxford in pole position for the second year running this year.  Its academic rival – like in many other aspects – lies just behind, having jumped from fourth to second place in the rankings.

A similarly close rivalry plays out in the cities’ property markets.

Read the full article for Jonathan Bramwell’s comments on the Oxford market:  https://bit.ly/2GbJQh0

TBS in the Financial Times – Buy a Country Mile

buy a country mile

A new breed of discreet overseas buyer is shaking up the market for English country estates.

They are large, rare and exorbitantly expensive to maintain.  But the traditional English country estate has proved surprisingly resilient to the long-term stagnation experienced across the prime housing market.  This is largely down to demand from a new breed of global buyer with half an eye on the weak pound and a love of country pursuits.

Read the full article for Mark Lawson’s insight on the continuing appeal of the English country estate at www.ft.com

 

 

Spotlight on the Downland Triangle

Few know the area sometimes known as the ‘Downland Triangle’, the patch of country that lies roughly between the towns of Marlborough in Wiltshire, Newbury in West Berkshire and Andover in Hampshire, better than Bobby Hall, our head of the Southern Region. Having been brought up around Marlborough, today he lives with his family on the edge of the West Berkshire village of Lambourn. He has used his granular knowledge of the area and widespread network of contacts based locally to buy some of the finest country houses for clients over the past fifteen years.

Q: What makes this area so desirable for country-house buyers?

BH: We don’t have a single stand out reason that draws in buyers to this patch, in essence it’s the sum of the parts. When you examine the key drivers for country house buyers such as beautiful countryside, strong community, good schools and fast links back to London, the Venn diagram overlaps on this area which takes in the Marlborough, Berkshire and North Hampshire Downs.

Q: What can a buyer expect in terms of property stock?

BH: In the Downland Triangle, brick and flint houses are almost exclusively found in West Berkshire and north Hampshire, while in Wiltshire one often finds thatch on both cottages and houses. In today’s market there’s a lack of old rectories, manor houses, and glebe houses, in other words the classic period family house, being offered for sale so developers are building neo-Georgian houses to satisfy demand but this is only possible when they can find suitable plots. As much of the area in question is protected by its AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) classification there are much fewer houses than in the area closer to Basingstoke and Reading for example. This means that competition for “best in class” will always be tough. However, if a buyer is looking for a Georgian house with high ceilings there is a greater chance of finding it here than in other areas such as the Cotswolds where, thanks to the local stone being weaker, many of the period houses are smaller with lower ceiling heights.

Q: What are the nicest villages?

BH: The Downland Triangle boasts lots of villages that have a strong sense of community, an aspect that buyers find increasingly attractive. There are plenty but to single out a few of the best, I’d highlight: Ramsbury, Aldbourne, Lambourn, East Garston, Kintbury, Shalbourne, Vernham Dean, the Chutes, Woodborough and the Manningfords.

Q: And market towns?

BH: I often think that a barometer for what makes a good market town is whether it’s somewhere that you could manage to do all your last-minute Christmas shopping in one afternoon. Hungerford, Marlborough and Stockbridge are all strong contenders for that and have attractive high streets.

Q: What about the commute?

BH: With the (improved) M3 and A303 and the improving M4 we have good motorways to the north and south of the Triangle. The M4 is invaluable with Heathrow for those frequent business flyers. For trains mainline stations include Swindon, Newbury, Andover and Pewsey—all of which are between 60 and 70 minutes from London terminals. Additionally, the smaller stations of Hungerford, Kintbury and Great Bedwyn offer good services into London.

Q: What the options for schools?

BH: The area has a number of prep schools on its fringes including Pinewood at Bourton, Farleigh near Andover and St Francis in Pewsey. There are a clutch of schools in and around Newbury including Horris Hill, Brockhurst and Marlston House School, Cheam, Thorngrove and St Gabriel’s (which is mixed for prep and then girls for senior). Marlborough College is the only public school which falls within the Downland Triangle area and St John’s in Marlborough is widely regarded as one of the best State secondary schools in the country.

Q: What’s the countryside like?

BH: We are surrounded by beautiful and unspoilt countryside, much of which is protected by its AONB status. The importance of this is that the look and feel of the country won’t change enormously over the coming years, a huge comfort for country house buyers. In general terms whilst the Berkshire and Marlborough Downs are rolling and open, the North Hampshire Downs are more wooded. The River Kennet is popular for fishing and there are plenty of places where you can rent a rod relatively inexpensively. For those who aren’t interesting in fishing the tow paths of the Kennet and Avon Canal are excellent for cycling and walking.

Q: What about all matters equestrian?

BH: There’s a high proportion of top-end and international eventers around the Marlborough and West Berkshire area due to the terrain and infrastructure including vets, trainers, blacksmiths and feed experts. Obviously, there’s also the largest training centre in the south of England for National Hunt and Flat racehorses at Lambourn. Additionally, there are three hunts in the area, the Old Berks to the north east; the Vine & Craven in the north and centre; and the Tedworth to the south. Meanwhile, point-to-pointing takes place at Barbury Castle, near Marlborough and Lockinge, near Wantage and there is racing throughout the year at Newbury Racecourse.

Q: And, finally, can you recommend the best pubs?

BH: This list isn’t exhaustive but these are some of the nicest pubs in the Downland Triangle: The Blowing Stone, Kingston Lisle; The Star, Sparsholt; The Pheasant, Lambourn Woodlands; the Queens Arms, East Garston; the Hungerford Arms, Hungerford; the Dundas Arms, Kintbury; The Harrow, Great Bedwyn; the Yew Tree, Highclere; the Jack Russell Inn, Faccomb near Andover; The Fox, Tangley; The Red Lion, East Chisenbury; The Seven Stars, Woodborough; The Marlborough, Marlborough; and The Bell,  Ramsbury.

Spotlight on Cheltenham

Famous for its municipal gardens and elegant Regency architecture, this Gloucestershire Spa town is regularly cited as one of the best places to bring up a family in the UK. With its array of festivals and events, which range from music, to literature, film, food and drink and more, it’s sometimes dubbed the “cultural centre of the Cotswolds”. That combined with its quality schools—including Pate’s Grammar School, private schools such as Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Cheltenham College and Dean Close as well as numerous well regarded primary schools such as the Ofsted Outstanding rated Leckhampton Primary School—make it an ideal place to buy or rent a townhouse.

The most prominent event in Cheltenham’s calendar is, of course, The Cheltenham Festival. Considered the highlight of the jump racing season, it brings together the finest horses, jockeys and trainers to battle it out over 4 days at the world-famous racecourse for the highest honours in the racing season. The first festival took place at Prestbury Park in 1911 while the Cheltenham Gold Cup was introduced in 1924. Since then, the event has grown and is widely regarded as one of the UK’s premier sporting events. It is now the Gloucestershire’s biggest single revenue earning event generating an estimated £50m for local hotels, shops and restaurants. This year’s meeting runs from today (March 13th) until Friday (March 16th).

Beyond horse racing, work has begun on a £700,000 improvement project to give the centre of Cheltenham a facelift. The project will be delivered in phases with the first expected to be completed in autumn this year. It’s location on the edge of the Cotswolds’ AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is also a large part of the town’s appeal.

Situated off Junction 10 and 11 of the M5 it has excellent links to Birmingham and Bristol and the motorway network.  Once the electrification of the train line to London Paddington is complete, the fastest journey to the capital will take just under 2 hrs. Train times to Birmingham and Bristol are from 45 minutes. Alongside the above-mentioned facelift of the high street, John Lewis is set to open their new department store in the centre of town this spring and high-end London restaurant group The Ivy opened a new location in the impressive Rotunda building in December 2017. With brands such as these choosing to open in Cheltenham and improved accessibility for commuters it seems that the appeal of the town can only continue to increase.

The other big draw for Cheltenham is property prices: when comparing average costs per square foot in the best areas of the town (between £370 – £500 per square foot for houses) with those of Oxford (anything up to £1200 per square foot), Cheltenham currently offers a great deal more value.

The Buying Solution’s Cotswold team is able to find properties to buy for families with school-age children, as well as downsizers moving from the surrounding countryside to be closer to town-centre amenities, and investment properties. With our rental search service, we are also able to track down the perfect rental property in Cheltenham which is often the sensible solution for families looking to secure homes quickly for schooling needs.

A brief guide to some of the prime areas of Cheltenham:

Montpellier and Tivoli

Historically the most fashionable area, Montpellier is home to the pleasure gardens and the Rotunda as well as a clutch of independent boutiques and specialist shops and restaurants; it’s also blessed with a number of Georgian townhouses which are characterised by white painted stucco facades and generous sash windows. Some of the best addresses are Imperial Square, Montpellier Spa Road and Bayshill Road. The three leading private schools such as Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Cheltenham College and Dean Close as well as the popular Airthrie Preparatory school are on the doorstep. Tivoli, on the edge of Montpellier, has always been popular with young professionals and is becoming increasingly more so with downsizers.

Average price per sq ft: £400 – £600.

The Suffolks

Set around mid-19th century Suffolk Square, it’s known for its string of independent cafes and boutiques which bequeaths the area an artier, Bohemian air. The Suffolks is also home to Michelin-starred restaurant Le Champignon Sauvage. Several events are held throughout the year including a street fair.

Average price per sq ft: £400 – £450

Charlton Kings & Battledown

Once a village, but now part of the town, Charlton Kings lies on the south-eastern fringe of Cheltenham. With a mix of period cottages, Victorian and Edwardian houses and newer stock, the area is popular with families particularly looking in the catchment area for Balcarras, a secondary school rated Outstanding by Ofsted, and Charlton Kings Junior School as well as St Edwards School, an independent prep and senior school. Here you have the benefit of being able to walk directly into the surrounding countryside as well as into town.

Average price per sq ft: £400 – £420

Pittville

A mile north of the town centre, and home to the 81-acre Pitville Park which boasts tennis courts, a boating lake and a play centre for children. This area is favoured by those who value green space over access to town centre amenities and is popular with families. Birkhampstead preparatory school is another draw to this area.

Average price per sq ft: £350

Prestbury

Situated to the north of Cheltenham Spa on the western edge of the Cotswold escarpment, this semi-rural area is buffered by the Green Belt and in an area of

Outstanding Natural Beauty. This part of Cheltenham benefits enormously from key attractions including the Cotswold Way and Cheltenham Racecourse. Prestbury has seen a gradual but notable growth over the past 40 years as Cheltenham has encroached. This area is appealing to young families and downsizers as it has more of a village feel with amenities including pubs, butcher and shop. There is a combination of traditional period houses and cottages and newly constructed contemporary properties and it offers better value for money than other areas of the town.

Average price per sq ft: £300 – £350

Property Lottery: How I’d spend my winnings

Thea Wellband, Senior Buying Consultant of The Buying Solution’s London team, reveals how she’d spend her lottery winnings

You’ve won the lottery! Your wealth advisor has recommended how much you should put away to pay for necessary and important elements such as paying for your wedding, saving for your children’s education, pension, investment and charitable donations. They have allocated £2.5 million of the pot to invest in property.

Q: Where would you buy?

A: South-west London would be the area that I’d look at as my other half’s and my families are based in Somerset, so access to the M3 is important and we love spending time exercising in Richmond Park.

I would be very tempted to buy a Lion House on the Peterborough Estate in Parsons’s Green, Fulham. The estate is made up of a series of tree-lined streets with attractive terraced houses built in the early 1900s. They all have the trademark Jimmy Nichols’-designed terracotta lion moulds on the gables of the houses. Rumour has it that Nichols ordered too many lions and so he gave each house a lion of its own and then one to share with the house next door. As a result, they’ve become known as the Lion Houses. They are often larger than most of the houses in Fulham and come with generously-sized rooms and high ceilings. Plus, the location means that I’d be close to shops like Bayley & Sage, in case of any last-minute cravings for things like globe artichokes, and Bikram Yoga in Heathman’s Road. It’s a really strong community and handy for members of The Hurlingham Club, too.

Q: What would the house be like?

A: Ideally, I’d like to have a south-facing garden which would mean finding a house on Studdridge Street, however, that can suffer from being used as a cut through so I’d settle for a house with a west-facing garden on one of the other streets within the estate. The advantage of that is you don’t have any north-facing rooms.  Some of the very largest houses which have been fully extended to include six bedrooms will cost over £3 million but my budget would allow for a four- or five-bedroom house.

Q: Is that the only area you’d consider?

A: No, I think my other half would lean towards getting a larger house for the money and, considering that many of our friends have moved out of Chelsea and Fulham and into Wandsworth, he’d be encouraging us to look there as well. We entertain a lot as a couple and would want to have space to host large dinner parties—and enough bedrooms so that friends could bring their children to sleep while we eat. He’s a really keen cook so he’d want something approaching a semi-professional kitchen with a big, stainless steel Fisher Paykel double-door American fridge, a full-width Rangemaster oven and other kit including a Kitchen Aid as I like to bake.

Wandsworth also makes sense because neither of us need to be near a Tube station for work. My other half co-founded the adventure company Pelorus and, in keeping with his adventurous and active nature, he cycles or runs to work while I drive as I need to have my car for nipping around London. It’s also a good area for schools, for when the time comes.

Q: So, where would you look in Wandsworth?

A: We’d probably look either in the area known as The Tonsleys in Wandsworth Town, where you can track down some very large houses, or we’d look in Wandsworth proper, south of East Hill and closer to the common. As we’d have a good-sized garden, we’d be able to get a dog, a black Labrador who would be named after my favourite gin. It’s likely to cost in the region of £2 million in the current market.

Q: And what about the change?

A: It’s another reason to choose Wandsworth over the Peterborough Estate. With the rest of the money we could get ourselves an apartment in a little-known ski resort that we like to visit in the Italian Alps.