Brexit and the political climate at home continue to influence the farms and farmland market.
Inevitably, this has spread uncertainty, although those wishing to purchase land more often than not are buying for the long term, perhaps for future generations, and are less concerned about short term market fluctuations. Whilst there is talk nationally of a correction in land prices, this has not proved to be the case from our experience in Sussex and Surrey. This, coupled with the fact that there is rarely much land available, relatively speaking, has resulted in Batcheller Monkhouse finding land prices remaining stable.
In the rural residential sector, Batcheller Monkhouse deals with everything from small, semi detached ex-farm cottages right up to country houses. In the West Sussex and Surrey area, we found that in the early part of last year, there was an increase in buyers, and a number of properties which had been on the market for a while have now sold. This was followed by a slight slow-down through the summer, when there was an increase in supply, and buyers were spoilt for choice. But they seemed a bit reluctant to commit, which was quite unusual for the time of year. Since then the market has picked up across all sectors, but the focus remains on ensuring properties are robustly marketed and all leads pursued.
Farmland values hold firm
Examples of sales in West Sussex last summer include Codmore Hill Farm, near Pulborough, which extended to approximately 142.5 acres of arable and pasture land, and benefited from a modern agricultural barn for which there was permitted development for residential conversion. This was offered for sale as a whole or in three lots at an overall price guide of around £1.8 million. Lively interest was created and it sold as a whole. Similarly, Field Farm at Dial Post, which was a well farmed 130 acre block of pasture and arable land, created considerable interest and sold as a whole. The price guide in this instance was £1.1 million.
In general terms, prices achieved this year in West Sussex through Batcheller Monkhouse have ranged anywhere from £8,500 to £15,000 per acre depending on many factors such as location, size, quality, planning potential, and of course, local demand.
In East Sussex, it was a varied and interesting year for the Batcheller Monkhouse Battle office with a wide range of land parcels, buildings (with and without consent) and farms coming to the market, and more importantly being sold. Pasture on Pevensey Marshes is always popular and some 39.85 acres abutting the Waterlots Stream sold to a local buyer and 35 acres of woodland changed hands in Ashburnham at around £5,500 per acre.
Revenue from farm buildings
Other sales included Tyler Barn at Wartling, Oak Tree Farm near Hailsham and Holly Barn at Punnetts Town, all being redundant farm buildings of varying ages, with consent to replace or convert to residential use, with small acreages. The latter was one of several barns locally where the new Class Q Permitted Development rights unlocked the potential for residential conversion.
Swift result secured through expert agency
One of the essential ingredients for a successful sale is clients having trust in their agent; because they know their market place and have a team and resources capable of carrying out the task with the belief and determination that a sale will be achieved at the best possible price.
A good example of the above is the sale of Court Lodge Farm, Burwash, with 84 acres, a dilapidated bungalow with an AOC and range of farmbuildings; this exchanged contracts in October, within 11 days of being launched to the market.
The vendors wanted a sale in a tight time frame. We knew this type of property would create quite a stir in the market and felt confident that a figure above £1 million was achievable. Naturally the best method of obtaining the highest price is to create competitive interest from buyers. So we advised the client to begin marketing by quoting a guide price in excess of £900,000. With our marketing techniques of the internet, social media and telephoning “hot” buyers, 17 viewings took place and multiple offers were received. The clients are relocating their animal sanctuary to Norfolk and were absolutely delighted with the result.
Strong market for small country estates
At the beginning of the year Beech Mill at Battle completed with a guide price of £2.5 million. This stunningly located country estate with a spacious house and secondary oast house was set in 75 acres with a good range of outbuildings all overlooking two large and stocked Hammer Ponds. The property had been in our client’s possession for more than 30 years. Another sale of long held property – this time 68 years – was about 33 acres of pasture at Crowhurst, which sold in two lots with a guide price of £265,000 for the whole.
London buyers turning to the country again
At the back end of 2017 there were several good sales. What we have noted is that, because the London market has slowed down, buyers from London selling their properties are keen to hold on to their buyers and move quite swiftly to a purchase and go forwards to exchange and completion. Londoners are beginning to look at the countryside again because values have not increased in the rural market by anything like as much as they have in London.
An example of this is a property called Cousens at Rudgwick near Horsham in West Sussex. This is a five bedroom Grade II listed detached family house with 1.5 acres. It includes a garden and a paddock. Cousens was on the market during last summer and did not find a buyer until later in the year but still sold at a figure approaching the guide price of £1.4 million.
Marketing the right lots
On a slightly different tack, we had an example of how lotting can produce a successful sale in the residential market. This was Blakes Farm at Maplehurst near Horsham, a residential farm which created interest, but where it had proved quite difficult to find the right buyer. Blakes Farm was originally offered as a whole – a barn conversion with about 47 acres. Subsequently it was put into three lots consisting of the house with 4 acres; the paddock and stables; and about 38 acres of farmland and woodland. Sales were swiftly agreed on all three lots.
At the cottage end of the market, a couple of interesting period semi-detached houses have recently been put up for sale and are attracting early interest. These are numbers 1 and 2 Pond Cottages at Plaistow in West Sussex: one has a guide price of £425,000 and the other a guide of £525,000.
In general, residential market values were reasonably steady during last year. High Stamp Duty costs had been putting buyers off but there was almost a point at which they decided they could not put their lives on hold any more and had to bite the bullet. This year has started off with a good deal of activity in the rural residential market, but it remains to be seen how the market will unfold through the year.
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