UK country homes much sought after

Estate agents’ boards in Hertfordshire, Britain. It is now a seller’s market in the country houses segment. PHOTO: REUTERS

(BLOOMBERG) - Last month, Savills listed the Bowden Park estate for £35 million (S$62.5 million).

The property includes a 15,900 sq ft, 18th century mansion set amid 8.9ha of manicured gardens and 567ha of farmland in Wiltshire, which is about a two-hour drive from central London.

In any other year, the property would likely have sat on the market.

But thanks in large part to Covid-19-related lockdowns, a staggering 19 country estates in Britain have sold or are under offer for over £15 million this year, according to Savills.

The Bowden Park estate, in other words, has suddenly entered a seller's market.

From May 13 to June 24, for instance, the number of accepted offers for country houses from £5 million and £10 million was 182 per cent higher than the five-year average, according to a Knight Frank report; all price brackets in the period were 64 per cent higher than the same five-year average.

Mirroring trends in New York and San Francisco, wealthy London residents have started to reassess their urban lifestyles. Suddenly, second homes are becoming primary homes, and buyers are willing to look farther afield and endure longer commutes.

Mr Edward Rook, head of the country department at Knight Frank, said: "A lot of people are making country houses their primary home. Instead of having a large house in London and maybe a cottage in the country, they're reversing that and having a smaller apartment in London and a principal residence in the country."

The exception, Mr Rook notes, is houses that cost more than £10 million.

"It's still very much a second-home market, because buyers will retain another house, either in central London or globally elsewhere."

High-net-worth, London-based residents, many of whom come from Asia or the Middle East, probably have multiple homes already, Mr Crispin Holborow, country director of Savills' Private Office, said.

Still, during London's summer lockdown, he added: "It's quite a sobering feeling, where you're sitting in your lateral flat, in air-conditioning, and you're looking at your friends sitting in glorious sunshine on Instagram.

"These are normally people who would jump on their plane and go."

But suddenly, with borders shut down, they had nowhere to go.

All of that, he concludes, has ended with a surge in buyers.

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