As trophy homes go, the Grade II*-listed Glen Usk is hard to top. Set on the west bank of the River Usk in Wales, it is a white rendered neoclassical fairy-tale of a Georgian country house and its current owners have thoroughly renovated the eight-bedroom home, set in 35 acres.
At the tail end of 2021 it went on the market with estate agent Fine & Country for £6.5 million. In November the Monmouthshire property’s price was dropped by £2 million after failing to find a buyer (and also to reflect a decision to reduce the amount of land to be sold with it from 75 acres to 35). Three months later, it is still on the market.
In the post-pandemic property market prime country homes, great and small, were a hot ticket as buyers raced for space, mobbing the West Country, Wales and the Cotswolds on the hunt for picturesque getaway cottages and new-life-in-the-country houses. Prices soared in a much-needed shot in the arm for the prime country sector – defined as the top 10 per cent of rural and provincial properties – which had never properly recovered from the twin blows of the financial crisis and Brexit.
But the rebirth of upscale country living has been short-lived and experts say that across the UK the prime country market appears to be leading the country into the next – downward – phase of the housing cycle.
The first signs of trouble in this sector began to show last year. While annual price growth rates are still in the black at 5.9 per cent, the latest Knight Frank UK Prime Country House Index reported a 0.1 per cent drop in price growth in the third quarter of 2022. Part of the reason for this is that the great pandemic race for space has run out of steam as workers return to their offices and normal life resumes. Last year Londoners bought 81,200 homes outside the capital, compared with the 100,540 purchased in 2021 according to research by estate agents Hamptons.
On the ground, agents say the prime country market is being stymied as increasingly price-sensitive buyers butt heads with stubbornly bullish vendors. And even super-wealthy buyers, they point out, don’t like the idea of overpaying. ‘There is considerably more caution amongst buyers… due to the higher cost of purchasing, increased mortgage rates and the anticipation of what might happen in the year ahead,’ said buying agent Ben Horne, head of country buying at Middleton Advisors.
On the other side of the fence Nigel Bishop, founder of buying agency Recoco Property Search, said vendors are showing a collective reluctance to wake up and smell the coffee. ‘The vast majority of owners, particularly those who aren’t in a rush to sell, believe that the market is still as it was in 2021/22 and that they can achieve prices at those levels,’ he said.
In Wales, one of the pandemic’s hottest country home hotspots, Carol Peett, managing director of West Wales Property Finders http://www.westwalespropertyfinders.co.uk, reports that buyers are less willing to fling cash at pretty country homes than they were a year ago. But she believes that what lies ahead is a gentle return to reality after the heady days of 2021 and 2022 rather than a catastrophic crash. ‘I think the market in 2023 will be solid if the asking price is realistic but it is not going to be a question of getting fanciful prices and going to sealed bids as has been seen during the Covid-19 years,’ she said.
The prime country market is of course a broad church, spanning everything from vast sporting estates to diminutive harbourside cottages. Horne said there is still good demand for period ‘edge of village’ homes – which combine the convenience of amenities close by with an ‘in the sticks’ vibe – priced between £2 million and £5 million….
The Spectator – Tuesday, 7th February 2023 https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/how-the-bottom-fell-out-of-the-prime-country-market-again/
If you are looking to buy a property in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire or Ceredigion, give West Wales Propertyfinders a call on 01834 862816. We can find your perfect property for you whilst saving you time, stress, and often money too.