Homes with some sort of kitchen garden (or the potential to have one) are now key selling points for country house buyers in West Sussex.

As a vegetable grower myself, I have so many fond memories of when my two sons were growing up. We had an impressive patch at the back of the garden where we grew all sorts – potatoes, beans, courgettes, radishes, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes and various types of lettuces to name a few. We also had apple and plum fruit trees and a herb garden. For them it was an adventure, from watching the vegetables grow over time to digging them all up. I don’t think the potatoes lasted more than ten minutes before they were washed, cooked and eaten!

I still enjoy growing my own herbs today. As I write this, I have just poured myself a cup of refreshing mint tea in the summer sun using the mint from my herb garden. I also love to cook with my own ingredients such as parley and rosemary. Not only do I find it therapeutic, but I think there’s something incredibly rewarding about enjoying homegrown food as it takes time and a lot of patience. Knowing exactly where your food comes from also adds to the appeal.

It would appear I am not the only one who adores this farm to table experience. When the nation was hit by the various Covid-19 lockdowns, people of all ages made the most of their gardens by unleashing their green-fingered thumbs and growing their own fruit and veg. This new trend of creating fresh seasonal produce at home made its way into the world of property too, giving sellers of country houses a competitive edge. When showing my clients around such homes over the last couple of years, I have seen more buyers comment on vegetable beds, orchards, kitchen gardens and green houses, than ever before. I have even been asked about soil types! Interestingly many of these are families who want to do exactly what I did with my children. It’s a fun way for young one’s to learn about the joys of home grown food, whilst gaining a greater connection with where their food comes from.

Village and market towns with allotments are very popular now too – so much so that there are often waiting lists to get your own plot. Lodsworth, Graffham, East Dean, Lavant, Chichester and Petworth are just some examples of areas offering local residents the chance to grow their own seasonal produce. Allotments also bring a fantastic community spirit, where neighbours can make friends and socialise together.

Growing your own fruit and veg is not just about enjoying home-made food, however. There are many physical and mental health benefits too. Combine these with the fact that food costs and energy bills have soared, I believe this is a trend that is set to continue for a while yet.

If you are looking for a country house with plenty of space to grow your own fresh ingredients, perhaps I can help. You can contact me on 07776452128 or e-mail jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

With the fourth booster well and truly underway, downsizers are starting to feel more confident about letting buyers into their homes. As they begin their house moving journeys once again following two years of covid-hibernation, this has meant we are receiving more enquiries from those searching for a smaller country house. There are many benefits for doing so…. for example less maintenance, releasing equity, improved accessibility, lower energy bills and in today’s market, you could make a nice profit on the selling price, to name a few. With that in mind, our Director, Jennie Hancock, shares some of her top tips…

 

Start your search early

When you decide to sell it’s a good idea to start your property search at the same time. This is simply because there are far more buyers than there are homes for sale, so whilst you may find your current house gets snapped up once on the market, it doesn’t mean you will find something else just as fast. The good country houses for sale are often sold off-market, so speak with local estate agents about what is coming up, or use a buying agent as they tend to have access to them before the general public does. Plus there’s far less buyer competition for you as well!

 

Downsize belongings

Downsizing will mean you will probably have to sell, donate or throw away quite a few things. When looking for your next home, have a good look at the floor plan. Will it fit your belongings without feeling too cluttered, or will you need to reduce them some more?

 

Consider long-term flexibility

Long-term flexibility is definitely something to explore. Although this may not be a requirement yet, there may come a time where it would be very convenient to have the master bedroom downstairs so that you’re close to the kitchen, living room and garden. An annexe outside is another option to consider. These can provide great accommodation for live-in carers in later years should one be required.

 

Find a manageable garden

A smaller garden will mean less upkeep. If you plan on hiring a gardener then size doesn’t really matter, but if you are going to be responsible for looking after outside space then you want something that is low-maintenance. I would usually recommend to my downsizer clients not to purchase something with more than half-to-one acre.

 

Local communities are key

One of the most common questions I’m asked by downsizers is ‘does this area have a good local community?’ These are the beating heart of many locations in West Sussex, and are great ways for getting to know the locals and becoming a core part of the community. Village halls often have regular backgammon nights, film evenings or yoga classes for example. Some of the villages even have croquet lawns or tennis clubs which are very popular with those enjoying their golden years. Close knit communities also come together and provide huge support.

 

Don’t be too remote

Although it can be a luxury not to have a neighbour directly next door, you don’t want them so far away that there isn’t anybody around to help you if you’re in a pickle. If you’re living on your own, knowing residents are around you will help you feel more secure too.

Mobility may also be an issue in the future so having easy access to public transport will be very useful. In towns and cities there’s usually quite a good set up, but if you’re seeking a village ask how far away the location is from shops, cafes and so on. Some even provide residents with a community bus which takes them to their local supermarket or town centre.

Just in case you need regular medical help or emergency care at some point, it’s also worth thinking about distance to hospitals.

 

Do you want a ‘lock up and leave’?

Many over 50’s want to travel more, so choose a home that allows you the freedom to do just that. Whether a weekend break or a global adventure, smaller houses mean you don’t need to worry about what might happen to the property or garden whilst you’re away. You want to literally be able to pack your luggage, close the front door and relax.

 

How many bedrooms do you need?

This really depends on your circumstances but if you have lots of grandchildren who like to stay with you, then you need to make sure you have enough bedrooms for them and their parents. The same applies if you like to entertain friends too. Generally, my downsizer clients are looking for three bedrooms and two bathrooms when looking for a smaller house.

 

For more information about the benefits of purchasing a smaller country house in West Sussex, contact Jennie Hancock on +44 (0)7776452128.

Our Director Jennie Hancock is quoted in Country Life magazine’s buying agent special this week, where she provides her thoughts on what is happening in the West Sussex property market currently. Here is a list of all of the tips Jennie provided, some of which made the article.

 

1. What do you think will happen in 2022 from a property perspective?

There has been a shortage of good quality homes for sale throughout the pandemic, but as spring begins, we should start to see more appear throughout the warmer months like we traditionally do. People don’t like to sell their lovely country houses between November and February generally. They want their gardens to be in full glory and so they have been waiting for the tulips, daffodils, greenery, blue skies and sunshine to appear. Beautiful gardens can really make a substantial difference to the price level. Homeowners are already discussing plans with estate agents and solicitors, and I’m hearing about far more properties from estate agents than I did over the winter period, so preparation plans are definitely underway. I have also had quite a few local homeowners ask me if I have cash purchasers I can introduce to them, who are prepared to purchase ‘off market’. This is because such sellers don’t want to have a massive footfall walking through their homes. They also know that buying agents have proceedable buyers who are able to pay premiums for houses in order to secure unique opportunities.

The intense levels of demand we have seen over the last couple of years should continue throughout the spring and summer as the nice country houses become available. However some may be worrying about how energy price rises and the bank rate increases may impact them. We might therefore see some buyers reduce their budgets or become more cautious about overspending.

 

2. What are your top tips for buyers?

Buyers need to be first in the door if they are to have a good chance of securing their dream country house, which is where the value of a buying agent comes in. We are aware of everything that’s coming up for sale on the open market and off market, long before the general public knows. Buying agents also have all the right contacts to be the only person that knows about a property for sale as well, reducing the competition tremendously.

Find out why a vendor is selling. This is absolutely essential when determining the sort of offer you should make. A buying agent will have done all of the research themselves to find out this information.

Have a good look at land registry information because you can check a lot of detail that is not on the agent’s specification.

 

3. What are the pitfalls to watch out for?

It’s very easy to over pay for a house you’ve fallen in love with, so be careful not to get caught up in any bidding wars. Think sensibly and be prepared to walk away if you have to. There will be another property somewhere else.  

If you’re not a proceedable buyer, you won’t get the house. You need to be ready to go, especially if you plan on retaining a buying agent. This is why many estate agents like to contact us first because they know that we vet all of our clients before hand to ensure we bring to the table serious buyers only. This can mean having sold a property already or having the funds available to purchase either with cash or with cash/ a mortgage. 

Choose your location wisely. Pig farms as neighbours and the noise from a main road on your doorstep you will soon regret!

 

If Property Acquisitions can help with your property search in West Sussex, contact Jennie Hancock on jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk or Michelle Hendrie on mh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

Many homes are being purchased in and around West Sussex with a new love in mind; a dog. With plenty of walks to enjoy in the south downs, along the Chichester coastline and everywhere in between, it’s of no surprise that many of my clients over the last year have been keeping their four legged friends in mind when searching for their dream country abode.

Statistics state that in 2020/21 there were 12million dogs living in the UK, with 3.2million households purchasing some form of pet since the start of the pandemic.

However, if you’re thinking about moving this year with your beloved dogs, there are a few things to think about on your property search…

As a dog owner myself to labradors, I know that dogs love to find an escape route from the garden, so fencing all the way around is an absolute must. This is especially true if the land backs onto a farm as you need to prevent your dogs from chasing livestock.

Pools and ponds may be great fun for family and friends, but for dogs they can be very dangerous. You’ll need to invest in some form of fencing to keep them safe if there isn’t already something in place, especially if there is a pool cover. I’ve seen this done really nicely with picket fencing for example, but if you have small children too, this acts as a safety net for them as well.

The desire for utility rooms has shot to the top of the list for dog owners over the last couple of years. They have become essential for washing off the salty sea from one of the local beaches or mud in winter, as well as drying. One buyer for example asked me to find a house that had a dog room and a downstairs shower, but I’ve seen utility rooms with all kinds of cool dog stations and salons within them.

Avoid being on a main road or any busy road, just in case your dog decides to dash out of your front door.

Whilst we are very lucky to have some lovely beaches on our doorstep for dogs to run and enjoy the sea air, some do have seasonal restrictions. Most of the beach websites do have their rules listed on there to check, but between May to September for example, dogs are allowed on West Wittering outside of groynes 14A-18 (the area between the beach huts roughly). Whilst at Church Norton, another stunning coastal spot, dogs can be off the lead but they may need to be on for a short while due to the nature reserve.

On local walks, be sure to keep an eye out for livestock if you’re crossing farmers’ land. There are some great routes around this area to include Itchenor, Birdham, Halnaker Windmill Trail and Kingsley Vale.

Research which villages and local towns have a good dog community. Many have their own Facebook community pages which are very useful sources of information. For example, you can use these to ask for vet, groomer and pet sitter suggestions, or make people aware your dog has escaped so that the local community can keep an eye out and report back any sightings. If there’s a pub, café or restaurant, find out if dogs are allowed inside, and enquire about the local walks. I’ve even been asked if there is a dog show at the local village fete quite a few times. The Kennels at Goodwood have even started their own dog event now!

Owning a dog is definitely a way of life, and they have long been established as being our loyal best friends. From helping your homes feel more secure and allowing you to socialise with other canine friends on walks, to greeting you with their waggy tails as you walk through the front door, dogs can really help boost your mood dramatically whilst encouraging a healthy fitness routine too. It’s therefore no wonder that buyers are making them a priority when searching for their dream country house in West Sussex. For more information about how Director Jennie Hancock can help you with your search, phone +44 (0)7776452128 or e-mail jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

I read and hear about stories of frustrated country house buyers all the time, who either can’t find a home they desire, are being continuously outbid on the little stock that is available, regret the location they have moved to or have paid too high a purchase price. Buying agents have never been so busy as a result, as savvy purchasers realise that in today’s current market, they stand a far better chance of securing their dream house in the West Sussex countryside or on the coast at a fraction of the cost, with somebody who is actually on their side.

So what is a buying agent and why are we proving so valuable in today’s property market?

A buying agent is a property expert who acts on behalf of the purchaser to find them a new home and to buy it. Anybody who is looking via an estate agent won’t be offered quite the same opportunities and advice because of course, the company is acting on behalf of the seller and not the buyer. Whereas a buying agent’s job is to actively find a house that matches their clients’ requirements, before negotiating the price and terms on their behalf. They also provide valuable advice to ensure purchasers are buying the right property in the right location for the right price, and to put them in the best possible buying position to maximise their chances of appealing to a seller.

People use buying agents for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they don’t have the time, are relocating and are not familiar with the location or they have just had enough of the intense buyer competition on the open market. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of benefits:

 

Access to off market homes

It is no secret that demand far outweighs supply at the moment, which is making it very hard for people to find the dream country house they want in West Sussex. However, there are actually properties for sale, it’s just that they’re not seen online or in an estate agent’s window display – they’re selling ‘off market’ or ‘quietly’ as it’s also known as. The joy of a buying agent is that a good one will have great connections with local estate agents, combined with their own insight into local village life, and will know what is coming up for sale – often weeks in advance of the general public being made aware. A buying agent’s clients tend to therefore be the ones who get first dibs on these houses, offering a much better chance of finding something with less competition.

 

Stop you overpaying 

Anything in a sellers’ market has been selling over guide price generally as demand has been so intense, but a good buying agent will provide advice on what is the best offer to present based on the seller’s situation. They will have done all of the homework for you already so that they know the seller’s reason for sale, and whether there will be any unexpected costs in terms of repairs or renovations that may need doing. This ensures you don’t overpay as tempting as it may be  – something I have seen a lot of during Covid-19!

 

Positioning you as the best buyer

It’s not always about offering the highest price for sellers. Depending on their situation, they may want to leave as soon as possible, so somebody who can move the fastest tends to hold most appeal. A good buying agent will only work with a purchaser who is ready to financially proceed, so this puts them in good stead in the eyes of the seller in this situation immediately. I’ve also worked on deals where the sellers have lived in a house for many many years with their children, and want to find a buyer who has a young family themselves who wish to bring them up at the property like they did. With sellers struggling to find a home themselves to purchase, some are looking for buyers who are prepared to agree to a delayed completion to allow them more time to find something. It’s all about ‘selling’ the buyer into the seller and knowing what sort of price they will accept, and this can only truly happen by knowing exactly what the vendor’s story is.

 

Saving time

Buying agents can save purchasers a lot of time and stress from searching for a property, especially if you are not familiar with the location. They’ll do all the research, find houses you are actually looking for and will conduct viewings first, before short listing what they feel are the best ones for you to view yourself. This saves a lot of time wastage on finding something and on viewings, where properties don’t end up being what they appear to be on paper.

 

Honesty

If there are any negatives or concerns for a property, price or the location, a buying agent will tell you. If the house is next door to a pig farm, it’s probably not going to smell very nice. If the main road on the door step is notoriously noisy, you’re probably going to regret living there. If the price is too high or offers are going in way over guide, it’s probably best to walk away. This level of honesty and advice provides a safety net of getting the location right, not having any unexpected costs further down the line such as expensive repairs, and not over paying.

 

For more advice about purchasing a home in West Sussex, contact Jennie Hancock , on +44 (0)7776452128 or jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

Since the pandemic began last year, the West Sussex property market has been red hot, as buyers scramble to get their hands on the best country houses for sale. However, for many it has come at a price, and a considerably hefty one at that, as competitive bidding wars have meant purchasers have been paying (and are still paying) substantial premiums in order to secure the sale.

The scarcity of good quality houses has played a significant role, as have the two stamp duty holiday deadlines. Let’s not forget Covid-19 itself either, as buyers young and old revaluate their lives and head off in search for a better life in the peaceful, clean air surroundings of West Sussex.

However, it seems those who did pay a premium for their pandemic purchases are now realising the consequences of what they paid. Recently, Aviva showed 94% of the homeowners they surveyed who agreed sales during the pandemic felt the pressure to buy quickly. Interestingly, 15% knew they were going to make an offer within twenty minutes of their viewing! Other stats show that 50% of recent buyers regretted how much they paid for their homes. 23% said they agreed a figure above the asking price, and shockingly, 92% of buyers found issues with their properties such as vermin, subsidence, poor insulation, damp, mould, bad plumbing, and faulty fittings costing over £10,000. Some of those people had to pay more than £20,000.

It’s easy to understand why this has happened if these buyers weren’t being given the professional guidance that they needed at the time. There aren’t that many properties for sale and knowing how fast they’re selling, it’s easy for buyers to get pulled into the bidding war scenario – especially if they have fallen in love with the home. So, with all of this in mind, I thought I would suggest my top tips for buying in 2022…

 

Location

Location is always at the top of my list when it comes to advising clients on buying a house. Get this wrong and you risk selling up sooner than you had planned. This doesn’t just have to include the area you’re planning on living in. You also need to consider whether you’d be living next door to a pig farm for example (it will smell a lot, especially in summer!), or on a busy main road. You won’t appreciate the mad rush of commuter and school traffic that happens multiple times a day whilst relaxing in your garden, or having your Sunday lie in disrupted by weekend traffic buzzing past your front door. If you’re looking at a village, see how close you are to local amenities such as shops, schools and the nearest train station too. Panic buying on location can be costly. They cause expensive mistakes and often people end up having to search again in two to three years time.

 

Don’t panic buy

Be prepared to walk away. Easier said than done, I know, but hasty decisions are being made because buyers think they won’t find a house. However, you will in time – I promise. I strongly advised a client during the pandemic that they didn’t purchase a house in the south downs as I knew from the estate agent that the offers coming in were 20+% over asking price. My buyer walked away from the property and I managed to find them something just as good elsewhere quickly, for a lot less money as it was off market and nobody else knew about it.

 

View more than once

Of course it’s easy to fall in love with a home on the first viewing, we’ve all been guilty of it at some point, but you must do your homework before committing to anything. Book your second viewing as soon as possible after the first. This is to ensure you are still able to put in an offer should it end up in a best and final or sealed bid scenario. It’s worth visiting the house again in the dark, so you can get a feel for what it’s like then, and/or at a different time to the first viewing so you can ascertain whether you can hear main road traffic now that the wind has changed direction or the commuter traffic whizzing along a mile down the road between 7am-9am. Sunlight is also a consideration – if you enjoy a gin and tonic on a summers afternoon in the sunshine, then you want to ensure the sun is in fact shining on your patio or garden at the time you want it to. By organising a second viewing, you are minimising the risk of rushing to purchase something that may not actually be suitable for you.

 

Do your research

If you are using a buying agent they will research everything on your behalf, but if you’re going it alone, you need to know quite a few things before making an offer. Investigate the reason for the sale and the ownership history, as these can often raise red flags. For example, if the vendor has been in the house a long time it demonstrates they love their home and can give you confidence it’s a lovely place to live, but if it has changed hands multiple times in ten years then I’d find that concerning. It could be the road position and it’s too noisy, or perhaps it’s a bad farm smell, a horrid neighbour or a damp problem and so on. If you’re a family and schools are important to you, find out how far away educational facilities are. If you’re a commuter, where is the station? If you need local amenities within walking distance, make sure you’ve worked out how long it would take to get to them. Ask about how much the house costs to run too.

 

Consider temporarily renting

It may cost a few thousand to rent for six months, but renting is worth considering when low stock is causing purchase prices to be pushed up. If you can, wait, as historically Spring is the best time to be buying a country house as gardens are in their full glory and everything looks wonderful for photos and viewings. This tempts vendors of these homes into selling, bringing far more houses to market for buyers to look at. This automatically helps stabilise prices due to the better balance between demand and supply. Many of these will be off market however and will not hit the property portals – which is where the benefit of a buying agent comes in.

 

Offer the seller a delayed completion

Sellers will be struggling to find a house too, so it’s worth offering them a delayed completion date which gives them the assurance of an exchange so that they can become a proceedable buyer for their seller. This flexibility can often tempt them into accepting your offer over the highest bidder. Other benefits for buyers include allowing time to seek planning permission, architects and builders for any alterations you plan to make. This is especially true now when Covid-19 has caused huge delays with planners, whilst builders are so busy with business there are long waiting times to book them in. For anybody moving from overseas, a delayed completion is ideal should you wish to secure the house via exchange and then wait until you are back in the UK to complete. You also have more time to secure the funds from the sale of your own home in order to complete the purchase.

 

Reduce your budget

With the sorts of prices being paid, I am actually advising clients to under budget at the moment. For example, if you are looking for a house around £2million, reduce this to £1.75m/£1.8million to take into account the premium you will most likely be paying. This is especially true if you go to sealed bids or best and finals where buyers are paying 10-20% over asking price. It also allows for any unexpected costs. There’s quite a lot of hidden expenditure if you don’t do your research properly. For example, a survey could say you’ll need to spend an extra £100k on the property due to a number of hidden issues, pushing the budget way out of control.

 

Manage expectations

If you fall in love with a house you see, but somebody snatches it up from underneath you, it can be quite a downer. I’m all for keeping your glass half full, but in this game, it’s important to be realistic that there a is a high chance you will be outbid in the current market. Obviously be excited, but try to keep emotion out of it. Property is an asset class at the end of the day and needs to be seen as an investment that works for you now and in the long-term.

 

Retain a buying agent

A good buying agent will do all of the leg work for you, minimise risk by providing you the expert advice you need, whilst giving access to properties off market that nobody else knows about – reducing competitive bidding tremendously.

 

For more advice about purchasing a home in West Sussex, contact our Director at Property Acquisitions, Jennie Hancock , on +44 (0)7776452128 or jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

If you’re thinking about moving to the Sussex coast or wanting to buy a holiday home there, why not consider West Wittering? I talk about how the local property market has become Britain’s answer to the Hamptons in the latest issue of Country & Town House  on page 210.

Do get in touch if I can chat to you further about purchasing a property in West Wittering on +44 (0)7776452128 or jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

The fiercely competitive West Sussex property market has caused property owners to see the benefits of being a chain free buyer. If they are able to purchase a home without the need to sell another, they would be considered one. Many require a mortgage still, but the best purchasers we deal with are cash rich.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, my clients have all been chain free. This is a vast change to pre Covid-19 where chain free buyers were only half. I believe we are seeing a change now because competition for good quality country houses in sought after villages has gone from strength to strength. In the thirty plus years that I have been in the industry, I have not seen anything quite like it. In order to strengthen their position therefore, buyers are realising they become very attractive to sellers if they do not need to sell first or raise funds, putting them at an advantage over other purchasers.

Here are a few reasons why sellers prefer chain free buyers…

Less risk of the sale falling through

Having a buyer pull out of a sale is a seller’s worst fear. It is hugely stressful and causes everything to fall apart. With one in four property sales falling through in the UK, it’s of no surprise they feel this way. If a buyer doesn’t need to sell in order to proceed with the purchase of another property, this means the risk of them having to pull out is minimised, putting them in good stead in the eyes of a seller.

Shorter property transactions

Intense demand combined with Covid delays and everybody rushing to make the various stamp duty holiday deadlines has caused a huge backlog for pushing properties through to completion. If somebody is buying chain free however, this does help shorten the process. In fact, research has found chain free buyers can reduce the conveyancing process by as much as eight weeks!

Less stress

Moving home is supposed to be the third most stressful thing anybody can do. Having a chain free buyer is a generally a less stressful option for a seller as the sale is pretty much guaranteed to progress without much delay, and with minimal risk of falling through.

 

It’s therefore very tempting for a seller to accept an offer from a chain free buyer, especially one who has the cash rather than relying on raising a mortgage.

There are further benefits for buyers too. Purchasers tend to be in an enhanced position to negotiate on price. I have had many occasions where sellers have actually accepted my clients’ offers even though they weren’t the highest bidder. This was because they presented themselves as a less risky proposition. Also, stress levels are reduced because buyers don’t need to worry about selling their property in order to proceed with their purchase.

For more advice about purchasing a home as a chain free buyer, contact our Director at Property Acquisitions, Jennie Hancock , on 44 (0)7776452128 or jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

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