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. 

When searching for a country house over the years, you may have noticed that some property listings have POA (price on application) rather than the price next to it. The term exists as a way to conceal the asking price from the general public, however the National Trading Standards have outlawed it from the end of May, forcing estate agents to disclose the price on portals.

There are a variety of reasons why estate agents offer POA, and in my experience it’s usually driven by the vendor wanting to disguise the asking price. This could be for personal reasons such as death, debt or divorce, to attract serious buyers only as POA properties tend to usually be at the higher levels, they are a celebrity, or they just don’t want their neighbours knowing how much their home is worth.

However, many buyers find it misleading when they do not know what the price of a house is – forcing them to make contact with the associated estate agent to find out more details which they can find tedious and off putting.

It’s a strategy that has been in place for some time now, and over the last year alone, a large majority of homes I find and purchase for clients are POA. The advantage of me being the buying agent of course is that I can find out the price pretty quickly for my buyers, providing clarity from the start of their house hunting journey. For those searching on their own, they haven’t had this luxury…

So for buyers, the removal of POA is really quite triumphant, as it will provide far more transparency and clarity from the offset.

I also believe more homes will be sold off market as a result, because it’s a way of keeping the price out of the public eye if vendors want/need it to be. This is beneficial for prime country house buyers as they still get to know the asking price from the offset, but they also have a much better chance of actually finding something to buy. With demand as high as it is still, many are struggling to find anything to purchase on the open market due to the lack of homes for sale which has led to intense competition for them. There has been a bit of a market frenzy for prime homes in West Sussex over the last couple of years, rife with sealed bids, bidding wars and properties selling up to 20% over the asking price. Whereas when purchasing a property off market, the competition is much less because the general public won’t know it’s for sale.

Almost all of my acquisitions for clients are off market now, and often it is just my buyer looking at the house and nobody else. This is a privilege that’s worth its weight in gold for many house hunters.

For more information about the finding a country house off market in West Sussex, contact Jennie Hancock on +44 (0)7776452128 or Michelle Hendrie on +44 (0)7515345821.

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. 

The gap between property prices in the capital and those elsewhere in the country are the narrowest it has been for almost a decade, as reported in today’s Times Bricks & Mortar. Our Director, Jennie Hancock, speaks with journalist Carol Lewis about what she is seeing in West Sussex, as the balance of the country’s property market shifts as working from home takes hold. Read the full article here. (paywall)

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. 

With bidding wars and gazumping rife throughout the country house market in West Sussex at the moment, more and more purchasers are realising the benefits of purchasing their dream home off market.

Also known as a private or discreet sale, the term off market means when a home is being sold without being publicly advertised on estate agency websites and portals. It’s quite hard to know about them as a purchaser unless you are using a buying agent, as estate agents generally give them the heads up first because they know they will have access to a pool of serious buyers who are ready to pounce. But there is of course the proactive approach too, and I have heard stories of buyers knocking on the door of a house they like the look of and making the owner a tempting offer there and then!

However you find out about these ‘secret’ houses, the benefits are all the same. In a world where you have a number of people bidding for the same house publicly, off market offers buyers the opportunity to purchase a stunning country house exclusively, because nobody else will have access to it. The element of competition is either removed or substantially reduced. This not only means the risk of gazumping is minimised, and you actually have a chance of owning your dream home, but purchase prices tend to be lower as nobody is bidding heavily against each other – especially in today’s market.

Almost all of my purchases for clients over the last year have been bought via the off market route. Every single one of those I’m confident would have sold for a much higher asking price if they had been advertised publicly, as the really good houses are attracting 60 plus viewings on the open market.

It’s so easy to be drawn into a house you love, but once bidding wars start, it’s very easy to get carried away and pay far too much – something I’m sure we’re all familiar with on ebay! At the end of a day, buying a home is an investment. You want to make sure you can benefit from capital growth further down the line and not end up selling for less than the purchase price you paid. Plus, how frustrating is it when your offer has been accepted by the seller, only for you to receive a phone call later to say they have said yes to a higher bid ie, you have been gazumped? It’s worth considering when you’re considering your next move… purchasing off market really does help you avoid these pitfalls.

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

It is no secret that West Sussex remains as one of the top areas on the market, as buyers seek out larger homes, more outdoor space for a lovely lifestyle. With limited good quality country homes for sale either on or off market, this strong demand has meant record prices are often being achieved, with little room for negotiation. For many sellers it has created a bit of a dilemma: Yes, they may have sold their house for a great price, but they cant find somewhere else to purchase. As such, I am frequently seeing delayed completions at the moment.

The completion date is the day a buyer legally pays the remainder of the purchase price to the seller, which enables them to collect the keys and move in. This usually happens about 28 days after you have exchanged contracts and so a seller has to vacate their home within that time frame. With a delayed completion, this period can be extended – which can benefit both the buyer and the seller if managed properly.

These long stop completions are happening because sellers are feeling worried about how long it may take them to find another house. After all, theyre up against tough competition. Little properties are available; theres anything upwards of at least five-seven serious buyers per house, and gazumping is rife. All too often I hear stories about people who have had their offer agreed, only to find out days later that the seller has cheekily accepted a higher price from somebody else, causing the whole chain to fall apart. Or that the competition is so fierce that people are throwing silly money at sellers in order to secure the sale, pushing others out of the equation immediately. Many of the prime country houses are selling off market as well, so not everybody is aware of them – not unless theyre using a buying agent. Theres also sentimental reasons for sellers feeling anxious, particularly with older ones who are leaving behind a family home they have most likely lived in for a couple of decades if not more.

Therefore for sellers, having the time to find something else combined with the assurance that their home has already sold, puts them in good stead as a buyer – which is very appealing. So much so that often sellers will accept a lower price for their home if they can find a buyer willing to wait a bit until they complete (assuming the buyer demonstrates other good qualities as well, i.e. they have everything in place already to exchange quickly.)

For buyers, there are many benefits too. Firstly, its an effective negotiating tool for securing their dream country home for a lower price. It also allows time to seek planning permission, architects and builders for any alterations they 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 they wish to secure the house via exchange and then wait until they are back in the UK to complete. Meanwhile a buyer has more time to secure the funds from the sale of their own home in order to complete the purchase. It can of course mean that a buyer has to move into rental accommodation temporarily should their purchaser wish to move in sooner, but Im finding that if they have found the right house, many are prepared to do that. This is definitely a contributor to how hot the rental market is round here at the moment.

For example, a recent client of mine who exchanged this month in the Petworth area has agreed a completion date for early 2022 because the vendors wanted time to find something perfect to buy. By being flexible, this meant their lower offer was accepted when compared to other bidders.

 

For more information about buying and selling this way, contact Jennie Hancock on jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

 

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