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. 

 

Lock up and leave properties are back in fashion for a variety of buyers as we make our way out of lockdown restrictions.

Factors such as being able to travel abroad again, excellent rental opportunities, Londoners seeking second homes and people wanting to visit family more are fuelling the trend, with all seeking somewhere that offers good security and little maintenance whilst away.

For the over 60’s for example, there has been a huge shift towards a more active lifestyle that embraces ease and convenience. For those looking to travel abroad for golfing holidays, cruises and bucket list adventures that can last longer than one to two weeks, lock up and leave homes are ideal. Whilst others who have been isolated from their families over the last year desperately want to see them more – particularly if they live elsewhere in the country. Popular locations for such buyers are those with communities and neighbours around in a village, town or estate, offering added security. Homes with modern facilities are also preferred over those brimming with character, as they’re well insulated, easily cared for and tend to have some kind of internal security measures in place. Apartments at the King Edward VII Estate in Midhurst are a great example. Nestled within acres of woodland, all residents benefit from high-spec security and a management service – as well as glorious gardens and grounds, a swimming pool and a gym they can enjoy without having to do anything to look after them.

Meanwhile, due to some of the highest levels of demand I have seen in my entire property career, Londoners are struggling to find good country houses in West Sussex around the £2million-£3million level to relocate to at the moment. Combined with the removal of the £500,000 stamp duty threshold, some have decided to postpone their ‘post Covid move out plans’ and find a temporary lock up and leave weekend retreat instead. Budgets are lower at around £800,000-£2million, where they’re seeking a smaller home with an easily maintained garden. Some may even hire a gardener or a housekeeper to keep on top of things whilst they’re not there. I have a few clients doing this at the moment, with anywhere that offers a sense of escapism and peace and quiet of interest. This could be the waterside villages of Chichester as well as rural locations on the outskirts of the city and those dotted around Midhurst and Petworth. The added benefit of purchasing this way as well is that it does allow people to see what the area is like before committing to living there permanently.

People are also recognising the income potential when owning a lock up and leave property. Homes in West Sussex can benefit greatly from sites such as Air B&B whether it’s for a wedding, Christmas holidays or for events such as Festival of Speed and Glorious Goodwood. If you’re somebody who plans to be abroad for the whole of the summer or dream of cruising the Caribbean for two months over Christmas and New year, your home can also make a lucrative income whilst you’re away. If the property is easy to maintain, it’s relatively hassle free, and any costs associated with employing a cleaner and a gardener to keep on top of things in between lets should be covered nicely.

So there are many benefits to owning a lock up and leave property – they truly can be an investment not to be missed. If you need help in your search then please do get in touch with myself, Jennie Hancock, via e-mail (jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk), phone (+44 7776452128), or LinkedIn.

Picture Credit: Alamy/The Times

 

Having been born and bred in Chichester, our Director, Jennie Hancock, knows the local area like the back of her hand. With over 30 years’ experience of working here too, she also boasts impressive knowledge and acumen of the country house market. Therefore, when The Times Bricks & Mortar asked us for comment on Chichester’s property market, we jumped at the chance to be interviewed and were delighted to see Jennie’s name quoted throughout.

Read the full article here (paywall).

The demand for larger homes and more outdoor space across every county in England is showing no signs of slowing down, with three-bed houses the most desirable and one-bed flats the least. Property Reporter has kindly quoted our Director, Jennie Hancock, about buyer demand in West Sussex, as the county ranks joint third in the market analysis from house selling weather forecast, PropCast.

You can read the full article in Property Reporter here.

The world’s greatest flower show may have been pushed back to September due to the pandemic, but green fingered horticulturists are fully embracing their gardens this summer – in fact, they have been for the last fourteen months!

Having been cooped up at home for over a year this is of no surprise – for those lucky to have outdoor space that is. People who have been living in apartments haven’t had quite the same luxury – not unless they have a ground floor flat or live somewhere with communal gardens to enjoy.

This is very noticeable with the enquiries I have received from both local and London property buyers. Homes with pretty gardens have always been very popular, but outdoor space has never been quite so important like it is now. It’s not just about having a large freshly mowed lawn anymore.  Other aspects are now expected, many of which feel like we’re taking a step back in time to how gardens used to be.

What do country house hunters ask for in their gardens now?

  • Colourful flowers and shrubs for every season
  • Vegetable / kitchen garden
  • Walled garden
  • Summer house to relax and unwind in, offering a sense of escapism
  • Stone bridge
  • Green house
  • Treehouse
  • Shaded areas with mature trees
  • Wild meadows
  • Glorious communal gardens for apartment owners – this is especially true today, particularly from downsizers. They are either looking for a smaller village house or homes within grand country houses which boast spectacular gardens and grounds they can enjoy. The King Edward VII Estate in Midhurst is a classic example of this, where you can find a one/two bed-apartment for less than £500,000.

 

With this list, I am reminded of one of my favourite proverbs…. “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.” I feel today’s country house buyer is inheriting a part of the history of a garden, along with the love and devotion given to it, because the previous owners would have spent a lot of time designing the grounds and spending money to care for them. Of course, people are also looking for all the mod cons such as patios for al fresco dining, swimming pools, tennis courts and so on as a result of Covid-19, but the generation of 2020/2021 are inheriting these glorious established gardens from their parents or grandparents which we haven’t seen for sale for decades, and are now selling them.

For example, I recently acquired an attractive period house in Harting off-market. Nestled within a tranquil village setting which has no passing traffic – a rarity in today’s world – the house had a glorious well-established garden that offered seclusion and amazing views – exactly what my client was looking for. They were the only buyers to view the house and consequently I was able to secure it for them.

Last year in Slindon, I found a stunning village home for a client with land, beautiful gardens and grounds that had been well maintained by the previous owner for many years. The house benefitted from colour and variety in the flowers and shrubs, mature trees to sit under in the shade plus a kitchen garden and walled garden. There was also a spectacular magnolia tree, an archway which led to an apple and pear orchard and a pergola covered in climbing roses and honeysuckle. These were key selling points for my client. The property sold off market where again, they were the only buyer.

Meanwhile in West Wittering, I showed a client a stunning house which had a wild meadow, landscaped gardens, mature shrubs and trees with views over farmland which the buyers fell in love with immediately. They made an offer the next day.

To stand a chance of owning such a garden as above, you need a budget of at least £1million in West Sussex and be able to act quickly. Homes with this type of offering are being snapped up, often with multiple bidding wars from competitive purchasers if they’re on the open market. Having said that, many of these transactions are happening off market where the competition is less intense as most buyers don’t know they’re for sale unless they’re using a buying agent. This is one of the many reasons house purchasers ask me for help with their search because I am aware of what is being sold discreetly. Often, my clients will be the only buyer looking at the property as a result.

 

Find Out More

For any questions about finding your dream home with a glorious garden, please do get in touch with myself, Jennie Hancock, via e-mail (jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk), phone (+44 7776452128), or LinkedIn.

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