The latest Prime Country trends in West Sussex as a result of Covid-19
As we fast approach one year since the UK’s first national lockdown, I have noticed a surge in global traffic on my website over the last twelve months – up 1,368%. The top three nationalities researching owning a property in West Sussex are the UK (+1,471%), US (+60%) and China (+440%), with other top ten long-haul visitors including Singapore, Japan, India and Australia. 62% of enquiries I have received since the pandemic began are now from London buyers, with rural and waterside villages once sought after fifteen years ago high on the agenda once more, as the need to live close to work or a train station is replaced with the desire for amenities such as a good pub, village shop and for the coastal locations, access to the water.
So what trends am I seeing in the Prime Country property market as a result of Covid-19?
Premiums for water access or views
Due to their popularity, buyers are prepared to pay a premium to own their slice of property heaven by the water. The premiums paid are very much focused around having a good sea view or direct access to the water, rather than square footage as a result. Generally, the houses requiring renovation attract the higher premium, for example, a two-bedroom run down bungalow on a large plot with water access and sea views would be in huge demand as the new owners have the benefit of doing their own thing to it. Anything that can be renovated quite substantially are like gold dust for buyers.
Large detached houses dotted along East Strand and West Strand in West Wittering rarely come up for sale because they tend to go from generation to generation. Generally, the original owners would have bought these in the 1950’s most likely for under £50,000. Commanding panoramic views over the Solent with direct access to the beach in front, and being so rare, these sell for around £3-£5m if not more now.
Prices in the nearby pretty sailing villages of Itchenor and Bosham share a similar story. There is a huge premium on the plot value, with views and water access all high priority. For example, I recently went to sealed bids on a £3.5million property which was being sold off-market on one of Itchenor’s most sought after waterside addresses. It came with a jetty and stunning water views but needed updating, and all of the interested parties were cash buyers. All represented by buying agents, the property sold well over the asking price.
Separate outbuildings that can be turned into a facility or somewhere for a hobby
The great thing about rural homes around the £1million plus mark, is that generally they already have the land to build on. Today, any type of outbuilding that has been designed as a facility or somewhere to practice a hobby can add up to 10% onto the value of the home. For example home offices, an annexe or yoga studios are very popular at the moment. I know quite a few people who have built large working spaces outside very recently as a result of the pandemic. Broadband speeds are obviously very important to buyers who now as a result. They’re also a great way of getting additional accommodation you can rent out, as the lettings market in Chichester is phenomenal, especially around the time of Goodwood events. One lady I know has transformed her shed into an Air B&B for this very reason.
A separate boot room and utility room
With the dog market taking off during the pandemic, a separate boot room and/or utility room has become much more valuable to country buyers, as they’re great spaces for washing the mud off your dogs after a lovely walk in the local countryside.
Moving to second home locations permanently
Another trend starting to emerge is for second homeowners looking to live permanently where they have enjoyed their weekend getaways over the years. For example, we have a client who purchased a second home in Itchenor in the 90’s, and are now looking to upgrade within the village full-time.
Village necessities have also changed, with buyers wanting to ‘step back in time.’ Recent clients from London are requesting the 50-year time lapse when choosing a village home now, seeking the quintessentially picturesque village life set up. They’re now asking for a village shop they can walk or cycle to, a church, croquet, cricket lawns, gardens open to the public, summer fetes and even local dog shows.
Moving further away from train stations
Around 20% of my buyers who have moved out from London over the last year no longer want to be within ten minutes from a main railway station. One of my clients is looking for a country house between £3.5-£5million in the Midhurst area. That is slightly further out from the closest main line into London, but Haslemere train station is still only a fifteen-twenty-minute drive for when they need to get there. Instead, they are focusing on seeking their “forever home” which boasts a superb country lifestyle, is right on their doorstep and somewhere they can have a good home office.
Goodbye open plan
Before the pandemic, people were very keen to have a kitchen breakfast room, but now they’re wanting separate reception rooms in order to have some privacy. Therefore, open plan properties are currently attracting a more limited market. I’m hearing reports of owners of older properties actually putting walls back in! The lack of separate reception rooms could devalue a rural home at the moment, by up to 5%.
The villages most popular with my clients
|Rural Villages||Waterside Villages|
|Duncton||West Strand, West Wittering|
|South Harting||Church Norton|
|Lickfold||East Strand, West Wittering|
The coronavirus pandemic has fuelled a vast number of people moving out of London and into the villages in and around Chichester. This migration is creating a shortage of good country houses to purchase. This time last year it was comparatively easy to find something, but as the number of prospective buyers focusing on the area grows there is an increase in scarcity value. Prices are rising as a result, especially in the golden villages, which offer a good pub, shop, have a village fete and cricket green and so on, almost stepping back in time. I believe this momentum will continue throughout 2021 and into 2022, and over the long-term country houses in this area should continue to appreciate with their prices remaining high.
The positive of Covid-19 is that it has forced people to re-evaluate their lives. City and urban life just is not appealing anymore, whereas villages just outside of Chichester’s city centre are in increasingly high demand. Pretty villages slightly further out, such as Lodsworth, Graffham, Singleton, Heyshott, and Treyford for example have become extraordinarily popular of late – in fact, I’ve had more people looking in these patches during the pandemic than I have done for fifteen years. They may be a five-to-ten-minute drive further away from a main line railway station, but as more people are choosing to work from home now or only wish to travel into London once a week, they are seeking something slightly more rural. Gone are the days of being on a train at 6am and struggling home for 8pm. Instead, wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle have shot to the top of people’s priorities and requirements – especially as many proved over the last month to their employers they are able to operate efficiently remotely.
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