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Can You Afford Good Country Property?

Jan 24, 2008
There can be few places to live as beautiful and relaxing as the UK countryside.

Find the right village or rural location and you can benefit from a hugely enjoyable quality of life compared to life in the city.

There are huge benefits to owning a country property. You will typically have a larger amount of space, which can translate into a bigger house and garden. It's easier to get a character property in rural areas, including impressive feature buildings such as a converted windmill or barn. And the sometimes relaxing nature of life outside large towns and cities can't be over stressed.

Yes there are downsides as well, such as the lack of amenities on your doorstep, the need to drive everywhere, fewer school choices, and typically poor public transport links. But for many country dwellers, these are more than offset by the benefits.

But can you afford the right country property for you and your family? Prices in the countryside tend to hold well, with period properties especially holding their value. If you do want to move to the country, there could be good news on the way.

A survey of house values in the country property market in the last quarter of 2007 showed that prices went down slightly, although only by 0.04 per cent.

And that's the first drop since June 2003, according to estate agent group Knight Frank. It said the market for rural homes was as affected by the credit crunch as the rest of the UK's property markets.

It's worked out that annual house price inflation for country property now stands at 7.9 per cent.

The group's research broke the market down into three types of property, which all performed differently in 2007.

Prices for the most expensive manor houses increased by 10.5% over the year. That compares to growth of just 8.4% for farm houses and 4.9% for country cottages.

But different research from another estate agency shows that the price of the very top country homes has been falling recently.

Hamptons has just predicted a drop of 1.5% in the upper end of the country property market, and is confident there will be no growth in 2008.

It believes the sudden downturn marks a huge reversal in the country house boom, which has been powered by City whizzkids spending huge bonuses buying property, and entrepreneurs investing their cash into bricks and mortar.

Research shows that sellers of homes in the country are having to be more aggressive with their marketing, and be more patient for a sale. The average time a property is on the market seems to be increasing, which can be frustrating for keen sellers.

The drops predicted for the countryside reflect general price trends experts think we will see across the UK in 2008. Your Mortgage magazine has done research which suggests the average house price will drop 3.5% this year.

The good news is, its research anticipates a return to positive growth in 2009. And that will start strong growth in the next few years, leading up to the 2012 Olympics. It's likely that country house prices will be part of this growth.

So if you are planning to buy country property, don't leave it too long.

You could also lose out to wealthy investors from other countries. The Knight Frank research reveals foreign investors are becoming more and more interested in rural property in the UK.

Overseas buyers were behind 9% of sales in 2007. And they were funding a huge 28% of property sales worth 5 million or more. Both those figures were up from 2006.
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