Despite all the doom and gloom in the press, Rural View Prime had a record year for country house sales in 2023 – primarily in the £1,000,000 – £4,000,000 range. The negative news stories by property pundits have generally focused on discussing the UK’s average house price circa £300,000 which is of course a very different market and one much more impacted by the higher interest rates. However prices have softened across the board by at least 5% for the best and in other cases 10% +.
The Ukraine & Israel wars, high interest rates along with economic/political uncertainty do prey on the minds of would-be purchasers. However, we live in an incredibly beautiful and fashionable area with wonderful open spaces, rolling countryside and low housing stock. It is this imbalance of supply and demand which keep prices strong and encourages buyers to invest, where debt ratios are low and “cash remains king”. London based buyers continue to gravitate west, although perhaps not in quite the same numbers as the previous two years. The schooling locally in both state and private sectors is ever popular and our road and rail connections offer great flexibility.
One of the key themes to 2023 was our success with private sales. During the year, 70% of our prime sales took place off market, which is an incredibly high statistic. Why is this you may ask? Increasingly vendors and buyers are gravitating towards this option preferring their property not featured online.
Overall, we are positive about the prospects for the country house market in 2024 as the economic situation gradually improves and the impacts of higher interest rates are gradually absorbed. It could be an early market next year, but it will always be weather dependent and a cold/wet spring can put the brakes on! It’s uncertain exactly when the general election will take place but history tells us that buyers often “sit on the fence” in the month leading up to this causing a temporary pause. Preparation is always key, so make sure the hedges and edges are neat and tidy and you have good sunny photos if you are contemplating a move! We look forward to being of any assistance.
The post-Covid frenzy for buying in the country was a phenomenon that spanned a good eighteen months, showing a marked inflation over that period of some 15% – 20% in Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset (Land Registry Index), although many of the properties we sold demonstrated an improvement even on this figure.
By the middle of 2022, however, mounting energy costs together with inflation and rising interest rates led to a calming of what had been a frenetic market, with some of the ‘froth’ coming off the top. It remained busy over the summer months until the infamous ‘mini budget’ at the end of September 2022 led to an unsettled period with trading levels slowing down drastically and prices falling back some 5% – 10% from their previous highs.
During the early months of 2023 a long, wet winter held back the traditional spring market but it eventually budded. In comparison to other regions, this part of the country was cushioned by continuing demand for character homes in the best locations and, with an ongoing lack of supply, prices were underpinned for those top properties.
Over the summer & autumn months of 2023 Rural View had a particularly successful period at the upper end of market, selling many country houses and with most attracting strong competition. 70% of these sales were conducted off market.
The economy showed early signs of recovery during the second half of the year and confidence in the rest of the housing sector gradually returned, with activity levels improving over the autumn and early winter months. Stock levels were certainly down throughout 2023, but we found that there were still plenty of serious buyers.
Looking forward to the twelve months ahead, the crystal ball is somewhat cloudy. At the time of writing, mortgage rates are falling and the hope is that the base rate will come down as well. We are already seeing improved sentiment in the buyers that we are speaking to, which fills us with confidence, and our thinking is that 2024 will be a much less volatile market with prices remaining stable. We expect our region to continue being an attractive destination for buyers drawn to its beautiful countryside, excellent schools and quality of life, and we hope to see a gradual upturn in overall market conditions as the year progresses.