Selling your Rural Property?

Imagine this – you are selling your rural property, your estate agent has arranged plenty of viewings and you have received an offer which you are delighted to accept. Fantastic, excitement all round and you can start making plans now that you have found a willing buyer.

However, there is still a long way to go before reaching the golden certainty of exchanging contracts and as we all know there is many a slip twixt cup and lip.


Stage two is where the conveyancing process kicks in and over a sometimes lengthy period any problems are rooted out by the purchaser’s solicitor – and this is crucial because we have come across plenty of examples where sales are bogged down or even terminally delayed by complications that could so easily have been sorted out before marketing even commenced. Common examples of these include problems with Title, making sure that boundaries are registered correctly and indeed if the property is not registered then sorting out the first registration; easements (rights of way); planning consents, listed building consents and building control approval if alterations have been carried out during the property’s history; a discharge permit for the septic tank if there is one and it’s not exempt; restrictive covenants in favour of a neighbour; the list goes on and while some buyers may take a view on a few glitches, others will be hesitant to do so and mortgage lenders certainly won’t.

As Agents we always strongly suggest to our clients that they iron out the creases prior to marketing, and while we understand that when selling a house they have already moved on emotionally, the practicalities remain.

Information on your home

A few years ago we had to endure the imposition of Home Information Packs which covered this very process, and more. They were unpopular and unworkable for a variety of reasons, but the principal was spot-on, that relevant and up to date information would be immediately available to the buyer so that an exchange of contracts should not be delayed. Here in South Wiltshire we face another delaying factor with the time that local authority searches are taking to be returned, but that’s another well publicised gripe which we have covered before now.

Our advice, therefore, is simple – if you want a stress-free move speak to your solicitor before you go to market and make absolutely sure that what you are selling has no grey areas which will delay or even scupper a sale. It will no doubt cost you a bit of money, but if you are a motivated seller then you will be more incentivised to do it and your solicitor will have to spend valuable time ironing out the creases anyway.

Equestrian property picture

As country based estate agents, we frequently receive enquiries about equestrian property for sale. These range from requests for modest cottages with enough land for keeping a pony to grand country houses with extensive acreage and all the facilities that the pampered thoroughbred requires. Despite being in a rural area, it is actually quite difficult to satisfy the strong demand for homes with grazing land.

Even if not directly involved with them oneself, horses are very much part of the local landscape. A popular country pursuit in the spring months is going to point-to-point race meetings. With most courses situated on farmland, they are less formal than professional racing and make for an enjoyable social gathering, often involving a picnic, visit to the beer tent and a flutter with the on-site bookies.

The origins of point-to-point racing can be traced back to an Irish horse race in the 1750’s between one town’s church steeple and the next, hence the term ‘steeplechase’. It used to be seen as an opportunity for a farmer to give his old hunter a spot of exercise, nowadays however, whilst still amateur and organised exclusively by local hunts, point-to-pointing is an altogether more serious, regulated sport.

The competing horses are classified as hunting horses and must be thoroughbreds whilst their owners have to be hunt members and registered with the Point-to-Point Authority. Jockeys are amateurs but have to registered and qualified riders. Although some horses are still ‘home grown’, most are stabled in ‘livery yards’ run as unlicensed training yards although often closely associated with professional establishments.

Races are run under BHA (the British Horse Racing Authority) rules and are at least three miles long and with most courses being 1.5 miles in length (Larkhill being one of the exceptions), this means that usually horses have to complete two circuits. All courses must have a minimum of 18 fences of which two have to have ditches with the fences made of birch and around four & half feet high.

Courses local to South Wiltshire & North Dorset include; Badbury Rings (Wimborne), Milborne St Andrew (Blandford), Larkhill (Amesbury) and Charlton Horethorne (Sherborne).

My experience of attending point-to points is that it is almost an obligation that they are located on high windy ground with views over the surrounding countryside whilst the punters represent a broad church of country folk dressed in a variety of green outdoor clothing, wellies and caps accompanied by gaggles of children and dogs. All great fun!

If we can help you find the perfect equestrian property, please contact the Rural View team who have extensive knowledge of the local area and potential upcoming opportunities with equestrian property nearby.

Last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the home buyer’s friend when he overhauled the way Stamp Duty on the purchase of residential property is calculated. He is now seen as the pantomime villain with his further tinkering of this already unpopular and insidious tax in the latest autumn statement.

From the 1st April 2016 all buyers of second properties will have to pay a whopping additional 3% on top of the current bands of stamp duty. Whilst those purchasing just their main home, which accounts for the majority of house transactions, will be unaffected by this amendment, anyone buying a holiday home or investing in a buy-to-let property most certainly will be.

Previously buying a £150,000 property would cost the purchaser £500 in tax but in future for someone buying an additional home to one they already own this will be pushed up to £5,000. An owner-occupier buying a £600,000 currently pays a huge £20,000 but from next spring an investor landlord or weekend cottage buyer will have to pay an eye-watering £38,000.

There will be some who will have little sympathy for those with the ability or means to buy properties that will not be their full time homes and who might be under impression that this category of buyer artificially drives up property prices, depriving local people of the opportunity to stay within their local communities. There is more to it than this however.

Second home or weekend cottage owners bring money into the areas they buy in and often employ local tradesmen. As this part of Wessex is such a lovely place to live, these occasional residents often end up moving here full time, disposing of their previous main home in London or wherever. They are very important for house sellers and over the last couple of years have accounted for a significant proportion of property sales in the region. Without them there will be a much smaller pot of potential buyers.

Buy-to-let investor buyers are also important for the local economy and if there are not landlords around, there will not be any properties available to let and for many, renting is a more suitable or perhaps only option. There is the very real danger that landlords enlarging their portfolios will push up rents to cover the cost of the additional tax, surely something the chancellor should have but clearly did not envisage.

The change was intended partly to boost the chancellor’s coffers and also to free up more housing stock for first time buyers however it will actually have ramifications across the whole of the housing sector. Driving away second home/investor buyers by making it financially unattractive for them to buy property cannot be good news for what is already a fragile market.

Walking up and down Castle Street in the otherwise lovely historic cathedral city of Salisbury, Wiltshire is surely one of the most soulless experiences with the complete dominance of estate agency offices and this comes from someone who is an estate agent himself! Napoleon once famously described Britain as being a nation of shop keepers, now it seems we are a nation of estate agents!

One could easily be forgiven for thinking that there are more estate agents in Salisbury than properties to sell, indeed, there is some truth in this. Despite the severe recession in the housing market over the last decade, the numbers have grown even though there are fewer homes available to sell now than there were ten years ago. Every other shop in the city seems to be either an estate agency or coffee house!

So do we actually need so many estate agents in our city and town centres? The answer is surely no. Not only is there currently not enough business to go round so many firms but the reality is that properties are no longer bought and sold in estate agents’ offices the way they used to be. It is the internet that is now the property World’s shop window.

With the surge in the use of handheld devices such as tablets and smart phones over the last four or five years and the continuing popularity of personal computers and lap tops, whatever ‘product’ one is marketing, the internet has undoubtedly become king. As an illustration of this, the UK’s leading property portal Rightmove, one of the country’s most visited websites, 500 pages are viewed every second.

Logging onto a property website is the way the overwhelming majority of house buyers search for their next home. This has led to a number of on-line only agencies being set up. With lower overheads by not having high street rents to pay for and fewer staff to employ, they can offer sellers discounted fees, allowing home owners to post their properties on the internet cheaply. This might sound great but the reality is often far from it and vendors need to be aware that some sites refuse to post properties marketed by on-line agents.

There are other disadvantages with on-line agents not least of which is a call centre style of service. Some offer a dedicated contact albeit with an individual who is likely to have limited knowledge of the property itself, it’s setting and the immediate surroundings. If the remote agent is based in say Basingstoke, they will not know about the local schools, pubs, shops, walks etc. in a village in the Wylye Valley.

On-line agents’ marketing material usually has much to be desired with owners often being left to provide their own photographs and descriptions. I have seen some quite appalling property details which are poorly presented, misleading and more likely to put off prospective buyers than entice them. The seller will also have to conduct their own viewings and have limited support in the offer, negotiation and sales process.

So is there room for a hybrid, i.e. an agency that provides a traditional hands-on, personal intermediary service away from the high street but providing both global and local marketing using the World Wide Web and other digital platforms such as social media? Certainly and it is very much what smaller, non-corporate firms like Rural View are about.

We have found that sellers and buyers alike prefer to develop a good working relationship with ‘real’ people who have an intimate knowledge of the area, the local property market and understand their needs and expectations. Oh, and we do have an office where visitors are most welcome, it’s just that it’s in a complex of converted farm buildings and not on Castle Street, Salisbury!

When buying a new property, most people spend a tremendous amount of time, thought, effort and emotion in choosing the right property. It can take many hours of scrutinising the internet portals for suitable properties, carrying out viewings and deliberating before finally making a decision as to which property would make the perfect home. After the excitement of having an offer accepted comes that anxious period of uncertainty before contracts are exchanged and the knowledge that the purchase is a definite reality.

Once a sale has been agreed it seems everything goes quiet whilst the legal conveyancing process is undertaken. It usually takes around five or six weeks to get to the point when contracts are exchanged. In this digital age one would have thought it ought to be done more quickly but house sales in some areas actually take considerably longer due to delays in one of the key steps involved in a house purchase; the local authority searches.

A search is normally instigated by the buyer’s solicitor and its purpose is to check whether there are any issues that might adversely affect the property or its immediate surroundings such as planning applications, road schemes, statutory controls, environmental hazards. The length of time it takes for a search to be returned is something of a lottery and depends on which council area the property is located in.

The variation in response times of different authorities is extraordinary. For example Wiltshire County Council (South) are currently taking a staggering 42 days before a search application is actioned. It is little better in West Wiltshire, however if one heads over the county border into North Dorset or Hampshire’s New Forest, the picture is very contrasting where search results are returned after only five days.

The problem is not down to the quality of the staff dealing with search requests, indeed they are often very helpful and dedicated people, but that there are simply not enough of them at a time when council leaders are slashing budgets.

How can the problem of search delays be mitigated? Here are some ideas:-

– A seller might chose to put searches in hand ahead of a sale being agreed. They cost circa £125 but have a limited shelf life of up to six months before they need to be renewed.

– If a buyer requires a search, they should pay their solicitor the necessary fee and instruct them to apply for the searches without delay.

– Some solicitors appoint third party agencies to carry out searches, check if this is the case because they can sometimes take longer.

– Subject to the approval of a mortgage lender, a buyer might consider taking out insurance (about £50) before the searches come back to allow contracts to be exchanged.

– Communicate. Make sure at the outset that everyone involved in a sale, including those up and down a chain are aware that there may be a delay in matters progressing so that there is a realistic expectation of timing.

The long waiting time for property searches can have a serious impact on the progress of a sale, jeopardising whether it reaches a conclusion and affecting the ability of home owners to move when they need to. This does not help the stress levels of buyers and sellers but also affects the fluidity of the local property market and the local economy.

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