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Many people dream of a life changing move to the country, but few buyers’ dreams extend quite as far as Shropshire, the point at which England and Wales collide. Which is a great pity because this midlands county is blessed with an appealing mixture of historic towns like Shrewsbury and Ludlow and fabulous open countryside dotted with pretty villages.
And its under-the-radar feel means that compared to neighbouring Cheshire or more fashionable rural hotspots Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire it represents fantastic value for money.
The average property price in the county is £206,260, up 7.71 per cent in the last 12 months.
Shropshire does not possess a city and its county town Shrewsbury is, said Kevin Boulton, a partner at Strutt & Parker, a somewhat quiet and sedate place, with beautiful architecture, walks beside the River Severn and a relaxed pace of life.
Shrewsbury was hit hard by the recession but its empty shops are filling up once more with a pleasing mixture of independents and chains and plenty of street cafes. A focal point is The Quarry, a riverside park and setting for the town’s annual flower show.
Buyers include locals moving in from the surrounding countryside, retirees and families drawn in by the schools. There is, of course, the eponymous public school, now co-ed, as well as good state options like The Priory School and Belvidere School, both for senior pupils and both rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.
Shrewsbury will become a more convenient option for commuters when, in December, Virgin Trains begins running a fast service that will reach the capital in two hours.
And the following year Shrewsbury’s atmosphere could become a little buzzier with the opening of University of Chester Shrewsbury Institute, which will accept its first students in October 2015.
The average Shrewsbury property costs £219,609, up 8.64 per cent in the last year and property in the town ranges from historic timber framed houses right in the town centre to lovely Georgian townhouses and Victorian villas. For £250,000 you could buy a city centre apartment or a small, two bedroom, townhouse. For £500,000 you could buy a larger Georgian townhouse in the city centre or head for the suburbs for a five bedroom, detached Victorian property (or a modern executive home).
Right at the top end the grandest Georgian houses, with eight to 10 bedrooms, gardens and parking, sell for between £1.5m and £2m.
If Shrewsbury is quiet then the south of Shropshire, with its sleepy villages and pretty hamlets, is positively inaudible. Its metropolis, if you can call it that, is Telford, close to the Welsh border (its castle was built in the eleventh century to repel the Celtic hordes).
This mediaeval town is breathtakingly pretty, packed with historic buildings and some extremely fine dining rooms. It has no less than three Michelin starred restaurants, and its tourist appeal means there are lots of interesting curio shops and cafes plus a good arts centre and cinema.
The town hosts a series of annual festivals, including a prestigious food festival, and a Shakespeare festival.
And while the standard of schools is somewhat mixed there are bright spots including Bishop Hooper CofE Primary School, rated “good” by Ofsted.
Average prices in Ludlow currently stand at £249,680, up 4.89 per cent in the last year.
Rai Fisher, a sales and lettings negotiator at Andrew Grant estate agents estimates that a budget of £250,000 will buy you a small but pretty Tudor house right in the town centre, with two bedrooms.
If you have £500,000 to spend you could buy a three to four bedroom terraced townhouse – probably one with Tudor roots but a ‘new’ Georgian façade – in the heart of the town or a four bedroom period detached home with a half-acre garden on the fringes.
Moving north, right at Shropshire’s northern border with Cheshire, is Ellesmere, a small Lakeland town surrounded by seven meres (long, but relatively shallow lakes). The area is perfect for walkers, riders and sailing enthusiasts and the town is small but beautiful with a couple of dozen shops on its high street, a weekly market, and some good traditional pubs. The town’s eponymous primary school is rated “good” by Ofsted, as is Lakelands School, for senior pupils.
Like the rest of the county the range of property available is wide, but John Quinn, director of Halls estate agents says buyers could buy a three storey redbrick cottage in the town centre for between around £120,000 and £170,000. If you want a larger home, four to five bedroom Victorian houses start at around £400,000.
Four miles away from Ellesmere is Colemere, probably its most sought after satellite village. Although it has no facilities to speak of its lovely period houses, unspoiled feel and waterside location push it into poll position with buyers. Buyers could spend around £300,000 on a two bedroom cottage in Colemere, or circa £650,000 for a period four bedroom house with five to 10 acres of land.
1. The Shropshire countryside is a rich hunting ground for outstanding historic mansions, like Yeaton Peverey Hall, a Victorian pile near Shrewsbury. The Hall has 11 bedrooms, sits in about six acres, and comes with five self contained flats and plenty of useful outbuildings. It is on the market for £2.9m.
2. For something a little more modest, Woolstaston Hall is a Grade II listed house with fabulous views over the south Shropshire hills. The six bedroom house, with 20 acres, is for sale at £1m.
3. If you would prefer to be in town, this five bedroom wisteria clad beauty in Shrewsbury is on the market at £975,000.
4. If you want a house with a Gothic twist this rambling six bedroom property in Coalbrookdale will fit the bill, for sale for £720,000.
5. For buyers on a lower budget try a lovely three bedroom historic cottage in Market Drayton, priced at £129,000.
6. Or a classic Shropshire ‘black and white’ timbered house in Ludlow, with three bedrooms, on the market at £255,000.
There is something about the great outdoors, whether it be a city park or one of Britain’s great National Parks. Buyers flock to live in areas that pass the green space test and, consequently, homes with a glimpse of greenery comfortably outperform the rest of the market making them a copper-bottomed, if expensive, investment.
According to one recent study by Nationwide, homes located within a National Park cost 18 per cent more than similar properties nearby, while homes within a couple of miles of one of the parks cost 8 per cent more than those just slightly further afield.
The Lake District is one of the most sought after of all the National Parks and Stephen Holland, of estate agents Carter Jonas, feels the market is reviving thanks to the area’s pull to retirees, commuters from cities like Lancaster and Manchester, and second home owners, many of whom plan to move to the area permanently in the future, and who make up an estimated 65 per cent of the market.
There is a huge choice of lovely town and village settings, but Holland says most buyers pinpoint their dream location based on exactly what they want out of the lakes.
Sailing enthusiasts, for example, head for Windermere and Bowness. “It has got the most consistent wind, the biggest marinas and the most flashy boats,” said Holland.
Average prices in Windermere stand at £359,330, up 4.41 per cent year on year, but if you want to live close to the water prices are higher than average.
Holland estimates that a two bedroom flat would cost between £400,000 and £500,000, while you could pay up to £5m for a magnificent detached Victorian home with lake frontage and mooring.
A typical two to four bedroom terraced cottage in one of these towns, dating from the eighteenth or nineteenth century, would cost between £300,000 and £450,000, depending on size.
The other option is to live in a bustling village, the most beautiful of which has to be the picture postcard Grasmere, set on the banks of the eponymous lake.
Grasmere’s good looks do not come cheap, however, with average prices of £478,400, up 3.46 per cent in the last year.
Holland estimates that a two bedroom cottage in Grasmere would cost around £400,000, while you might pay £2m for a prime waterside house.
Another fantastic national park option is the New Forest. Its unique selling point is, of course, its herds of wild ponies that help make the area a perennial favourite with second home owners, retirees and commuters.
Average property prices in the region stand at £348,045, up 6.41 per cent in the last year.
Kevin Allen, associate director of John D Wood, said: “The top areas in the New Forest centre on Lymington as the town offers its inhabitants the very best for both sailing, easy access to the New Forest as well as all the amenities of a market town.
The manorial village of Beaulieu is similarly very popular, particularly with the London ‘set’. It has a beautiful river, good moorings, a charming hotel, The Montague Arms Hotel, and is surrounded by open forest.”
The other main option is Brockenhurst, set in open forest, which has a key main line rail link to London (trains take around 90 minutes). “It especially popular with the families as the village has a highly regarded sixth form college, Brockenhurst College,” said Allen.
Prices across the forest do vary but Allen estimates that a two to three bedroom house would cost between around £350,000 and £500,000, while large family homes cost £1m plus. For a really grand property with little extras like a pool, tennis courts, stables and land, prices range up to around £2m.
1. Ringwood in the New Forest has some lovely period townhouses, like this four bedroom property for sale for £475,000.
2. Or live in Beaulieu, one of the nicest villages in the forest, in a gorgeous wisteria-draped country house for £2,350,000.
3. But if only a thatched cottage will do, they don’t come much more chocolate box than this three bedroom house in Ringwood, on the market at £525,000.
4. In the Lake District you will pay a premium for a home with a breathtaking water view, like this stunning five bedroom house right on the banks of Lake Windermere, on the market for £4,750,000.
5. Not every home in this area requires a seven figure cottage. You could opt for a gorgeous traditional cottage in Satterthwaite, near Hawkshead, on the market for £350,000.
The classic dream of swapping your family home for a little place on the coast is going strong.
A new study of the top locations in England and Wales for “upmarket downsizers” – those fortunate, affluent homeowners who have a (too) large family home to sell – is dominated by seaside locations.
The report, by consumer intelligence company CACI, found that the number one place for older buyers to purchase their final home is Fylde in Lancashire – the borough that includes the sought after seaside town of Lytham St Annes, which is a mecca for golfers.
Almost as popular as Fylde are two classic south of England seaside resorts – Eastbourne and Bournemouth, which take second and third place in the CACI study.
Lytham St Annes has seen significant price rises in the last year. Average prices today are £211,573, up 5.45 per cent in the past year.
Lytham St Annes is in fact two towns that have slowly merged, but which retain individual characters. Lytham, on the estuary of the River Ribble, is the slightly smarter option, with some lovely Georgian property and a characterful town centre.
“It has got a nice market town feel. There are lots of boutiques and galleries as well as the normal chains and lots to do,” said Darren Sellwood, branch manager of estate agents Entwistle Green.
This includes a busy programme at the Lowther Pavilion, an annual arts festival, and an annual beer festival.
St Annes has more of a seaside feel with a sandy beach and a Victorian pier. It also has a good range of shops, restaurants and cafes thanks to its status as a tourist town. It also has four championship golf courses, notably Royal Lytham and St Annes, venue for the Open Golf Championship.
In terms of property buyers in Lytham could pick up a pretty town centre cottage, with three bedrooms, for between around £250,000 and £300,000. Alternatively a modern two bedroom apartment with views of the river would cost around £200,000.
In St Annes you could buy a two bedroom cottage for between £140,000 and £150,000, or a sea view apartment with a balcony and two bedrooms for around £200,000. A two bedroom bungalow, semi-detached, would be priced at around £125,000 and £150,000.
The market in the area is picking up according to Sellwood, who has noticed more buyer activity. But, he says, homes for sale still outnumber buyers, which means that prices are not rising uncontrollably.
In Eastbourne, East Sussex, prices have risen 5.58 per cent in the last year, to an average £233,427.
Eastbourne possesses a reputation as a mecca for oldies, but Kieran James, branch manager of Freeman Forman estate agents, says that its demographic has been changing over the last decade, as young families squeezed out of south east London, Surrey, Kent and other parts of Sussex Move in.
“There is lots going on,” he said. “We have got the tennis, several theatres, lots of cafes and restaurants and you can be at London Victoria within around an hour and a half.”
Eastbourne also passes the green space test with lots of parks and great access to the South Downs National Park, as well, of course, as six miles of shingly beachfront.
Property is very affordable. James estimates you could buy a modern flat (two bed) close to the harbour from between £150,000 to £200,000, a period flat in The Meads, a sought after suburb, for between £220,000 and £250,000, or a two bedroom cottage in the old town for around £225,000.
Another traditional retirement hotspot is Bournemouth, where average property price stand at £248,266, up 4.22 per cent in the last 12 months.
The crowning glory of this Victorian town is its fantastic stretch of white sandy beaches, which stretch from Sandbanks through to Christchurch, backed by dramatic cliffs.
Like Eastbourne its old codgers reputation is rather unfair since the average age of its population is, according to the latest Census, a sprightly 40.
And its popularity as a seaside resort means there is stacks to do, with major concert venues, a museum, some great public parks, interesting shops and even its own Symphony Orchestra.
The town has a good programme of festivals, including ones dedicated to food and drink and another to music, dance, film, theatre and literature, while the area is ideal for sailing and surfing.
Keith Fensom, an associate director at estate agents Savills, said homes on Bournemouth’s cliff top overlooking the sea were perennially popular.
A two bedroom flat in an older block would cost from around £220,000, but could stretch up to a £1.5m for a glitzy penthouse.
Of course, cliff top living is not for all – to get to the beach one must negotiate a zig zag path, and while walking into the town is a breeze there is an uphill walk home.
A more restful option would be to live in Bournemouth’s smartest suburb, the leafy and lovely Talbot Woods, where a three bedroom detached 1930s house would cost from about £500,000.
Alternatively a modern, low maintenance two to three bedroom townhouse in the town centre would cost between £250,000 and £350,000.
Fensom said that, thanks to the perennial appeal of Bournemouth to downsizers, the market over the last 12 months has finally shaken off the recession.
“There is a lot of activity,” he said. “If you have a property that is correctly priced and under £1m then you are often seeing competitive bidding for it.”
1. For a glamorous retirement, downsizers could buy a fabulous three bedroom penthouse in Bournemouth for £1,195,000 and enjoy panoramic sea views.
2. Or traditionalists might prefer a Grade II listed, three bedroom cottage, which could be yours for offers over £280,000.
3. Eastbourne also offers penthouse living. A three bedroom home with great views of beach and sea is on the market at £695,000.
4. A three bedroom farmhouse in Lytham St Annes is a manageable size yet large enough for friends and family to stay over. It is on the market at £475,000.
5. Alternatively, a three bedroom flat in a converted manor house could be yours for £249,950.
As the recession slowly eases its grip billions of pounds of money is pouring into regeneration projects across Britain, many of which remained on the drawing board during the recession.
Buying a home in an area in line for serious improvements is one of the surest ways to make a good property investment. The downside, of course, is that most of these areas are by definition currently a work in progress and buyers will need to be patient if they are to reap the benefits of massive regeneration.
That being said one of Britain’s most exciting regeneration programmes is Wirral Waters, Birkenhead, a £4.5bn redevelopment of the city’s currently disused docks.
This is a monster of a scheme which will eventually include offices, shops, bars and restaurants, plus up to 15,000 new homes in towers of up to a reported 50 stories. Such vast projects do not happen overnight and it is currently unclear when The Peel Group, which has planning consent for its 30 year project, will begin.
However, Mark Heaton, associate partner at the Clive Watkin Partnership, points out that the city is still feeling the ill effects of seven years of economic misery.
It means two bedroom terraced houses on the fringes of the Wirral Waters scheme currently sell from as little as £40,000 – often to investors since few buyers want to live on the edges of a currently derelict zone.
“If it is turned into our Canary Wharf or Salford Quays it will be fantastic,” said Heaton. “But it will take a long, long time.”
A safer bet is the leafy suburb of Oxton Village, a couple of miles from the docks but a world away in terms of lifestyle. Here you could pay around £500,000 for a fine Victorian villa with six-plus bedrooms, or from around £90,000 for a two bedroom flat.
Another scheme well worth watching is the Clyde Gateway in Glasgow, a £2.7m scheme centred on the site of this year’s Commonwealth Games. It will regenerate a swathe of the east end of the city, including Bridgeton, Dalmarnock, Rutherglen and Shawfield, meaning homes in these currently undervalued areas could make a fantastic investment.
The 20 year project will include a new suburb on the site of the athletes’ village
Property in Glasgow currently costs an average £156,803 up 4.47 per cent in the last year.
A recent study by Slater Hogg & Howison says the city’s market is strengthening with homes selling faster and closer to asking price than they have for seven years.
“The recovery in the Glasgow housing market is rooted in the return of the first time buyer and the confidence they bring to the rest of the market,” said Michael Luck, managing director of Slater Hogg & Howison.
“The Scottish Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme which launched in September 2013 has added to this growing sense of confidence. In the first three months of the scheme, it accounted for one in 12 sales of new property in Scotland. The scheme has been well received with one in four new properties for sale in Glasgow under £400,000 available through the scheme.”
Meanwhile, massive investment (to the tune of £1.3bn) is going on to the west of Milton Keynes. Some 6,500 new homes are to be built in the rather lumberingly-named Western Expansion Area between Stony Stratford, Two Mile Ash and Crowhill.
This area is about as far from the land of the concrete cow as you can imagine, with a mixture of lovely village and country houses, and modern contemporary homes to choose from.
Homes in Milton Keynes cost an average £235,444, up 4.91 per cent in the last 12 months.
avid Webb, a director of Fine and Country prefers to use the word expansion to describe the plans to expand Milton Keynes, pointing out that regeneration usually suggests a run-down area.
At present buyers could pick up a two bedroom period cottage in Stony Stratford for around £160,000 to £200,000 or a four bedroom 1970s house for circa £400,000. And Webb believes that demand in the area (which includes London and Birmingham commuters) is such that it can sustain a stream of new houses starting to come onto the market in the next year or two.
“At the moment we have got quite a severe shortage of property and high demand,” he said. “If there was to be a slowing of prices then I would argue that would be a good thing because we are heading towards a boom and bust situation where prices are rising above what people can afford. Milton Keynes is used to having big influxes of new homes, and I don’t think it will suffer.”
1. For those willing to play a long game this two bedroom period house in Birkenhead, yards from the River Mersey, could be worth a lot more than £69,950 when the Wirral Waters scheme is up and running. It is also extremely handy for Hamilton Square station, and local transport links never hurt a home’s price growth potential.
2. Alternatively this five bedroom Victorian house is on offer at £222,500.
3. The Commonwealth Games will breathe new life into the East End of Glasgow where you could buy a one bedroom flat above shops for a mere £42,000.
4. Or for £269,995 you could opt for a fabulous three bedroom flat on nearby Glasgow Green, within an easy walk of the games’ athletes village.
5. East of Milton Keynes billions of pounds are being invested, which could make homes like this £2.5m Georgian pile all the more sought after.
6. The area – of course – also has modern property, including this three bedroom contemporary townhouse for sale at £240,000
With 100 days until the Scottish independence referendum, what can you buy north and south of the boarder for the same amount of cash?
3. For sale with an asking price of £150,000 – five bedroom detached house in Dumfries And Galloway (left) verses four bedrooms in Durham (right)