All it takes to land the perfect equestrian home is £1.5m. That’s the most popular asking price among vendors, according to the Horse & Hound property index, which tracks the property advertisements in the magazine.

Quite what this sum fetches, however, is up for debate. In West Sussex, it buys “a really nice country house with around 10-15 acres of quality land, secondary accommodation, and a yard of varying size, with a lovely rural position,” according to Diana Rowell of Churchill Country & Equestrian.

In Shropshire, it buys a small country estate with an eight-bedroom home, a two-bedroom cottage, 62 acres and plenty of outbuildings.

In southern France it stretches to a 10,763sq ft chateau with 135 acres of pasture, gardens and woods, a large barn, yard, swimming pool and tennis court — and you’d have around £200,000 change.

Despite a trend towards a greater uniformity of prices, the differential between regions in the UK remains rather staggering — and still offers a great opportunity for buyers who are prepared to move across the country or even overseas in search of value for money.

According to the Horse & Hound property index, the cheapest region for equestrian homes is Scotland, followed by the East Midlands and East Anglia. The south-west is next, and the price divide with the south-east emerges clearly. Homes from Wiltshire to Cornwall were on average 25% cheaper than those from Hampshire to Kent.

What’s more unexpected, however, is just how much prices can change within the same region, or indeed the same county, for buyers who can afford to go beyond fashionable commuter havens. Take Essex, for example.

“We could have equestrian homes that can be purchased in our area from possibly as low as £1.5m,” says Phillip Leigh of the eponymous estate agent in Chigwell, which is within the M25. “But the majority would more likely be well in excess of this figure.”

But travel the 25 miles to Chelmsford and the picture changes significantly.

“It’s the location that makes a difference to prices, more than the style or type of house,” says Zoe Napier of Fenn Wright.

“North of Chelmsford to Colchester, there’s some superb countryside. We have the Essex Showground, which is going to be a racecourse next year — and, of course, we have Towerlands Equestrian Centre. But Essex is very understated in these areas, and you can get plenty for £1.5m. And, beyond Colchester, you can get a very nice country house with acreage for £1.5m.”

Like most portions of Essex that lie beyond the M25, the Braintree area is affordable partly because it is slightly further from London and partly because “it has a stigma” attached to it, according to Napier.

However, she warns this may soon cease to be good-value country.

“The perception of Essex is changing,” she says. “And with the new road to Stansted, prices are going to change very quickly.”

Expect the gap with the rest of the country to be somewhat narrower by this time next year.

  • This property focus was first published in Horse & Hound (15 December, ’05)

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