Finding your dream home

  • Imagine choosing the home of your dreams. What would it be like? A survey on www.horseandhound.co.uk reveals significant trends in the demand for equestrian properties.

    The first is the geography. Despite its horrific prices, the south-east remains the favourite location for 32% of respondents.

    “The benefits [of living here] are obvious,” says Karen Hall, a senior partner at Equus Property in Teston, Kent. “Convenient access to London and the continent, busy commercial centres, excellent educational facilities and good job opportunities all combine for the sort of package one needs to enjoy an equestrian lifestyle.”

    Interest in the south-west is also strong and accounts for 21% of the preferences. The ideal home must be near good hacking (56% of respondents) or a competition centre (26%).

    “Good out-riding has to be the number one priority for most,” says Geraldine White from Greenslade Taylor Hunt in Somerset.

    Respondents are also surprisingly modest in their requirements for a home. A traditional farmhouse beats a country estate or a pretty cottage to the top of the wish list. And — in true equestrian fashion — some 10% of people said that they aren’t interested in the house so long as the stabling is good.

    “The land, location and stabling tend to be the priority. The house usually comes second,” confirms Bill Humphries of Jon Drew-Smythe in Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire.

    The perfect farmhouse comes with three or four bedrooms (for 65% of respondents) and six to 10 acres of land (for 36%), but 48% of readers would like to have more land.This data contrasts sharply with findings from the Horse & Hound Property index — which tracks the equestrian property market through advertisements placed in the magazine — that two to five acres is the most popular range.

    The rising cost of land may explain this gap between the desires and the actual requests of equestrian buyers.

    “A traditional farmhouse with acre would cost anything between £700,000 and £900,000 in west Berkshire. If you add land, the price rises,” says Paul Burrough of Burrough & Company in Berkshire.

    And where price per acre climbs, land requirements shrink. A shortage of acres often means that buyers have to settle for less than they would like.

    “There is certainly more property available with up to five acres. Our experience is that purchasers will make do with less land and rent nearby if necessary,” says Christopher Lucas of Dreweatt Neate in Swindon, Wiltshire.

    The quality of the equestrian set-up remains important, but even here survey respondents show some restraint. While stables feature highly in the list of desirables, facilities such as staff accommodation attract little interest. Surprisingly, respondents show a marked preference for traditional English stables (58%) over American-style barns (42%), bucking a market trend in which integral stabling is becoming increasingly popular.

    Where buyers really go to town, however, are the training facilities. The winter chills perhaps explain why an indoor school makes it to the top of the wish list with 17% of the preferences. But outdoor dressage arenas, jumping arenas and cross-country courses are also highly prized.

    So how much does the ideal equestrian home cost? South-east buyers must expect to shell out at least £1million. A traditional three-bedroom farmhouse set in six to 10 acres with easy access to good out-riding and a quality equestrian complex would cost “anything from £850,000” in Buckinghamshire, climbing up to £1.25-£1.5m in parts of Berkshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire, and at least £1.5m in the New Forest.

    Moving westward or northward prices go down — but not by much. Evidently, owning your very own dream equestrian home comes at a price.

  • This property focus was first published in Horse & Hound (27 January 05)

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