When Darren and Sharon Horn viewed a derelict farm at Out Rawcliffe, in Lancashire, they found a dream property where most buyers would have seen only crumbling walls and a gaping roof.
A few years later, Gaulter’s Farm Equestrian Centre emerged like a phoenix from the ashes. The Horns rebuilt the house and surrounded it by a range of facilities, including a floodlit manège, an indoor school and a block of seven internal stables.
Although most people would baulk at such a daunting challenge, property development can be tempting to equestrian buyers because it allows them to tailor a home to their needs – and those of their horses.
Although renovation requires significant outlay, it can often add substantial value to a house. The Horns’ colossal effort paid off – they are now looking at offers in the region of £795,000 for Gaulter’s Farm, through Lancaster Estates & Properties.
“A decent set-up with a few loose boxes, tackroom and feed room could add £15,000-£20,000 to the asking price because it looks better than a tired old building,” says Justin Lowe of Greenslade Taylor Hunt.
An outdoor arena can increase a property’s value by up to 10%, according to Zoe Napier of Walkers Country & Equestrian, “or even more if a property faces on to a busy main road or has little grazing. It provides a safer way to exercise your horses and an all-weather alternative to turning them out”.
Buyers considering development should plan extensively and budget to the last penny.
“I would look at spending £50,000 on smart stabling, a concrete yard and good infrastructure, with a view to making another £50,000 when reselling – assuming that the house is in reasonable condition,” says specialist agent Jon Drew-Smythe.
Having defined needs and priorities, the next step is to find a suitable property.
“Look for a former livestock farm in a level area with good hacking,” recommends Lowe. “Very often, the marketing for these properties makes no mention of equestrian potential, so you have to think laterally.”
Once the right site has been identified, buyers should check planning requirements with the relevant local authority, preferably before making a firm offer. Many improvements can be carried out without permission but the regulations governing planning are often arcane and should be checked thoroughly before embarking on any project.
“Most people don’t realise that stables can go up without consent so long as they’re not higher than 4m, are more than 5m away from the house and are within the domestic curtailage but don’t take up more than 50% of it,” says Napier. “Manèges within the domestic curtailage are in the same situation as tennis courts, while those outside it will almost certainly require planning permission, as will floodlights.”
When the papers are in order, it is time to pinpoint your investment.
“You needn’t necessarily spend a lot,” says Lowe. “If you have a decent block building on the premises and need only to change the roofing and flooring and put in loose boxes, £5,000-£10,000 will go a long way.”
Buyers should carefully select materials and location to enhance the property’s value.
“Stables should face east or south and be located behind the house for security,” says Napier. “And it’s better to fit full-size boxes because, although you may have ponies, the next buyer could have horses.”