Devon and Somerset Housing Market

Q) Now that Summer is here, it must be a key time to be looking at property in the South West. How is the health of the SW market?

The price gap between London and the South West fluctuates on what is usually a 10 to 15 years cycle. The current cycle reached it’s widest point early last year. Now that property in London zone 1 and a large part of zone 2 has experienced a significant a fall in value, the gap has started to close. This narrowing of what was a chasm has been accelerated by the different nature of the vendors of property in the two different regions. Owners of the sort of property that London escapees want to buy in the South West tend to be discretionary vendors. Unlike their London counterparts these discretionary vendors do not have to move to get their child into the right school by the autumn, their children are grown up and they will sell only when they feel they have been offered fair value. Fair value to them is often coloured by agents giving fanciful valuations at a time when they are critically short of stock. This has a ratcheting effect on the prices of better West Country property because they are not governed by market forces in quite the same way as London property.

Q) Are there particular regions/segments that stand out as particularly good performers?

The price contours of the West Country are quite complex and remind me of the Venn diagrams we did at school. Where a property falls within the three spheres of good communications, good schools and an agreeable landscape, values will be strongest. Fashion also plays an important part too; if you want value, avoid the spots that central Londoners holiday in. These ghettos also suffer worst during times of financial instability.

Q)  Are we still seeing a ‘Brexit Effect’ on SW property?

No. The market has decided in the last few weeks that it is now time move on irrespective of Brexit. There are some fascinating opportunities appearing, but shy vendors mean that many more better properties are being offered “off market”. In my opinion Stamp duty is much more of a problem than Brexit uncertainty and it is worth bearing in mind that many rural properties in this part of the world are eligible for mixed use stamp duty which can give dramatic savings. From an international perspective British property has been comparatively expensive. With the pound coming back to a more sensible level it is now looking much better value. Many overseas buyers do not “get” the West Country in the same way that we do, but they do like London and there are signs that they are returning to buy there again now that prices there have fallen at the same time as the pound has softened. It seems likely that it is only a matter of time before those purchasers drive more London escapees west. 

Q) What insights can you provide into the SW’s economy/infrastructure that can have a positive or detrimental effect on the property market?

All my life the West Country has suffered from a lack of investment in infrastructure. When I first started driving I looked forward to the day when the A303 would be dualled. It never happened and the M5 never got beyond Exeter despite various promises. Now, many years later we still have a train service to London using rolling stock that is nearly 50 years old. We West Country people have overcome these difficulties to establish an enviable quality of life and I think it is the ability of West Country people to overcome these difficulties that makes us special.

Q) Were I someone looking to invest in the SW what are the pitfalls?

Always buy the best you can afford. That ruined Old Rectory the other side of Holsworthy may look extraordinarily cheap but there is usually a very good reason. I can think of two that have had indifferent but expensive refurbishments and cannot be sold at a sufficient figure to cover their costs.

Q) Were I looking to sell within the SW, what would be your advice?

The agent coming to pitch for your sale will often not be the one who starts the transaction. More likely this will be the young man or woman at the office who picks up the telephone. How this first enquiry is dealt with is crucial, do some mystery shopping yourself, pick a property similar to your own, call the selling agent and see how your enquiry is dealt with.

So pick an agent you can engage with who has efficient staff, not the one suggesting the highest selling price. They practically all have good websites now so there is little differentiation in their offer other than the quality of their staff and the size of their fees.

Q) Overall are you optimistic, or cautious about the short-medium term?

If you live long enough property is always a good bet but the public prefer their jam today rather than tomorrow. I do not believe property is ever a suitable short term investment as quite apart from the risk of catching a change in market sentiment, the costs of trading eat away at a large proportion of any possible gain. My advice is buy a property that you love and that will enhance the well-being of you and your family, your family is after all your most important investment. If you get some growth in value then think of that as a bonus.

Gideon Sumption

June 2019

Current rural planning policy precludes residential development in open country except for Agricultural Occupancy Restricted Dwellings (in theory necessary to accommodate agricultural workers) and class Q of the General Permitted Development Order. Development is directed to sites within defined “settlement limits” of rural villages. Not only does this go against many people’s desire for ‘no near neighbours’ but these opportunities will mostly be for plots of ½ and acre or less and will be fiercely competed for by local builders and developers looking to cram as many dwellings per acre as they can squeeze in.

The very few opportunities that do exist in open country will either be the demolition of AOC bungalows or Class Q.  If you feel you could comply with AOC conditions or be willing to battle to get them lifted, then this could be a way forward. However the new class Q of the GPDO rules can provide larger plots in rural locations for the conversion of modern, usually steel framed agricultural buildings. These are often isolated and can come with several acres of land which gives the opportunity for privacy and seclusion in a contemporary energy efficient dwelling.

In essence, if a farmer or landowner has redundant modern agricultural buildings they may be eligible for conversion to homes through Permitted Development Rights contained within the General Permitted Development Order. PDRs generally allow building works and/or changes of use to be carried out without full planning permission. The class of PDR permitting the conversion of modern agricultural buildings to dwellings is known as Class Q.

Introduced in 2014, Class Q initially provided that any buildings used solely for agriculture on or before 20 March 2013 and now redundant, may he converted into up to three dwellings with a maximum cumulative total floor space of 450 sq.m. subject to certain prescribed limitations and conditions. However, with effect from 6 April 2018, Class Q development may now comprise of:

  • Up to three larger homes within a combined maximum of 465 sq m or
  • Up to five smaller homes each no larger than 100 sq m; or
  • A mix of both, totalling no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes

These new thresholds are a welcome amendment to the rules relating to the redevelopment of farm buildings and should provide a much-needed boost to rural housing. However, any Class Q development requires prior approval from the Local Planning Authority; in 2015/16 half of all such applications were rejected. Therefore anyone considering this interesting route to a new rural home should obtain professional advice at an early stage.

General

The predictions of the Bank of England’s agent for the South West, for the region’s prospects have been proved spot on. The West Country economy, which stalled briefly after the Brexit vote, seems to be stronger than ever now.

The latest national data bears this out with a weak pound stimulating economic activity, particularly in the manufacturing sector. I am also intrigued to see European firms acquiring some UK ones now that they are looking rather cheap. Our local Taunton based Ministry of Cake being a prime example. In that case acquired by a French conglomerate.

The BOE are clearly determined not to let the economy fall in to the same stagnant ditch as Japan’s, so penalties for banks that do not lend, bond purchasing, more quantitative easing, in fact anything in the tool box will be used to keep the economy buoyant including Hinkley Point.

What does this mean for residential property? In the provinces, the effect will be most pronounced. Buyers have had more reasons than ever before to procrastinate. But you cannot hold back demand indefinitely; it will eventually overspill the dam of indecision.

This, in conjunction with historically low interest rates and a weaker £ must mean that over the next 12 months we will see a tightening of supply.  

In the meantime our clients, who are mostly pragmatic discretionary purchasers, are carrying on buying in a market with a wide choice and we are getting discounts for them of between 6 and 18%.

I have been predicting for a while that London property fence sitters are missing an opportunity as the gap between London and the West Country prices had never been wider. With the softening of London prices accelerated by the stamp duty changes and West Country prices fairly solid, the gap is closing. In years to come frustrated escapees from the capital will look back at 2018 as the year they should have moved.

The message is clear, if you are contemplating selling or downsizing in London and grabbing some life quality in the West Country, do it now before everyone else realises the gap is only going to get smaller.

For a refreshing change some really interesting off market properties became available this year. My favourite is an early Great Hall house, hardly touched for 50 years and with a good parcel of land. It sold, thank goodness, to a great couple who are up for the challenge of it’s restoration and are in tune with the West Country.

Farms and mixed use properties make up a significant proportion of the acquisitions we advise on and it is important to bear in mind that these attract a much less aggressive rate of stamp duty. On a £2m “farm” the stamp duty bill will be £68,500 whereas on a £2m house it will be £153,750. Establishing the status of a property can bring huge savings.

However with so many properties in the West Country still being offered at unrealistic guide prices a lot of the property “on the market” is not really for sale. An overpriced property is actually just window dressing for agents and a fantasy trip for the vendor. For the rest of us it distorts the market by littering it with properties that cannot really be bought unless a purchaser is mad enough to want to pay more than it is worth. To my mind these properties are not for sale but rather stage props in a comedy/tragedy.

There are within the market always a number of forced sellers, usually probate, divorce or over-borrowed. Apart from these exceptions, it is worth remembering that the vast majority of vendors of quality property in rural areas are discretionary rather than compulsory. If these people do not like the look of the market or it’s prices they will not offer or sell their property. This has a distorting effect on the market by making it appear that values are higher than they really are.

The word “quality” really is the nub of this matter. The vast majority of the property that makes up the statistics we read so much about in the press is ordinary. It is easy, after constantly reading stories in the press, either boom or doom, to think that these generalised commentaries apply to all property. They do not and they are particularly inappropriate for more valuable rural property. My clients do not want ordinary, they want quality and the small but important sector of the market represented by “best of type” properties is not going perform in the quite same way as the rest.

There are three principal reasons for this. The supply is very finite; for my clients these are almost invariably discretionary purchases and, as I have said previously, for the vendors often discretionary sales. Thus average house prices, whilst a useful barometer of a trend, are less relevant than people think when assessing a rural property, particularly as these rural properties not only by definition represent a tiny proportion of the total housing stock, but also represent an even smaller proportion of the total number of transactions in a given period because they are traded less frequently than urban properties.

Analysing statistical evidence is important provided it is not applied too rigorously to non standard properties. This is just what is happening in some sectors of the mortgage market where more and more mortgage applications are being assessed by computers rather than experienced local valuers. The result can be that properties outside the statistical norm are being disadvantaged. It is therefore very important to establish, when applying for a mortgage, who is actually going to value the property and whether they have the appropriate experience and local knowledge in that market sector. Getting this properly organised before it is too late is key.

An equally important part of my job is assessing the vendor. My clients are not buying a generality, rather a specific property and the price at which that property can be purchased depends as much on the vendor and their circumstances as anything else. Bear in mind at all times when approaching a property that there are three variable figures:

  1. the sum that the agent is asking,  2. the amount that it is worth and 3. the price at which the property can be bought. These days these three figures are very rarely the same.

Thus whilst it is important to establish, before submitting an offer, the exact situation of the vendor and ascertain whether they have to sell or would merely like to sell if the price is appealing, I need to know whether my clients purchase decision is based on price or value. Looking purely at the price of a property can be misleading; the value of a property is much more than its’ financial cost, it is the well being and quality of life it brings to the purchaser and their family over many years.

The effect of these factors on my market depends on area and asking price. Different sections are performing in very different ways. Better properties, particularly those with land are selling well when correctly priced. By contrast properties that are dull, ordinary, blemished or overpriced are not selling at all, or at large discounts. In the middle and upper sectors of the market in this area, the majority of vendors are discretionary; their reason for selling a good house is often a lifestyle decision rather than financial compulsion. Many of these vendors remain uncertain whether current market conditions are right for their sale. Agents, faced with an acute shortage of turnover, are occasionally answering this question by resorting to fanciful valuations for prospective vendors in order to win instructions.

One consequence is that some new stock is still coming the market overpriced at a time when the market is particularly price sensitive, resulting in disappointed vendors and confused purchasers.  A second consequence is that an increasing amount of prime property is being offered privately off market. A third consequence is that much more stock is being offered “To Let” if it fails to sell rather than having the price reduced to a sensible level. The overall effect on the public is one of confusion.

In conclusion, a dearth of correctly priced prime property is making it difficult for amateurs to read the market and for estate agents to accurately establish values. This presents an unusual opportunity for buyers, particularly now that the London/West Country price chasm is starting to close. Fence sitting at this interesting phase of the market will, in my opinion, prove to be expensive.

November 2018

Below is a quick guide to the Stamp Duty changes (it does not include the second home or BTL surcharge), but please remember that most farms and mixed used properties have separate rates peaking at 4% which start to get quite advantageous for qualifying properties worth more than £1m. Please see the “Farmland” page for specific details.     

Plan ahead and buy a futureproof house

Thinking about the future isn’t only about regeneration. It also means considering that children are now having to stay at the family home longer and yours could well still be with you in their thirties and beyond. Some 3.3 million 20 to 34-year-olds were living with their parents in 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics — the highest number since it started keeping records in 1996. At the other end of the spectrum, the ageing population means that more parents and grandparents are likely to need to live with their adult children.

Planning for these eventualities can mean that you avoid the significant costs of finding a larger home later. Linda Jeffcoat, of Stacks Property Search, a buying agency, advises avoiding spontaneous decisions and considering factors such as local schools even if you haven’t yet started a family. “There are enormous financial rewards to be gained for those who plan for the future at an early stage,” she says. “The cost of moving is phenomenal, anything from 3 per cent to 10 per cent of the value of the property. If the bank owns half your property, you’re effectively losing 6 per cent to 20 per cent of the equity every time you move. If you have any respect for your equity try and reduce the number of times you move by planning carefully.”

Call Gideon or Christy to discuss what you are looking for.
Tel: 01884 849144 / Tel: 07739 090068

Start your property search today

Call us on +44 (0) 1594 842880 or complete the form below

Your Details



Your property requirements:

Status:
SoldThinking of movingOn the marketExchangingIn rented accommodationCash buyerIn need of helpOther


We will never share your details with a third party. For more information about how we handle your data, please see our Privacy Policy

“We want to thank you so much for the very professional and sensitive support you have given us in navigating through the various properties we have considered for investment of our small inheritance.”
2018-11-05T22:55:02+00:00
“We want to thank you so much for the very professional and sensitive support you have given us in navigating through the various properties we have considered for investment of our small inheritance.”
"You we able to give us confidence that we were doing the right thing"
2018-11-21T13:20:39+00:00
"You we able to give us confidence that we were doing the right thing"
"I would recommend using Stacks as they are well connected to the property market and provide a realistic assessment of activity and pricing."
2018-11-21T12:45:49+00:00
"I would recommend using Stacks as they are well connected to the property market and provide a realistic assessment of activity and pricing."
"found precisely what I was looking for, and even on my request made an offer before I had even seen the property!!"
2018-11-21T12:35:46+00:00
"found precisely what I was looking for, and even on my request made an offer before I had even seen the property!!"
"You have exceeded our expectations for a buy-side property service and have made the process a smooth one for us."
2018-11-21T13:18:01+00:00
"You have exceeded our expectations for a buy-side property service and have made the process a smooth one for us."
"We are delighted with our choice and so are the children."
2018-11-21T13:08:49+00:00
"We are delighted with our choice and so are the children."
"Because I had invested in the process of working with a Buying Agent, I had the confidence to go ahead"
2018-11-21T12:21:23+00:00
"Because I had invested in the process of working with a Buying Agent, I had the confidence to go ahead"
"...took just days to come up with the property that fitted all our criteria"

Sunday Telegraph

2018-11-06T13:59:47+00:00

Sunday Telegraph

"...took just days to come up with the property that fitted all our criteria"
"Stacks takes great pride in their service, is an expert in their field and above all, demonstrated integrity in all our interaction with them"
2018-11-21T12:54:09+00:00
"Stacks takes great pride in their service, is an expert in their field and above all, demonstrated integrity in all our interaction with them"
"Thank you very much for the professionalism, patience and understanding"
2018-11-21T12:55:04+00:00
"Thank you very much for the professionalism, patience and understanding"
"Through the whole process they went above and beyond, and it was worth every penny!"
2018-11-21T12:59:15+00:00
"Through the whole process they went above and beyond, and it was worth every penny!"
"The best decision we could have made!"
2018-11-21T12:55:52+00:00
"The best decision we could have made!"
"great value to us during a difficult, competitive purchase"
2018-11-21T12:39:48+00:00
"great value to us during a difficult, competitive purchase"
"...negotiate on anything"

Financial Times

2018-11-06T14:00:36+00:00

Financial Times

"...negotiate on anything"
"We would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending them to anyone thinking of using such a service"
2018-11-21T13:13:46+00:00
"We would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending them to anyone thinking of using such a service"
"utterly tenacious..."
2018-11-21T13:06:52+00:00
"utterly tenacious..."
"delivered a great service at a reasonable cost"
2018-11-21T12:30:52+00:00
"delivered a great service at a reasonable cost"
"Without somebody on the ground asking the right questions on our behalf, finding a home would have been truly impossible."
2018-11-21T13:15:37+00:00
"Without somebody on the ground asking the right questions on our behalf, finding a home would have been truly impossible."
"In essence, you are buying your best ally "
2018-11-21T12:47:38+00:00
"In essence, you are buying your best ally "
"The house is ideal ... and it is nothing like our first (unsuitable) ideas!"
2018-11-21T12:56:37+00:00
"The house is ideal ... and it is nothing like our first (unsuitable) ideas!"
"Stacks has been an invaluable source of experience and wisdom on the successful landing of just the right house"
2018-11-21T12:53:20+00:00
"Stacks has been an invaluable source of experience and wisdom on the successful landing of just the right house"
"You have an empathetic approach which, added to your knowledge and wise guidance, has made the whole thing a lot less stressful"
2018-11-21T13:17:15+00:00
"You have an empathetic approach which, added to your knowledge and wise guidance, has made the whole thing a lot less stressful"
"Despite other interested parties, Stacks were able to help us secure our preferred property."
2018-11-21T12:32:12+00:00
"Despite other interested parties, Stacks were able to help us secure our preferred property."
"Practically, I needed someone to do the legwork and the eye-balling"
2018-11-21T12:49:38+00:00
"Practically, I needed someone to do the legwork and the eye-balling"
"a fantastic job in impossible circumstances"
2018-11-21T12:17:11+00:00
"a fantastic job in impossible circumstances"
"extremely helpful, knowledgeable and tireless in their efforts to assist us"
2018-11-21T12:33:22+00:00
"extremely helpful, knowledgeable and tireless in their efforts to assist us"
"It made a potentially very stressful process very straightforward"
2018-11-21T12:48:37+00:00
"It made a potentially very stressful process very straightforward"
"Being able to 'stand behind' Stacks, whilst they brought their negotiating skills to the fore, took us to another level"
2018-11-21T12:22:38+00:00
"Being able to 'stand behind' Stacks, whilst they brought their negotiating skills to the fore, took us to another level"
"I completely underestimated how much of a difference you would make"
2018-11-21T12:43:03+00:00
"I completely underestimated how much of a difference you would make"
"carried out with discretion"
2018-11-21T12:28:29+00:00
"carried out with discretion"
"Well done in taking us to a house we didn’t know we wanted … and then fell in love with!"
2018-11-21T13:14:45+00:00
"Well done in taking us to a house we didn’t know we wanted … and then fell in love with!"
"They didn’t try to persuade us to buy anything unsuitable."
2018-11-21T12:57:31+00:00
"They didn’t try to persuade us to buy anything unsuitable."
"Should I move again, I shall definitely use you again"
2018-11-21T12:51:23+00:00
"Should I move again, I shall definitely use you again"
"helped our parents downsize from the family home, in what was a traumatic move for them"
2018-11-21T12:41:04+00:00
"helped our parents downsize from the family home, in what was a traumatic move for them"
"We were in a tricky housing situation, looking to buy a very specific type of house and needing to find it in a very specific time frame"
2018-11-21T13:12:00+00:00
"We were in a tricky housing situation, looking to buy a very specific type of house and needing to find it in a very specific time frame"
"Your advice on how to effectively instruct and motivate our professional team allowed us to complete in one month."
2018-11-21T13:22:31+00:00
"Your advice on how to effectively instruct and motivate our professional team allowed us to complete in one month."
"Stacks had the critical combination of expertise and tenacity to broker a solution for us"
2018-11-21T12:52:31+00:00
"Stacks had the critical combination of expertise and tenacity to broker a solution for us"
"Would not hesitate to use you again."
2018-11-21T13:16:29+00:00
"Would not hesitate to use you again."
"I’ve seldom had such consistent, wise support in a major life decision, and I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it is."
2018-11-21T12:46:40+00:00
"I’ve seldom had such consistent, wise support in a major life decision, and I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it is."
"How extraordinary to have found what we were looking for"
2018-11-21T12:42:07+00:00
"How extraordinary to have found what we were looking for"
"got our offer accepted even when it was not the highest"
2018-11-21T12:38:34+00:00
"got our offer accepted even when it was not the highest"
"I gained a house, setting and location which are right for me"
2018-11-21T12:43:48+00:00
"I gained a house, setting and location which are right for me"
"was fantastic at explaining and helping us with everything that was happening"
2018-11-21T13:07:43+00:00
"was fantastic at explaining and helping us with everything that was happening"
"We love the house and cannot wait to move in and get settled."
2018-11-21T13:10:27+00:00
"We love the house and cannot wait to move in and get settled."
"You were able, by taking on much of the responsibility and the effort, to enable us to relax and enjoy the process"
2018-11-21T13:21:20+00:00
"You were able, by taking on much of the responsibility and the effort, to enable us to relax and enjoy the process"
"found us a home in a sought-after area with a high demand for properties and very little on offer"
2018-11-21T12:37:14+00:00
"found us a home in a sought-after area with a high demand for properties and very little on offer"
"We now own a most suitable house in the position of our dreams thanks to Stacks"
2018-11-21T13:11:13+00:00
"We now own a most suitable house in the position of our dreams thanks to Stacks"
"They've been a close and very helpful part of our discussions with everybody. When you’re new to a town and an area, that’s priceless."
2018-11-21T12:58:19+00:00
"They've been a close and very helpful part of our discussions with everybody. When you’re new to a town and an area, that’s priceless."
"Relentlessly provided us with the context and facts we needed to make an informed decision "
2018-11-21T12:50:28+00:00
"Relentlessly provided us with the context and facts we needed to make an informed decision "
"You saved me many miles of driving and were very professional"
2018-11-21T13:19:40+00:00
"You saved me many miles of driving and were very professional"
"a calming, guiding presence where nothing was too much trouble"
2018-11-21T12:13:26+00:00
"a calming, guiding presence where nothing was too much trouble"
"We were moving country – had booked the packers – and had nowhere to move into!"
2018-11-21T13:12:46+00:00
"We were moving country – had booked the packers – and had nowhere to move into!"
“We really enjoyed working with Sara and Stacks and would highly recommend having them on your side in the home buying process”
2019-06-19T13:54:55+00:00
“We really enjoyed working with Sara and Stacks and would highly recommend having them on your side in the home buying process”
"I needed the continuous advice and support on the many issues that can and do arise, and, above all, someone acting in one’s own interest."
2018-11-21T12:44:59+00:00
"I needed the continuous advice and support on the many issues that can and do arise, and, above all, someone acting in one’s own interest."
"always courteous and pleasant, and most importantly, in our opinion, trustworthy."
2018-11-21T12:19:57+00:00
"always courteous and pleasant, and most importantly, in our opinion, trustworthy."
"You made a huge difference to our search as I am sure you do for all your clients."
2019-05-02T11:00:08+00:00
"You made a huge difference to our search as I am sure you do for all your clients."
"We cannot imagine how long it would have taken us to find our perfect home without Stacks – and we suspect that we would have compromised a long time ago!"
2018-11-21T13:09:36+00:00
"We cannot imagine how long it would have taken us to find our perfect home without Stacks – and we suspect that we would have compromised a long time ago!"
"You have found us a superb home which we feel fortunate to call our own."
2018-11-21T13:18:39+00:00
"You have found us a superb home which we feel fortunate to call our own."

Click here to read more of why our clients need our help