As for why there are more opportunities to buy period new builds, George Clarendon, partner in the country house department at Knight Frank, says developers have responded to falling prices with increased investment. Also, building afresh opens up another avenue – there are only so many original stately piles, and the demand for big country places is still there.
“Old houses have the undeniable authenticity,” says Clarendon, “but it can be expensive and a lot of work to maintain them and you may also need listed building consent to do work. When it’s a new house, you can have all the technology, including green innovations. A lot of people want under-floor heating, but this can be very costly and difficult to install in an old house.
There’s a reason the planners give permission for Georgian and Queen Anne style properties – their gracious proportions and sash windows make them eternally popular, attractive styles to the vast majority of the population and, if done well, their value should hold. “It’s not like the art deco style of the 1920s which was more of its time and not to the general taste any more.” He also stresses that with a new build, quality is all-important. “The good stuff sells always. But it has to be good,” he says. Good also means restrained – your gentry neighbours will be pre-disposed to call you vulgar or nouveau if you build anything overtly showy.
Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, architects and craftspeople can make your house almost as authentic looking as the real thing. “It’s down to the individual as to how you decorate it,” says Clarendon. “But if you’ve put the effort in, as soon as the smell of paint is gone you can think ‘crikey, this place has been around for a long time’. And people are happy with this – they can turn on the tap and have hot water, nothing creaks; they’ve got a 10 year guarantee for this and one for that.”
Also key to buying a house with lasting value is the landscaping and gardens. “What makes a fantastic house is the surroundings,” says Clarendon. “Does the site have mature trees? Are the gardens well-designed? Also ask yourself what bits and pieces there are, such as tennis courts, pools and cottages.”
Clarendon reckons you’re looking at £250-£300 per square foot for a Queen Anne or Georgian-style house in a multi-acre estate. “But really, the sky is the limit,” he says. “If you pull the stops out to make it look like the real thing, you can really get away with it.”
HOLLOW LANE HOUSE, VIRGINIA WATER, SURREY
Price: in excess of £9m
Breathtaking views across London, including state of the art gym/spa, pool, cinema, games rooms, staff accommodation, plant room and wine cellar. Call Savills on 01344 626 162; www.savills.co.uk
PENNY HILL, ALTON, HAMPSHIRE
Price: Guide price £9m
Permission granted to build a 10,000 sq ft Queen Anne style mansion with indoor pool, stabling and more. Call Knight Frank on 020 7861 1098; www.knightfrank.co.uk
RANTON, STAFFORD, STAFFORDSHIRE
Price: £3.5m for estate and planning permission. Estate includes a Grade II-listed tower, coach house, lake, ponds, carriage drive and family shoot. Call Knight Frank on 0121 200 2220; www.knightfrank.co.uk
LEYS ROAD, OXSHOTT, SURREY
Six bedroom suites, four reception rooms, three garages, south-facing gardens and 0.6 acres of land should satisfy most requirements.
Call Savills on 01932 586 200; www.savills.co.uk