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What gives properties the X-factor?
August 8th, 2013
From The Times
Lucy Alexander

A big sleek kitchen, good schools near by — these are some of the ingredients that will help a home to sell in 2010.

This year, exceptional houses continued to sell for well over their asking prices. This in the teeth of a recession that, by April, had seen average house prices plummet 17 per cent. So what sort of houses defeated the doom-mongers? What lessons can we learn for 2010? To sell well in a recession, your house needs a special something. In tribute to the final this Sunday of a certain ITV talent show, Bricks & Mortar brings you: houses with the X Factor . . .

The euro-buyer townhouse Our cover star, a five-bedroom, fivestorey Primrose Hill pad, sold to a European buyer, exploiting sterling's weakness against the euro. The buyer paid £50,000 above the £2.85 million asking price last month for the house on Gloucester Avenue, London NW1, four weeks after it launched, beating six other offers (John D Wood).

The lateral London apartment A British buyer paid 5 per cent more than the £3.75 million asking price for a three-bedroom first-floor flat on Evelyn Gardens in South Kensington, London SW7, after the sale went to sealed bids in October. It was bought as an investment. Why? It stretches across three buildings, creating the one-level, “lateral” layout beloved of buyers from Russia, India and the Middle East, who balk at the prospect of the stairs in a typical tall, thin London townhouse. The 38ft L-shaped reception room will also appeal to ostentatious tastes (Savills).

The marriage of old and new Anything that worked the current trend for a period exterior and ultra-modern interior was popular this year. Deans Farm, near Petersfield, Hampshire, sold in October within ten days of launch for the asking price of £2.25 million. The four-bedroom farmhouse dates from 1400, but among the ancient exposed timbers nestles a very contemporary bathroom with his-and-hers basins, a huge double shower and a freestanding bath (Jackson-Stops & Staff). A four-bedroom townhouse on Redcliffe Road, Chelsea, London SW10, exchanged last week for £3.6 million, £150,000 more than the asking price. Behind the Victorian façade lies a good deal of glass, sharp lines and open space — the reception room is 42ft long (Aylesford International).

The educated investment Almost anything near a good school held its value comparatively well this year. A tiny three-bedroom cottage next to a railway line in Barnes, London SW13, may not sound promising, but the owners of the Archway Street property accepted an offer above the £649,950 asking price. That the house is within the catchment area for Barnes Primary School, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, might have something to do with it, as might its proximity to St Paul's School (Savills). The White House, in Ropsley, Lincs, was bought within ten days for the asking price of £545,000 — solely because of easy access to Lincoln Minster School (Chesterton Humberts).

Classic charm Firby Hall, a Georgian manor house in 57 acres of Yorkshire countryside, near Northallerton, sold for 30 per cent above the asking price of £2.25 million in October. Could part of its appeal lie in the number of rooms with nostalgic titles? Not every home has a scullery, game larder and tack room (Strutt & Parker). Finally, Beeks Mill, near Bath, was snapped up for 20 per cent above the £800,000 guide price, despite having no central heating. Perhaps the pantry was the deciding factor (Carter Jonas).

Fact box

What are the stand-out features that convince the super-rich to call a place home?

• A very large master bedroom suite, often taking up all the first floor, and featuring his and hers bathrooms and a wardrobe room (without cupboard doors, to ensure clothes can be admired).

• A brick vaulted basement, cunningly bought into use as an exercise room, and a brightly-lit wine cellar or ski-style “stube” for candlelit suppers or drinks.

• A conservatory (custom- designed, not one you might find at the Chelsea Flower Show).

• A dog-drying room.

• A flower-arranging room, with potential to double as a present-wrapping room.

• Lots of land. Properties with 1,500 to 2,000 acres will sell quickly, especially if they have a gate lodge, private drive and guest cottages for those friends or family members that we want close, but not too close.


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