House hunting in Britain: a restored farmhouse on the Cornish coast

This seven bedroom property is located in the historic village of St Mawes, on the south coast of the county of Cornwall, in the South West of England. The compound, a collection of converted farm buildings clustered around an enclosed courtyard, consists of a five bedroom main residence, a two bedroom cottage, a two car garage with a top floor studio and a garage/workshop.

Located at the tip of the Roseland Peninsula, on the eastern shore of the Carrick Roads waterway, St. Mawes is known for its vibrant yachting and sailing community and access to one of the deepest natural harbors in the world, said Mark Wilson, the director of H Tiddy Estate Agents, which is listed.

With only about 680 homes, St. Mawes has long “had an air of exclusivity,” said Mr. Wilson. This property, which sits on two acres of gardens and lawn, “is a rarity as you have the privacy but you are only a 10 minute walk into the village,” he said.

The formal entrance to the main residence, measuring approximately 3,450 square feet, opens into a slate-floored entry foyer decorated with colorful antique stained glass windows. A few steps up is the open plan kitchen, dining and family room. The dining area has polished oak floors, exposed stone walls and wooden ceiling beams. A series of brick arches outline the kitchen, which has slate floors, skylights, gray cabinetry, a large cast iron AGA stove and a door leading to an outside patio.

At one end of the dining area, a glazed corridor leads to a wing with a study with a wood burner, an office and a utility room. A wing on the other side of the living room has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a door to the courtyard.

A wooden staircase in the dining room leads to the upper floor living room, which has a vaulted ceiling and whitewashed walls. The primary suite, also on the top floor, is accessed by a separate staircase. It also has a vaulted ceiling, whitewashed walls and a bath with a shower and a bathtub.

Behind the main residence are two terraces, one with a barbecue, hot tub and ornamental pond.

On the other side of the courtyard is the two-bedroom cottage, which has recently been used as a vacation home, Mr. Wilson said. The cottage has a terrace and a combined kitchen and living room with a vaulted ceiling and a wood burner. Patio doors lead to a private rear terrace. The two bedrooms share a bath.

The village area has “everything, really,” including a market, post office, doctor and dentist, as well as numerous restaurants, Mr Wilson said. The Hotel Tresanton and The Idle Rocks are known for their luxurious accommodations. Built in the 16th century as a seaside fortress under King Henry VIII, St. Mawes Castle is a popular tourist destination.

International travel from St Mawes requires a four hour train ride to London, or flying from Cornwall Airport Newquay (about half an hour away) to a London airport. Mr Wilson noted that travelers to America often fly into Dublin Airport to get an international flight.

With miles of beaches and cliffs, the county of Cornwall relies on tourism, and to a lesser extent agriculture, to fuel its economy. Although it is one of the poorer areas of Britain, seaside homes attract wealthy retirees and second home buyers. Since the start of the pandemic, housing markets in both Cornwall and the neighboring coastal province of Devon have seen a surge in demand and prices, agents said.

“After the initial lockdown, we experienced a dramatically higher number of buyers registering with us, driven by lifestyle changes and working from home, with many people yearning for a better work-life balance,” said Mr Wilson.

The high-end of the market has been particularly strong, said Lucian Cook, chief of residential research at Savills. Last year there were 425 agreed sales of properties worth more than £1 million ($1.36 million) in Cornwall, compared to 288 in 2020 and 151 in 2019, he said.

“You have some very strong concentrations of high-value markets on the Cornish coast,” said Mr Cook, including the Roseland Peninsula. “There are clear hot spots that are attracting domestic wealth.”

In St. Mawes, real estate transactions in each of the past two years have been about £45 million ($61 million), more than double the volume in each of the three years before the pandemic, Mr Wilson said. The average home price last year was about £1.1 million ($1.49 million).

Prices for prime coastal properties across Cornwall rose by almost 19 per cent in 2021, compared to 15 per cent for such properties nationally, Mr Cook said. He predicted that while price growth is likely to slow this year, sellers will still have the upper hand due to a shortage of inventory and continued high demand.

“The latest wave of Omicron, which is keeping people at home again, will continue to push people to re-evaluate their lifestyles,” he said. Indeed, Cornwall Council noted in its 2021 housing report that “Cornwall will be the most searched for location in England and Wales as of February 2021”, citing data from Rightmove, Britain’s largest online property portal.

Across the UK, the housing market remains vibrant, said Timothy Bannister, director of data services for Rightmove. The company tracked a record number of buyers who contacted agents through their site between Christmas and New Year, with activity up 23 percent compared to the same period last year, he said.

According to a report from the Office of National Statistics, median home prices across the country rose 10 percent year-on-year to £285,000 ($387,000) in October 2021 — though that marked a drop in 12 percent year-on-year gains in September. The Southwest region reflected that 12-month price increase by 10 percent. The London area had the lowest annual price growth, at 6.2 percent, although it is still the most expensive area in Britain, with an average house price of £516,000 ($700,000) in October.

The US State Department has issued a travel advisory against traveling to the UK due to a high level of Covid infections. Travelers to England must qualify as fully vaccinated according to the country’s guidelines.

Cornwall has long been a popular holiday destination for domestic tourists, with the vast majority of home buyers being British citizens, Mr Wilson said. Last year he had only two foreign buyers – one from Germany and the other from Bermuda.

The small portion of overseas buyers tend to be residents of non-domiciled status who buy at the high end of the market, Mr. cook.

There are no restrictions for foreign buyers in England. Buyers and sellers use their own attorneys to handle the transaction.

When purchasing a second home, buyers pay a surcharge of 3 percent of the purchase price.

Sellers pay the broker’s commission, which varies “depending on the type of broker you use and, of course, the price of the property,” said Mr. Wilson. In general, agent commissions in England are 1 to 2 percent.

English; pound sterling (1 pound = $1.36)

Stamp duty is payable on the portion of a property sale price above £125,000 ($170,000), starting at 2 percent and increasing in increments to 12 percent on the portion above £1.5 million ($2.04 million).

The annual council tax on this home is £3,400 ($4,600), Mr. Wilson said.

Mark Wilson, H Tiddy Realtors, 011-44-1326-270212; www.htiddy.co.uk

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