House Hunting in … the Cotswolds, England
The cottage’s layout and its proximity to good schools, as well as Bristol and London, make it “ideal for a family,” Mr. Russell said.
Ms. Duff described Biddestone, which has a population of about 500, as “a lovely sort of old-fashioned, proper English village, which hasn’t been spoiled at all.” There is a supermarket about 10 minutes away. Bath, which is between 10 and 15 miles away, has excellent schools, Ms. Duff said. Chippenham railway station, which has train service to Paddington Station in London, is five miles away; the train trip takes about 75 minutes. The international airport in Bristol is just under an hour’s drive, and Heathrow is less than 90 miles east.
The Cotswolds, an area about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island, attracts a variety of buyers from outside the region, agents said.
About half are commuters from London who move to cities along the train line, and the rest are second-home buyers smitten with quintessential English villages, said James Mackenzie, head of Strutt & Parker’s national country house department.
“Everybody wants rolling hills and a view,” Mr. Mackenzie said.
The north, he added, is frequented by “media types” and politicians, including the former prime minister David Cameron, while the south is favored by some of England’s nobility. The Soho Farmhouse, a private club that opened several years ago, has been drawing international clientele to the Cotswolds, he added.
While home prices across London dipped about 5 percent compared with the same period last year, other parts of England, including in and around the Cotswolds, have fared better, according to a September report on England’s residential market by Knight Frank. In Bath and Cheltenham, prices were up 4.7 percent and 6.4 percent over last year. Across the United Kingdom, prices rose around 2 percent, Knight Frank found.
According to the Office for National Statistics, prices in the Cotswolds rose 16.2 percent between July 2016 and 2017, reaching around 385,000 British pounds (or about $505,000), while prices in London fell 18.4 percent over the same period, reaching around £740,000 ($970,000).
David Parris, the managing director of the Jackson-Stops real estate offices in the Cotswolds, said the region’s figures were distorted by a small number of high-value transactions; he estimated that, excepting those, prices rose around 5 percent in that period.
Londoners, particularly a growing number who work remotely, have recently been looking for value in the Cotswolds, he added. Prime properties there cost £500 to £550 per square foot (about $660 to $720), but can reach £3,000 ($3,900) per square foot in prime, central London. The average in the Cotswolds is £300 to £400 per square foot (or about $390 to $530).
“London used to be a place where you could make a lot of money on housing,” he said, adding that because of appreciation, it was once possible to buy a piece of property and make £100,000 in three years. “That’s come to an end; whether that’s temporary or permanent, we don’t know.”
The number of second-home buyers in the Cotswolds, however, has declined, possibly because of an increase in stamp duty levied on second-home purchases that went into effect in April 2016. Mr. Mackenzie said that for homes in the £500,000 to £1.25 million range in the Cotswolds, prices have increased 5 percent since last year. But for homes priced between £1.25 million and £3 million, the stamp duty “hits hard,” he said, which has resulted in stagnating prices or even a drop of one percent or so over the past 18 months.
Above that price range, he added, the market is “fickle,” with some properties having their asking prices reduced and others having multiple interested buyers.
WHO BUYS IN THE COTSWOLDS
The majority of buyers in the Cotswolds are British, Mr. Parris said, estimating that 10 percent of his agency’s are foreign, based on Jackson-Stops sales from April 2016 through March 2017.
Mr. Mackenzie said that about 40 percent of his agency’s recent Cotswolds buyers have been foreign, based on Strutt & Parker sales for roughly the past 18 months, a number that includes British expatriates returning to the country for retirement, particularly from Hong Kong. About 5 or 10 percent are buyers from the United States, he said, who may be taking advantage of the strong dollar.
Foreigners face no restrictions on buying property in England. Transactions are typically handled by a lawyer, and each side retains its own representation. The buyer’s and seller’s lawyers must be from different firms, said Felicity Sergeant, a partner at Streathers Solicitors, a law firm in London.
Buyers of properties that cost more than £1.25 million (about $1.64 million) pay a stamp duty land tax, calculated on a sliding scale.
Last year, some parts of Britain enacted a higher stamp duty land tax rate if a buyer or buyer’s spouse owns or partly owns other property anywhere in the world. Above standard stamp duty, second-home transactions are taxed an additional 3 percent. Buyers who sell their primary residences within three years of purchasing a second home may be eligible for a refund of the additional stamp duty fee, Ms. Sergeant said.
For a primary residence, closing costs paid by the buyer on a £1 million property — including the stamp duty land tax fee, legal fees, a land registry fee and fees for various due diligence searches — total around £47,500 (or about $62,000), she said. On a second home, the stamp duty would be an additional £30,000 ($39,000).
Cotswolds tourism portal: cotswolds.com
Biddestone village: biddestonevillage.co.uk
LANGUAGES AND CURRENCY
English; British pound (1 pound = $1.31)
TAXES AND FEES
The annual property taxes on this home are around £2,300 (or about $3,000), Ms. Duff said.
Andrew Russell, Strutt & Parker, 011-44-1285 653101; struttandparker.com
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