When money was cheap, it seemed that everyone wanted - and could afford - a wreck to do up and sell on.
Now the get-it-quick investors and small developers can’t get the loans, it is the turn of the patient savers, mortgage-free movers and cash-rich buyers, some of whom have sold their London homes for a good profit, to benefit from wrecks - now being sold at bargain prices in London’s commuter belt.
'Opportunity knocks to bag yourself a country pile for a bargain price but it might cost £1 million to restore'
For anything more than 100 years old the best place to look is in the commuter belt. Here you can find tired old grand country mansions; farmhouses with derelict barns; Georgian houses in the centre of market towns and old agricultural workers’ cottages.
First find your wreck
For those who are determined to take on difficult renovation projects a good place to start looking is the list of endangered buildings compiled each year by the campaigning conservation group SAVE Britain’s Heritage (www.savebritainsheritage.org).
Such is the interest in these wrecks that the 2009 list of endangered buildings, 'All We Need Is Love', sold out weeks after it was published in June.
Their wrecks list is updated online. You can search by becoming a member of the organisation for £25 a year.
Another good search site is English Heritage’s list of endangered properties which can be consulted on its website (www.english-heritage.org).
A ‘preservation partner’
A preservation trust is one of the pioneering organisations, run by keen volunteers who raise money to repair historic buildings.
Preservation trusts often take on specialist structural repairs and then sell on to an occupier, who is happy to complete the project putting in maybe the kitchen and bathroom fittings and doing the final decoration. Search the site of the UK Association of Preservation Trusts (www.ukapt.org.uk).
One of the most active preservation trusts, the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, which made its name rescuing historic houses in the Spitalfields area of east London, is renovating Shurland Hall, a red-brick early Tudor building on the Isle of Sheppey. It will be on the market later this year.
Over in the Thames Valley, the National Trust is about to sell Coombe End Farmhouse at Goring Heath (right), near Pangbourne in Berkshire. According to Mark Charter, of estate agents Carter Jonas, Coombe End Farmhouse presents a rare opportunity to restore a large country house. “Nothing similar has come on to the market in this area for the last five years,” says Mark.
The guide price is £550,000, which looks like a bargain, except it is going to cost around £1 million to restore under the watchful eye of the National Trust and the local district council. The lease is only for 99 years, cannot be converted to freehold and there is no guarantee of a lease extension.
The house, which dates from the 17th century, has 18th- and 19th-century extensions. Inside there is a warren of rooms which the National Trust will want restored intact (as each section of the house has distinguishing features from the period in which it was built), so in the Georgian wing there are moulded timber fireplaces and shutters, while in the later wings there are large brick fireplaces and panelling from the arts and crafts period.
“The only possible change which the trust will be happy to consider is a modern link between the main house and an interesting stand alone arts and crafts library,” says Mark.
For further details of Coombe End Farmhouse contact Carter Jonas on 01865 511444 or visit www.carterjonas.co.uk.