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Farms attracting interest from outside buyers

With a lesser need for businesses to meet clients face-to-face, farmhouses and outbuildings are becoming a popular buy for to ensure a work-life balance.

As land and property prices in south east England soar, farmhouses with attached outbuildings are become more popular for business people looking to relocate and strike a good work-life balance.


This was the message from Strutt and Parker, which said land sales for non-farming cottage industries were up in the first half of 2015.


South East saw biggest rise


England’s South East had the largest percentage of new non-farming businesses accounting for 32 per cent of all land sales.


Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors head of policy Jeremy Blackburn saw this as a sign young entrepreneurs no longer felt they had to be based in central locations or ‘trendy East London’ to make an impact.


Suzanne Moss, of Strutt and Parker, said: “The disparity between property prices in London and the south east of England against those in rural areas, especially the north of Scotland, are huge.


Combining work space with family


“These days so many businesses no longer rely on having to actually have face-to-face contact with clients and customers, so being able to buy a large property with outbuildings for offices and a bit of land for family life makes a lot of sense.


“We sell quite a lot of houses to people from more expensive urban areas who have their own business and get more value for their money, while also have more space for their families.”


Effect of falling crop prices


The global fall in crop prices has seen rural land prices drop. And the survey found 34 per cent more rural surveyors were expecting rural land prices to fall further over the next 12 months than rise.


This was partly due to an expected drop in demand for rural land from the farming sector over the next year. In the last half of 2015, the only areas which saw a rise in demand for land were the north east and south east of England.


At the same time, commercial and residential property prices in towns and cities are continuing to rise.


These market conditions were creating a wave of new types of rural business, said Mr Blackburn, who urged the Government and other bodies to help support the trend further and help countryside communities to thrive.


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What to be aware of when converting farm buildings

Planning expert Richard Maudsley, an associate architect at Sunderland Peacock and Associates, said there were a number of things be aware of when it came to converting farm buildings. These included:


  • There are limitations and conditions applicable for conversion of barns such as the site must have been in use or form part of an established agricultural unit before March 20, 2013
  • Permitted development rights are not applicable in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and listed buildings
  • Projects still require prior approval from the local council relating to issues such as transport, contamination and flood risk
  • Budget accordingly for initial surveys, conversion costs and requirements to meet building regulations
  • Ensure a comprehensive structural survey is commissioned before purchase or conversion of existing structures
  • Research if there are any covenants prohibiting development or change of use
  • Research local council policy on barn conversions and existing examples in the surrounding areas
  • Review vehicle access and existing utilities and budget accordingly
  • Consult a professional to best use the existing space and layout as creating new window openings or adding extensions will require approval from the council and is tricky
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