The Gaitpost is delighted to introduce and welcome Louise Harrison, who joins the team as our resident Property Guru and brings with her a wealth of expertise.
In her first blog, Louise takes us through the minefield of what you need to prioritise, where you can compromise and how you can add value to an equestrian property.
“As an eventing enthusiast (formerly a bit of an eventing nerd), an occasional rider with the odd day’s hunting to keep my adrenaline pumping, I find my equestrian thirst best quenched by my day job.
I am an Associate Director, based within Savills Country Department in London and lead the Savills Equestrian team. The perks of my job? Seeing a huge array of impressive equestrian properties across the UK, from paddocks with stabling up to some of the most prestigious estates, stud and training centres in the country.
So when The Gaitpost said there was a spot as their resident property guru, I decided it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss! I plan to keep my jottings regular, concise and informative and I’m always welcome to suggestions, so if you have any topics or property questions, then feel free to let me know and I’ll try to incorporate them into one of my forthcoming blogs.
Whether your dream equestrian property is something out of Poldark or more akin to Downton Abbey, it’s worth scrutinising your wish list so that you know where you are prepared to compromise when faced with a potential purchase opportunity.
Location is probably at the top of your list of requirements but do you need to restrict yourself to a county or area? Try looking from an equestrian perspective, is proximity to a good road network important, as well as being close to competition venues and training facilities, in which case, maybe you can be flexible on location. Choosing areas that are less desirable to residential buyers (such as commuter hot spots) should see you getting more for your money.
2. Riding: If you do a lot of hacking and road work then having good access to bridlepaths will be important, it would also be worth looking to see if there are any toll rides in the area these are especially prevalent in the South East (tollrides.org.uk)
3. Access: Is access to the property HGV friendly? If the property is down a narrow country lane, are there passing places? If the property is accessed directly from a main road, is there good visibility? What about the entrance – is there space to turn in with your lorry or horse box? What is the turning space like once you are on the property, this will be particularly important if lorries will be coming and going for lessons or competitions.
4. Soil Type: Buyers may not have this in mind when looking for a property but the difference between free draining and waterlogged to a yard or livery business is huge. Free draining chalky soils are best and will allow maximum turnout and grazing. Heavy land such as clay could see you spending large amounts on drainage or having to deal with poaching over the winter months and reseeding in the spring. Don’t be put off by grass sick pastures or poor paddock maintenance, pastures can be rested, soil nutrient and acidity levels can be altered and grass quality can be improved. This is short term pain compared with the wrong soil type!
5. Water: Equestrian properties are high users of water, a direct supply of mains water, i.e. not a shared supply with a third party is preferable. Ideally there will be troughs in each of the paddocks, pipes should be insulated where exposed and there will be a good number of drains around the yard. If the property is reliant on a private water supply, make sure your solicitor or agent checks the necessary consents are in place and are transferable.
Things you might find that you can compromise on or add yourself:
6. Security – ideally the yard will be visible from the house, if not think about installing CCTV as a deterrent, it may also reduce your insurance premiums. Other security features include electric gates and an alarm system.
7. Stables – the design and type is hugely personal but if the planning and/or infrastructure for them is in place an upgrade is not uncommon.
This extends to extra facilities, indoor/outdoor schools, lunging rings, walkers, wash down areas, solariums, field shelters, type of fencing – all comes at a price but if the ground and services and location are right, they can be added.
A word of warning when considering what adds value; too many facilities can detract from the property. Future purchasers may find your state of the art facilities surplus to their requirements and be reluctant to pay for them. Focus on fewer but good quality, professionally built facilities and infrastructure, versatile facilities such as an all-weather outdoor school, good fencing and drainage should appeal to most equestrian buyers.
If you find yourself buying a non-equestrian property, you should consider the planning implications for changing it as there is a big difference between equestrian use and agricultural use for planning purposes. You would need to speak to the Local Planning Authority to see if they will allow you to use property classified as agricultural for equestrian use, you may need to make a planning application.
Remember to be realistic about what you can and cannot change as well as thinking about expenditure and resale value. The key to ensuring your property is a safe long-term investment is to make sure it will appeal to the residential buyer as well as the equestrian specialist.”
An outstanding residential and equestrian property near to Epsom Downs racecourse and training centre comprising two principal houses in excellent order, extensive equestrian facilities including stabling for over 50 horses and 2 all-weather gallops, set in over 100 acres.
Guide Price: £4.575 million
A well established purpose built equestrian centre with a 4 bedroom farmhouse, extensive facilities and potential to improve further. About 47 acres.
Guide Price: £1.6 million
Equestrian property with outstanding facilities in about 20.27 acres, including American barn stabling, outdoor manége, lungeing pen and outline planning permission for an indoor school. 4/5 bedroom property with tennis court, gardens, pools and double garage.
Guide Price: £975,000
Based in Savills Head Office in London, Louise Harrison (née Elliott) specialises in the sale and purchase of land, farms, estates and equestrian property in the UK. A rural Chartered Surveyor and a partner in the family farm in Warwickshire, Louise’s roots are firmly based in the countryside.
Louise has been with Savills for over seven years and has experience in estate management, professional matters and agency transactions. Outside of Savills, Louise divides her time between London and the country and has a passion for all things rural.