Surrey's new multi-million pound 'super-prime' property market
PUBLISHED: 18:00 24 November 2014 | UPDATED: 12:17 05 June 2015
Surrey has long been known for its big houses, but tucked away behind wrought iron gates, there's now a 'super-prime' market emerging with mansions in the multi- millions. Property expert Paul Dixon gives us a sneak peek into a parallel universe
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2014
Back in 2011, I was asked by a property entrepreneur called Lesley Allen-Vercoe to broker a deal with potential buyers of his recently constructed mansion in Windlesham. Updown Court was of an unparalleled scale, the main house extending to some 50,000 square feet. I recall talking with two cleaners who told me it took them a week to work their way around, only to start the whole process again when they had finished.
Updown Court included a master bedroom with en-suite swimming pool, four further pools, eight principle bedroom suites and two penthouses, a squash court, wine cellar and cinema. When venturing outside, you would discover a security lodge, courtyard staff buildings, stables and park-like gardens with lake, helipad and woodland. The entire show extended to 58 acres. At £70 million pounds, it was the most expensive country house in the UK.
So, it’s fair to say, my role introduced me to a number of interesting characters. There was the ‘Baroness’ who spent most of her time photographing her daughter in various rooms. A buyer from Asia was concerned that the main house could be glimpsed from the road and wanted to know if the windows were bulletproof. The nice lady from Tokyo decided she only wanted a balcony and bought a penthouse flat in London. Then there was the chap who phoned me on route to the viewing to say he had bought an island in the Caribbean instead. I told him there were no sandy beaches in Windlesham and that, as my dear old dad used to say, put the tin hat on it.
One of the problems for Updown Court was the fact the property had been on the market too long and the ‘cracks’ were beginning to show. Sadly, the property was re-possessed by the developer’s bank and finally sold for a much lesser price. In an odd sort of way, I think the house was ahead of its time, as an increased number of buyers have an edacity now for newly constructed mansions.
Rightly or wrongly, many of the super- rich buyers in the UK are turning their backs on draughty old stately homes. They find these piles too scabrous, with high maintenance and restrictive planning issues, and are turning to the “super-prime” new-builds instead. The term was coined by the profession in the 90’s and has since come into its own. Simply, it means the best of the best, reflected by outstanding location, architecture and interior design. In areas such as the ‘golden triangle’ of Godalming, Weybridge and Oxshott, prices are likely to be £10 million plus, without any upper limit.
This sector of the market continues to appeal particularly to the international purchaser, but as the British economy improves, many buyers are increasingly coming from within the UK too. In either scenario, when working on behalf of high net worth buyers, I find that in most cases they are not looking for flamboyant design, but they do have an attention for detail.
Evidence that buyers are in the market is confirmed by leading super-prime developer Consero London, who have recently unveiled details of four new classical mansions in Surrey that will have a combined completed value of circa £145 million.
One of the highest in price, at a cool £60 million, will be Chesham Place, a magnificent brand-new English stately home with classic interiors set in more than five acres overlooking Wentworth Golf Course. Due to be launched next year, the property is 40% build complete, with the striking exterior facades and internal walls already finished. Over the next 12 months, the opulent interiors will be fitted out and then in 2015 the completed stately home will be showcased to potential buyers.
To get a flavour of what’s in store, the two founding directors of Consero London, Robert Osborn and Steve Glover, invited me to take a look at their latest creation, which has just been completed. Furze Croft is a newly-built, classical mansion providing some 16,193 square feet of accommodation of the highest quality in the famous private estate of St George’s Hill, Weybridge, which has been home to various celebrities and Royalty over the years. These have included John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Elton John, Tom Jones, Sarah Duchess of York and Kate Winslet.
Furze Croft is set in landscaped, secluded grounds of more than one-and-a-half acres, and Robert and Steve met me at the entrance gates. They both spoke passionately about the build project, which has taken 24 months to nurture. Rob told me: “Furze Croft sets a new benchmark for quality and luxury in the St George’s Hill housing market. The house has involved hundreds of man hours and a team of skilled artisans providing the very best of British, French and Italian craftsmanship, amongst various other countries.” Steve was keen to add: “In many cases, we have utilised local people in the Surrey area. We really do want this to be the best that Britain has to offer and we will hand over a home for the benefit of future generations.”
The mansion has an imposing entrance hall with Venizia stone fire surround, while elsewhere there are six bedroom suites, a two-bedroom staff apartment, four elegant reception rooms, a private study/library, indoor pool complex and ‘Californian’ style bar opening to the terrace, forming a dramatic reception venue. Unfortunately, it wasn’t opening time. I particularly liked the kitchen/day room with bespoke fittings inspired, Rob said, by a French chateaux. The garage can accommodate up to four limousines and there is further parking in a private courtyard away from the main entrance. There is a sense of grandeur and quality throughout. This is reflected in the price tag of £17.5 million and, should it tick your own boxes, the agent is Knight Frank on 01372 464496.
Elsewhere in our county, after 34 years of building magnificent homes, Octagon Developments have created the ultimate in luxury living with their latest property, Crossacres, located on the star-studded Wentworth Estate in Virginia Water. Director Angus McQuhae tells us that buyers these days “are primarily looking for a top location, a generous plot and above all, a big, beautiful and preferably brand-new house”. Well, they will certainly find all that here.
Extending to some 15,000 square feet with seven bedroom suites, the house sits in an undulating plot of more than two acres, superbly landscaped with a centrepiece ornamental swimming pool, featuring retractable fountains that rise and fall at the touch of a handset. Exterior design is classic, in stock red brick, with extensive Bath stone dressings and front door portico.
As well as featuring a very comprehensive indoor leisure suite, including a second heated swimming pool, jacuzzi spa, steam sauna, a well-equipped gymnasium and cinema room, Crossacres, expecting to be doing some serious entertaining, also has seven reception rooms and a second ‘catering’ kitchen (all the rage these days, don’t you know) adjoining the staff accommodation. The smoked mirrored eight-person passenger lift serving all floors means everyone gets quickly to wherever they need to be.
The main kitchen benefits from high-gloss, lacquered grey sycamore units by Stephen Clasper, looking more couture than culinary with their gunmetal Shagren panels and deco-inspired mirrored breakfast bar. If this one floats your boat, the price is £17.5 million and the agents are Knight Frank on 01344 840020.
Last but not least, we couldn’t finish without mentioning the ‘private park’ on the Surrey/West Sussex borders, but still only 28 miles or so from central London. It is here that a couple constructed their own state-of-the art, five-bedroom country house with self-contained two-bedroom wing. However, daughters have now flown the nest and it is time to move on.
Offering an open-plan living concept with spectacular kitchen/day room, there is also a magnificent master bedroom with views from a private balcony, cinema, indoor pool and a gym. The floor area is about 7,333 square feet. Set well back from the lane (the Updown Court chap would have approved), the grounds are about five-and-a-half acres, with three-bay garage, and include an ancient woodland and natural springs with waterfall. The price for this one is available on application, and the agents are Robert Leech on 01342 837783.
To sum up, I find the buyers of these properties all have a common denominator, a certain profile. Their expectations in terms of design and technology take them to another place and time, a sort of parallel world. When advising buyers, I have to keep my feet firmly on the ground, because the principles of good real estate still apply. These homes are the antithesis of those I sold in Croydon when setting out in property sales many years ago. When I was a small boy, my parents bought me a Goofy watch. I still wear a Goofy watch. Never forget your roots.
• Paul Dixon is a columnist, property consultant and member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He provides a bespoke service on behalf of both buyers and sellers of country houses and estates: firstname.lastname@example.org
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