Words by Hannah Tapping
Approaching north Cornwall’s luxury property market with unrivalled expertise and a unique understanding of this special location.
There is no doubt that Cornwall, and in particular its coastal enclaves, became one of the most desirable places for relocators, second-home owners and investment buyers during the pandemic. The county’s natural environment was already a huge draw, but add to that its proximity to London via road, rail and air, an atmospheric rise in the quality of its amenities and the endless space on which Covid placed such a premium, and you have a heady combination that is attracting serious buyers from right around the globe.
Estate agency, John Bray and Partners has been selling luxury homes in north Cornwall’s sought-after golden triangle, that spans the uber-chic locations of Rock, Trebetherick, Polzeath and Port Isaac, for 50 years. Half a century of excellence in service, and the adoption of an innovative and nimble approach to marketing during the pandemic, has enabled the agency to not only weather the storm, but face it head on. In conversation with Managing Partner, Jospehine Ashby I was curious to hear her take on Cornwall’s property market and how their unique approach has secured them recent acclaim at the International Property Awards 2021/22 as the Five Star Single Office Estate Agent in Cornwall.
How do you view the current property market in Cornwall?
The halt on international travel saw a massive influx of tourists into Cornwall, bringing with it fresh, enthusiastic and proceedable buyers and relocators whose priorities had shifted from city to beachside, causing the market to become frenetic. We experienced huge demand versus low stocks that also put a strain on local council searches, professional services, solicitors and surveyors all of which resulted in some significant bottlenecks. As the market has stabilised, we are seeing an easing and the speed of transactions has also slowed now that the stamp duty holidays have passed, but ultimately the market remains buoyant.
What learnings came from operating in a pandemic?
We had to become incredibly efficient in the way that sales were managed. Working remotely meant that there was a need to change the way we offered viewings and how the qualification of buyers worked, and we developed a very efficient model. The tumult of the summer rush has now subsided and there is no doubt we have regained a better balance between buyer and seller.
The market is now much calmer, and although we are still seeing occasions of competitive interest, it is moving forward like a good positive normal market, with time for reflection.
Do you feel that there is sufficient stock coming to market at present?
There is much more coming on to the market now than there was previously, and we continue to reassure buyers to ‘hold tight’. It’s a county where there’s never going to be huge numbers of properties for sale because chimney pots per area is obviously much lower than in a city, but there are fantastic properties available – everything from small cottages to large estates and new build contemporary houses – and it’s all good quality.
And what of those houses that never come to market, the off-market sales?
Approximately 30% of John Bray sales are off-market and this can be for a variety of reasons. The seller might be a high profile, wealthy individual who prefers to keep their affairs private; it might be someone wishing to test the waters or not wanting their near neighbours to know and either sits fine with us. We have a very honed and focused buyer list, so it isn’t necessary for us to put every property in front of everyone. We build relationships with owners that can span five to ten years before a property ever comes to market, undertaking informal and formal RCIS valuations during that period. For that reason, we would stress to prospective buyers that they come and talk to us. Don’t assume everything is online, we have an incredible stock of beautiful properties off-market that will remain private for the reasons I’ve just outlined.
Is now a good time sell?
I believe it is, as we’re still seeing a positive market and one with a better balance. I would normally be advising sellers to hold off until the spring market, but that’s not the case now, sales in Cornwall are strong year round. There are some locations in the winter months that historically you might not take buyers to view on a stormy, wet winter’s day, but the world has changed and the drama, space and the dramatic views these afford are now much more appealing than before.
Do you think prices will continue to rise?
It has been a very unpredictable market; and consequently hard for buyers, sellers, and agents, to know exactly what something’s worth. Essentially, it comes back to the fact that a property is worth what somebody will pay for it, but I think we’ll see less of that, and a return to a steadier, more rational approach, caveated with the fact that I believe there are still premiums to be achieved for exceptional properties, and the desirability of the south west is not going away. Overall, I think we’ll see a return to normal growth percentages, not the great leaps that we’ve experienced in recent years.
So, what will £1million buy me in Cornwall at the moment?
Actually, £1million still goes a long way – with just a small move in from the prime coastal locations you’ll find some very beautiful properties with plenty of acreage for your money. They might not have the sea vistas you’ll get with waterside homes, but I think that far-reaching, elevated views across the countryside, being part of a community and having a generous amount of space on a plot have become a larger draw than they have been previously.
What does John Bray and Partners offer sellers that sets you apart?
Sellers choose us because of our reputation, knowledge, experience and unrivalled care combined with our ability to act in the very best way we can in every single case. Having the confidence that we will manage sales in this way each and every time is something we are very proud of. That said, we’re not a business that rests on its laurels. As a boutique agency, we have the flexibility to be nimble about the way in which we market properties, there’s no one-size-fits-all, prescriptive approach; it’s much more personal.
Looking to the future, where do you see John Bray and Partners positioned over the coming years?
We will continue to offer the very best service for our buyers and sellers within Rock, Trebetherick, Polzeath and Port Isaac as well as embracing the organic growth that has seen us take on instructions further afield. We see this not as a move into a different ‘patch’, it’s more about the individual properties and how they fit with our portfolio. Development consultancy on new builds is also something that we will continue to expand and we have some exciting schemes ahead. In summary, we’ve never seen a market like this. I think a period where we can appreciate a degree of normality would be good. It’s essential that we take what’s been useful from the pandemic and don’t ignore that learning. We have created an efficient model, we have an incredible team and we will continue to strive to be the best we can be within our sector.