THE DREAM SET UP: HOW THE PRIVATE RESIDENCE CONSULTANCY MAKES LIFE IN THE COUNTRY SIMPLE

Exceptional country residences require expert management. Knight Frank’s Private Residence Consultancy is your essential and trusted advisor, says Cathy Hawker, in all aspects of buying and running your country property

Owning a substantial country house is a rare and joyful pleasure but not without its challenges. From maintenance to land management, there are many skills to master. A prized woodland needs environmental know-how, rearing livestock requires hands-on attention, and running the entire property calls for expertise and an exhaustive address book. That’s where Knight Frank’s Private Residence Consultancy comes in. As specialists in all aspects of country house operations, they provide support and advice, from expediting the purchase through to daily management, ensuring owners get maximum enjoyment and value from their investment. Robert Blake, Head of Knight Frank’s Private Residence Consultancy, outlines the role his team plays in making a country house purchase a triumphant success.

How would you describe your role? RB: We look after incredibly special properties, cherished by their owners, and that carries a substantial responsibility. Our role covers all aspects of running large properties, from maintenance of buildings and grounds to staffing, security and accounting. However, what truly defines our work is the relationship with our clients: more than just trusted professional advisors, we become part of the fabric of the property.

What are the challenges of managing a large country property? RB: We look after a huge range of properties in diverse settings, with unique characteristics and challenges. We take pride in our ability to assist the owners in putting their own stamp on their property and enjoying every aspect of their home, while honouring the history and esteem these houses have within the community. A common necessity is a management plan and budget. Understanding planned regulatory changes is a vital part of that. The Government’s net zero climate target puts mounting pressure on improving energy performance and phasing out certain fuel sources, and while some exemptions are in place for older buildings, we appraise the options and ensure our clients benefit from improvement schemes.

Tell us more about your clients. RB: Our clients are as varied as their properties. They are truly international, from established multi-generational families to Silicon Valley success stories. Some live at their property, while others pay only occasional visits. What distinguishes them all is their desire for us to ease their lifestyle so that when they are in residence they can focus on what they value most, whether that’s enjoying solitude, family life or sports.

Our clients are as varied as their properties. They are truly international, from established multi-generational families to Silicon Valley success stories.

What is your most requested service? RB: New clients often need help resolving specific issues, but our greatest endorsements are for ongoing guidance. Our extensive knowledge helps properties and estates run smoothly, reducing costs and covering the legal aspects of ownership. Our advice in avoiding potential liabilities can prove invaluable. How can your team smooth the purchasing process? RB: In the early stages, our role is principally advisory. By introducing top specialists, we ensure that all aspects of the process are dealt with sensitively and efficiently. Knight Frank Finance, for example, offers a personal broker service with access to over 180 financial products, including a variety of mortgages and insurance options. What subsequent services do you offer? RB: Between exchange and completion, we assume a more hands-on role. We prepare a property handbook for clients, detailing every aspect of how the property operates. It ranges from where to find fuse boxes to recommendations for the best local pub. Once a client takes possession of a property, we advise having the grounds professionally mapped. The accurate estate maps our Mapping team provides can prove invaluable long-term. We advise on issues including insurance, recruitment, management of cottages and staff accommodation, health and safety and security. Knight Frank are experts in land management, letting agricultural land and preparing environmental grant requests for woodlands, with on-hand assistance from our Agricultural Consultancy. Through our Rural Asset Management team, we offer accountancy services, managing invoices and collecting rent. Clients can also call on Knight Frank’s Building Surveying and Interiors teams. Outline a typical day. RB: Last week, at dawn, I was perched on the cottage rooftop of a Berkshire estate, accompanying an ecologist and roofing contractors. After moving some bats to their government-approved temporary accommodation, I visited another property to discuss insurance renewal with brokers. Back at the office, I spoke to recruitment agents for an Estate Manager position in Gloucestershire and then stopped for lunch overlooking rolling hills in Hampshire. In the afternoon, I co-ordinated the sale of some agricultural land and made a start on annual budgets providing client income forecasts. These ensure funds are available for maintenance and staff salaries, and for one-off projects such as stocking trout ponds or planting trees. Any unusual requests from clients? RB: We often become close to our clients, and I have received many unusual requests. One of our strengths, however, is our sensitive and discreet approach – so my best stories will stay utterly private. For more information and to discuss how the Private Residency Consultancy can help, contact our expert Robert Blake on 01488 607447 or robert.blake@knightfrank.com


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