Jonathan Bramwell, Head of The Buying Solution, tells us how to go about a waterfront search without being all at sea

Jonathan Bramwell Head of The Buying Solution

The pursuit of finding the perfect waterfront home can be a daunting task for an individual to undertake. A buyer’s search may be shaded by personal experience – a trip, or holiday – or what is de jour in the pages of glossy lifestyle magazines, all of which can actually limit what’s on offer to them.

That’s why it helps to call on the services of a buying agent like The Buying Solution when it comes to finding the dream home. Buying agents can provide would-be buyers with all the knowledge they need to find a property that ticks all their boxes.

On top of providing greater access to the market – they can show you homes that are ‘off market’ as well as on it – they can help find property closest to the best schooling in an area; requisite infrastructure and connections to transport hubs, or places that cater to specific lifestyles.

Jonathan Bramwell, Head of The Buying Solution, has taken some time to talk to us about how the agency helps house-hunters find waterfronts home in the UK. He explains what clients should consider ahead of their search and how a buying agency can manage the process beyond starting a conversation with a seller.

KF: How do you help buyers look for the right waterfront property in both London and the countryside? What do you help people consider?

JB: Well in London it’s pretty straightforward; if a client requests a property with a waterfront view our London team know it’s going to on the Thames or possibly one of the canals like in Little Venice. We need to then find out where exactly they’d like to live and if so, what kind of home they want. This will all influence how far they can live in relation to the city's centre. For instance, if they want a house on the water in central London, it is more likely to be going further west, but if they’re happy with an apartment, it is going to be Chelsea Embankment heading more easterly down the river towards The City. All of this will also depend on their budget as waterside views usually come with a premium.

In the countryside there are different considerations. Most of our clients want to be within a two-hour drive of London, and they’re seeking homes in a particular area that will afford them a particular lifestyle or are driven by some form of schooling need. Water is often a popular requirement on their wish list be it for fishing, sailing or simply that they want to overlook a picturesque lake or river. Our team of country experts can therefore give guidance on where these can be enjoyed within a reasonable drive, for example, if not on the property itself.

What will a buying agent help a prospective buyer consider and what practical elements of a search can you fulfill to give the bigger picture?

So in terms of a search for a property, we always help our clients go into their purchase with their eyes wide open. This is by undertaking thorough due-diligence on the property and its immediate setting so they are fully aware of any issues that might affect their enjoyment of it. If there was any form of flood risk for example, we would be advising that we look more in depth into it, and if it's absolutely necessary, we can bring in flood assessment experts to help with that. Quite often, it can be resolved by introducing the right flood defence specialists but it often comes at a cost and again we need to ensure these fall within the client's budget.

If the client goes, “Oh, it's got rubbish broadband”, we say, “Actually, we might be able to resolve that, too”. We work with telecommunications specialists who can explore options and often come up with innovative solutions. Like everything in the world, there's usually a solution to a problem, it's just how much it costs. For wealthier clients, they’re often willing to swallow this cost if it secures them their perfect property.

What do you typically get asked to find in a London riverside property?

The first and most important is that it doesn’t flood! For London, a lot of it depends on light. People have different views; do they want south- or west-facing? That can present a challenge when looking on a river that only flows one way. If a client does most of their work in the evening, they’ll want something more westerly facing so they can enjoy the light at the end of the day. With younger buyers, they quite often don't want to be right in the centre of London – they want to be in the more edgy parts of town. They also attach different values as to what it means to own a property by the water. They want to be close to the river, because they want to go running every day against the water, or be closer to the café and bar scene that often crops up around these newer developments.

We also have to ask, what do they want their home to enable. Do they want to be close to the water so they can go rowing first thing in the morning, or be able to go running against a picturesque backdrop on their way back from work. We also have to ask practical questions such as do they want to moor a boat, because only certain places of frontage allow you to do so.

And in the countryside?

TBS coverage of coastal areas is restricted geographically, so we tend to only deal in small areas such as West Wittering or Chichester – two popular coastal locations within a two-hour drive of London. Mark Lawson, our farms and estates expert, then covers the rest of the UK in its entirety. His clients will be looking for 200-plus acres of coastal estate and are often attracted to these properties because of their sporting benefits, be it fishing or shooting.

Decent estates, which combine both of these are rare and far between, and can command premiums of 30% or more. As they are so rare, they will often be sold without any form of open marketing. Thanks to our extensive database and expert knowledge of the estates market, we are able to ensure our clients do not miss these opportunities. Quite often, this also means we are able to pinpoint specific properties and enquire as to whether their owners would consider a sale.

Younger buyers quite often don't want to be right in the centre of London – they want waterfront property in the edgier parts of town

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected what people are searching for? What else is changing what people are looking for?

Aside from the desire for more green space, I think based on what's happening now, clients are prepared to travel further from London and the two-hour drive time is being stretched to three hours or more. This is because they can now work remotely while the countryside now has better broadband speeds than London in places!

Traditionally, clients would have had a second or third home in the Med or in the Caribbean, but they are now looking at coastal homes in Devon or Cornwall, as well as a country house within one-and-a-half or two hours of London, which acts as a stepping stone between the three properties.

In London, our teams are also having clients who are looking to change their primary residences so they have greater access to green space or the water’s edge. Some are happy to sell their London home so they can purchase one outside of it, so they can escape to the country or the coast.

Words: Matthew McEvoy Images: Getty; header image Meonstoke House, sold by Knight Frank for £9,000,000 guide price

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