Escape to the Country: Jules on why house hunters 'struggled'
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Escape to the Country was back with the penultimate episode of the week and it was the turn of Jules Hudson to help a couple wanting to move counties. Retirees Jane and Gordon were looking to hop from Hampshire to Dorset and buy a detached property that was big enough for all their family to come and visit. They were looking for an area they could explore with an offering of good walks to get them out and about. However, by the time the mystery house was shown, Jules thought he had ticked everything on their checklist and had found the one, £25,000 under budget, only to be surprised with a change of heart from the couple and a whole new list of preferences.
Before meeting Jane and Gordon, Jules told those watching at home: “Dorset has long been one of my favourite counties in the UK, it’s history, architecture and it’s landscapes are second to none.
“Factors to make it ever-popular, a popularity which has seen house prices rise here by some 20 percent in the last three years.
“Currently, the average price for a detached property could set you back £430,000 – that’s £90,00 above the national figure.
“That premium is undoubtedly inflated by coastal hotspots like Poole and Christchurch, but you will find a bit more value for your money in the north of the country and that is very good news for today’s buyers,” he revealed.
As for why the potential buyers were keen to move, Jane said: “We would like to have a fresh start! We feel like we’ve got into a rut and we’d like some new challenges, new opportunities in a new place,” and her husband added: “It’s quite exciting really!”
Jules asked them: “Give us an idea Jane – a window into your mind if you will – as to the sort of property you’re thinking about.”
“We’d like a house that’s detached with a minimum of three bedrooms, maybe four, an en-suite bathroom. Something that has a reasonably modern interior,” she said.
Gordon continued: “We’ve tended to live in newer houses because with a new house there tends to be less work to do on the house. A fireplace in the sitting room, big garage or garden shed or an outbuilding so I can get out and do some woodwork.”
With a healthy budge of £475,000, Jules set about showing two properties to them and then the mystery house.
Property number one was a semi-detached, arranged over three floors, in a hamlet called Hartgrove, which Jules said offering a “thriving community”.
“It’s lovely,” Jane said on first impression inside the kitchen-diner set up. “It’s not a wow, but it is lovely all the same. I think I would like something with a bit more space really.”
The larger of the two living spaces “was the sort of space” Gordon had “envisaged,” with character elements such as exposed brickwork, beams and a large fireplace.
Upstairs there were four double bedrooms, a large attic storage space, all offering views over the rolling countryside.
Outside there were gardens front and back boasting mature shrubs and trees, but there was no workshop which Jules had covered.
He said: “There’s a large lean-to over there, depending on how big you want it to be, I would replace that with something bespoke or even over towards the back and you’ve still got plenty of room for chickens.”
As for how much the property was worth, it came in £15,000 under budget, at £460,000.
The next home which was lined up for the buyers to see was a cottage located in the large village of Yetminster, which had a well-connected railway station.
“I think it looks quite interesting,” Jane said looking at the house from across the road. Gordon added: “I’m keen to look at this one [because it’s detached].”
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The cottage was built in the early 19th century, with a later side extension and the large farmhouse-style kitchen was impressive.
“Oh, yes!” Jane commented and her husband added: “I love the flags on the floor, they’re nice. It’s good. I like it.”
There were two reception rooms, one with an enormous wood-burner in it, leading off to an office space.
Upstairs there was three bedrooms, a dressing room, family bathroom – no en-suites.
“Still happy? I’m trying to read the signs but I’m not sure how well I’m doing!” Jules said when the couple didn’t comment much.
Outside, a gated driveway provided off-road parking, plus a double garage, as well as a summer house with power and light.
The cottage was on the market for £499,000 – which was well above their budget, but Jules assured: “We’ve not brought you here to break your hearts, there is a conversation to be had around your top budget if you wanted it.
“The premium with this one is about its location and proximity to the village and we are in a popular part of the country as well.”
For the final property – the mystery house – Jules was showing Jane and Gordon a single-story building, but he assured viewers “this was no ordinary bungalow”.
Set in the rural outskirts of Toller Porcorum and a ten-minute drive off the beaten track, the final property was found.
“Trying to edge towards this idea of finding something that is modern, but which still gives you the sense of character – of course, this is wrapped up in the old structure of this former cattle barn. I think this one is the most rural of the three,” the presenter explained. “I think this is a real gem.”
“That’s more like it!” Jane remarked walking into the modern kitchen. “It’s got the crisper finish with the sense of character.”
The land to the front was complimented by a generous south-facing garden to the rear, including patio seating and a summerhouse.
For £450,000 this property could be Jane and Gordon’s, should they want it.
“I think it’s a great mastery house! It really is,” Jane said. “It’s an old house on the outside but is really lovely in the inside. It’s got a great kitchen, it’s got a reasonable size master bedroom, the en-suite that we wanted,” Gordon added.
“But I do have one or two little hangups, I think I want to be more on the peripheral on the village, I feel like I would be cut off here,” Jane commented.
Sitting down with the couple Jules said: “I don’t know if we’ve managed to do it [find them their next home]. Has your wish list changed since we first met?”
“Yes it has to be fair to you. I think we didn’t have a clear enough view for what we were looking for,” Gordon explained. “I think what this has done is made us rethink everything and come up with a clearer plan for the future.”
The presenter asked: “What would be the new criteria that you’d ask me to try and find?”
“I’ve realised I don’t want to be in a very rural situation,” Jane said and Gordon continued: “I think we had this ideal picture in our minds of what a cottage in the country would be like and I think looking back now, I think our preferences are for a newer house than older. The modern feel inside, all the mod-cons, fitted kitchens.”
While the house preferences had changed, they were still set on living in Dorset.
“I’d love to help you move here tomorrow, unfortunately, we’ve rolled your dice, maybe you’ll have to come back and we’ll find you a new house in the country!” Jules laughed. “Go home, write a new list, and good hunting.”
Speaking to the camera to conclude the episode, Jules said: “It’s not often that a house-hunting expedition to Dorset draws a blank, but sadly, that is what has happened this week.
“I don’t think it’s the fault of the property market, that has not let us down, nor even the challenges faced by the budget, given that this is a pretty pricey area.
“In truth, as both Gordon and Jane have admitted, they didn’t really know what they were looking for and without that, you are always going to struggle.”
Escape to the Country airs weekday afternoons at 3pm on BBC One.
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