That buyers will pay a handsome surcharge for the chance to live close to the water is well documented. But a report by estate agents Knight Frank suggests that homes built in the stretch of land between coastline and riverbank attract the highest mark-ups of all.
So attractive are properties overlooking estuaries that, in the most extreme cases, they can be worth more than double the sum an identical property located a mile inland would fetch. According to the research, general waterfront settings command an average premium of 54 per cent. This rises to 66 per cent in the southwest, which would seem a hefty enough price to pay for a view of open water and a short walk to the beach. But homes on an estuary enjoy an average uplift of 82 per cent.
“With an estuary, you’ve got ever-changing scenery,” explains Christopher Bailey, head of the waterfront department at Knight Frank. “At high tide you have the glimmer of the water; at low tide you have all the seabirds.” There are also lifestyle factors to consider: the quieter waters of an estuary make moorings possible, and homes are generally less windswept and sea-lashed than those directly on the coast.
Not all estuaries are equal, of course. Knight Frank found that homes around Cornwall’s estuaries have the biggest uplift, in general, with the villages surrounding Restronguet Creek, specifically, enjoying an average premium of 113 per cent. Ben Standen, of Jackson-Stops & Staff, says the reason villages such as Feock and Restronguet Point command premium prices is partly down to their appeal to the sailing fraternity. The villages are close to Truro, which has direct trains to London Paddington and strong schools, both independent (Truro School) and state (Penair School).
Restronguet Point is known locally as millionaires’ row. Here, Standen says, buyers would need to invest around £3m for a five-bedroom modern home with a swimming pool and mooring.
Like Sandbanks in Poole, most of the area’s original homes have been torn down and replaced by modern mansions. Unlike Sandbanks, the Point keeps a low profile and is not over-run with tourists.
Feock is a more traditional location with excellent facilities for sailing and windsurfing, though it does also have the two most basic village facilities: a pub and a post office. This attractive village has family-sized, 1920s homes with water views selling for an average of £1m.
Alternatively, Lillicrap Chilcott is selling a three-bedroom apartment within a Regency waterside house for offers above £500,000. The property includes direct access to the sailing waters of the Carrick Roads and use of moorings, subject to application.
While Cornwall’s estuary locations, including Rock and Padstow, command top prices in the UK, Knight Frank found that prime estuary locations in Devon saw an enviable average uplift of 80 per cent for waterside properties. This includes Newton Ferrers in South Hams, where a Grade II- listed, three-bedroom cottage is on the market with Knight Frank. The modernised house has a private quay and is selling for £2.45m.
Elsewhere, estuaries in Essex benefit from an 80 per cent boost while the premium is 71 per cent in Hampshire and 46 per cent in Scotland. Dorset has a relatively modest 55 per cent gain but Bailey believes Sandbanks, a peninsula famed for its lavish properties, can command a premium equal to its Cornish counterparts.
Robin Gould at Prime Purchase agrees prices in Sandbanks are extraordinary, though its popularity leaves him a little perplexed. “There is an awful lot of hype about [Sandbanks]. Personally I would prefer somewhere a little less overdeveloped. I think the thing is that it’s certainly beautiful, it’s secure and it’s rare to find these sorts of big modern houses with moorings on the doorstep.”
Many of Sandbanks’ original houses have been demolished and redeveloped. Savills is selling a six-bedroom house at the cusp of the harbour and the sea for £7.45m. The house, built in 2004, has a jetty, pier, pontoon and twin-berth marina outside, and a cinema and gymnasium inside.
Other top estuaries tend to come in pairs. Bailey’s choices include several Devon hotspots: Salcombe and East Portlemouth, on either side of the Kingsbridge estuary; Dartmouth and Kingswear, divided by the Dart estuary; and Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo, which overlook the Yealm estuary.
Prime estuary locations are not confined to the west country. A recent study by Savills found that Bosham, overlooking Chichester harbour in West Sussex, is the most expensive coastal location in the southeast of England, with an average price of £430,373.
Tim Wickins, branch manager of Hamptons International, says prime “front row” homes here, on Shore Road, with five bedrooms and boat storage would cost around £3.5m. The village itself has a pub, a café and plenty of charm but little else in terms of facilities. Its property stock is mainly 20th-century and it’s not, admits Wickins, the quality of the architecture that drives buyers to pay estimated premiums of between 25 and 50 per cent to live in the area but the opportunities for messing around on the water.
“I don’t think anybody who is not a boat person would buy here because the premiums are so high,” he says.
If all this talk of premiums may make estuary homes sound like expensive luxuries, Bailey points out that out-pricing the local market does not necessarily mean a property is overpriced.
For a start, he estimates that waterfront prices in general are 20 per cent lower than they were in 2007. Bailey says that over the past few months he has seen the tentative return of second-home buyers, so crucial to the waterside property market.
“We are seeing buyers waking up and saying, ‘Yes, I have got the confidence to buy a second home’, ” he says.
The big change he notes is that before the recession typical buyers were people in their thirties and forties funding the purchase of a second home with bonus cash. Today the market is being driven by the “almost-grey” pound. “They are in their early fifties, their children are at university or have left, and they are thinking about scaling back their work in anticipation of retirement,” says Bailey. “They have more time to enjoy themselves, so they are selling up in London or the home counties and moving out to the coast.”