Before purchasing that quaint cottage on the Cornish coast, or the appealing pad in a peaceful Devon village, is it worth looking elsewhere? After all, prices in the West Country have shot up beyond all recognition and there is is the five-hour commute from London to contend with.
The Cotswolds is by no means unpopular. It has its own celebrity set of patrons, including Kate Moss and David Cameron, and it is blessed with some of the most beautiful villages and towns in the United Kingdom. Yet it’s under two hours from London and there is a wider range of properties on the market.
Of course, the charming Cotswold stone villages have seen their own price spikes, but new-build opportunities are giving outsiders a valuable in.
Situated six miles from Cirencester in the Cotswold Water Park is Watermark, a development of luxury homes available for holiday rental or second-home ownership.
The development is made up of 350 properties set over five lakes. According to sales and marketing manager Jules Miller-Cheevers, the proximity to London is a major draw: “A lot of our owners travel from London for the weekend. It only takes 90 minutes on the train from Paddington to Kemble station. We often have one parent drive down on a Friday afternoon with the kids, and the other parent follows on the train after work”.
This is a key factor – the five-hour trek to the West Country coasts can hamper weekend jaunts but for Cotswold property owners short stays are a real option.
The relatively short journey might be why only 18 per cent of the properties are rented out: it’s so convenient for London-based owners to get there that they choose to keep their second-home for their exclusive use. Those who do let theirs report a six per cent return on their investment.
Each buyer’s lodge is built for them, so by choosing a new-build lodge you can shape your property to suit your needs. Building work doesn’t start until exchange and completion on the plot, so the owner can choose where their property is (depending on plot availability), and can have input into the design of the lodge over the six months it takes to finish. This flexibility isn’t possible with any old house in the Cotswolds.
The lodges themselves are built in the New England-style, timber-clad with wide porches with decking. With bedrooms downstairs, the layout of the Deck House on Summer Lake may not be to everyone’s taste, but once you emerge into the airy open-plan kitchen-diner, you can see what the architects were thinking. As Jules says, “It’s the best way to get the light, and sunlight is at a premium in this country.”
Serious buyers can stay in a new-build property to see if it suits them before committing to a purchase. If they proceed, the cost of their rental is deducted from the sale price.
The properties on the area of the estate called the Landings are the most exclusive, with prices ranging from £495,000 for a resale four-bed semi to £1.6 million for one of the five-bedroom detached new-build properties on the peninsula.
The new-build detached Deck House lodges on Summer Lake start at £525,000 (three bedrooms). Resale properties on Windrush and Isis Lakes go on the market for £200,000-£300,000.
And there’s plenty to do. As you would expect from a lakeside development, activities on the water are a central part of life here. There’s a real sense of community around Spring Lake where the Lakeside Brasserie doubles as the Lakeside Ski & Wake Centre.
Here you can go out on inflatables, or learn to waterski or wake board. Properties on Summer Lake and the Landings all have their own jetty straight on to the lakes.
Several of the lakes are stocked for fishing. Jules tells me that “on the Landings, it’s almost impossible not to catch a carp” and as a non-fisher, I like those chances! Owners of a Landings property also benefit from membership to the South Cerney Sailing Club, part of the RYA (Royal Yachting Association).
On site there are tennis courts, playgrounds, cricket nets and many cycle paths. Owners benefit from membership at two local golf courses. Watermark is on the edge of the Cotswolds’ designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so there are lovely villages, woodland and hillsides aplenty to explore.
There may not be a coastline, but there is a beach a few miles away – Watermark owners get free access to Cotswold Country Park and Beach. Use of the pool and gym facilities at the adjacent Four Pillars Hotel is also part of the ownership package.
So, what are the drawbacks? For many the lure of the sea and a coastal village will always be the most attractive option and resale will depend on the success of the development. The properties are all leasehold, which means there is an annual service charge in the region of £3,000 to pay, but this covers the 24-hour security of the site and maintenance of the landscaped gardens, as well as access to all the on-site facilities. But there’s a concierge service too, so if the 90-minute journey from London doesn’t convince you, maybe a fully stocked fridge will.
For sales information call 01285 869031.
For holiday rentals contact: www.watermarkholidays.com or call 01285 869181
Images courtesy of Watermark