Buyer snaps up Grade I country mansion at knockdown price

An important country house in Berkshire has been snapped up at auction for just over £2m, a fraction of what it was asking on the open market last year.

The Grade I listed Bere Court, a “landmark” Queen Anne mansion in Pangbourne with origins going all the way back to 744, made local headlines when it came on last year at just under £5m. And that didn’t sound like crazy money for a property of this stature.

Formerly part of the Bere Court Estate, the stately 10,000 square foot pile was built in the 1600s and has 19 bedrooms over two floors, 11 bathrooms/cloakrooms, a reception hall, a great hall, 11 reception rooms, two kitchens, four utility rooms, workshop and studio facilities, two cellars, and a six-bay garage. Original features abound, including wood panelling, carved fireplaces, beams, cornicing and decorative plasterwork and the whole thing is set in just under ten acres, with a long private drive.

But despite its obvious charms, the house failed to sell and the whole shebang was listed in Allsop’s July auction catalogue on behalf of mortgagees on a guide of £2m-£2.2m. After receiving some “keen” interest from the room, the hammer eventually fell at £2.15m.

The auction, held in the Ocean Suite of the Cumberland Hotel, was the first major resi auction post-Brexit. Allsop reported bidding “as heated as the weather” and a cool £51m was raised in total.

Auctioneer and Partner Gary Murphy: “It was important that our sale demonstrated continued confidence in property and there were some extremely positive messages from the day. Notably, we experienced a significant depth of demand for longer term opportunities. Development sites or buildings with consent for conversion drew strong competition from UK and overseas bidders.”

The largest lot of the sale – a vacant pair of mixed use buildings with planning for partial demolition and redevelopment on Blythe Road in West Ken – sold for £4.2m to an overseas developer. A freehold vacant terrace house on Churchill Road in Tufnell Park made £1.205m.

In all, 17 lots were sold for over £1m.

Murphy: “Secure income streams are always attractive during a short term correction so a selection of 35 individual ground rent investments appealed to bidders. All of these lots sold. Those with over 80 years’ life of income averaged 33.3 years’ purchase or 3%. (The average YP from 80+ years’ income for the year to June was 26.6.) Assured Shorthold Tenancy yields averaged 5.76%.”

“It was reassuring to see that, at times, business in the room was actually brisker than usual. As always, realistic pricing will produce the best results. It was interesting to note that almost a quarter of the lots sold on the day achieved at least 50% above their reserve prices. At a time when pricing for private treaty marketing is difficult to determine, the auction route offers a reliable option for achieving best value on the day.”