They’re the regions with the highest differential between average income and property prices and no fewer than three of the nation’s top coastal property hotspots can be found here. It’s also officially the fourth safest place to live in the UK. Place names here conjure up idyllic scenes of soft rolling countryside and secluded rocky coves. It’s no wonder Devon and Cornwall are considered two of the country’s most desirable regions in which to live.
So in an area of such obvious affluence, are there really any bargains to be had and how can they be found? Whether you’re looking for a second home or an investment property, or you’re lucky enough to be moving to the area permanently, the surprising news is that there are plenty of interesting properties across the South-West that are even within reach of cash-strapped first time buyers.
Serious property hunting needs to be thorough and although online searches may be a good starting point, they won’t give you the full picture. So start by visiting estate agents who can share local knowledge. Consulting a selection of agents in different areas will allow you to compare and contrast, helping you to build informed opinions as to the most suitable localities and what type of property to choose.
The local press is another good source of information and The Western Morning news, Plymouth’s Evening Herald, The Exeter Express and Echo, The Cornish Guardian and the Cornish Times all report on issues relating to the housing market. Local journalists who construct these features have contacts in all areas of the market, including auctioneers, developers and agents. If there’s no limit to your budget, Devon Life and Cornwall Today magazines also showcase the best in premium properties and by taking out a monthly subscription you’ll see the area’s most incredible homes whilst getting a feel for the local community.
There is always the danger that you can end up paying over the odds for a property, so be sure to keep abreast of real selling prices. A number of websites provide prices of individual properties that have sold recently. Thousands more repossessed, fire-damaged homes and renovation projects are also sold each year at auction, so it’s wise to attend these regularly to find out what people are really prepared to pay and work out your bargaining position.
Avoid the temptation to dive in blindly however and bid on a property without prior research. You could find that the property is located in a flood or landslide hotspot. Few of us can forget the devastation of the floods in Boscastle in 2004 and an increasing number of homes are being threatened by rising tides and coastal erosion in areas such as Dawlish Warren and Slapton.
If you’ve narrowed your search down to a specific area, why not try before you buy and book a short break in the region through one of the many companies that specialise in holiday cottage rentals? Whether you plan to buy a character cottage, a barn conversion or a park home, you’re likely to find a similar property from their portfolio. This will not only give you a chance to get to know the area and its amenities, but also speak with local residents as to what it’s like to actually live there.