Thursday, September 23News That Matters

House Hunting in Wales: A Historic Farmhouse for $1.2 Million

This restored stone farmhouse dating to the 16th or 17th century sits on about an acre of land with ocean views in the hamlet of Rhosson, a coastal community in western Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Known as Rhosson Farmhouse, the 2,479-square-foot dwelling of whitewashed stone, with a thatch and slate roof, has four bedrooms and four bathrooms, and is accompanied by an array of stone outbuildings totaling an additional 1,288 square feet. Listed in the United Kingdom as a Grade II* historic building (“of more than special interest”), the two-story home was renovated in 2010 using traditional methods, and is notable for being one of few remaining homes with a round “Flemish” chimney, said Richard Hutchings, who owns the home with his wife, Carys Hutchings.

“It’s probably 16th century and the last of the Flemish chimneyed farmhouses to remain virtually intact, and it’s of considerable vernacular importance to Pembrokeshire and Wales,” he said.

From a small porch next to the imposing chimney, the front door of the farmhouse opens to a reception hallway with a staircase. To the right are the dining room, kitchen and a bathroom; to the left are two living rooms, a sunroom and a large room with a sauna and bathroom. Furniture is not included in the home’s asking price, but is negotiable, said Daniel Rees, a property agent with the Savills office in Cardiff, which has the listing.

The house has whitewashed and exposed-stone walls with alcoves and niches, restored wood beams and roof timbers, and slate flagged floors. The dining room has a wood-burning stove, and the kitchen has skylights, granite countertops and doors leading outside. The main living room has a wood burner set in an inglenook, an alcove for dining, and it accesses the sun-filled conservatory, which has a French door opening to a gravel terrace and lawn. The second living room has a wood-burning stove and leads to the sauna room.

A staircase ascends to a hallway accessing three bedrooms and a bathroom. Two of the bedrooms, including the main, have en suite baths, and all have wide-plank floors. A fourth bedroom with A-frame beams is accessed by the original stone staircase from the sauna room. A door from that bedroom opens to restored barn steps descending to the garden.

The property, with its charming stone walls and views of the Atlantic Ocean, is steps from the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

The hamlet of Rhosson is near St Davids and the Cathedral Close, which includes the small city of St Davids and surrounding rural areas. St Davids, with about 1,600 residents, is less than two miles away and offers shops, pubs, restaurants and galleries. The area has several golf courses, along with yachting at Milford Haven waterway, the largest estuary in Wales. Several beaches are nearby, including Whitesands, Porthselau and Porthlysgi, and a small regional airport in Haverfordwest is about 30 minutes away; the closest international airport is outside Cardiff, Wales’s capital city, about 100 miles east.

The housing market in Wales was already robust heading into 2020, and since the onset of the pandemic, prices have exploded. In the year to March 2021, house prices climbed by 11 percent, the largest annual increase among the United Kingdom’s four nations, according to the U.K. House Price Index Summary, compiled by the Office for National Statistics.

“Since the pandemic, the number of buyers from England has soared,” said Daniel Thomas, managing director of Fine & Country Cardiff. “With more and more people deciding to work from home permanently, buyers are escaping to the countryside. The well-connected but still rural areas of South Wales have seen a huge amount of interest from buyers already in Wales and from those in England.”

In March, the average price for a property in Wales was 185,431 pounds ($262,250), still about $100,000 less than the overall average price of a property in Britain, which was 256,405 pounds ($362,600). Among the country’s 22 local authority areas, Pembrokeshire saw the smallest annual gain, with a year-over-year increase of 4.5 percent.

“The Welsh rural market has been absolutely bonkers,” said Edward Friend, a solicitor, notary public and director of Carreg Law, in Llandeilo. “Wales is very cheap, comparatively speaking, to buy property. And there’s not enough property at the moment to meet the demand.”

Frequently, real estate agents don’t even have time to list properties before they’re snapped up by eager buyers, said Fred Johnson, managing director of West Quay Estates and Lettings, in Barry. “I’m not advertising them, I’m just matching them to a list of people who come in and say, ‘I need a four-bedroom house, I want it in this area, I want it with sea views,” he said.

While picturesque areas like Pembrokeshire have long attracted English buyers seeking holiday homes, a main theme since the country emerged from coronavirus restrictions last summer has been English buyers moving permanently, Mr. Rees said.

“There have been far more younger buyers and families looking to move to Wales and buy a property, probably larger or having more space or land than a similar-priced property in England, as they now have more flexibility and can work from home more with less need for daily commuting,” he said.

Rural areas throughout Britain have seen a boost from those types of buyers, but Wales is particularly attractive not just for its pastoral hills, but for its coastal access, Mr. Thomas said.

“The south and southwest of Wales has been the hot spot for many buyers for years and continues to be the most sought-after location, offering stunning coastline and amazing rural vistas, all with easy motorway access to some fantastic city life in Cardiff, Swansea and even to London,” he said.

With a dearth of new home construction amid the pandemic creating a shortage of offerings, some brokers anticipate that prices in Wales will continue to rise. “It’s a fantastic place to live, but it’s also a fantastic place to invest,” Mr. Thomas said. “We’re going to see house prices really continue to rise. We’ve seen 10 percent year on year so far, and I think we’re going to see that over the next two years.”

Despite the robust demand, pandemic travel restrictions significantly reduced the number of foreign home buyers in Wales, though some agents continued to make sales virtually.

“English buyers in particular have been so keen to buy, they’ve offered off the back of a video tour,” Mr. Thomas said. He added that he sees buyers from around the world, including the Middle East and Central Europe, but “I think a lot of the time it tends to be people who have got a connection to Wales, either through family or work.”

Mr. Friend said he often has foreign clients, whose families emigrated from Wales long ago, returning from such English-speaking countries as the United States, South Africa, Australia and Canada.

Apart from returning British nationals, Wales tends to attract foreign buyers from France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, South Africa and the Far East, Mr. Rees said.

There are no restrictions on foreign home buyers in Wales, and the process for buying a home is similar to that in England, brokers said.

There are, however, legal differences between the two countries, so a Welsh lawyer is highly recommended, Mr. Friend said. The cost typically ranges from about 1,000 to 3,000 pounds ($1,400 to $4,200), he said.

Buyers typically do not hire an agent to represent them, but a private survey of the property is recommended, and would typically run between 500 and 1,000 pounds ($700 to $1,400), Mr. Thomas said.

Calculation of the land transaction tax is complicated by a number of price bands and factors influencing the total amount. Those who own a primary residence anywhere else in the world will pay more in taxes, Mr. Johnson said: “If it’s a second home, the Welsh government raised it in December 2020, with all the price bands increasing by 1 percent.”

The land transaction tax for Rhosson Farm, if used as a second home and purchased after June 30, would be 83,700 pounds ($118,000), Mr. Rees said. As a primary residence, it would be 48,700 pounds ($68,800).

Mortgages from Welsh banks are available to foreigners, but buyers typically have to live in the country for six months to obtain residency, Mr. Johnson said.

Welsh, English; pound sterling (1 pound = $1.41)

Rhosson Farmhouse currently grosses in excess of 35,000 pounds ($50,000) annually in holiday rental income, with no council tax because of small-business relief, Mr. Hutchings said. Normally, tax for 2021-22 would be about 1,983 pounds ($2,800) if used as a main residence, or 2,782 pounds ($3,900) if used as a second home, Mr. Rees said.

Daniel Rees, Savills, 011-44-29-2036-8915, savills.com

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