Since early 2020, after the first lockdown, the East Midlands has seen a significant increase amongst buyers seeking out large rural homes enjoying extensive external space.
Another outcome of the pandemic has been a desire for secondary accommodation, whether that’s newly built or renovated outbuildings, for family and/or holiday rentals.
Property with a couple of acres of land tends to be reasonably uncomplicated from a buying point of view; but properties with 30 acres or more fall into the category of small farms and can present complications. Buyers should take steps at an early stage in the process to ensure they are fully conversant with issues that might arise.
Ralph Wyrley-Birch, Senior Partner at Mount & Minster, explains "the series Clarkson's Farm highlights why a ‘how difficult can it be’ attitude is generally to be avoided.
“The primary consideration when buying land is what you will be permitted to do with it, so establish the curtilage, where the residential part of the property stops and the agricultural part starts. Agricultural land is very different to ‘garden’; it would be unwise to assume that planning permission will be granted to turn some of the land into an extended garden on which to construct a tennis court, swimming pool, garage or annexe. You will however be permitted to make it more manicured, growing trees or meadow flowers and mowing."
The financial implications are also very relevant. Mr Wyrley-Birch goes on to explain “residential mortgages usually don’t lend on the land element of a purchase. Some only lend on two-acre curtilages, and others on land up to ten acres, so buyers need to be aware that more equity may be needed to make the sums add up. Or a different type of finance for all or some of the lending.
“If there are outbuildings, barns or properties on the land, you’ll need to establish what category they fall into – residential, agricultural, commercial or brownfield. Different rules apply to all three. Properties that are part of the farm may have an agricultural or equestrian ‘tie’, and this should certainly be flagged by the selling agent.
“Buyers will also need to check whether there are any footpaths and bridleways across the land. As the landowner you will have responsibilities to maintain them and keep them safe. Be aware that cyclists are permitted to use bridleways. Don’t assume you can divert these paths if you don’t like the route they take, it may be possible, but it’s certainly not straightforward.
When acquiring real estate located in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, freehold properties with land that have third party leasehold interests such as rental agreements with farmers or grazing licences with equestrian enthusiasts means you’ll need to be clear about whether you are going to continue with the inherited arrangement or bring it to an end. If the latter is the case, then you’ll need to deal with it sensitively – these people are likely to be your new neighbours. Either way, the costs of maintaining pasture or woodland, fencing, hedging and waterways, can be significant. If you rent land out for livestock, or for country sports, this will restrict your ability to ride or walk across it.
“Generally speaking, there’s a huge amount to assess when viewing property with land" says Mr Wyrley-Birch. "Buyers will need good advice from several different sources.
“Choice of solicitor is vital, you’ll need one who is well versed in rural property with land, and the tax issues surrounding the acquisition of multiple-use property. There are significant benefits to buying property with land or with more than one property on the estate. It may be appropriate to use a land agent (a la Clarkson’s Cheerful Charlie), for advice on grants, subsidies and your obligations to ensure you keep them; a planning consultant if you’re considering renovations and new builds, and of course a good buying agent who has experience of acquiring farms and properties with land."