One-on-one interview: Sue Carne of The County Homesearch Company
As part of our series of interviews with agents across the country, Stephen Maunder speaks to Sue Carne, director of The County Homesearch Company in Kent and Sussex
Could you please tell us a bit about County Homesearch and the service you provide in Kent and Sussex?
At County Homesearch we take the stress out of house-hunting. An estate agent is responsible for getting the highest possible price for the seller, whereas we offer independent advice to buyers, ensuring they find the best property for their budget and do not pay an over-inflated price. Not everyone needs our full service - some clients instruct us to handle price negotiations, while others hand over the admin and ask us to manage solicitors, architects and surveyors.
What areas within Kent and Sussex do you cover?
We cover all of Kent and Sussex, which boasts a wide variety of housing stock in town, village, coastal & rural locations. From eco-friendly new builds in Hythe to charming oast-houses, character cottages and grand country houses, there is something for everyone.
What attracts homebuyers to Kent?
Kent offers an easy commute to both London and the continent using the high-speed rail link, motorway network, continental ferry services and Gatwick Airport. Sevenoaks & Tunbridge Wells have always been popular with families moving out of London. Further out, the village of Wye near Ashford offers countryside living with a high-speed commute of 52 minutes to St Pancras. Families with young children also move to Kent and Sussex in part due to their highly regarded grammar schools.
How much do residential properties typically cost to buy?
We are fortunate to have great variety. You can buy a brand new apartment in Greenhithe for around £250,000, a three- or four-bedroom semi in Tunbridge Wells for £500,000, or you can spend several million on a country house with huge grounds. The average house price in the region is around £300,000.
What kind of buyers do you deal with?
In short- anyone! We have all sorts of clients and every home search is unique. We're popular with busy families who don't want to spend every weekend traipsing back and forth with small children. We are also seeing an increasing number of downsizers who want to make sure they invest their money wisely and retirees who feel the area gives them the best of both worlds with London close by. Hove is particularly popular with retirees, boasting tree-lined streets and boutique shops, which together with the benefits of neighbouring Brighton means there is never a shortage of things to get involved in. It is important to choose a home to suit an active early retirement that will continue to be appropriate as needs change in the future.
What's your best tip for second home buyers?
For a holiday home close to the beach, you can't beat Camber, which is located near the historic town of Rye in East Sussex. Properties here are ideal for buyers who are looking to rent them out as the area is popular all year round. You can pick up a great value new-build home here for well under £175,000. Alternatively, there are some beautiful villages in the South Downs National Park that offer great walks, cosy country pubs and amazing scenery.
What are market conditions like in Kent and Sussex?
The effect of people being pushed out of the London market is starting to ripple through to Kent and Sussex. Stock levels are still low, but they are improving. Sales transactions improved towards the second half of last year and I expect this trend to continue through 2014.