Jonnie Irwin travels to Norfolk to help a businesswoman find a new home closer to her family for £500,000.
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Today I'm in a county renowned for its waterways. Created in medieval times by men digging for peat,
this county's systems of dykes, rivers and broads is the largest stretch of wetland in England.
Where am I? Find out in just a moment.
'In today's show, I'll be helping a businesswoman, accompanied by her niece,
'return to her family roots in the country.
'And finding her the right size house is just one of our many challenges.'
I think by the time you get a sofa in here and a bit of furniture, it is a little bit on the tiny side.
'But our mystery house throws other unexpected surprises into the mix.'
I like this room. I like the size of the room.
Today I'm in Norfolk. For almost six centuries,
these 125 miles of waterways were crucial to the local economy,
allowing goods to be ferried inland from the sea.
Nowadays, though, as you might expect, it's tourism that pulls in the pennies for the county
and these broads attract around seven million tourists here every year.
'Looking out over the North Sea, Norfolk is the largest of the East Anglian counties
'and historically has prospered from its coastal position
'with Wells-next-the-sea formerly one of the great ports of east England
'which in its Tudor heyday traded with the Netherlands.
'It was earlier, in the 14th century,
'that rising sea levels created the inland waterways that formed the Norfolk Broads.
'Today it's not only a draw for holidaymakers
'but is renowned as one of the most important wetland sites in Europe.
'The buildings that lie scattered across this predominantly arable landscape
'provide a range of attractive choices, including distinctive cut flint facades and thatched roofs.'
'Corporate event organiser Jane has roped in her niece Georgie to help her escape to the country
'having spent the last 25 years in Romford, Essex.
'These two ladies have an incredibly strong bond
'and are certainly a dynamic duo.'
Jane's a very vivacious character. She's very creative, actually,
and has a lot of attention to detail, which is why she's so good at her job.
And Georgie is a very vivacious character. THEY LAUGH
'Being close to family is key to Jane's move and also important to Georgie.'
My dad lives in Norfolk, and obviously Grandma,
and we've got lots of aunts and great-aunts and uncles in Norfolk,
so whenever I get time off work, that's often where I tend to be.
So it'll be great to have Jane there, as well, cos it'll be easier to see Jane now.
'Besides wanting a property with plenty of character,
'Jane has a wish-list that taps into her sociable lifestyle.'
What I'm looking for is ideally open-plan
or rooms that connect, that work together.
I really want a kitchen where I can have friends round.
I'd then like a nice, large living room area
I need a minimum of two bedrooms.
'And the outside is important, too.'
Jane's been talking about having a large garden. She'd definitely like some outdoor space.
She's even been talking about a bit of a vegetable patch, growing her own veggies.
'Continuing her business is a key priority for Jane so she'll need an office.
'In addition, she wants her country home to earn an extra income,
'so if there was the potential for a holiday let, all the better.
'And with her house already sold, she's ready to go full steam ahead with this move.'
My budget for the new property is £450,000 to £500,000.
At £450,000 to half a million pounds,
Jane's budget should be more than adequate to give her the minimum of two bedrooms and a garden.
Views obviously come at a premium, but I think Jane's after quite an interesting mix of a period property
that also gives her modern, open-plan interiors.
Let's see if we can do Jane's handsome budget some justice.
'We'll be focusing Jane's house search
'around the Norfolk Broads where her mother lives,
'not venturing any further west than Norwich.
'We've selected three great properties to show her,
'but I won't be revealing the price of each until she's had a guess first.
'And finally, there's our mystery house,
'which will challenge Jane's preconceptions about what she really wants.'
What would you say are the most important parts of what you're looking for in a house?
-Views are one.
-What are the other things?
Not to be in a built-up area, because I've always had a city lifestyle.
I want to be either on the edge of a village or in the countryside.
-All right, but a community nearby, I take it.
What's Jane's taste like? Are we looking for something period or newer?
Erm, Jane's often spoke about she does like the barn-type exterior,
but in her current home, she has a very modern interior which she's definitely put her own stamp on,
so she'd like something similar or something that she can change the interior of to be quite modern.
-We'll get on our way, shall we?
'Ideally, Jane would like to spend around £450,000,
'but she's prepared to go up to £500,000
'for a perfect period property
'which gives her a large open-plan kitchen/diner, a least two bedrooms
'and a dedicated office. An annex with holiday let potential
'would be the icing on the cake,
'but a large garden with views is a must-have.'
'We kick off our property search with location firmly in mind
'as we head for the village of Rockland St Mary.
'You wouldn't think that Norwich was under a 15-minute drive away from such a peaceful, rural setting.
'As well as serving up a useful shop and Post Office,
'it's here where the river Staithe marks the start of the Rockland Broad.
'Just a two-minute walk away is our first house,
'approached via its own long drive and, like Jane, possesses plenty of character.'
-What do we make of this?
That looks really stunning. It's got lovely period characteristics.
-It isn't an old property. The plans for it were drawn up around 1960.
-But it's done very sympathetically.
-Certainly is. I like it very much.
'Besides its great period style, the internal layout is thoughtfully designed for modern living.'
I briefly want to pause in here just cos I think it's quite an impressive entrance hall.
Yes, yes, nice size entrance hall.
There's a theme of wood throughout the home. You see the oak parquet flooring,
a lot of timbers exposed throughout the whole property.
Not 100% to my taste, but I think I could work on it.
-OK. If you want to lead the way through there, the living room's first up.
So what are your thoughts on this for a living room?
A nice size of room and a lovely aspect out onto the garden.
-Jane currently has quite a contemporary interior.
And my impression is that she'd quite like to continue that theme.
And although it's such a beautiful period property outside,
you'd find it very difficult to convert the inside with a contemporary feel.
It would have to be very, very carefully done.
-Let's see what you make of this next one.
-Just mind the step here.
So, you tell me what you want this room to be.
I think I'm pretty sure what I'm going to be hearing.
I think it would be an office, wouldn't it?
Yeah. This was built as a fourth bedroom.
You've got an en suite shower and loo.
Would you have this as an occasional bedroom, or would you want it as a dedicated office?
I think I'd need to consider a dedicated office.
-OK. That leaves us with three bedrooms upstairs. Will that be enough?
-More than enough.
For a lot of people, the next room is the engine room of the home. See what you make of it.
So, the heart of the home for most people.
-What do we think?
-The kitchen units, they're nice,
but I'd change those to be slightly more contemporary.
'The kitchen leads through to a spacious utility room at the back
'and there's a relaxed layout for entertaining.'
Just looking through here, this is your dining room.
It feels a little bit open-plan, doesn't it?
It certainly does. I like the more informal style of living these days
where people can come into the kitchen, they can help themselves,
or you can have a buffet out here. So, yes, I like that.
'The dining room leads through to a timber-built conservatory,
'another great space for socialising, with French doors onto the terrace.
'We'll come to the garden later, but first let's take a look upstairs.
'The three bedrooms include a good size twin room, and on the other side of the landing,
'the family bathroom has the luxury of a roll-top bath.
'There's also a spacious double room with built-in wardrobes.
'But next we'll explore where Jane would sleep.'
The master bedroom has an en suite just through there, recently refurbed.
-We're up in the roof here now.
So you've got lots and lots of storage into the eaves.
-How would you think you'd want to do this room?
-I imagine a little, rather stylish four-poster
with some nice drapes making it feminine.
Some people might find it a bit of a challenge trying to get
furniture to fit in with the eaves and things,
but I think it adds a lot of character to the place.
'Jane seems pleased with the layout and room sizes of this property,
'but it's the gorgeous secluded garden that will hopefully win her over
'as it's the perfect setting for some wonderful parties.
'All told, it amounts to around half an acre.'
You can see from the sun, it's a glorious west-facing garden.
-Real sun trap.
Now, is it daunting for you, actually, Jane?
There's a lot of garden here.
It goes with the house.
It's sort of the quintessential English garden in a way. It's lovely.
How much do you think this house is on the market for?
-I think about £450,000.
-What does Georgie think?
-I think it's going to be maxing the budget.
I think it's going to be pretty close to £500,000.
Very good guess. It started life, apparently, at around £500,000.
It's now on the market for offers around £489,000.
So now is the time for you to have a good look around the house without me there, look at all the rooms
and discuss amongst yourselves what you like, what you'd like to change.
-OK? I'll see you in about 20 minutes.
'Under budget at £489,000,
'this charming character property leaves Jane money left over to redecorate where she feels fit.
'It provides her with a large kitchen,
'three bright reception rooms, plus an office and three bedrooms with a master en suite.
'The half acre of landscaped garden is stunning
'and it's wrapped up in a village location
'in the heart of open countryside.'
When we first walked in, I didn't think it was going to be Jane's cup of tea
but it's opened her eyes to a different type of property that she would now consider.
I hadn't originally thought that this might be the type of house
that I would like, but it really has opened my eyes.
I really love the feeling. It's got character.
And, yes, I love the garden.
I think it has really got to be a great contender.
'Our house search edges closer to the coast.
'Nine miles inland from Cromer is the village of Felmingham
'whose 15th century church tower stands tall above the fields
'and where local produce is readily available.
'Our second property has plenty of gardening potential and history attached to it.'
Now, I know you liked the period style of the first house.
-This IS period, OK?
-The middle part of the property is the old farmhouse, OK?
-That's probably mid-18th century.
Coming to the end, you can see a Victorian extension, almost the same size.
-And then the far end, you've got a modern extension.
-What's your first impressions?
-It looks most unusual and I like the location.
-We're right out in the heart of the country here.
-You really are.
-Let's look inside.
'After pleasing first reactions, let's see if Jane can draw on her creativity
'and see the potential of the unfurnished interior.'
So through a small vestibule, if you like, straight into the kitchen.
-And it's all gone quiet.
-Not keen walking straight into a kitchen.
I like the period features, like the lovely bits of exposed wood,
-but I've got to get over the concept of walking straight into the kitchen.
-Not too bad.
-These aren't great reactions from Jane, are they?
No. I quite like it. And having the range there, that's a real feature, very unique.
-Let's look at this first room.
'Jane's slightly downbeat, but can we stoke up her imagination next door?'
-I know you have a need for an office.
It's certainly space-wise quite good.
Logistic problems with all these radiators and how you'd cope with them for putting in office equipment
cos suddenly walls have been taken up almost on three sides.
I'm just considering, it depends whether the other reception room has got a feature fireplace,
-because that would be lovely in a sitting room.
'At the other end of the house is another, even more impressive fireplace
'and the option for a bit of remodelling.'
Georgie, you mentioned the fireplace in the first reception room. I think that's bigger and better.
Yeah, that is quite impressive.
But by the time you get a sofa in here and a bit of furniture,
it is a little bit on the tiny side
Do you remember this morning, you said you wouldn't mind a bit of a project?
This house isn't registered with the estate agent as listed. I suggest potentially turning the garage
-into office space.
-OK. That actually has a lot of merit.
-You're smiling again now.
'Tucked away behind the fireplace is a utility area and shower room,
'plus there's a nicely-designed conservatory with garden views.
'Upstairs are four bedrooms, two singles with exposed beams
'separated only by a stud wall, useful is Jane fancied making them one again.
'There's also a large double with a feature chimney breast and double aspect windows.
'But the master really raises the roof.'
OK, now, I know it's difficult to imagine if a bedroom is suitable or not without any furniture in it,
-but that's what I'm asking you to do.
-What do you think?
I'm very impressed by this beautiful vaulted ceiling.
-It does add space, doesn't it? Makes it quite spacious.
I applaud your positivity. Let's have a quick peek into the bathroom,
cos that was surprisingly big. After you, third on the left.
-I like this room.
-It's big, isn't it?
-I'm glad you like this room.
-I love the character of the wood here.
-And I just like the character of the room, so this would be a winner for a bathroom.
'The property as a whole is awash with original features which Jane seems to appreciate.
'Although I'm not sure it's fuelling her overall enthusiasm for the house.
'However, the garden is an extremely generous half-acre plot sub-divided into different zones,
'including a large vegetable garden with greenhouses and a range of small outbuildings.
'Beyond the boundary hedging are splendid rural views, one of Jane's must-haves.'
Now, this is a very big garden, isn't it?
Yes, yes, a very nice size. And with a nice south aspect.
You're surrounded by farmland, but similar to the thatched house,
-you can't see a great deal of it at the moment. Would you want to change that?
-I think so.
If you're going to be in the countryside, it's quite nice to rake through and see the fields.
I get the feel this house isn't for you. But I'd like to know how much you think it's on the market for.
I would think possibly about £350,000, £400,000.
-With the amount of land that's here, I'm going to be a bit more generous, I'm going to say 380.
Not particularly generous. This house is on the market, it came on about four weeks ago,
But I think that your guesses represent the fact that it's just not for you.
-More than likely.
Well, look, I think you should still go back inside and look around the house.
For as much as anything else, to, hopefully,
help you find out whether or not period properties like this are for you. Catch you later.
'Under budget at £450,000, this cottage is full of original features
'but still leaves enough money for some small-scale renovations.
'As it stands, it offers Jane two reception rooms and a conservatory,
'four bedrooms, a double garage which could convert to an office,
'and just shy of half an acre of garden
'with those all-important countryside views.'
This house has got some plus points and some minus points for me.
I like the exterior brickwork, I like the wood in the old part of the house,
the lovely beams and the tiled floors, but unfortunately I feel the rooms are all a little bit small,
and even if knocked some through to make a slightly larger room,
which I think I'd struggle to do in the main rooms,
I just don't think I'd be able to achieve what I wanted to achieve here.
What's worrying me about this property is I just don't think it has enough space
for the entertaining that Jane wants to do.
However, it is a very unique house with the different eras of period features.
But overall, I just don't think it's a contender for Jane.
'As evening falls over the Norfolk countryside, our first day of house-hunting draws to a close.
Well, I think yesterday got off to a pretty good start. Almost too good.
Thatched houses are not everybody's cup of tea but I think Jane and Georgie really warmed to the fact
that whilst it had a period look to it, it gave them the modern interiors inside.
Conversely, in the afternoon,
the period farmhouse with its extensions left them both pretty cold.
Today is another glorious start to the day and we're off to see the mystery house.
Now, as ever, I ask my house-hunters to expect the unexpected,
although with this particular mystery property,
I think it's going to give them something they've asked for but they haven't yet seen.
Are there any facets of a property that you said you'd like to see
that you haven't yet seen, do you think?
Possibly back to the open-plan living,
a kitchen leading through into a breakfast area.
So you've got that sort of communal environment.
'We'll hold onto that thought as we head to the mystery house in the coastal village of Bacton
'which, along with its dramatic beach, boasts some impressive architecture,
'including an array of thatched buildings and the 12th century ruins of Broomholm Priory,
'once a famous site of pilgrimage.
'Our mystery property has ready-made potential for Jane to earn an income.
'But it will require her to be open-minded, as there's a nearby road.'
So, mystery property time. What do you think of what you see so far?
I love the colour. I love the pantiled roof.
I've always loved Georgian houses because they have lovely big windows.
There are compromises littered about this house, and I think, first of all,
it's not in the remote, quiet, idyllic location that you asked for,
so what do you think about being in the village?
Well, I want to be the heart of the community, so I have quite a strong checklist.
And it may be that, at the end of the day, I have to compromise on certain factors.
-You obviously have a front door. But we're going to go through the side entrance, OK?
'Dating back to the late 18th century,
'our mystery property has been greatly extended over the years.
'So inside provides the space, but not necessarily the contemporary feel Jane was after.'
-Bit of a creaky door.
-I'm dying to hear what you make of this.
Is this your taste?
I think so. Yes. I do like it.
I think it's a gorgeous kitchen. The style of it is in keeping with the property.
Let's take a quick scoot around the ground floor as there are a few surprises for us. I'll squeeze past.
So, we have some office space.
Yeah, do you think it's big enough, Jane?
It's compact. Possibly not quite big enough for what my needs would be.
-Well, there are options elsewhere. So bear that in mind.
-A more formal style of dining in here, I think.
'And that Georgian sophistication continues.'
Now then, as a living room, how do we find this?
I like this room. I like the size of the room.
-This is the proportions I'm looking for.
-Is it? Right. Is this excited Jane?
-Good. All right.
Well, look, this is just about Jane and her relaxing new way of life.
Next door gives you a completely different option. So follow me.
Now, there are other entrances into this part of the property.
But if you throw your eyes back yonder,
you'll see a self-contained small kitchen,
-with an en suite bedroom off.
So you can have this as just letting accommodation,
but also if you wanted to maybe look after your guests even more,
you've got the option of providing B&B accommodation elsewhere in the house, as well.
Sounds good. Cos I really wanted the house to work for me. So that sounds like a really good idea.
'The annexe also benefits from a superb en suite
'as do three of the four bedrooms upstairs.
'There's one impeccable double with its own light, bright shower room,
'and another double with an en suite of a similar size.
'Next door there's a single currently used as a laundry room
'and the master is finished to an equally high standard.'
Now, this is your master bedroom of three good-sized doubles.
I love it. I wanted to have view out of my window and I think you get a nice view of the trees here,
-a perfect-sized room and the house is immaculate.
-It really is, isn't it?
Everything has been finished so well. A lot of love and care has gone into this.
'Even though Jane only asked for two bedrooms,
'the size and grandeur of our mystery house doesn't seem to be phasing her in the least.
'Outside, the rear garden is a real oasis of calm with uninterrupted views of the field beyond.'
Now then, obviously you've got that huge fore-garden but this is a lot more private and secluded, isn't it?
-It certainly is.
-I think this is a great space. It's a big garden,
and you can do so much more with it.
-Good. So, try pricing it then, Jane.
I think it's about £500,000.
-I'm going to go a little less. I'm going to say 475.
Spot on. It's on the market for £500,000.
Now is your opportunity. I bet you can't wait to get back inside,
-discover all those other bedrooms, maybe pick one for yourself, Georgie.
-See you in a bit.
'Bang on Jane's maximum budget of £500,000,
'our mystery house seems to be a hit despite it being on a road.
'As it stands, it gives her an open plan kitchen/dining area,
'four bedrooms, an annexe with holiday let potential
'and a garden with those all-important views.'
The house is delightful.
I love the lightness, the airiness, I like the fact that we've got two gardens,
I like the fact that there is a revenue income potential from the property.
That's actually put a big tick.
And I like the fact that it would achieve everything I would wish to achieve from a house,
so, er, yes, I think it's a very promising option here.
It really is a beautiful home.
A lot of love and care has gone into it and the finishes are immaculate.
So I'm quite interested to see whether Jane would consider putting in an offer on this place.
Well, it's now decision time for Jane and it's a good job she's got Georgie to use as a sound board
because I think it's between two properties.
But they're both completely different and in very different locations.
Let's find out what she wants to do next.
So, Jane, let's start with yesterday morning,
the first house I took you to, had some great reactions in that house.
It was. It was a lovely house. Sort of a chocolate-box house, wasn't it?
-But the garden was magnificent.
Yeah, definitely. Jane was quite surprised, she really warmed to it.
Because you reacted so well, I thought you'd get on pretty well in the farmhouse in the afternoon.
-Not as well as I hoped, though.
-No. I mean, there were features in the farmhouse, like the nice flooring
and nice wooden exposed beams, but the house just didn't work.
The rooms were small and I couldn't see a way you could open them up and make them work well.
Now, as you both know, the mystery property is there to perhaps challenge your expectations.
This gave you a couple of facets that you'd mentioned before, such as a business opportunity.
What do you think about that now?
Well, being a single person, it's a big house and I love socialising, I like having people around.
And I think there was a complete annexe which could be a revenue earner for me,
or a granny flat if my mother came to stay.
Can you genuinely see your Auntie Jane being a landlady of a B&B, part-time at least?
I think she'd lend herself to it quite well, yeah.
Well, it's between two properties by the sounds of it. Do you have a favourite?
-The last house, I think.
-The mystery property?
-Yes, I do.
Well, I think, maybe go back for a second viewing then,
and see if it is the place for you, because if it is, that house seemed to be pretty much up your street.
-Please let us know how you get on. Thanks for all your help, Georgie, as well.
Well, I think we had a bit of a wobble in the middle of our house search here in Norfolk,
but by the sounds of it, according to Jane, the mystery property has really come up trumps here.
I think it's in a new location and Jane needs to do a bit of research there,
and hopefully she can find out even more on the second viewing.
But she also seems really excited about the prospect of running her own business from home.
This B&B idea would suit her down to the ground, especially with her hospitality skills.
So I wish her all the very best of luck with the second viewing,
and hopefully she can enjoy the warm embrace of being close to her family and friends here in Norfolk.
See you next time.
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