Property show. Alistair Appleton meets a couple with £1.5 million to spend on a Hampshire home with space for entertaining and room for the in-laws.
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Today, we're in a county with two national parks,
one famous for its chalky hills, the other for its gorsy forest.
Find out where we are in just a moment.
In today's show, I'll be helping a couple desperate to flee
the urban jungle of London for a peaceful retreat in the countryside.
-Oh, my word! A sunken bath!
But they want their rural dream to come with a bit of luxury.
Will our mystery house fit the bill?
Nicely done, but you can't entertain in here.
Here we are in Hampshire, with the South Downs National Park
in the east, and this, the New Forest National Park, in the west.
The New Forest was created in 1079,
by William the Conqueror, no less, as a royal hunting ground.
Luckily, they didn't hunt everything,
because these New Forest ponies survive to this day,
and they're a protected species.
They're even allowed right of way on the roads.
With the likes of Dorset and Wiltshire amongst its neighbours,
Hampshire is a solid bet for seeking out unspoilt countryside,
as around a third of the county is encompassed
within those two national parks.
There's history too, with the county town of Winchester
being the ancient capital
of King Alfred the Great's kingdom of Wessex.
But one of the defining glories of the county is its coastline.
The protected waters of the Solent
have always attracted yachtsmen and sailors throughout history.
Indeed, the Roman fort of Portchester Castle
is testament to Hampshire's enduring strategic importance.
It's this potent mix of heritage and geography
that makes the county such an interesting prospect
for aspiring escapees.
Today's couple really are the most city of city-dwellers.
They live right slap bang in the middle of London,
so let's find out what it is about Hampshire
that makes them think this could be a perfect escape.
Luke and Rachel are high-flying lawyers who have spent
the last 15 years living and working in central London.
Home is in a modern apartment block overlooking St Paul's Cathedral.
Many city dwellers would give their eye teeth
to live in the heart of London,
but the charms of urban living have faded for them,
and they want to change their city life for a country one.
My dream for moving to the country
is to wake up in the morning and hear the birds singing,
and to look out over green fields,
rather than having been surrounded by a construction site
and with planes overhead.
Yes, and for me it's about getting up in the morning,
walking to the village shop to buy a newspaper,
maybe a nice Sunday roast in the village pub.
And a walk back over country fields.
That all sounds idyllic.
Location is all-important for Luke and Rachel,
as they're keen to be close to their relatives.
The area we've been focusing on is Hampshire,
because that's where Luke's mother is, and my mother lives quite close.
My mother's not getting any younger, so it would be nice if,
at some stage, she could come and move in with us.
So, we're looking for a granny flat.
And there are also a few other things on their list.
When we move, my absolute must for our dream house
is a big downstairs entertaining space.
Big open-plan kitchen, plenty of room for friends, family
to come round and have drinks and dinner.
Maybe somewhere to put a little vegetable patch in,
growing potatoes and tomatoes.
Somewhere for chickens.
I'm quite a keen golfer, so I'd like to explore that
a little bit more in the countryside.
There's plenty of evidence in support of a country life.
But it's not quite case closed.
So far as the style of property is concerned,
I think we are not wedded to a particular, you know,
modern or period property.
Our big no-no is low ceilings and beams.
When it comes to deciding on our dream home,
I think we'll probably agree,
provided Luke can have a bit of a reality check.
Yes. I have no doubt we will agree, because I will just say,
"Yes, Rachel, that's lovely."
I'm not sure it's going to be quite that easy,
but one thing that is for certain is their handsome finances.
Our budget for this move is £1.5 million.
Usually at this point, I'd be saying,
"They haven't really got enough money,
"and there's not that many properties.
"There's going to have to be a compromise."
But actually, they've got a really good budget.
This part of Hampshire is full of million-pound properties.
So the challenge for us is, actually,
can we find a property that really sets them up?
That gives them those big, modern interiors for entertaining
and the country allure?
Something that is going to express
what Rachel and Luke want to be for the rest of their life?
Luke and Rachel covet the rural charms of Hampshire,
so we'll be focusing today's search around the New Forest,
in the south-west of the county,
which has lots of pretty villages and good transport links to London.
We'll be showing them some fantastic properties,
but I won't be revealing the prices until they've had a guess first.
And there's our mystery house, which is their chance to expect the unexpected.
I'm interested in this big move of yours
because it really is a big move.
Is it going to be the one and final move?
We don't want to do this again.
We want our forever home, our dream home,
so that we can spend the rest of our lives down here.
We've both been city dwellers for many years,
and coming down to the country is absolutely what we want.
Is this going to be... Are you going to entertain,
is this the place where all your friends come down?
It's certainly my dream.
One of the things I'm very much looking for is a big kitchen with entertaining space
so we can have all our friends around, family Christmases, that kind of thing.
Basically, we want to be the hosts.
What's your dream scenario?
Probably a village, or edge of village location
so we can still walk to, to a pub, to a village shop.
Having a nice garden, maybe growing vegetables.
But you've got a lovely budget, it's a real joy to show you around.
-Let's get in the car and find something.
-Fantastic. Thank you.
For a maximum budget of £1.5 million, Luke and Rachel
would like a large house with a minimum of five bedrooms.
Keen for great entertainment space, an absolute essential
is a large reception room and good-sized kitchen.
They'd like at least half an acre of land,
so Luke can potter in the garden and try his hand at growing vegetables.
And an annexe or downstairs bedroom for Luke's mother.
With their desire for rural beauty in mind,
I'm taking our buyers to the hamlet of Shobley, near Ringwood.
With the New Forest on their doorstep, Luke and Rachel will have
all the country walks they could ever wish for.
I think our first house will give them all the entertaining space they want too.
-Here we have it.
1930s building, you can see the style.
-You've got six garages.
-We need more cars.
-For your many, many cars.
-What are your first impressions?
It's very, very impressive. It's a lovely driveway.
It looks a huge house. We have only got one car, so five garages....
-Better start saving.
I love the fact that it looks symmetrical. Stunning.
-You've got the A31, which is a pretty noisy road.
-I can hear that.
But once you get into the house, that's not a factor any more.
There's garden at the front, as well.
-That's the least of your garden.
-Oh, my word.
Good first impressions,
so let's hope the inside can live up to their expectations.
Come on in.
-Talk about party space.
-It's big, huh?
-Have you seen the disco floor?
Come in here, you'll get the full extent.
-When you said you wanted a modern interior...
-That will do it.
-Thumbs up for this bit?
-Good, let's go and look at the reception room.
So that was a hit, and hopefully,
the open-plan drawing room won't disappoint either.
Do you like it, or are you not so keen?
It's not to my taste at all, this room.
I think it feels a bit long and thin. It doesn't feel very cosy.
That's what I'm struggling with. I don't know what I would do with this space.
I'm not sure I'd want the dining room. I'd rather entertain in the kitchen.
It is a simple downstairs. There's a family room at the other end,
but it's essentially these three massive rooms.
-Let's take a look upstairs.
'Before we explore the rest of the downstairs,
'let's take a look at where they would sleep.'
-Here is the master.
-That is enormous.
-It's big, huh?
-Lots and lots of space.
-Where's the cupboard space?
Well, behind you, you have a walk-in wardrobe.
-My dream of a dressing room.
And in this cupboard, are you ready?
-Oh, my word!
-A sunken bath!
This is enormous, the en suite.
-It's lovely, isn't it?
This house just keeps on growing. There's three more large double bedrooms on this floor,
two of which are en suite, and a further family bathroom.
Back downstairs, there's still more to show them. There's a separate ground floor annexe
which, I think would work well for Luke's mother.
-This is a little bit more scaled down.
-This is very cosy.
-This is the annexe that is perfect for your mum.
-It's got a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom all on one level.
-It's a good idea. It's perfect for her, actually.
-This is the annexe,
but there are more surprises in the garden.
The property comes with its very own spa block
which has a large indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium,
and there's also an outdoor tennis court.
Here we get a view of the garden, although it spreads everywhere.
-It's two acres of garden.
-Shame about the road noise.
-The road is an inescapable fact of the house.
-I think that's right.
In terms of what you've got, there's a lot on offer here.
What do you think the price of this property would be?
I think I'd probably say about £1.3 million.
OK, I think that's optimistic.
I would say given the amount of grounds, £1.6 million?
Well, a little in between, but much closer to yours.
It's on at £1,395,000.
-Wow, that's a lot of house.
-A lot of ground.
So, priced at £1,395,000,
this fantastic 1930s house certainly has ample entertaining space,
with its two reception rooms and huge kitchen.
There's plenty of room for friends and family to stay, with four bedrooms and a granny annexe.
And there's a huge two-acre garden.
Will this be too much space for them?
-Yes, thank you.
Pull the door. Let's mosey on.
So it's back to the business of finding a home for Luke and Rachel.
As they're after a quiet spot, we're heading to the tiny village of East Dean.
As they still need to commute to London for work,
it's a great choice, as it's only 12 miles to Salisbury,
which has excellent rail links to London.
Our buyers want to escape the noise and pressure of city living
and it doesn't get more peaceful than East Dean,
where there are no shops, just the ancient church of St Winfrith's
and one pub, should they need a watering hole.
-Different kettle of fish here.
Lovely entrance as you came through. I love it.
This is an 18th-century cottage.
You can see where the chimney was, would've been the end of the original cottage.
Then from the chimney, left, would have been a barn.
This is a cottage and barn conversion.
I know that's not what you put top of your list,
but, nonetheless, we brought you here because we think this is a super property,
-but I'll let you be the judge of that as you walk around.
So far so good on the outside,
but they might be in for a bit of a shock on the inside.
Come on in...
to another kitchen/diner.
Not our favourite.
-I think I said definite no-no.
If you painted these all a nice, bleached-out, chalky white
-you would immediately feel they were about a foot high.
Well, it's absolutely what we didn't want, but I'm kind of liking it.
-You know, I need to see more of the house. This feels OK.
-Yes, it does.
-For hearty Christmases.
-It'll keep us cosy.
Well, if you want hearty Christmases...
Downstairs, there's a handy utility area and a cosy family room.
-No low ceilings here!
-No low ceilings, but still some beams.
-Still some beams.
This is where I was thinking you could have a good family Christmas.
Oh, yes, yes.
It's beautiful on a summer's day like this but it would really work in the winter as well.
I'm picturing a big Christmas party with children,
and imagine the games of sardines you could play.
-That's definitely right.
-Before we look upstairs, one more room.
Off this grand reception, I think there's a room that might be ideal for Luke's mum.
-Tiny little room here at the end.
-Oh, yes, right!
-That's a big room too.
-It's a big room, isn't it?
That's super, actually.
There are options in this house for Mama, this might be one of them.
Yes, this would work very well if we could get
a little sitting, bed sitting room and en suite somewhere.
They're certainly warming to this place. I'm hoping the first floor will deliver,
providing they don't mind the odd beam or two.
Here is the master bedroom.
Lovely, very nice.
-There's a beam right above my bed.
-Just a single beam.
-I think that one would definitely have to be painted white.
I think that would be doable.
You've got a lot of storage, you've got a walk-in dressing room there and a big en suite.
Oh, fabulous. Views over the garden as well.
-Oh, that is absolutely gorgeous.
-Isn't that great?
-On all sides.
I can't remember the last time I saw a bathroom with double aspect.
No, exactly. You can look out both sides and it makes it so lovely and light.
I would definitely spend many hours soaking in that.
On the far side of the gallery landing,
there is a country house-style guest bedroom with its own en suite,
and a further three bedrooms with bright interiors.
There is also a family bathroom with whitewashed floorboards.
Outside, there's an expansive garden
which runs down to the River Dunn
and a further two acres of private woodland beyond.
-I can see some fabulous garden parties.
-Yeah. Oh, yeah.
-You'd lose a few people, I suspect.
-Into the stream.
-And into the woods.
-Yes. Oh, it is fabulous.
All the best garden parties end in the woods.
If you live here, if you buy it...
which, of course, is dependent on the price.
I'm going to go for 1.45, I think.
I think it's less than that.
I think I am going to go 1.15.
Well, yet again, it's somewhere in between.
-And once again, it's closer to you. It's on the market for 1.2.
That's a great price.
At £1.2 million, this house is comfortably under their budget.
It's a barn conversion, set in a small rural village.
It's got a double-height reception room, perfect for entertaining.
And with five bedrooms, there should be enough space for their family
and friends to stay over.
But will the beams leave Rachel feeling exposed?
-But let's go and collect ourselves at the end of the day.
As the day closes over Hampshire, our buyers have time to consider the properties they've already seen
and anticipate what the mystery house might have in store.
For the mystery house, we've reigned things in.
We have gone a bit smaller
and retreated from the wilds of the countryside.
So, let's see how they like that.
Now for the mystery house
and we've hopped across the border to Ferndown in Dorset.
It's further away than the other houses I have shown them
but it is still just commutable to London from Bournemouth
which is seven miles away.
Ferndown itself is a town
but it's still surrounded by countryside and open fields.
And, for golfer Luke, there's a championship course which could
seriously help swing our mystery property right into their thinking.
-Ooh! Another exhausting walk up one of your drives.
-It is a long way up.
-So, what do you think of this?
-That is not what I was expecting.
-No, not at all.
That is really stunning.
-It is quite large.
-This is actually 14 years old.
-Is that all?
So, it's absolutely top spec.
You have a championship golf course literally across the road
-because I know you like...
-I spotted that on the way in.
You are really in the middle of a community
and not way out in the countryside.
-Shall we have a look inside?
Ah, maybe we have hit the jackpot with this house.
The inside will reveal all.
What a fireplace.
That's the biggest fireplace we have shown you.
Almost a proper inglenook.
Yes. That is nice.
-It is a real feature of this room.
-And the only beam in the property...
..is above the fireplace. I can live with that. That is fine.
I think it would be cosy in here.
You're right. This is the cosy sitting room which is cooler because...
-..here, you've got a sunroom.
-Yes, this is lovely.
Very light, yeah.
-And a pool.
-And what a lovely setting for it.
-Outdoors. You don't have to worry about that.
-There is lots more to see.
-Yes. Lead the way.
'This is going very well.
'We might have actually found Luke and Rachel their ideal home.'
So, we go in here.
-One of the things about the house is that there are lots of rooms.
-Another sitting room.
-This is essentially the morning sitting room.
All the light comes in here in the morning.
And what a beautiful aspect, actually.
This is where you have your morning coffee.
-Read the papers.
-Yes. Lovely. Lovely.
There is a formal dining room. And then, a kitchen as well.
-Let's go and look at that. I know it's very important for you.
The all-important kitchen.
-A bit small.
-It is smaller than the ones we have seen.
-You've been spoilt.
Yes, I think we have. Very nicely done.
But you can't entertain in here, I don't think.
That is the thing, you have a separate dining room.
-It is more of a formal house.
-Yes, that's definitely right.
This is a very expensive kitchen.
-It is a very nice kitchen.
-Have you noticed the beams?
-That's what happens when you paint beams white.
-I hadn't noticed.
A little bit high on the ceiling, though.
-Well, there is more.
Sounds like we haven't quite sealed the deal on this one yet,
but I'm going to show them a study and another conservatory
that could make a perfect bedroom and sitting room for Luke's mum.
-Oh, fantastic, yeah.
-So, this is the extension.
-This could be a room for Mum.
-This is what we were thinking.
She would love this because she loves the outside garden.
She could sit there in the morning and there in the afternoon.
-She would love this.
Ideal. Very well done. Very good.
Upstairs is much more conventional.
You've got four bedrooms and a big master bedroom.
Let's have a look at that.
'I get the feeling it's six of one
'and half a dozen of the other with this house.
'Let's see if the upstairs can tip the balance.'
-This is the master.
Just spotting...other bits.
-Yeah. So, you've got a big dressing room area here.
-Oh, my word, that's huge.
Now, that is your dream, isn't it?
That certainly is. You've managed to find three dressing rooms in three properties.
Oh, yes. And a big en suite there.
-This is a great size, actually.
-Wow, this is huge.
-It's the size of a bedroom!
-Do you think?
There are three more bedrooms on this floor, all of them generous doubles
and two of them are en suite. There is also a family bathroom.
Of all the properties I've shown you, this is the smallest in terms of footprint of land.
It's just under an acre.
What do you think this property is on the market for?
I'm going to go in at 975,000.
I was going to plump for a figure of around 999,950.
Sadly, you're both wrong.
Because this is actually the most expensive house.
-This is £1.4 million.
We don't know the area, I suppose.
Because we are edging closer to Sandbanks,
-a very exclusive belt of property.
That does surprise me, actually, that it is that much more
than at least the second property that we saw.
With a guide price of £1.4 million,
this new-build house is the most expensive we have shown them.
It does give them plenty of space with two reception rooms,
a formal dining room, a large study, two fantastic conservatories
and four bedrooms.
-All done, thank you.
-Good. Come with me.
Thank you very much.
I'm fairly sure I saw Rachel's eyes light up as we went around the mystery house.
It seemed to be the right proportions, lots of things she liked
and then it was killed dead by the price.
But I am very interested to see how the whole series of three properties
have changed Luke and Rachel's ideas about this
dream country house that is going to express so much about them.
So, let's go and find out.
Well, I hope it has been a thought-provoking few days.
We've seen quite a lot of different properties.
So, the first one we showed you was the big 1930s property,
lots of outbuildings, lots of space. Big, light kitchen.
Inside, that kitchen was absolutely spectacular -
my dream entertaining space.
I can certainly imagine having a number of parties there,
but the big killer for me was actually the road noise.
And, Luke, what about you?
Yeah, it was a very grand, very theatrical sort of house.
Perhaps it was a bit too grand for us.
It was the location, not so much the noise, that I wasn't convinced by.
The second house really gave you all the things you didn't want
and yet, it seemed to grow on you?
I loved the second house. A bit beamy inside.
The ceilings, in the main,
were high enough and I just loved the outside of that house
with the little tinkling stream running by.
I did find myself growing to love the property.
I thought the downstairs living room was just spectacular.
But I think I would need to go back and take another look on a gloomy day, for example,
and see if those beams really do do it for me.
And the mystery house, this was a shock, in terms of price,
but what did you think of the house?
I think the house, as a whole, was probably my favourite.
Certainly, I thought the outside was just delightful.
The killer, for me, was the kitchen and the entertaining space.
Yeah. I think, for me, location again.
It didn't feel particularly rural or semi-rural.
So, I still think a village or edge of village location would be my ideal.
So, are there any of them that you would revisit?
Any of them that you would take another look at or proceed with?
I think we'd like to explore the area around the second house,
I think, before going back there,
just to check out the local village, some of the local pubs.
I don't think any of the three were our dream house.
No dream house for you, Luke, but I'm duty bound to check - Rachel?
I would actually disagree with Luke.
I don't think we found our dream home,
but I would like to take another look at the second property, in spite of the beams.
Great. That's wonderful. That's great news.
And we want to be top of the guest list at your first big country bash.
-Have no fear.
-It's been fabulous. Thank you.
-Thank you. We've thoroughly enjoyed it.
As Luke and Rachel were summing up, Rachel said something that really jumped out at me.
She said, "Yes, I've got it, this is going to be my entertaining house."
And for all the reasons we buy houses,
especially a big house in the countryside, that's got to be a good one.
You want all your friends to come happily
and gather at your home and really enjoy themselves.
So, even though we didn't really find their dream property,
I think we can be proud that we helped them focus on what it was that they wanted.
So, that's all we have time for today on the show
but do join us next time for more property adventures in beautiful rural Britain.
If you'd like to escape to the country in Northern Ireland,
Scotland, Wales or England and you need our help,
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Alistair Appleton tackles a very expensive house search in Hampshire for a couple with £1.5 million to spend. At the top of the agenda are space for entertaining and room for the in-laws.