Property series. Sonali Shah is in Cheshire with an expat couple who want their £450,000 budget to transport them back from Germany to the British countryside.
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This Grade I-listed building may look like
an imposing medieval fortress built to withstand a siege
but, in fact, its history doesn't go quite that far back.
Find out where I am in just a moment.
Today, we're helping an expat couple return to their roots
and it looks like the welcome home party could soon be in full swing.
We can have a dance in there.
And another rustic British feature really gets them fired up.
-It's got a stable door that leads out into the...
I absolutely adore stable doors.
Today, I'm in Cheshire and this is Peckforton Castle.
Built in the style of a medieval castle,
it's actually a vast Victorian country house
constructed just 170 years ago by Cheshire's largest landowner,
Lord John Tollemache.
This grand design is just one of many highlights
this beautiful county has to offer.
The county of Cheshire is situated in the north of England,
bordered by Derbyshire to the east and Wales to the west,
and covers an area of some 900 square miles.
When it comes to the property market here in Cheshire,
the average price of a detached home here is around £260,000.
That's about £20,000 below the national figure.
Prices are by and large more reasonable in the west,
towards the Welsh border, than in the east, nearer Manchester.
Move further south, though, away from Manchester's cultural centre,
towards towns like Sandbach and Congleton
and your money will go that little bit further.
So what's luring today's buyers to this lovely county?
Let's meet them and find out.
Expats Reynaldo and Trish live in Dusseldorf, Germany,
and have been married for six years,
but they're now temporarily back in the UK to begin their house-hunt.
A well-travelled couple,
when Reynaldo, who's originally from Scotland, first met Trish,
they didn't exactly hit it off.
She worked for a major airline on the bookings desk
and he was her least favourite frequent flyer.
For five years, we constantly went out of each other's way.
One day, I went to book a ticket to go to Scotland.
I turned around and, lo and behold,
it was Trish.
We both sort of looked at it as much to say...
And then I said the immortal words, "I'm just a pussycat."
And she said, "You're not a pussycat."
And, lo and behold, one and a half hours later,
we're still talking
and, a year to that day, we got married in Mauritius.
Trish has lived in Germany for 45 years,
moving there after holidaying in the country as a student,
and Reynaldo has spent much of his career in engineering,
travelling the world,
but, having both recently retired, they now want to return to UK soil.
I would be the world's biggest hypocrite
to say life in Germany is horrible. It isn't.
There are some very good things about Germany.
But it really is a mentality thing.
Even after all this time,
we don't feel perfectly at home there
and that's what we really miss.
And the timing of the move is also due in part
to Reynaldo's recent spell of ill health.
2013, I had a big operation for cancer.
Trish was there holding my hand the whole way
and I don't think I'd have got through it without her.
And that's what Trish means to me.
They've chosen Cheshire for their homecoming
as it's where Trish spent a happy childhood.
I have fond memories of my dad coming home on a Friday night,
putting us in the car and us all going out on a nice summer evening
for a picnic in the Cheshire countryside.
I like it also. And, although I'm from north of the border,
I'm quite happy to come to Cheshire.
As well as seeing more of their family,
including Reynaldo's two grown-up sons,
they hope their relocation to the UK will also allow them
more time to indulge in their hobbies.
We want to go and play golf.
I already play. I've played all around the world.
But, you know, I have bought Trish's golf clubs.
We've them in the packaging now for about three years
and, when we get back, we intend to play golf together in the UK.
Despite the enormity of the move,
they're looking forward to making a new home
in what would be their first shared property purchase.
I'm really excited about coming home and living a normal life
with meeting friends, going for a Sunday lunch.
We want to buy this house together.
We're looking forward to doing things and planning things together
for our life back home.
For work and family commitments,
our buyers want to be based within an hour of Manchester Airport
as well as major transport connections to the rest of the UK.
And we're all meeting up in the county
to finalise the specifics of their homecoming.
Lovely to meet you, Trish and Reynaldo.
-Lovely to meet you too.
-Welcome to Cheshire.
Now, what brings you to this part of Great Britain?
Well, this is the part of the UK that I grew up in,
so I have really, really fond memories of this particular area.
And it's actually a halfway house for us,
because Reynaldo has relatives in Scotland.
I have... Oh, we both have relatives in the London area,
so it's a nice halfway house, really.
And what are you both looking for in a property here in Cheshire?
Well, what we want is something with kerb appeal.
Obviously, we'd like it modern inside,
because that's what we prefer.
Just a nice-looking property with minimum three bedrooms.
I'm not averse to large rooms.
I just think it's more space to breathe.
Trish, has Reynaldo left anything out?
Well, I'd like a manageable garden.
I think Reynaldo would like a little bit more space,
but I'm going to be the one
who's going to have to do the work or the gardening, so...
-So you're being the sensible one?
-Well, that's right.
That's probably how it's going to be the whole way with us.
Reynaldo is very much the heart and I'm the head.
Good to note. Good to know early on.
-I'm a softie.
-We have actually missed out something.
It's important to be close to...
well, within walking distance of a nice pub
where we can go and have Sunday lunch.
Now, you talked about a modern interior.
What about the exterior of the property?
What kind of style are you looking for?
For me, anything pre-1930s,
whether it's Victorian or whatever.
Whether we're going to get a Georgian mansion for Reynaldo
-I don't think so.
Remind me of your budget. How much have we got to spend?
Well, our budget is £450,000.
OK. And how soon can you move?
-We're ready to move straight away.
-We're ready to go.
We were ready three years ago.
Let's not waste any time then.
-We've got three properties lined up for you. Let's go.
For a top budget of £450,000,
our challenge is to find Trish and Reynaldo an attractive period home
with three bedrooms, modern, spacious proportions
and an easy to maintain garden.
The location should be nearby to a golf course
and, after some 40 years living abroad,
they're particularly keen to be walking distance from a local pub.
We have a superb variety of homes to serve up,
but I'll be keeping the price a guessing game
until we've had a good look around each first.
Then, to finish up our tour,
we're turning back time with the Mystery House
that's full of Cheshire promise but which may well divide the camp.
So, how is this property hunt going to work?
Who makes the final decisions?
We really, really do think the same way.
It's quite refreshing, actually,
to find someone that actually thinks the same way as I do myself.
We don't always agree.
We're starting our property search right up in the north of the county
in the small village of Great Budworth.
Perched on a hill,
Great Budworth overlooks one of the county's meres, or lakes,
and is arguably one of Cheshire's prettiest settlements
with narrow, cobbled streets
lined with a range of architectural styles.
Notable landmarks include a charming village pub,
parts of which date back to 1722,
and a redundant telephone box
which has been converted into a book exchange,
almost certainly the smallest library in the county.
Our first property is just a five-minute walk away
from the village centre
and less than a ten-minute drive from the nearest golf course.
This is house number one.
-Oh, very pretty.
-Yeah, that's very nice.
It's a very good-looking house.
It was actually built in the 1950s, so not an old house at all.
And the symmetry of the house,
it kind of reminded me of a Georgian house.
-Am I stretching it too far?
No, it's definitely got the appearance of a Georgian house.
It's definitely got kerb appeal and that's what I do like.
Yes, it's very nice and the garden looks absolutely fabulous.
-Very manageable for my wife.
The family have done a really good job with the inside.
-I can't wait to see it.
-Let's go and have a look.
Originally a red-brick cottage dating to the 1950s,
this semidetached property was extended to the side
around nine years ago, doubling its size.
It seems we have delivered on that exterior charm Reynaldo was after,
so let's find out if the interior
will also match up to their exacting vision.
-This is quite nice and light, isn't it?
I think it's a really nice entertaining space.
-Very good start.
-It is nice.
With the French doors straight out onto your garden.
-That is lovely.
Double Belfast sink.
Could you imagine yourselves in this kitchen?
-Yes, I think so.
-Good start, then.
-Very good start.
-On to the lounge.
-Oh, this is a good size.
-This is nice.
A little bit dark.
Yeah, first impressions are a little bit on the dark side.
They've actually done it up very nice.
Well, this is an extension added nine years ago.
-You really wouldn't know that, would you?
No. The house actually finished there, so this is the extension.
It's been well done, yes.
I could imagine it could be quite cosy.
Yes, we could definitely live with this.
This is quite nice.
This triple-aspect living room with its high ceiling
completes the ground floor tour.
Upstairs there are four bedrooms,
one more than our couple asked for.
These include a guest double,
a smaller double
and a single room overlooking the front of the house.
A modern family bathroom serves these bedrooms,
which just leaves the largest one for our buyers.
This property comes with a master suite.
Does that mean it has a dressing room as well?
Dressing area and an en-suite.
-Trish would love that.
-Perfect for Reynaldo.
Now, who wants it the most?
-I want it the most, but Reynaldo needs it the most.
I've got the most clothes.
And dual-aspect windows in the bedroom.
It's very, very nice.
I would have preferred it slightly larger,
but, because it has the dressing area, it could work.
Well, you've seen most of the house.
-Let's see if the garden is to your liking.
-Then we can talk about the price.
A warm reaction to this extended 1950s cottage,
although I'm sensing Reynaldo is after a bit more space.
But, outside, there's parking for two cars
in a large timber-framed garage.
Then the garden wraps itself around the house and is mainly lawn,
with well-stocked beds and mature trees
offering a high level of privacy.
Prettily done. Very nice.
Well, is it worth considering?
How much is it on the market for?
Who'd like to guess first?
Well, I'll go first.
I was thinking about 410-415.
Well, I think it's probably going to be a little bit more than that.
I would go about 435.
It's actually on the market for £375,000.
That's a surprise.
-A pleasant surprise.
-That really is a surprise.
And it makes you look at the house with different eyes.
Now that you know the price,
do you want to go and have another look around the house
-and I'll meet you out the front in a bit?
-All right. Thank you.
Under budget by a huge £75,000,
our first house is an extended 1950s cottage-style family home.
Delivering on traditional character,
it offers our expat couple
a spacious kitchen-diner and four bedrooms.
There's an enclosed, low-maintenance garden
and the property is located around a five-minute walk
from a popular English village with that all-important pub.
Well, I thought it was a good start.
I was surprised about the price
and, size-wise, I think it's more than enough for us.
The garden is good, it's a good size,
so I'm not going to be spending all my retirement
doing housework and doing the garden.
The property is very pretty.
It's certainly got kerb appeal.
I think Trish likes it better than I do.
That's not to say I dislike the property.
I would have just preferred slightly bigger rooms,
but it's certainly a nice, little cottage.
-Seen everything. Thank you.
-Let's hit the road.
For our second property option,
we're heading towards the border with Wales
and to the village of Shocklach.
The closest village for a range of amenities is Tilston,
which has a parish church built from red sandstone,
a traditional country pub and a grocers and convenience store.
A typical English village complete with medieval stocks,
it should appeal to our returning expats.
Our second house is around two miles away back in Shocklach
and just a 15-minute drive from the nearest golf course.
And this property really pushes modern to the max,
as it's only eight years old.
-Ah, that's nice.
-That's very nice.
-Yeah. That is lovely.
-I like that.
-I think that's your taste, isn't it?
That's definitely my taste.
-It's very pleasing on the eye.
-Well, you like modern, don't you?
-Yeah, I like modern. Yes, I do.
-Does it do it for you, Trish?
-Yes, I like it very much indeed.
It is a modern house, but it's done in the traditional style, so yes.
Shall we see if the inside suits you now?
Oh, yeah. Looking forward to it.
It's definitely not Georgian,
but this handsome, modern, detached property
with adjoining single garage
seems to have caught our couple's imagination.
The interior has been finished to a high standard,
with oak flooring and character features.
I thought I'd take you into the lounge, the drawing room, first.
-That's a nice shape.
-That's a fireplace.
You could have a dance in there.
It's quite nice in there because it gives you that olde worlde feeling,
-although the house is quite modern.
-That's beautiful. But I think...
-Love these doors.
It's not too large but it's cosy.
-Good. Good start.
-On to the kitchen.
As well as the living room,
this side of the house also has a separate dining room,
again with solid wood floors and a nice aspect to the front.
We're passing back through the entrance hall
to check out the kitchen-breakfast room.
Now, as you can see, the kitchen really continues that oak theme
the whole house has.
I know oak isn't necessarily to your taste,
but I think it's really tasteful.
I think it's lovely.
We can paint this white.
Whether Trish wants to not!
Trish actually likes white, as well,
but white would actually go very, very nice with that.
-With the granite.
But, size-wise, is this big enough for you, Trish, when you're cooking?
It's a little bit small
but it's workable.
It's big enough for me, thank you.
And, if the kitchen wasn't big enough,
they'll be pleased to know there's a separate utility room,
also fitted with natural oak units that could be painted
should they agree on the colour.
Upstairs, a half-tiled family bathroom
serves a total of four good-sized bedrooms,
all arranged off a central landing.
They include two double bedrooms
and a smaller one which is currently being used as a study.
That leaves the room we've earmarked for Trish and Reynaldo.
This house has four bedrooms.
This is the largest, the master.
Very nice. I can imagine sitting in bed drinking a cup of tea,
which Reynaldo would bring me...
-if I'm lucky!
-Which Reynaldo's this?
In truth, I would like it slightly bigger,
but this actually is a very, very nice bedroom
and, yeah, I think it could work.
Well, the house is in a really lovely setting,
but you can appreciate it more, I think, from the garden.
-So, let's go.
Positive reactions from our cash-buying expats
to a property they could move into straightaway.
Outside, the landscaped garden is mainly laid to lawn
and extends to the rear
with the added bonus of a paved sitting area to one side
which benefits from some lovely views
across the neighbouring countryside.
This would be your garden, Trish.
This is beautiful and very manageable.
And what I do like is the open view over the open fields.
That's really lovely, isn't it?
Up to now, the house is perfect.
It is. Mm.
How much is it going to cost you, though?
Right, well, I don't mind going first in this again.
-Of course he doesn't mind!
We are closer to Wales.
I would actually go 415.
I would say about...
Well, Trish is closer this time.
-It's on the market for £435,000,
leaving you £15,000 from your budget.
-Is it something you'd be prepared to pay?
It's something we'd be prepared to consider paying.
-So who knows? Watch this space.
The house is actually perfect.
-Go and have another look around. Make yourselves at home.
-And I'll meet you out front.
-Thanks a lot.
£15,000 under budget,
our second choice is a modern, detached property
finished to a high standard throughout.
The ground floor features separate living and dining rooms
and, upstairs, there are four decent-sized bedrooms.
The garden is landscaped, enjoying views across farmland,
and the property is situated a short distance from a vibrant village.
Ah, now. This is your room, Reynaldo.
This is what you've always wanted, isn't it?
-This is really, really nice.
-Very tastefully done.
You can have some music, I'll serenade you.
I love this property.
It's really nice, although it's not originally what I wanted.
I didn't particularly want a new build,
but I'm very, very impressed with it.
It's my type of house. I quite like the new type build.
But it's actually been built very, very nicely.
I like the driveway.
I was a little bit concerned whether my car would fit into the garage,
but that's not a deal-breaker.
I really like this house.
Reynaldo doesn't play his cards to his chest.
He's overjoyed with this property
and this is the one he'll be pushing tonight.
I feel this could really be the one. Could it?
Well, I think, compared to the last house,
this is much more to our taste
and I could see us living here.
We could definitely live here.
Fabulous. We don't want to get overexcited,
-we do have the Mystery House tomorrow.
But, for now, let's go and get a drink to celebrate.
-Oh, good idea.
The mystery property is located in the northern part of the county
and is set within the rural village of Cuddington.
Featuring attractive black and white architecture
and surrounded by open fields,
Cuddington may be rural but villages are well served by local amenities.
There's a small parade of shops, a sports club, a pub
and a couple of places of worship,
including the local Methodist church,
which dates back to the mid-19th century
and lies right next door to our mystery property.
-What a pretty little cottage.
That's nice. That's lovely.
That's really lovely.
And the location is so pretty.
Well, this was built around the 1830s.
So it is the traditional look that you thought
you might have been after,
but there are lots of quirks.
For example, it's got a chapel right next to it
that's used every Sunday for services.
-Oh, won't have far to go, then, will we?
And the house itself isn't laid out like a house of that era
because it was actually two cottages put together.
I have high hopes for this one.
-Yes. This is, from the outside, perfect.
High praise indeed on the location and look of the Mystery House,
although Reynaldo is holding back a bit for the time being.
However, next to the gravel driveway,
there is a large double garage,
handy for storing all his golfing gear.
The house itself sits in an elevated position
with a pretty landscape garden that covers about half an acre
and lies entirely to the front of the property,
overlooking neighbouring fields and woodland.
But, when it comes to the decor as well as the layout of the property,
our buyers, and particularly Reynaldo,
may have to use a little imagination.
So, as you can see,
no hallway or a big hallway,
whichever way you'd like to interpret it.
A log fire that serves both the dining room and the sitting room.
-I love that feature. That's very nice.
-Mm. That's nice.
I'm not very tall but it does feel a little bit claustrophobic.
It's high ceilings for a cottage,
but let's go round the house and we'll see if that feeling continues.
And, on the other side of that lovely fireplace,
is the sitting room.
Oh, that's really cute.
-And the conservatory's a real sun trap, isn't it?
-You can see, today, on a day like today...
You can really see the benefits of it.
I mean, it would almost get too hot at some times of the year.
-Never get too hot for me.
-Shall I show you the kitchen?
Because a lot of this decor might need updating
-on this part of the house, but the kitchen definitely doesn't.
This is nice. Now, this is your taste, isn't it?
It's very pretty and very nice.
Erm... A little bit small.
Do you know what I've spied?
I think it's got a stable door.
-It's got a stable door that leads out into an allotment.
I absolutely adore stable doors.
But it is a bit small.
-How do you feel in here?
-This is perfectly adequate.
It's smaller than we would have liked but it's an older property.
This is fine.
Got to bear in mind, it's the first time you're walking in here.
You get used to things, don't you?
First time you met him, you didn't like him, did you?
-Five years later, boom.
-There's a reason for that!
But, yeah, the granite worktops are very, very nice.
You could move in, five years later, you'll love this place, Reynaldo.
Watch this space.
Let's go onwards and upwards.
When it comes to the bedrooms, there are four in total
and a neutral, family bathroom serves three of them.
Two of the bedrooms are comfortably-sized doubles
and another, currently used as a study,
features a huge picture window.
That just leaves the final room, which has its own en suite.
This would be your master bedroom.
That's fine. And an en-suite.
-That's something I didn't expect in a cottage.
The ceilings actually are quite nice. Quite high.
-You haven't spotted the walk-in wardrobe.
Oh, it's a walk-in.
Well, there you go, that's my clothes. I'll be all right.
-I have so many clothes.
-He's moved in already. That's a good sign.
You've persuaded him on the walk up the stairs.
-That wasn't too difficult, was it?
-How did you do that?
-It's quite... I like the high ceilings.
-Very pretty. Yeah.
-It's quite nice.
-I like the shape of the ceilings.
-Yeah, they are.
-Yeah, they're unusual.
But the outside space is what you both love the most.
-Oh, the outside space is...
-That goes without saying.
Let's go and have another look at it.
It's clear that Trish is quite taken with our mystery property,
but I think that Reynaldo is really struggling
to see the potential here.
Outside, directly off the dining room,
is a wonderful, sunny paved patio
where we can once again take in those beautiful country views.
All of this could be yours.
It's lovely, isn't it?
-Ah, it's fabulous.
-Mm. I love it. It's my...
Not quite perfect, but almost perfect house. Really is.
So, how much would Trish's almost perfect home cost?
I'm going to let you go first since you love it so much.
OK. I think this is about 460.
I mean, let's say 400,000.
You're not far off.
It's on the market for £390,000.
-And it's only been on the market for six weeks...
..but, in that six weeks, it's been reduced by 30,000.
The family have already found another house and they want to move.
So that might work in your favour,
if, of course, Reynaldo would be happy here.
-But that's something for you two to work out.
Yet again under budget at £395,000,
our mystery proposition is a traditional Victorian property
that has two reception rooms, a modern country kitchen,
four bedrooms and a large, bright conservatory
overlooking the landscape garden.
The location features far-reaching, rural views
and let's not forget its close proximity to a golf course.
Oh, I love this house.
This house is almost perfect.
I could see us coming in here, putting her own touches on things.
I think it's a really cosy house.
The views are spectacular.
I would love to live here.
Oh, this is lovely, isn't it?
-..full advantage of the views.
Oh, absolutely gorgeous, these views.
This is my favourite room.
Yeah, I don't mind you having this room, Reynaldo.
Oh, very nice.
Trish, I know, absolutely loves this house.
I can just see it in her face.
It's... She's glowing.
I just feel that the rooms are a little bit small,
a little bit claustrophobic.
I wish the price had been as my wife had guessed.
I think I'd have been... Had an out there.
We really have to talk about this and discuss this in great detail
because this is actually a very good property in a very nice area.
I have given you both a real dilemma, haven't I?
-You certainly have.
-Oh, yes, you have.
-I don't know how we're going to solve this.
-Let's go and try.
Trish and Reynaldo have to find a compromise.
Time to find out if they've made any progress at all.
Have you found a solution to your big dilemma?
We both like houses two and three.
Erm, I like three 100%, inside and outside.
Yeah, I mean, I've got to be fair to Trish and also to myself.
I do love house two.
We will definitely go back and look at that again
and we'll definitely go and look at the Mystery House.
I mean, it had certain things that were really, really nice
and I know Trish loves it.
She loves it more than I do, to be fair.
One of us might have to...
Not give way, but just maybe come round
to what the other one is thinking and feeling.
And that could prove quite difficult.
Do you think one of you will compromise
or actually will it have to be another property altogether?
I'm not sure about that.
At the end of the day, I don't want to make Reynaldo unhappy
living in a house he really doesn't feel comfortable in.
Well, you have some time.
Take that time. Good luck to you both.
-Well, thank you very much for your help. It's been great.
We'll work this out, won't we?
Well, it's been quite a week with Trish and Reynaldo.
To find one property you like is fantastic.
To find two, well, that should be amazing,
but, in this case, unfortunately, they each like a different house
and can't quite see past that yet.
Personally, I think they'd both be happy in either house
but let's give them time to find their own compromised solution.
All I now want is a phone call telling me
that they've found a house that they both absolutely love,
even if it's not one of ours.
Let's hope that phone call comes very soon.
See you next time on Escape to the Country.
Trish and Reynaldo did return to the Mystery House after all
and they put in an offer which, sadly, wasn't accepted,
so their Cheshire house-hunt continues.
If you'd like to escape to the country
in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland
and need our help, then please apply online at...
Sonali Shah goes house-hunting in Cheshire with an expat couple who want their £450,000 budget to transport them back from Germany to the British countryside. While in the area, Sonali learns more about Cheshire's waterways and visits one of the UK's largest collections of traditional canal craft.