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The Cotswold house being sold with a 94-year-old tortoise

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This pretty period property in the Cotswolds has an unusual feature that is being included in its sale. 

While new homes may occasionally try to tempt buyers by including additional items for sale, such as furniture or even a car, this Grade II listed property is on the market for £825,000 with a more unusual – and elderly – offering.

It has a 94-year-old resident tortoise that resides in the garden of the four-bedroom detached house in Wiltshire’s Box.

A 94-year-old tortoise is part of the sale of this stunning four-bedroom home in the Cotswolds

A 94-year-old tortoise is part of the sale of this stunning four-bedroom home in the Cotswolds

Resident Hercules is a local village celebrity and is an impressive 94 years old

Resident Hercules is a local village celebrity and is an impressive 94 years old

The property is called the The Old Diary and is bursting with character features. But its most charming feature is arguably Hercules, the tortoise.

After moving into The Old Dairy in 2007 and becoming custodian of the then 80-year-old resident tortoise, the current owner of the property soon discovered that Hercules is folklore in the village of Box and somewhat a creature of habit.

The current owner – of both the property and the tortoise – has lived in the property for the last 14 years and reports that Hercules can be expected to begin hibernating around 20 October, until emerging again on or very close to 20 April the following year in line with the start of warmer days. 

This is a feat they have seen repeated annually with complete accuracy.

When not hibernating, Hercules is a low-maintenance garden resident who enjoys a diet of lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes.

While it’s no secret that Hercules is a local village celebrity, a less well-known fact about this four-legged garden friend is that following a visit to the vet in the 1970s, it was confirmed that Hercules is in fact female.

Beyond the walled-garden where Hercules resides, there is plenty more outdoor space to be enjoyed.

The property is full of character features including wooden beams and an Aga in the kitchen

The property is full of character features including wooden beams and an Aga in the kitchen

The property is for sale via estate agents Hunter French, in Corsham, with a price tag of £825,000

The property is for sale via estate agents Hunter French, in Corsham, with a price tag of £825,000

The inside of the period home spans three floors and includes this living room with a cosy fireplace

The inside of the period home spans three floors and includes this living room with a cosy fireplace

The ground floor of the property also includes this large and bright conservatory that leads to the garden

The ground floor of the property also includes this large and bright conservatory that leads to the garden

To the front of the house, there is a gravel driveway and lawned garden bordered by flowers. 

Also in the garden is an outbuilding that was once use as a double garage, but now offers itself as a space with potential for new owners to explore as it was previously transformed into a charming café.

Inside, the period home spans three floors. To the ground floor, there is a kitchen and breakfast room that can be accessed via the tiled entrance hall and boasts a blue Aga.

The formal dining room has access to the cellar and provides the perfect setting for entertaining, while the sitting room is centred around a cosy open fireplace.

Currently a working-from-home space, the third reception room is the oldest part of the property and completes the ground floor, alongside a utility room, cloakroom, and a conservatory.

As well as the family bathroom, there are three bedrooms on the first floor, while the fourth bedroom on the top floor has an ensuite and living space.

The outdoor space includes a driveway and an outbuilding that was once used as a double garage

The outdoor space includes a driveway and an outbuilding that was once used as a double garage

The character property in Box has four bedrooms including a main suite on the top floor

The character property in Box has four bedrooms including a main suite on the top floor 

The top floor includes additional living space that can be used to accommodate extra guests

The top floor includes additional living space that can be used to accommodate extra guests

Helen Whiteley, of property website OnTheMarket.com, said: ‘It certainly isn’t every day you come across a property for sale with its very own resident tortoise.

‘At the age of 94, Hercules has so far lived through two World Wars as well as the reign of four British monarchs, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II.

‘If she could, I’m sure she would be able to tell some of the most amazing tales. As it stands, now both the property and Hercules are seeking their next owner to act as their custodian with each full of character, albeit in rather different ways.’

The current owner - of both the property and the tortoise - has lived in the property for the last 14 years

The current owner – of both the property and the tortoise – has lived in the property for the last 14 years

There is plenty of outdoor space that Hercules uses, including a lawn and flower beds

There is plenty of outdoor space that Hercules uses, including a lawn and flower beds

The outbuilding offers the potential for new owners to explore as it was once a charming café

The outbuilding offers the potential for new owners to explore as it was once a charming café

Lauren Walsh, of estate agents Hunter French, in Corsham, – which is handling the sale – said: ‘The Old Dairy is an incredibly charming home filled with character and would make for a wonderful family home looking to make their next move.

‘While Hercules the tortoise is undeniably one of the most popular characters in the local village, Box itself has a lovely sense of community and offers great places to spend days out with family and friends, whether this be in the great outdoors or at one of the welcoming pubs or restaurants on offer.’

The outbuilding could be used as guest accommodation or as a bed & breakfast option

The outbuilding could be used as guest accommodation or as a bed & breakfast option

The inside of the outbuilding could be transformed to help produce an additional income

The inside of the outbuilding could be transformed to help produce an additional income

The village of Box is on the southern slope of the ByBrook valley and in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,

Many of its buildings are made from the natural Box stone which has been quarried in the surrounding area since at least the 8th Century.

The average price of a property in Box is almost double the £329,735 national average at £601,284, according to property website Zoopla.

Peter Gabriel established his state of the art ‘Real World Studios’ in Box and this has helped to attract people from the entertainment industry to settle in the village.

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Bloom secures planning for London ultra-urban warehouse developments (GB)

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Bloom has secured planning consent for two developments in central London. The developments are located in Hackney and Brixton and are the first to be carried out by Bloom for its €290.4m (£250m) ultra-urban warehouse joint venture with Angelo Gordon to acquire and develop sites in central London. In Hackney, on a site by the A12 next to 331 Wick Road, Bloom will develop two units, totaling 14,045ft², designed by Michael Sparks Associates. Construction will start next month, with completion expected in April 2023. In Brixton, at 146-156 Brixton Hill and Units 5 & 6 Waterworks Road, Bloom will develop five units, totaling 35,360ft², designed by Chetwoods. Construction will start in September, with completion expected in August 2023.

 

Both developments will be targeting a BREEAM sustainability rating of ‘Excellent’ and an EPC rating of ‘A+’ in accord with Bloom’s core sustainability objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through construction and operational efficiency. The schemes will include extensive urban greening through the implementation of green walls, green roofs, increased landscaping, bird boxes, and insect hotels to significantly improve the biodiversity; renewable energy in the form of solar photovoltaic panels on the roofs; and lorry, car, and cycle EV charging points to encourage sustainable and active modes of transport as well as enhanced power capacity to accommodate future EV transport technologies.

 

Tom Davies, co-founder of Bloom, said: “Our first two planning consents represent an important milestone for the Bloom team, which is working hard to deliver high-quality and design-led industrial and logistics schemes in supply-constrained inner London sub-markets”.

 

Sam McGirr, co-founder of Bloom, said: “These planning consents for well-located sites give us the opportunity to meet the high demand for convenience and speed from businesses, such as F&B delivery, post and parcel, e-mobility, self-storage and urban logistics and consumers in the local communities”.

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Could equity release be used to help more younger homebuyers?

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Younger first-time buyers could be given more financial help from the Bank of Grandma and Grandad, through the use of improved equity release products, a new report suggests.

The document written by Tom McPhail, of consultancy The Lang Cat, claimed that younger buyers are missing out because older members of their family are unable to satisfactorily tap into their property wealth.

Mr McPhail said: ‘Releasing some of the equity in a property means older homeowners can choose when and how they share their wealth with younger generations.

‘An equity release by grandparents of say £20,000 now, could be transformational for a 20 something struggling to raise a deposit and get on the housing ladder but would make only a very modest dent to the value of the grandparent’s house.’

Releasing some of the equity in a property means older homeowners can choose when and how they share their wealth with younger generations, says new report

Releasing some of the equity in a property means older homeowners can choose when and how they share their wealth with younger generations, says new report

The report acknowledged that equity release has endured a poor reputation in the past after customers suffered ‘severe’ financial knocks.

The sector has been criticised for encouraging people to take on debt, particularly later on in life.

There has also been other concerns about equity release, such as customers falling into negative equity where the value of a property is less than the loan taken out against it when house prices fall.

The report suggested that while the equity release sector has since begun to put ‘its house in order’, it is ‘still not perfect’ and some regulatory safeguards need to be strengthened.

It called for several issues to be looked at, including early redemption charges on equity release products.

It said that most providers apply a simple sliding scale of charges, for example 10 per cent in year on to 1 per cent in year 10.

However, it claimed that some providers apply an early redemption charge based on prevailing gilt rates at that time, putting customers at an ‘unfair disadvantage’.

This is because the fees are not transparent as there is no way a customer can know in advance whether they’d be liable for a charge and if so, how much. 

In the past, customers have also fallen foul of the small print on their equity release loans when it comes to early-redemption penalties – such as couples who must pay an exit fee unless both of them need to go into care.

The report also raised questions about interest rates on equity release products. It said providers should be consistent with their lending criteria and not move the goalposts after customers have taken out a loan, as this can make it harder for them to access a top-up loan in the future, potentially forcing them to remortgage. 

Equity release products could help people access their property wealth to help younger members of their family onto the property ladder

Equity release products could help people access their property wealth to help younger members of their family onto the property ladder

The report argued that equity release products could help people access their property wealth to help younger members of their family onto the property ladder.

Mr McPhail added: ‘Raising a deposit has become an increasingly significant barrier to getting on the housing ladder, with increasing numbers of first-time buyers having to rely on financial help from older generations.

‘Releasing some of the equity in a property allows older homeowners to choose when and how they share their wealth with the younger generation.

‘This more targeted approach gives them greater control to use their assets to the maximum benefit at the point of need.’

Raising a deposit is a barrier to getting on the housing ladder, with increasing numbers of first-time buyers having to rely on financial help from older generations, says the report's author Tom McPhail

Raising a deposit is a barrier to getting on the housing ladder, with increasing numbers of first-time buyers having to rely on financial help from older generations, says the report’s author Tom McPhail

Equity release: How it works and advice

To help readers considering equity release, This is Money has partnered with Age Partnership+, independent advisers who specialise in retirement mortgages and equity release. 

Age Partnership+ compares deals across the whole of the market and their advisers can help you work out whether equity release is right for you – or whether there are better options, such as downsizing. 

Age Partnership+ advisers can also see if those with existing equity release deals can save money by switching. 

You can compare equity release rates and work out how much you could potentially borrow with This is Money’s new calculator powered by broker Age Partnership+.* 

 * Partner link

Jonathan Harris, of mortgage broker Forensic Property Finance, said: ‘Equity release has historically been viewed as a ‘murky’, high-risk sector, fuelled by minimal regulation, poorly-qualified advisers, only a handful of lenders and extortionately high interest rates.

‘Fast forward to today and we see a dramatically transformed sector, benefiting from strict regulation, highly-qualified advisers, multiple lenders and access to very competitive interest rates. 

‘Not surprisingly, equity release is now a viable and growing market for older borrowers looking to utilise the gains seen on property prices to bolster lifestyles, as well as pass on wealth to children when they need it.

‘Those considering equity release should make sure they understand the implications and involve family in any decision-making. It is always important to seek advice from suitably-qualified advisers.’

It comes as a separate report by Legal & General suggested that one in every £90 spent by retired Britons is funded by equity release.

It said that equity release funded an estimated £3billion in retirement spending last year, although it didn’t mentioned the money going to younger generations towards buying a property.

Instead, the report’s survey of 2,000 homeowners found that those with equity release have most frequently used the product to finance home improvements, at 26 per cent.

It said equity release is also being used to support costs such as medical expenses at 17 per cent, maintaining living standards in retirement at 16 per cent, and paying off personal debt at 16 per cent, for example paying off interest-only mortgages. 

It suggested that equity release is likely to play an increasingly important role in financing care-related expenses, with 19 per cent of prospective homeowners citing it as a consideration.

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Allianz Real Estate buys prime office building in Rome (IT)

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Allianz Real Estate, advised by Dils, has acquired an office property in the centre of Rome. The transaction, worth circa €175m, is one of the most important to have been carried out on the real estate market in Rome in recent years.

 

The building, consisting of eleven storeys, comprising nine above-ground and two underground, has a gross lettable area of circa 22,000m² and has undergone a major refurbishment, offering the highest environmental sustainability and energy efficiency standards (LEED Gold Certification). The strategic location, between the CBD and Termini Station, is enjoying great success, especially among corporate occupiers. 

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