Property: A pint of lager and three bedrooms, please

Buy a pub and you not only get a home for your money, but also a way to make a living - should you choose to take advantage. By Mary Wilson
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A PUBLICAN'S life may not be an easy one, but if you are looking for a home with a business attached, and enjoy hard work and meeting a wide variety of people, then buying a pub or an inn to run could be right up your street.

John and Jean Archer bought The Piltdown Man in Piltdown, near Uckfield in East Sussex, in November 1996. Piltdown became famous in 1912 after a skull was found there that was said to provide the "missing link" between man and ape but was later shown to be a hoax. The pub had shut in 1993.

"When we saw it, it was more or less derelict," Jean says. "We had never run a pub before, but we kept on passing it and as we were looking for a change of house we decided to buy it. We would never have done so if the pub had had an ordinary name. But because it was in the only one in the world with that name, we were interested."

So the couple ended up changing more than their home; they changed their lifestyle, too, and have loved every minute of it. They reopened the pub in January 1997 after refurbishing it. John was a builder; with his expertise, he, his wife and two daughters were able to do most of the work themselves.

"It has been a wonderful experience, but we were 52 years old when we started it up again and we now want to take things a bit easier," says Jean. "We have run it as a family business, but our daughters want another life, and my husband is suffering from arthritis." The couple had no previous experience; they learned the business by talking to other publicans and going on a course for running pubs. "We also learnt a lot through trial and error, but because we had lived in the area, we knew which were the best beers to serve and the brewers gave us good advice. We have found everyone in the trade very helpful."

The Archers kept the food simple, with their daughters doing most of the cooking, but nowadays pubs have to be food-oriented to be a success. "The pub is ready for a chef's wider menu," Jean feels. Humberts is selling the pub with a guide price of pounds 295,000. The same agent is also selling The Blacksmith Arms in Alvington, near Lydney, Gloucestershire. This is in a good position on the main road, and has a 74-cover restaurant, a large garden and three-bedroom owner's accommodation. The pub has a good reputation in the area, primarily for its food, and it is on the market for pounds 315,000.

Strutt & Parker is selling a couple of well-run, successful inns. In Barcombe, East Sussex, The Anchor Inn & Boating is a well-known boating inn on the River Ouse, north of Lewes. The original property was built in 1790, catering for bargees, whose horse-drawn vessels travelled up the Ouse from Newhaven to Slaugham. In the grounds is a pleasant mobile home with two bedrooms, which the owners could live in if they wanted to let out all the rooms in the inn. Strutt & Parker is looking for offers over pounds 550,000.

The Half Moon Inn in Sheepwash, Beaworthy, in the heart of the Torridge valley, is one of the best-known fishing inns in Devon. It has been a profitable family-run concern for many years, but the owners are now retiring.

This business would probably interest someone with previous experience, as it is quite large. It is in 1.25-acre grounds and has four miles of fishing on the river Torridge. The agent is looking for offers in excess of pounds 800,000.

The Royal Oak in Luxborough, near Dunster, Somerset, is on the eastern side of the Exmoor National Park and so is busy all the year round. It dates back to the 14th century. Knight Frank is looking for offers in the region of pounds 695,000.

Another option is to convert a pub into a home. More than 20 public houses a week close in England and Wales and this trend is expected to continue for a few more years. Many pubs are not in a suitable position to be a home - they stand on too noisy a road or are in the centre of town - but the more rural ones could be turned into unusual accommodation.

If the pub has not been de-licensed, you will have to look into both this and the possibility of obtaining planning permission for a change of use. Christie & Co, which specialises in selling pubs, as going concerns and for conversion, can advise purchasers on these issues.

Humberts, Lewes (01273 478828); Humberts, Taunton (01823 332034); Strutt & Parker, Lewes (01273 475411); Strutt & Parker, Exeter (01392 215631); Knight Frank, Exeter (01392 493101); Christie & Co (0171-227 0700)