Grade II listed hovel for sale

ANNE SPACKMAN
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The Independent Online
Tessa Dodd of Bishop's Castle in Shropshire seems to have been inspired by the Ray Brooks school of estate agency, in which a property takes its skeletons out of the closet and hangs them up for all to see.

She wrote to ask how she should go about selling an "empty, small, damp, crumbling, Grade II listed hovel, with four-and-a-half acres of poor, but chemical-free hillside". The two-up, two-down whitewashed cottage has a 50-mile view on a clear day, but on misty days "you cannot even see the front gate". It has water, electricity and planning permission for an extension, but no sanitation or bathroom. Ms Dodd helpfully included two photographs "for your wastepaper basket".

Country agents are usually keen to take on unmodernised property, particularly if it comes with planning permission. Buyers often pay over the odds, underestimating the renovation costs. However, I fear few would be prepared to take the cottage on at the £80,000 price which Ms Dodd would like to get. She could always test the market by advertising it in In the Sticks (0434 381404), the newspaper covering unusual country properties.

The spring issue of In the Sticks has its usual quotient of rural ruins and follies. One is Caldew Villa Barn in the Cumbrian village of Hesket Newmarket, which consists of four stone walls with planning permission for conversion into a three-bedroom house. Hesket Newmarket is one of the Lake District's best-kept secrets, with a wonderful pub brewing its own beer. The asking price for the barn is £40,000.

The best folly this month is in Pembrokeshire. The advertisement shows a vast house with a pinnacled tower, surrounded by woodland. It reads: "Twenty-bedroom country mansion, lovely gardens, trains one mile. Price £195,000."

One of the cheapest properties in the paper is on the Orkney island of Stronsay. Lower Millfield is a four-bedroom stone house with three acres of land which include a pond, a stream and a large organic vegetable garden. The stream runs down to the sandy beach at Millbay, home to seals and sea birds watched over by the neighbouring Stronsay Bird Reserve.

The agents list a doctor, nurse, minister and schools among the island's facilities. A post office and general store are down the road and there are twice-daily ferry and plane services to the mainland. The house needs renovating and the price is a mere £20,000 - the equivalent of a car parking space in central London.

One example of how much a sensitive renovation can add to the value of a property is Hambleton House near Newmarket in Suffolk. Bedford Country Property Agents has included a revealing before-and-after picture of the former rectory. Gone are the replacement windows, the Fifties door and an unsightly brick garage, leaving the clean simple lines of the original Victorian property. With six bedrooms, three bathrooms, three large reception rooms and 11 acres, the guide price is £430,000.

If your pockets extend even deeper, try the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane, London, where Savills is holding its annual property exhibition on Tuesday and Wednesday (10am-6pm). The exhibition includes seminars from lawyers, mortgage advisers and other property professionals.

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