Home of the high-rollers

House prices in Chichester are high, but the area has much to offer. While retirees relish its historical and cultural riches, it's the sailing that attracts younger buyers
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The Independent Online

Rolls-Royce may relocate from the North-west to Chichester. The exclusive motor manufacturer, now owned by BMW, should feel very much at home. "House prices here in Chichester are disproportionately high considering our distance from London," admits Richard Williscroft of Henry Adams estate agents.

Rolls-Royce may relocate from the North-west to Chichester. The exclusive motor manufacturer, now owned by BMW, should feel very much at home. "House prices here in Chichester are disproportionately high considering our distance from London," admits Richard Williscroft of Henry Adams estate agents.

The steep prices reflect the diverse strengths of this ancient West Sussex town, which has always appealed to retirees and is increasingly luring other occupiers. "There is a huge demand for second homes, especially among younger families who are into sailing."

The town has geographical, architectural and historical strengths: "Everything is on your doorstep. There is Georgian architecture, an imposing cathedral, culture and racing. The harbour is on one side and the downs on the other. People don't necessarily buy for the sailing or the racing or any one thing. It's the combination."

Tim Garne of Hamptons International says: "Large numbers of second homeowners are attracted by the coastline and sailing plus the racing at Goodwood, the world-famous Festival of Speed and the Festival Theatre, which regularly runs pre-West End productions. Chichester also attracts large numbers of down-sizers, often couples who retired early and still want access to London but not on a daily basis."

Michael Brandon of estate agents Jackson-Stops says these premature retirees are mirrored by buyers who still work in the capital but don't need to be there every day. "Our typical buyer is a London professional working down to a three-day week, or a local businessman working in Chichester, Portsmouth, Southampton or Worthing."

A typical sale, according to Mr Brandon, is a four-bed country cottage or house with an acre of land for £350,000 to £400,000. "Prices rose this year about 15 per cent but that is an average figure. For country houses on the harbour, the rise was 25 to 30 per cent," he says.

The harbour is four miles from Chichester centre. "Waterside properties adjacent to the harbour, such as Bosham or Birdham, or in the unspoilt areas of coastline such as West Wittering, are very popular and command premium prices over those inland," says Mr Garne.

Properties and prices in Chichester remain under the considerable gravitational pull of Goodwood, a massive stately home still in private hands.

"The most popular villages are north and west of the city, and property around the Goodwood estate is particularly sought after in villages such as West Dean, Lavant and Singleton," says Mr Garne. "Demand is strong because many houses near Goodwood are owned by the estate. There is therefore stiff competition for those freehold properties that do come up for sale."

The Low-Down

Transport

Chichester is five miles from Bognor Regis, 11 from Havant, 20 from Portsmouth and 60 from London. By rail from Chichester to London Victoria via Havant takes 72 minutes. An annual ticket costs £2,800, and an ordinary return is £18.80.

Prices

House prices are about 25 per cent higher than the national average, but flats are cheaper. Cluttons says a two-bed Chichester flat costs about £70,000, a five-bed farmhouse with four or five acres would fetch £750,000 or more, and a three-bed terraced cottage on the Bosham waterfront costs about £220,000.

Blue-rinse brigade

Walberton Park, a Grade II converted stately home, and King George Gardens, a Grade II* refurbished redundant hospital, have been turned into flats occupied primarily by the elderly. Two-bed flats sell for between £230,000 and £250,000, at Jackson-Stops.

New

Gleeson Homes is converting a mill in Westhampnett less than two miles from Chichester into townhouses and cottages. Prices range from £214,950 to £229,950 (01243 771552).

High rollers

Estate agents are quick to mention Rolls-Royce is relocating to Chichester but not everyone is excited. "It is on a greenfield site near an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty," says Donald Neame from the district council, but he adds: "Rolls-Royce could prove a boon to the manufacturing economy."

Win some

The Goodwood Motor Circuit Revival Meeting is in mid-September, followed by Goodwood Festival of Speed in June and Glorious Goodwood in August. There is an annual arts festival, as well as productions from the Chichester Festival Theatre. Fishbourne Roman Palace is on the outskirts of the city.

Mexican wave

On 24 June, 3,222 rain-defying young people formed a Mexican wave on the Downs and made it into the Guinness Book of Records. A section of the South Downs is getting National Park status.

Estate agents

Cluttons, 01903 882213; Henry Adams, 01243 533377; Jackson-Stops, 01243 786316; Hamptons International, 01243 839399.

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