House Hunter: Cowes, Isle of Wight

'We want to set sail for the South Coast'
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The Independent Online

The problem

JANET EDWARDS OF STOKE-ON-TRENT WRITES: My husband is due to take early retirement next year and we are hoping to sell the large house in which we brought up our children and buy a smaller home.

As we are both enthusiastic sailors we would be very interested in buying something in the town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight but know very little about the area or property market. Could you offer us some advice on the best places to buy?

Our budget would be in the region of £250,000 though we would be very happy not to spend all of this and we would like to live within a short distance of the marina. We are both very active and expect frequent visits from our children and friends so a small family property would suit us well, preferably one with sea views. I would like a garden and we both would like to live in a period property rather than a new build house or apartment. Can you find us anything that might suit our needs?

The advice

KATY POWNALL WRITES: The most expensive and desirable area of Cowes (and therefore the one you should avoid should you want any substantial change from your £250,000) is the old town. Though strict borders don't exist, the old town centres on six roads - Castle Road, Sun Hill, Market Hill, Union Road and part of Terminus and Bath Roads - all of which are packed with delightful period properties. The old town is lovely and literally on the doorstep of the yachting facilities with most properties offering wonderful views. Though you do pay a premium for property in this coveted area, it does offer tasty titbits within your budget (see property one, which borders on old town). Be warned though that your money will go far further elsewhere. One agent quoted me the example of a one-bedroom apartment, which might ordinarily cost £110,000 costing in excess of £150,000 in Cowes old town.

Just beyond the old town's prestigious (though somewhat ambiguous) boundaries are fantastic tree-lined roads such as Granville Road, Beckford Road and York Street where Victorian properties sell at two thirds of the price and you don't even have to sacrifice your sea view - provided you don't mind that it's out of an upstairs rather than a downstairs window. You will still be within a five or six minute walk of the marina with good access to all facilities and parking will be a lot easier. The final two properties I have selected for you are just outside the old town yet close to the Marina and Yacht clubs.

Something you will need to bear in mind, particularly if you are not overly familiar with the island, is the tourists. As a popular holiday and sailing destination, the Isle of Wight and Cowes especially can become very crowded during summer. During Cowes Week it is common for residents to vacate their properties altogether and let them for very favourable rates to yachting crews.

If you seek a quieter life, you might also wish to investigate property in East Cowes (just across the Medina River opposite Cowes). Though just a mile and a half away, East Cowes has always been regarded as the poor relative though agents are now touting it as a strong growth area and a good investment opportunity.

Cowes Week runs from 30 July to 6 August.

The solution

Property One: A three bedroom Victorian townhouse

Price: £240,000

Agent's details: This recently modernised home is located on Granville Road, which borders on the old town. The accommodation is spacious offering two reception rooms, kitchen and a dining room with doors opening on to a patio and gardens. Period features include stripped wood floors and a clawed foot freestanding bath and antique washbasin in the bathroom.

Agent: Marvins of Cowes. Tel: 01983 292114. Website: www.marvins.co.uk.

Property Two: A three bedroom period townhouse

Price: £225,000

Agent's details: A spacious three storey property with garden on York Street. The interior is modern but retains some period features such as Georgian style bow windows. Accommodation comprises lobby, living room, sitting room, kitchen/breakfast room, landings, three bedrooms, bathroom/WC, shower/WC.

Agent: Bob Lancaster. 01983 209020. Web: www.boblancaster.co.uk

Property Three: A two bedroom semi-detached bordering Cowes old town

Price: £175,000

Agent's details: Situated on Terminus Road, this cottage has two en-suite bedrooms, a fitted kitchen, a utility room, a dining room and a lounge. Some period features remain such as original fireplaces in the lounge, dining room and bathroom. There are front and back gardens and views towards the Solent and Cowes Harbour from the front of the house.

Agent: Hadland, 01983 299977, www.hadlands.com, www.rightmove.co.uk.

Fact file

The Isle of Wight offers property at very competitive prices compared with other areas of the South-east coast such as Southampton and Portsmouth and yet there are pockets that remain extremely pricey by virtue of their yachting cachet.

One such area is, naturally, the old town of Cowes. Price increases on the Isle of Wight began in earnest five years ago, when it consistently outpaced national house price growth. Cowes, in particular, saw huge growth with property increasing in value by around 200 per cent. The main driver of this massive and localised price growth is Cowes' popularity as a second home destination. Yachting enthusiasts from all over the UK - and even the rest of the world - crave a property within walking distance of Cowes' world-class sailing facilities. Its proximity to London (just two hours if you make all your connections) is also a huge selling point for the town.

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