Two become one

As buyers demand more space, canny owners are clubbing together with their neighbours to sell two or even three homes as one property
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The Independent Online

Estate agents are not usually known for their creativity, but sometimes an agent might find a different way to sell a property if he or she thinks laterally. Scotswood in South Park, a conservation area near the centre of Sevenoaks in Kent, was once a Victorian house, built in 1860 and named Scotsgrove. Forty years later, it was extended to house an organ. During the inter-war years the organ room was converted into a fine ballroom with barrel-vaulted ceiling.

In 1956, the house was sold to the Herbertsons, who turned the ballroom into a cottage. The barrelled roof was hidden behind a false ceiling and the room converted into two bedrooms, a drawing room and kitchen, with a conservatory. In 1978, the couple moved into the cottage, and sold off the main house to the Mirchandanis, who renamed it Scotswood. The cottage, or West Wing, is now owned by Peter Herbertson and Jo Morris, who have been letting it since their parents died.

"We put Scotswood up for sale 18 months ago," says Philip James of Lane Fox (01732 459900), "and sold it very easily with an asking price of £800,000. But unfortunately, Mr Mirchandani became ill and the house was withdrawn from the market." The agent noticed that many buyers had wondered whether the attached cottage was available as well. So, when the Mirchandanis put the house back on the market this year, the agent thought he would approach Peter Herbertson to see if he and his sister might be interested in selling.

"We weren't thinking of doing so and were in the process of restoring and converting the attic," says Peter. "Then the agent got in touch, and we decided that this was probably the best time to sell, as here was the opportunity of re-uniting the two properties into one spectacular home. But this sort of deal would not be easy if we didn't know each other and have the same aims, which is to restore the properties into one house."

Scotswood, with six bedrooms in the main part, is being launched on 16 January with an asking price of £1.35 million. "If the West Wing was sold on its own, it would be worth around £400,000. Although the two vendors do not want to reveal the way the proceeds will be split, hopefully they will both do better," says James.

In Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, three cottages are being sold as one property by Ian Spong of Mullucks Wells's Bishop Stortford office (01279 755400). It has just gone under offer with an asking price of £535,000. "The period weatherboarded terrace was originally four cottages, which were converted into three," he says. The cottages are now owned by a mother and a daughter and were on the market separately, but the agent could only rustle up interest on one of them.

The mother lives in the two-bedroom cottage on the left, which needs modernisation. The daughter lives in the middle property, which is the largest with three bedrooms and three reception rooms, and she also owns the cottage on the other end, which has not been lived in for 30 years and has no bathroom. "It made sense financially, as a family, to sell them altogether and we thought they would have a better chance of selling as one, as has proved the case," says Spong.

This sort of deal is also possible in London. Andrew Scott of Lane Fox's Chelsea office (020-7225 3866) engineered a deal a couple of years ago where three apartments were sold together as one house. "My client, a retired gentleman in his sixties, wanted to sell his maisonette which spanned the first, second and third floors on a house in Tregunter Road, SW10. This had an external spiral staircase from the ground to first floor, so was a difficult property to sell. I valued the maisonette at £650,000 and then had the bright idea that it would be much better, financially, if we could sell all the flats together."

Scott reckoned that as a house the building was worth £2.25 million, as houses in that road were in demand, which made his client's three-fifths worth £1.35 million. He spoke to the owners of the two one-bedroom ground and basement flats and managed to persuade them they would make around £150,000 pure profit, over the value of their flats. "They all signed a joint sales agreement and we sold the house, within a week, to a development company. I have since done a few other deals like this and am hoping to launch a similar property in a few weeks," Scott says.

For this kind of joint sale to work, the flats have to be in a street where most of the properties are houses and there has to be a certain amount of trust involved. In the case of the Tregunter Road house, instead of dividing the spoils equally, the owners of the two one-bedroom flats asked for a small percentage of the extra profit made on the maisonette as a sweetener, because they weren't overly keen on selling in the first place. But in the end, everyone was a winner.