In the autumn of last year, it was revealed that second home sales were on the rise in Suffolk. The 2017-18 figures showed that 21% of all home purchases in the region were for second homes, despite the government increasing stamp duty by 3%. Now those figures could be increasing further as a new wave of country clubs act as magnets for city dwellers looking to escape.
The Sunday Times recently reported that a new generation of country retreats are attracting such a following that they are drawing second-home buyers to the surrounding area. Offering idyllic countryside settings with the inner-city luxury of spas and cocktail bars, these millennial hotspots are also reported to be increasing property prices in the surrounding area.
One Suffolk spot featured by The Sunday Times is Retreat East in Hemingstone. Launched in 2017, the ‘Private Members Wellness Escape’ offers personal barns from £390 a night alongside a spa, gym, and even a charging area for your Tesla. Summed up by Zoe Dare Hall at the Times as ‘farmhouse chic alongside mojitos and a massage’, its ‘Great Barn’ is a space for dining and events for a ‘country retreat’ celebration.
From famous actresses to Made in Chelsea cast members, Retreat East has quickly become a celebrity hotspot. And whilst it is difficult to assess its direct effect on the property market, The Times listed properties in the nearby village of Mendlesham Green, highlighting it as an ideal location close to Retreat East.
Not far away in Saxmundham is another Suffolk hotspot, Wilderness Reserve. The 5,000-acre estate boasts 15 properties, a boating lake, 2,000 bird nesting boxes, housekeepers that drive around in branded Morris Minors and even an onsite sweet shop. Named ‘the most exciting countryside initiative in England today’ by Country Life, Wilderness has gained an exclusive reputation with Londoners. Since opening five years ago, more than 600,000 trees have been planted on the site, and another neighbouring estate is due to open this summer.
Situated in the already fashionable area between Aldeburgh and Southwold, Wilderness is surrounded by second homes for city dwellers. However, with the growing popularity and expansion of the estate, proximity to Wilderness will certainly become a selling point to prospective second-home buyers.
The Controversy Around Second Homes
Despite The Times implying a ‘boost’ to the Suffolk property market, the increase in the number of holiday homes is inevitably controversial. Around 60% of the residential properties in Southwold are already second homes, and Southwold councillor David Beavan continues to campaign against tax-free empty holiday homes.
So, whilst these retreats may be bringing new tourists and jobs to Suffolk, it is questionable whether a boost in second-home sales will benefit local towns and villages.