Top Ten Country
If you were looking to sell a house in the country, the chances are someone would recommend you speak to Sweeting first. He’s in his 30th year at Knight Frank, which he joined after graduating in rural land management from the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester.
The head of the country department describes 2016 as ‘interesting’, as clients rushed to buy before the stamp duty rise, followed by a ‘quiet’ four months from April, and a ‘very busy’ period from August onwards. The comeback put his department on par with its 2015 performance, he says, when it sold £889 million of country property.
Meanwhile, the best deals continue to happen off-market, accounting for roughly 40 per cent of transactions in the £5 million-plus bracket.
International buyers have made the most of currency flux, he says: ‘They’re probably 15 per cent better off buying in the country. From what I hear, London is probably off 10-15 per cent — so with a 15 per cent currency arbitrage, an international investor is going to be making a hell of a bargain on eighteen months ago.’
While some advisers describe Russian clients as ebbing with the geopolitical flow, Sweeting says they remain active around the M25, while Chinese buyers stage something of a surge into north Surrey’s Heathrow environs with easy access into London (apparently preferring to do all business over an app called ‘WeChat’). Meanwhile, the Qataris and the Saudis are always looking to buy the old-fashioned way, by picking up the telephone.
Clients cite Sweeting’s ‘endless’ patience and sensitivity on tricky deals. They insist that if he’s selling for you ‘no one will work harder’, but if you’re buying from him he’ll always drive a hard bargain. Industry experts echo the praise: ‘Rupert is one of the best-connected agents in the industry,’ says one. ‘A true country man renowned for his unwavering integrity.’