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04 March 2015 | Pubs

City slickers key to country pub trade

London and south­east professionals are buying rural public houses to procure a better lifestyle with an income, says Richard Wood pub and restaurant specialist at Christie + Co’s Exeter office.

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Country public house transactions are flourishing — thanks to professionals from London and the south­east.

The Exeter office of Christie + Co has witnessed the arrival of buyers from major cities leaving the urban sprawl for a new and exciting career that provides them not only with an income, but also with a home — and they usually find it in the form of a country pub.

Pubs are the hub of many rural communities, which are making them the most desirable type of business for ‘lifestyle buyers’. A significant number of pub sales via the Christie + Co Exeter office in the past year were sold to buyers from London and the home counties including the larger cities. The key factors to the sale of these pubs were due to a strong food offering, quality owners’ accommodation and a business supported by the community.

We have had numerous completed transactions reflecting these trends including the Piddle Inn, a charming free house in a picturesque Dorset village; the Blue Lion Inn, a quaint inn situated in the pretty Devon village of Lewdown; and the Muddiford Inn in Barnstaple.

While rural populations account for fewer than 20% of the UK population, a recent report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) forecast that during the next 10 years, more than half a million people will leave the cities to settle in rural areas. Rising house prices in major cities is one of the key driving forces for the purchase of lifestyle businesses in the south­west. We are witnessing a familiar trend of buyers from the cities selling their homes to buy a business in the countryside, which makes pubs the ideal combination of business and lifestyle, combined with the renewed appetite for banks to provide finance in this sector to potential buyers.

The influx of city­ dwellers to the countryside will benefit locals; buyers bring with them ideas to contribute to the food and beverage culture, which is prevalent in the south­west, which in turn increases economic activity and demand for locally produced ingredients from local communities
and villages.

Christie + Co reveals the average sale price of a pub has increased by 8.6% during the past year and a record number were sold for continued use as a public house.
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