Priced out of Henley? Consider looking further afieldâ€¦
Known by locals as Reading’s ‘boutique’ estate agency, Sara Batting sold PM Theresa May her current
Known by locals as Reading’s ‘boutique’ estate agency, Sara Batting sold PM Theresa May her current house. Lucy Boon found out more about the agency which covers property in a 10-mile radius of Reading, including Shinfield to Sonning, and Pangbourne to Peppard - and of course Henley
Henley’s biggest neighbour Reading is a 30-minute drive past Sonning Eye, or a 30-minute train ride from Henley mainline. It’s a great place if you’re looking for decent shopping and entertainment, a highly regarded university, Berkshire’s largest hospital and a whole lot more. And it’s said to be ‘on the up’, with an increase in popularity.
Agencies in both Henley and Reading say they’ve seen an increase, particularly in Londoners, wanting to move to both their towns (Reading council are still trying to win city status), in part due to the advent of Crossrail - the Elizabeth Line.
“Crossrail has really given Reading a boost - and it’s not even open yet!” said Sara Batting of the self-named agency next door to the Oracle shopping centre.
But Sara Batting says her agency isn’t comparable with other agencies in that it deals in a niche market. “I have a good relationship with the other local agencies and there is mutual respect there. However, Sara Batting tends to take on properties that are a little bit different â€“ unique and charismatic,” said Sara, who says Pangbourne-based Singleton & Daughter is in much the same vein. “So whether that’s a £400,000 country cottage or a luxury £2.3-million Georgian town house, they will be on my books.”
Sara’s team consists of herself and three others - Claire Storey, Clare Arrowsmith and Tracey Marshall. And all of them have lived and worked in the Reading area their entire lives. “I first began working in Reading real estate in the late Seventies,” said Sara, who went to Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common and knows her agency’s 10-mile radius search area inside and out. “It’s one reason I know where to look, when a client comes to me with a list of criteria.”
Sara opened her own estate agency in the Eighties and still remembers the housing crash. “Margaret Thatcher was our prime minister then, and now we have another female PM,” said Sara. “Do you know, I still remember selling Theresa May and her husband Philip their lovely house in Sonning â€“ they’re still there. I can’t help feeling that this is a good time for female power.”
Sara “adores” Henley and the Henley Standard and said she was the first agency to pay for colour advertising in the newspaper. “I have a great fondness for Henley,” adds Sara, who owns a riverfront apartment in our town, which she rents out. “I never tire of that Thames tow path. However, I still live the Pangbourne side of Reading as it is such a fantastic place to live and work, and I’m seeing people realise this more and more.”
“We have great transport links, great amenities and have some of the best schools in the country, but there’s so much more. Reading offers a lovely lifestyle â€“ did you know we have our own Regatta [usually the end of June]. The south-east of town is very characterful and safe, with great family-sized houses and tree-lined roads. The university area has always been very popular, too.”
Sara says that the face of real estate has changed exponentially since the advent of the internet. Whereas before clients relied on agents who would hand-pick, now they’re short-listing their own property search online. “The internet plays a huge role now,” said Sara, “and it’s another reason we’ve had such an increase in London enquiries. So you get clients in Chiswick or Canary Wharf viewing one of our houses from the comfort of their own arm chair.”
Interestingly, Sara said she’s also seen a 10 per cent increase in international clients, with applicants from places such as China and Russia. She said: “This is mainly down to the excellent schools in this area, such as The Abbey, Queen Anne’s, Reading School and Reading Blue Coats. Much like Henley, education is a key driver for many people moving here.”
Sara’s top picks to suit all price ranges:
Holly Cottage, Reading, £485,000
What’s it like? A Victorian Grade II-listed semi with three bedrooms in a handy location
Would suit? A couple or young family
Isn’t this lovely? And it’s right in the centre of Reading â€“ who’d have thought it. Dating from the 1800s, Holly Cottage is only 1.5 miles south of the town centre and close to several bus stops (for the train station and forthcoming Elizabeth Line), as well as an easy walk to the Royal Berkshire hospital and Reading University. Yes, the kitchen could do with updating, but in short, it’s a character home that’s been well maintained and would be great for commuters. If you’re interested, you better move fast as Sara predicts this property won’t be on the market for long.
At a glance
Reception rooms two
Other hall, fireplace with log-burner, parking at the front, low-maintenance garden
Corner Cottage, Sonning Eye, £625,000
What’s it like? A red-brick 1800s three-bedroom detached cottage with a south-facing garden and lots of potential
Would suit? A family from London looking for a project
This next property is a great find, as this property hasn’t been for sale in 40 years. Corner Cottage was originally a farm house and part of the Phillimore Estate, and as such is of Berkshire blue bricks, with an extension of London stocks bricks some 25 years ago. There’s character thanks to things like stable doors, wooden panelling, original fireplaces and genuine wooden beams. Currently, the house is in good condition with a family-sized south-facing garden, so you could renovate your home over time. There is also a separate garage/parking and driveway at the rear. And you’re practically neighbours with George Clooney (OK, so that’s pushing it, perhaps).
At a glance
Bathrooms two (one en suite)
Reception rooms three
Other hall, large south-facing garden, garage, drive, 2 miles to Twyford station for mainline rail and forthcoming Elizabeth Line
Morna, Upper Basildon, £1,395-million
What’s it like? A 2007 manor house with four bathrooms, a landscaped garden and a gated drive
Would suit? A family, wealthy downsizers, or a professional couple who work from home
Other whole top floor, hall, downstairs WC, utility room, garage, drive, large garden, front garden
Fairlawns, Peppard Common, £1.595-million
What’s it like? A luxury 2015 five-bedroom detached home with a 0.5-acre garden and gated driveway
Would suit? Wealthy downsizers or a family requiring a low-maintenance home
If you’ve got a large family, look no further. Finished only last year, here living space of 3,700 sq ft (note, it’s less than the Upper Basildon property as you don’t have that third floor) comes with contemporary styling including a brilliantly-laid out kitchen/breakfast/family room which spans the whole length of the house. The master bedroom suite is another standout feature with its well-laid out dressing room and bathroom combo. What’s more, you can drive to Henley in 10 minutes, or to Reading station in 15/20 minutes.
At a glance
Bathrooms three (two en suite)
Reception rooms four/five (including the study)
Other huge reception hall with large cloakroom and downstairs WC, utility room, plant room, double garage, gated drive, large garden, front garden, master suite has a large dressing room opposite the en suite bathroom, fireplace with wood-burning stove, contemporary kitchen/breakfast/family room which runs from the front to the back of the house