Monday, 27 September 2021

Priced out of Henley? Time to look a little further afield

Known by locals as Reading’s ‘boutique’ estate agency, Sara Batting sold Theresa May her current

Known by locals as Reading’s ‘boutique’ estate agency, Sara Batting sold 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, 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 among house buyers.

Agencies in both Henley and Reading say they’ve seen an increase, particularly in Londoners, wanting to move to their towns (Reading Borough Council is still trying to win city status), in part due to the advent of the Elizabeth Line, aka Crossrail.

“Crossrail has really given Reading a boost — and it’s not even open yet!” says Sara Batting of the self-named agency next door to the Oracle shopping centre.

But Sara 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 — unique and charismatic,” says Sara, who regards Pangbourne-based Singleton & Daughter as being in much the same vein. “So whether that’s a £400,000 country cottage or a luxury £2.3million 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 — all of whom have lived and worked in the Reading area their entire lives.

“I first began working in Reading real estate in the late Seventies,” says 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 of the reasons 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 that decade’s housing crash.

“Margaret Thatcher was our prime minister then and now we have another female PM,” says Sara. “Do you know, I still remember selling Theresa May and her husband Philip their lovely house in Sonning — 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 says 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 the town that she rents out.

“I never tire of that Thames towpath. However, I still live on 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 — did you know we have our own regatta [usually at 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 handpick properties for them, now they are shortlisting their own property searches online.

“The internet plays a huge role now,” says 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 armchair.”

Interestingly, Sara says she’s also seen a 10 per cent increase in international clients, with applicants from places such as Russia and China.

“This is mainly down to the excellent schools in this area, such as The Abbey, Queen Anne’s, Reading School and Reading Blue Coat. Much like Henley, education is a key driver for many people moving here.”

Sara Batting Estate Agent’s offices are at 18 King Street, Reading. For more information call 0118 950 2341 or visit

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