Buying in a syndicate to secure the rural dream

Many dream of owning a country estate in which they can spend time with family and friends and enjoy a host of pursuits. However, more often than not the price of such a purchase can be beyond the grasp of many families. In addition, potential owners might find it hard to justify when the reality is they may only be visiting for a few weeks each year.

With a bit of lateral thinking the dream of owning a splendid idyll could become a reality. Indeed, we are increasingly receiving enquiries from groups of friends and family who like the idea of buying an estate as a syndicate.

The obvious advantage is affordability, with the purchase price and running costs being split between all parties. Buyers may feel that a part share in something special is preferable to 100 per cent of a more mediocre property – indeed higher quality properties are more likely to hold their value better and as such are a safer investment.

Clearly such a purchase is not without key considerations. As a syndicate buyer you don’t have complete control over the management of the property or the practical decisions. The latter could range from what colour to paint the drawing room to whether to let out holiday accommodation.

Circumstances may change and it may necessitate one of the parties offering their share for sale. There is limited demand for purchasing a share of, say, 25 per cent in an estate which is already in joint ownership and that means that when it comes to selling your share, it is unlikely to be worth as much as 25 per cent of the overall market value.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in the whole process is finding a property that ticks the boxes for everyone. While search requirement and priorities will differ, those estates which offer a variety of accommodation and a range of activities tend to appeal on the basis that different owners can enjoy time at the property at different times throughout the year. 

A good example of this is Barvas Estate on the Isle of Lewis, one of the last truly wild and unspoilt natural environments left in Britain. This year-round sporting paradise offers superb salmon and trout fishing in spring and summer; grouse, snipe and wildfowl in the autumn and red deer stalking and woodcock shooting in the winter. There is plenty of accommodation, including an eight-bedroom lodge and two separate cottages. These attributes would make it ideal for joint ownership. 

However, those who are tempted to buy as a syndicate should bear the following in mind: 

  • The key to a successful syndicate purchase is to ensure that co-owners are like minded and have similar ownership objectives and aspirations for the purchase. For example, it may be challenging if one owner is keen to invest heavily in regenerating grouse stocks for driven days while the others are happier with smaller walked-up days. 
  • Buying with others who are within a similar generation to you may be practical terms of what you are looking for on an estate in relation to leisure activities available, but it also makes sense in terms of succession planning and maintaining the longevity of the ownership structure.
  • From the outset it is sensible to agree a management structure which sets out who uses the estate when and for how long. Common practice is to have a weekly rota which changes on a yearly basis, so that each owner takes it in turn to have first choice of when they want to visit.
  • Depending on the scale and nature or the estate, management can be a significant responsibility. While big decisions warrant discussion by all parties, in our experience it works best when one individual is appointed as the principle point of contact. This role should be rotated regularly among parties. A larger estate may warrant a professional estate management, but this will still require a principal point of contact among the owners.

Viewings at Barvas Estate can be arranged through Luke French at Savills on 0131 247 3723. Further information about Barvas Estate can be found here.

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