Liz Rowlinson

A house hunter’s guide to Sussex

A house hunter's guide to Sussex
Image: Rowland Gorringe
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Bracing sea air, walks along windswept dunes and early-morning dips in the surf …living by the seaside can be just the tonic for mind, body and soul. What’s more, with greater opportunities for remote working, it’s in vogue.

According to the agent Knight Frank, the sale of coastal homes increased 19 per cent over the five-year average, in 2021 with the biggest increase in south-east England: 217 per cent. With Sussex spanning the lion’s share of the south coast, it’s often the go-to spot for movers and second-home owners from London, with train journeys between 60 and 90 minutes.

But whether you seek sailing, peaceful beaches or the buzz of a bucket-and-spade resort, where to choose? According to the property portal Rightmove, the highest number of buyer enquiries for coastal locations in Sussex during 2021 were for Brighton, Eastbourne, Worthing and Hastings, showing the enduring appeal of the classic seaside town.

Classic seaside appeal, Hastings (iStock)

Brighton – where prices rose by 12.7 per cent in 2021 to an average of £481,370, according to the estate agent Hamptons – of course offers so much more, and its diverse cultural scene and education attracting more Londoners than ever. With flats from £200,000 in lively Kemptown to detached houses for £2m-plus in family-friendly Hove, there’s a wide choice of options. Amongst the elegant Regency style homes is this four-bedroom terraced townhouse in the Clifton Conservation Area, for £1.25m, through Hamptons.

A four-bed townhouse for sale in Brighton, Hamptons

Some of those looking for a seaside bolt hole but priced out of Brighton in the last two years are now looking at Hastings, St. Leonards and Worthing where average prices hover around £300,000. Improved by a mix of regeneration and gentrification, they are gaining new galleries and gastropubs - and AirBnB investors too. Prices in St Leonards have gone up a heady 42 per cent in five years.

Shoreham-by-Sea is also on the up – with an average price is £426,350 – with its award-winning Ropetackle Arts Centre, bar-restaurants such as The Tap House and a magnet for windsurfers and paddle-boarders. This striking contemporary family home is on Shoreham beach, for sale through Middleton Estates.

For those that don’t want to be right on the coast – just an easy drive away – the bohemian town of Lewes is a popular relocation spot by the South Downs National Park. Full of independent shops, antique emporiums and community spirit it’s an easy 1hr 12 commute from London. Expect to pay £600,000 for a small townhouse, or £1m plus for a good family home in the town, says Adrian Passingham of Strutt & Parker. 'Buyers are also arriving from cities such as Brighton in search of more space. Also in demand is the pretty nearby village of Kingston with a good local pub, The Juggs, and an excellent primary school.' The average price in Kingston is £858,833, according to Hamptons.

At the foot of the East Sussex Downs, the pretty medieval village of Alfriston is another draw, especially since the revamp of the The Star Inn – now a boutique hotel in the Polizzi Collection. The average property price is £710,414, according to Savills, but for village life at a slightly lower price tag – the average property is £648, 698 – look to nearby East Dean and Friston. Currently for sale in Alfriston is this charming listed three-bedroom mid-terraced cottage at £650,000 through Rowland Gorringe.

A mid-terrace character property for sale with Rowland Gorringe

If a mix of independent shops, ancient wineries and having the dune-banked sands of Camber Sands on your doorstep floats your boat then the town of Rye is a second-home hot spot drawing an increasing number of remote workers. Its connectivity is also a factor: Rye to Ashford International is 20 minutes, then it’s 37 minutes on the high-speed service to St Pancras.

Mermaid Street, Rye

Says Leanne Gammon of Savills: 'For around £450,000 you could get a three-bedroom semi-detached home on the outskirts; for a large, centrally located house: £1m-£1.5m.' As ever, the downside of the centrally located period properties is they don’t come with much outside space but look outside space. Look outside town for a bigger garden, such as this five-bedroom oasthouse is for sale at £875,000, through Fine & Country.

Charming semi-detached Grade II listed five-bedroom oasthouse in Rye, East Sussex. £875,000 through Fine & Country

For those seeking a more relaxed lifestyle further away from London then Chichester has been one of the ’90 is the new 60’ (minute commute) locations of choice. Offering a theatre, good schools and access to the South Downs, buyers are 80 per cent full-time movers, according to Savills, with downsizers a key group. Perhaps more suitable for upsizing, a magnificent fifteenth-century six-bedroom manor house with two cottages is for sale at £4.5m (through Savills).

Rymans is a magnificent Grade I Listed building (Savills)

Chichester Canal is ideal for paddleboarders but sailors and nature-lovers are drawn to the villages around Chichester Harbour – the average sale in West Itchenor, famed for its sailing club, was £1,401,026 between January 2020 and September 2021, according to Savills. Second-home owners tend to predominate in Bosham and The Witterings, according to Oliver Rodbourne of Knight Frank’s Country Department. 'But we expect to see much growth in East Preston too for its offer private estate living, including art deco houses and timber-clad New England properties.