In search of a change of direction in the middle of life, osteopaths Jo and Adam Sheridan, from Rugby in the English Midlands, finally fell for West Wales. In May, they moved into a 14-acre smallholding near the town of Lampeter, about 20 miles south of Aberystwyth, including a barn and a two-bedroom holiday rental property from which they plan to operate weekends with arts and pottery.
“Initially we wanted France, then after Brexit we changed to Devon or Cornwall, but found it too expensive,” says Jo, 57. So they started looking in Pembrokeshire. “Our budget increased from £ 500,000 to £ 700,000 after three properties collapsed – the market felt a bit insane. We finally bought across the border in Ceredigion, where the scenery is similar – beautiful rolling hills run right down to pristine sandy coves like Cei Bach and Mwnt – but it feels less discovered. “
With its miles of pristine beaches and rugged dramatic national park coastline, Pembrokeshire has been popular with second-hand homeowners from England and Wales for decades, with many viewing the area as a cheaper and less crowded alternative to Cornish holiday hotspots. From London, Pembrokeshire can also be reached faster than Cornwall, usually a four to five hour drive, rather than six hours on a Friday night in the summer.
But since the onset of the pandemic, demand from buyers in South West Wales has risen sharply, with the area attracting full-time movers seeking more space and a change in lifestyle.
In the 12 months to October, the average property price in Pembrokeshire rose 13.7 per cent to £ 204,710, according to the Hamptons real estate agency using US data. In Ceredigion, the average price rose by 12.8 per cent to £ 217,690.
However, the ratio of sales priced above £ 500,000 is still much lower than in parts of Cornwall. In Pembrokeshire, about 5 per cent of sales recorded in 2021 were priced above £ 500,000. In Cornwall the figure was 13 per cent – in the popular Padstow and St Agnes it was more than 40 per cent.
Buying agent Carol Peett of West Wales Property Finders mediated 12 sales for between £ 750,000 and £ 1.25 million in that period – and three sales of £ 1.5 million still going through deeds. “Most of our buyers tend to have a connection to the area – or at least Wales – but have moved back to allow their children to experience the type of childhood they had.”
There is more going on for tourists on the south coast, where access from the M4 is also the fastest – around Tenby, the Victorian coastal resort that is shedding its reputation from the deer weekend to get sophisticated bags with £ 2 million plus houses – and the smaller holiday villages of Saundersfoot and Amroth.
For those who like to scrub around in boats, the tidal currents and salt marshes of the Cleddau River area and Neyland at the Milford Haven estuary are popular. “Those with boats and kayaks can be lucky to find a hidden cottage with its own mooring,” says Daniel Rees of the real estate agency Savills.
For people who prefer the rugged far west, on St Davids Peninsula, the pretty coastal towns of Solva (perched on a cove in a steep side valley) and Porthgain (home of the popular seafood restaurant The Shed Bistro) are sought-after locations. So does the Marloes Peninsula, where Rees recently sold a thatched cottage near the remote sandy beach of Marloes Sands for £ 420,000.
Prices tend to be higher in the south than the west. The area known as “Little England beyond Wales”, below the Landsker line that crosses southwest of Wales, which divides the predominantly Welsh and English-speaking parts, is often considered by English buyers to be more desirable.
Over the past decade, the city of Narberth – with its independent shops, galleries and hotels – has developed into the chic center of Pembrokeshire. Narberth’s Madtom Seafood Restaurant and The Grove Hotel are evidence of the new money flowing into the area in recent years, says Diana Dredge, 61, who moved to a 12-hectare Welsh farmhouse in Manorbier Newton 10 years ago.
She and husband Charlie from south-west London originally searched in the nearest Carmarthenshire – they appeared on the TV show Escape to the country – but eventually fell for Pembrokeshire, where according to the Met Office it rains less. “We loved that it felt like North Cornwall in the 1970s,” she says. “A little gentrification was a good thing: gourmet street food trucks were starting to appear, like Café Mor at Freshwater West.”
Dredge and her friend Amber Lort-Phillips took advantage of the growing tourism in the area – and fueled it – and founded The Big Retreat Festival in 2016, a “feel-good” theme event of wellness, yoga, music and gin workshops in Lawrenny.
According to AirDNA, short-term rental analysts, the number of active Airbnb / Vrbo listings in Pembrokeshire dropped by 10 percent between August 2019 and August 2021 – possibly due to the stay of owners using their own properties. But the average daily rate (ADR) rose by 23 per cent to £ 161; in Carmarthenshire, with 36 per cent to £ 137.
Given the issue of local buyers being praised from places that are valued
by holiday home buyers – as is happening in areas of Cornwall – Pembrokeshire’s council tax on second homes will be increased from 50 to 100 per cent more than primary residences from April (see panel). However, holiday home owners simply register them as businesses (which only need to be available for 70 days a year to rent to qualify) to pay lower or no business rates.
Max Howells hopes the lower profile Carmarthenshire may start catching up with Pembrokeshire. He owns the Portreeves restaurant in Laugharne, which is described by his most famous resident, the poet Dylan Thomas, as “a timeless, soft, charming island of a town”.
The city sits where the River Taf flows into Carmarthen Bay, just across the Pembrokeshire border. “This area did not have the same investment as Tenby or Saundersfoot,” says Howells, 56. “But the number of English people moving here or buying holiday rentals is increasing.” He is selling his self-built six-bedroom house in the town (for £ 850 000), to buy a rural property.
The relative affordability of a property that comes with land in the strong agricultural Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion is starting to be appreciated by buyers from outside the area, says Neil Evans of West Wales Properties. He is selling a two-bedroom detached house on 2.2 acres near Llanelli, Carmarthenshire’s coastal center, for £ 600,000.
This area overlooks the Gower Peninsula, the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for its rolling moorland and sandy beaches – including the surfing magnet of Rhossili Bay. While many Welsh holiday home buyers will spend less than £ 300,000 on a property, many English buyers will spend £ 450,000- £ 650,000, says Kirsty Johnson of real estate agent John Francis.
“The southern Gower is more expensive. It includes the town of Mumbles – popular for all its boutiques and restaurants. ” The downside of the Gower could be traffic jams over summer weekends – perhaps not quite as different from Cornwall.
Ceredigion (formerly Cardiganshire), Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire form the corner of south-west Wales known until 1996 as the county of Dyfed. The M4 motorway is the main route from London and the nearest international airport is Cardiff.
In Pembrokeshire, the annual council tax on an average (Band D) property in 2021/22 is £ 1,189.69 (with second home owners paying double this rate from April). For Ceredigion, the rate is £ 1,354; for Carmarthenshire £ 1,361.97.
The Welsh equivalent of stamp duty is the Land Transaction Tax (LTT). On properties over £ 180,000 up to £ 250,000 the rate is 3.5 per cent, on a sliding scale up to 12 per cent for the section of a property over £ 1.5 million. For second homes it is 3 per cent for the first £ 180,000, to 15 per cent for the portion over £ 1.5 million.
For which you can buy. . .
£ 400 000 A Georgian detached cottage with four bedrooms and two bathrooms near the port of Fishguard, western Pembrokeshire. The Grade II-listed, whitewashed property has a walled, well-kept garden and large conservatory. For sale with Fine & Country.
£ 749,950 A detached house with four bedrooms and two bathrooms in Llanmadoc, a quiet village on the North Gower Peninsula with a late 17th century bar, shops and post office. The house is walking distance from coastal paths and is on the market with John Francis.
£ 925 000 A Grade II listed mansion with a total of 12 bedrooms, including two guest cottages and a self-catering apartment. The property is currently run as a holiday business and is 5.5 miles from Newgale Beach west of Pembrokeshire. Available by West Wales Properties.