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Where to find a 'damn good deal' in Britain

Is there anywhere in the UK can you get a house with a sea view at a price that makes any sense? Try the Isle of Wight.

There aren't many places left in the UK where you can get a house with a sea view at a price that makes any sense, but the Isle of Wight appears to be an exception. Indeed, if you are looking for a "damn good deal" on the UK property market, this is where you'll find it, says Tom Dyckhoff in The Guardian. Specifically, Ventnor, a laid-back town on the south coast, which attracts arty types, with its good walks, local botanical gardens and wisteria-covered "Agatha Christie villas", is the place to be. Here the prices are "so good I'm quivering", says Dyckhoff. Eight-bed Victorian villas go for around £750,000 and three to five bedroom detached villas start at £250,000.

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Dyckhoff reckons the area is set to become the new Whitstable, Southwold or Padstow. (Last year, Padstow saw the biggest increase in seaside property prices in the country, with the average house rising by 144% over three years to almost £270,000.) But Marcia Snelling of local estate agent Webb & Son is a bit taken aback by all the sudden attention: "That man from The Guardian has made the residents rather anxious," she told MoneyWeek. They are none too pleased by the prospect of having their summer peace interrupted by the hoards of yachting enthusiasts who have been snapping up holiday homes in Seaview and Cowes for years. Anyway, says Snelling, Ventnor is no more of a bargain than the rest of the Isle of Wight. In Cowes, prices are just as competitive. Marvins (01983-292114) has a pretty pair of cottages (now joined) overlooking the harbour, in the town's conservation area, for a mere £499,000. Better value still is a three to four bedroom terraced town house close to the marina at £159,950.

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Property prices on the island have boomed along with the rest of the southeast in recent years. The only difference is, you get many more bricks for your pounds in the Isle of Wight, says Bruce Tolmie-Thompson of Knight Frank's country house department in London. The reason? "It's the water barrier." Most commuters to the mainland cross the sea by hovercraft or ferry: a monthly adult foot passenger pass on the Wightlink catamaran costs £110, and the crossing from Ryde to Portsmouth takes 15 minutes. It all sounds fairly convenient, until you take into account that, if you don't actually work in Portsmouth, you'll need to keep a car on the mainland in order to complete your journey. So the cost of renting a garage or parking space, not to mention petrol, must be added to the overall cost. It also means that London really isn't a realistic commute.

Commuters, then, do not make up a large proportion of the island's inhabitants. But despite the high percentage of pensioners and second-home owners on the island, it is far from being a fusty Victorian seaside resort. The crowd drawn to the Isle of Wight are a mixed bunch: those looking for the more exclusive' option head to Bembridge or Seaview, day trippers tend to invade Sandown, the sailing crew opt for Cowes or Seaview, and those not much interested in fashion head for Ventnor, says Tolmie-Thompson.

The people who will benefit from buying property on the island are those who don't need to go anywhere in a hurry on an average day those looking to retire, holiday-home hunters, or the really rich, says Tolmie-Thompson. The clean beaches, rich history and character of the island plus the excitement that Cowes Week, the renowned yachting regatta, brings to the island each summer make holiday homes here a fantastic bargain. Buyers looking to settle on the island should be prepared for contrasting seasons: sleepy winter months melt into crowded, tourist-filled summers, with more than a million visitors storming the island each year.

Contact: Webb & Son, 01983-85611

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