A climbdown for a pricey country pile

The Life: A UK manor once touted as the most expensive property in Britain has sold for half the original asking price.

West Wing Pool at the Updown Court (Ground floor). DETAILS FROM PRESS RELEASE: Larger in area than both the royal residences of Hampton Court Palace or Buckingham Palace, this magnificent estate symbolises the grand and imposing presence of the Great Houses of England, yet employs state-of-the-art 21st Century technology to provide the ultimate living environment. (handout photo)
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A Surrey mansion humbly promoted as "the most important private residence built in England since the 19th century" is under contract for £35 million (Dh200.5m), half its original asking price.

Q&A: Updown Court is the talk of the UK property market

Why did it take so long to sell? There are few eligible buyers in this price range, and the style was clearly not to everyone's taste. But there were reports the house was falling into disrepair. Articles suggested there was a strange smell coming from the pools. It would cost an estimated £1 million (Dh5.7m) a year to maintain the property.

Is £35m a good price? In today's market, it may be a steal. At 23 hectares, it is certainly a lot of land for the price, especially considering the prices paid for relatively tiny apartments. And very few homes of this size come on the market. Owners tend to keep these properties for many years. But if there is any downturn in the market, the £35m might seem like a hefty price.

Updown Court was considered the most expensive home in the UK when it went on the market for £70m in 2005.

Dubbed a "towering monument to wealth and excess" by the Daily Mail, the home boasts 103 rooms, 27 bathrooms, 250 tonnes of Italian marble, a bowling alley, two indoor pools and assorted high-tech gadgets. It's all set on 23 hectares of English countryside, with Sir Elton John, the Dubai Royal Family and the Queen guitarist Brian May owning neighbouring properties.

But the house has a chequered past and fell into disrepair, according to media reports. And not everyone was taken by the glittery style.

"If Elton John were a house, he'd be Updown Court," Leslie Allen-Vercoe, who bought the unfinished property for £20m in 2001, told local reporters.

An article in The Telegraph described the house as "a cross between an abandoned Dubai hotel and a cruise ship".

"The house might have 103 rooms, but you'd find more character in a Hackney bedsit," the reporter said, labelling a 100,000-piece mosaic of Mt Fuji as "unspeakably horrible" and the entrance hall as "soulless".

The house is also next to the M3 motorway, which provides an unpleasant audio backdrop.

The property is under the control of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), the entity handling Ireland's bad debt, after the collapse of the Irish Nationwide Building Society, which had lent a reported £60m to develop the property. Nama, which is unwinding billions of pounds of bad property deals, aims to sell the property.

Top 5: The 5 most expensive locations in which to rent

1 Monaco, £5,931 (Dh33,976) a month

2 London, £5,683

3 Bermuda, £4,18

4 New York, £4,057

5 Hong Kong, £4,013

Source: Global Property Guide/Telegraph

Mr Allen-Vercoe says it is under contract, although the buyer has not been named. A Nama representative did not respond to requests for comment.

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