How to buy a house in the country | Q&A with Emma Siddons


In a recent interview, our Creative Director, Louisa Eggleston, had the pleasure of sitting down with Emma Siddons, an independent property buying expert whose expertise spans across Hertfordshire, Cambridge, and Essex. Emma shared valuable insights into her journey into the world of property buying, shedding light on her unconventional path and the founding of her successful business. Let’s delve into the Q&A session to discover more about Emma’s approach to finding the perfect home and her unique perspective on the property purchasing process.

Many of my clients are professionals with demanding diaries, busy young families and families/couples living some distance away. They are fed up with dealing with estate agents, with the trawl over rightmove and the disappointing and time wasting trips to see underwhelming houses. They have started to sense that the best houses are transacting under the radar.

Emma Siddons, Property Buying Expert

Q: Can you tell us about your journey into the world of property buying?

Absolutely.  It has been quite an unconventional path compared to most other buying agents, who are usually ex-estate agents. After a law degree at University College London, I moved into chartered accountancy with Arthur Andersen, then PricewaterhouseCoopers, then structured finance at a city bank.  After the mass banking redundancies of 2009, I needed to reinvent myself. I worked on the property side of renewable energy and had two children. Then came the pandemic. I remember the four of us sitting round our kitchen table at the start of the first lockdown. I said “Right, we’ve got this time, what are we each going to do to make it count?”.  I declared to my family that I was going to stop talking about how I could be better than Kirsty & Phil, and actually make it happen!  I built a website (that in itself was no mean feat, I could barely work a zoom meeting), launched to my contacts on Facebook and just went for it. Looking back, I wonder how I could have been so brave!  I think that my “quality” background in law, accountancy and banking really helped, and was particularly invaluable in building trust with my first few clients. In the last 4 years I’ve built up a successful and rewarding business, transacting over £40m worth of property in that time. I have built strong relationships and have a very good reputation in Hertfordshire and West Essex.  My journey has been a testament to being brave and chasing your dreams.

Q: What do clients want when they come to you?

Often clients come to me having searched for months, even years, and they look to me for some magic! Many of my clients are professionals with demanding diaries, busy young families and families/couples living some distance away. They are fed up with dealing with estate agents, with the trawl over rightmove and the disappointing and time wasting trips up to Hertfordshire to see underwhelming houses. They have started to sense that the best houses are transacting under the radar.

Q: How does working with an independent property seller differ to using an estate agent?

Well, the estate agent’s client is the seller and that will always, correctly, be where their obligations lie.  Whereas I work for the buyer only – I am in their corner and present houses “warts and all”.  Secondly, estate agents have many houses on their books and many clients – it’s all about numbers and getting a volume of sales through.  Whereas I have only a very small number of clients at any one rime.  For me it’s about finding the right house, knowing it’s the right house, securing it at the right price, and then ensuring that the sale is transacted on the right terms for my client.  If we cannot achieve the right house on the right terms, we walk away – that way, I protect my reputation and my business. So for me it’s not about volume, it’s about a providing a quality service and being patient enough to wait for the right house on the right terms.

Q: I’ve seen some of the houses you’ve sourced and they are incredible. Can you share a little of how you source the properties for your clients?

Firstly, through my relationships with agents, lawyers, surveyors etc who alert me to houses that might become available for sale.  Secondly, through direct contact with homeowners, who might approach me or who I might approach when I have a client who has a strong interest in owning their home.  I am often asked why anyone would sell their home privately like this, without going to the open market. There are different reasons in each case, but for example a seller might want privacy; a seller might achieve an “off market” premium; a seller might believe that my client is the best buyer.

Q: So a lot of houses that you buy are “off market” – how does it work with valuing a house that isn’t on the open market?

This is a good question! A four bedroom detached house on an estate, or a family home on a particular street is pretty easy to value – they are more commoditised so you can look at comparables, square footage, and come up with a pretty good guide price. Once you move away from that type of house, valuing becomes quite difficult. Without direct comparables, what is a house’s “value”?  Is it the value to the seller? Is it the value to the buyer?  Is it what the seller has spent on the house? Is it what the estate agent says it is? Because each of those values is going to be very different depending on the position and the circumstances of each side.  The buyer might be very wealthy and have strong reasons for wanting to be in a particular area; the seller might be distressed in some way; one party might be in a rush to move; one party might be keen to retain full privacy and discretion. All of these factors affect the value at which a house transacts. This is why many country houses, which are difficult to value, stay off market – because a seller has gone to the open market with the wrong number then it’s difficult to step away from that, and that number then only ever goes down.  Because I see all the off-market prime houses in my area and know the value at which they transact, it can actually be easier for me to “value” these houses than estate agents, who only see some of them.  But inevitably the price at which a house transacts will be somewhere within a crossover point between the maximum that the buyer is prepared to pay and the minimum that a seller is prepared to accept.

Q: So how do you work in terms of your services and fees?

I usually work on a retained basis, which means that my client has me exclusively working for them within a particular remit, and I cannot take on another client who conflicts with that remit.  I start by really getting to know my client really well and understanding what they want out of their next property.  We always go on a journey together, seeing lots of ugly ducklings before finding our swan!  This journey is key to knowing when the right property comes along – if my client and I confidently know it’s the right property, then I can confidently secure it for them.  I work under contract, taking a small retainer at the beginning just to show commitment, with the bulk of my fee being success-based.

Q: That makes sense. Now, let’s talk about the property buying process itself – once you’ve found the right house, how far do you go?

So once we have agreed terms, I manage the transaction through to exchange and completion.  Although this part of my role is not why my clients initially come to me, this is a huge part of what I do – buying large or country houses can become quite complex, and it’s crucial that I am able to pre-empt issues, have a good attention to detail and be able to project manage and maintain momentum.  So, it is here that my background in law, accounting and banking really comes into play.

Q: What do you love most about finding the right property for a client?

Oh that’s easy – it’s getting to know my client and then having that conviction, when they are moving into their new home, that I have delivered for them. I know that it is the same for you Louisa, how you feel when you design and deliver the right project for your clients. There’s such a sense of success and fulfilment when you know you’ve found the perfect fit and your clients are happy. Client satisfaction is what drives me every day. I am lucky enough to have the loveliest of clients and I want them to be happy.

Q: Absolutely agree 100%! That sense of accomplishment and knowing you have happy clients is incredibly rewarding. Now, when it comes to property buying, do you ever encounter challenges where a property doesn’t quite meet all the criteria?

Yes of course, in fact no matter the budget, there’s almost always a compromise involved in property buying. It’s about finding the right balance, knowing when and what compromise to accept, and knowing when to instead be patient and to wait for a better house.

Thank you so much Emma for the insights into your role, and for anyone who wants to get in touch with Emma you can reach her at or via telephone on +44 (0)7702 630983,

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