A number of top-end country properties have sold well privately this year, but land agents are split as to the extent of the benefits of a behind-the-scenes deal.

The recent sale of the 1700-acre Edgcote Estate, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, which agent CKD Kennedy Macpherson handled behind closed doors, is the latest in a line of successes for the firm that suggests buyers and vendors prefer to stay out of the limelight.

As well as Edgcote, which was sold by Christopher Courage of the brewing family, Mr Kennedy’s firm has also sold Broomford Park, the 855-acre Devon estate, belonging to television presenter Noel Edmonds, and Knarsdale – a 14,000-acre Northumberland grouse moor sold on behalf of Tim Landon who bought it three years ago.

Although Mr Kennedy would not be drawn, it is believed that Broomford Park sold at the upper end of the 5-10m range that has been reported in the press, while Knarsdale fetched more than double the 4.5m quoted as a guide when it was purchased by Brigadier Landon.

Mr Kennedy said properties were finding buyers so quickly when sold privately because a lot of clients were now more publicity shy than previously years.

“I think it is a reflection of society generally.

There used to be a lot of breast-beating about buying headline properties that you don’t see so much anymore.”

Justin Marking of buying agency Prime Purchase agreed that there was an increasing trend towards confidentiality.

“Over 60% of the country property we handled this year was bought before a marketing campaign.”

This included two 500-600-acre estates, he said.

Mr Marking said the rise of specialist buying agents meant vendors were more confident of reaching most potential buyers without advertising.

However, this was not guaranteed he warned: “People are making new fortunes all the time.”

But James Laing of Strutt & Parker, who acted for the purchaser of Edgcote, said only the very best properties would achieve a better result when sold privately.

“Certainly at Edgcote a private sale worked well, but you do need something pretty exceptional for that formula to work.

There are lots of advantages, but it is not a panacea.”

Mr Laing said for most sales it would be difficult to look the vendor in the eye and say the best price had been achieved.

Crispin Holborow of Savills, said there was a significant danger.

“I think some properties have been undersold privately.”

andrew.shirley@rbi.co.uk