The run on Bath

It’s fill­ing up with those es­cap­ing the cap­i­tal

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

One in four homes in the Ro­man city is bought by peo­ple leav­ing the cap­i­tal in search of more prop­erty for their pound and good schools, finds Liz Rowl­in­son

Back in Jane Austen’s day, the city of Bath was a fash­ion­able place for tak­ing the wa­ters or find­ing a hus­band. To­day the Unesco World Her­itage Site has be­come a mag­net for Lon­don­ers look­ing for good schools and more pe­riod town­house for their pound than they can get in the cap­i­tal.

This ex­o­dus has in­ten­si­fied in the past decade, ac­cord­ing to Hamp­tons In­ter­na­tional, which re­ports that one Take the plunge: a two-bed­room flat on Duke Street, main, is £365,000 with Winkworth; a five-bed­room house in Ashley near Bath, be­low, is £1.95 mil­lion with Carter Jonas; Sav­ills has a re­fur­bished house, be­low right, for £1.35 mil­lion in four homes sold in Bath is bought by Lon­don­ers look­ing to es­cape high-stress, high-cost life in the cap­i­tal. Buy­ers from Lon­don now ac­count for 25.1 per cent of the Bath mar­ket, up from 17.6 per cent in 2007. Al­most a fifth (18.4 per cent) of Bath home buy­ers in the past year have been from cen­tral Lon­don, ac­count­ing for 357 of the 487 pur­chases by those from the cap­i­tal.

“The num­ber of Lon­don­ers buy­ing out­side the cap­i­tal hit 70,000 last year with around two thirds end­ing up in the com­muter belt. But with price rises out­side the M25 out­strip­ping those in the cap­i­tal for 12 months, Lon­don leavers have been pushed ever fur­ther afield,” says David Fell, a re­search an­a­lyst at Hamp­tons. “Buy­ers leav­ing cen­tral Lon­don travel twice as far and spend twice as much as the av­er­age Lon­doner, of­ten end­ing up in prime parts of towns and cities. Bath, Ox­ford, Cam­bridge are all wellestab­lished des­ti­na­tions.”

Lon­don­ers are over­look­ing the nearby, larger city of Bris­tol, which of­fers a lively buzz and greater choice of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, in favour of his­toric Bath, with its Re­gency heart, small-town feel and im­prov­ing restau­rant scene. The Gains­bor­ough has an ex­cit­ing new chef, Dan Moon, while the Miche­lin­starred Luck­nam Park, The Pig and Babing­ton House are within easy reach. A branch of the fash­ion­able Cos cloth­ing brand opened this sum­mer, and the city is so famed for its in­de­pen­dent busi­nesses that they have their own digital loy­alty card, Pixie.

With only 83,000 res­i­dents, Bath is a “nicely man­age­able size”, says Luke Brady of Sav­ills. “It only takes 20 min­utes to walk from one side of the city to the other, so you can be very close to schools, uni­ver­si­ties, the­atres, the rugby club – in fact, it’s more like a large vil­lage,” he says. “Lon­don­ers don’t want to swap one city for an­other, and when weigh­ing up Bris­tol, Chel­tenham or Bath for a move, good state and pri­vate school­ing is the big driver for Bath.”

Su­perb schools com­bined with the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side of Wilt­shire was the draw for the Wright fam­ily, who last year swapped Clapham in south­west Lon­don for the vil­lage of Wing­field, 10 miles south-east of Bath. With a bud­get of just over £1mil­lion, they pur­chased a five-bed­room de­tached house with three acres. Holly, 13, at­tends Monk­ton Combe School and Evie, nine, is at King Ed­ward’s – two of Bath’s five in­de­pen­dent schools.

“We’d had enough of Lon­don and wanted more space for the chil­dren,” says Peter Wright, a le­gal con­sul­tant in his 40s. “There is such a great choice

of ex­cel­lent schools, and the 20-minute school run is a much nicer one than in south Lon­don.”

It seems many would agree. Bath’s in­de­pen­dent schools con­firm an in­crease in so-called DFLs (down from Lon­don­ers). Chris Wheeler, the prin­ci­pal of Monk­ton Combe, says that en­quiries from Lon­don fam­i­lies have more than dou­bled in the past year. “The trend to­wards aca­dem­i­cally fo­cused, sin­gle-sex day schools in Lon­don is strip­ping par­ents of the breadth of choice,” he says.

Royal High Ju­nior School re­ports that 10 per cent of its cur­rent in­take has re­lo­cated from Lon­don in the past five years, while James Mur­phy O’Con­nor, head­mas­ter of Pri­ory Park Col­lege, con­firms this trend. “Many fam­i­lies come from west Lon­don: Chelsea, Ful­ham, Chiswick and Twick­en­ham,” he says. “Lon­don par­ents say there is too much pres­sure to get into the top schools and they don’t want to sub­ject their chil­dren to it. Most peo­ple make the move in Year 5, and rent first to get a feel for where to live.”

Buy­ers look­ing for state school places for their chil­dren need a lo­cal ad­dress to meet the ap­pli­ca­tion cri­te­ria, says Winkworth’s Mad­die Pollen, so the rental mar­ket for four-bed­room fam­ily homes is com­pet­i­tive. “Lon­don buy­ers walk in our of­fice ev­ery day. They typ­i­cally have a bud­get of £1mil­lion to £1.3mil­lion to buy a four to sixbed­room prop­erty,” she says. “Yes­ter­day, we had a Lon­don fam­ily with three boys look­ing at a sixbed­room Ed­war­dian semi in the catch­ment area for Beechen Cliff School, one of the best boys’ state schools. It’s on for £1.5mil­lion. They have been rent­ing a four-bed­room home for £2,200 per week un­til the right prop­erty comes up. It makes sense to live the same side of Bath as the school, as the traf­fic is bad get­ting across town.”

Lo­ca­tion is usu­ally dic­tated by schools or trans­port links. For those who com­mute to Bris­tol (12 min­utes by train) or to Lon­don (90 min­utes), prox­im­ity to the sta­tion makes the south pop­u­lar, although the north is bet­ter for mo­tor­way ac­cess, says Chan­dra De­vada­son of Hamp­tons’ Bath of­fice. “Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the Bath-Lon­don line, with a pro­jected jour­ney to Ca­nary Wharf of two hours, will make ac­cess even bet­ter,” she says.

Bear Flat in the north is pop­u­lar for ac­cess to Hayesfield Girls School, Beechen Cliff and sev­eral pri­maries. A four-bed­room Ed­war­dian ter­raced house costs from around £600,000. With roads named after Shake­speare, Mil­ton, Ki­pling and Chaucer, “Po­ets’ Cor­ner in Bear Flat is full of DFLs about the same age as us,” says Vicki Day, a 42-year-old for­mer Lon­doner who moved from Ken­tish Town with her hus­band, Chris, and chil­dren Tom, now 12, and Izzy, eight. They live in Old­field Park, handy for Ralph Allen School. “We love the fact that our chil­dren have more free­dom – I feel safe let­ting Tom go off on his own, which I’m not sure I would have done in Lon­don,” she says. “The chil­dren have ac­cess to great sports clubs at the uni­ver­sity and we can eas­ily get out into the coun­try on bik­ing trips.”

Day, who grew up out­side Bath, is one of a wave of peo­ple with lo­cal con­nec­tions who are re­turn­ing to the area – whether grand­par­ents look­ing to fol­low their chil­dren, Uni­ver­sity of Bath alumni or ex­pats. “We are see­ing grand­par­ents who are down­siz­ing from a larger coun­try prop­erty or want­ing city ameni­ties,” says Tom Leonard of Knight Frank. “There are those who have moved out into the coun­try and then find it too quiet, and we have seen an in­flux of for­mer Lon­don­ers mov­ing here from the New For­est.” For those who want vil­lage life close to the city, pop­u­lar spots in­clude Wel­low, Lim­p­ley and Nor­ton St Philip to the south, or Marsh­field, Lower Wrax­all, North Wrax­all, Cas­tle Combe and Yat­ton Keynell to the north.

The good news for buy­ers is that, while good homes were go­ing for sealed bids six months ago, there’s now scope for ne­go­ti­a­tion. “When the Lon­don mar­ket suf­fers, so does Bath,” says Leonard. “We have a few buy­ers from the cap­i­tal strug­gling to sell their Lon­don prop­er­ties, so this has a knock-on ef­fect. The strong­est price band is the sub-£1mil­lion sec­tor, although there’s still de­mand in the £1.6mil­lion to £1.8mil­lion cen­tral town­house mar­ket.”

Bath sales vol­umes have steadily risen since 2012, ac­cord­ing to a Knight Frank re­port, with an in­crease of 4.7 per cent in the year to June. Bath’s sup­ply of homes is be­ing boosted by the sale of three Min­istry of De­fence sites on the perime­ter, which are be­ing turned into new-build schemes. Homes at Hol­burne Park in the Lans­down area, for ex­am­ple, start from £545,000 through Sav­ills.

Sec­ond-home buy­ers and buy-to-let in­vestors have dropped off in Bath due to tax in­creases, but there’s also an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, with in­ter­est largely from south-east Asia, es­pe­cially Hong Kong. “Ex­pats with fu­ture plans (in­clud­ing schools) in mind are tak­ing ad­van­tage of the 20 per cent cur­rency dis­count,” says Sav­ills’ Brady.

While prices on Royal Cres­cent and The Cir­cus are at Lon­don level, you can get a two-bed­room apart­ment on Queen Square for £450,000 through The Apart­ment Com­pany, which could rent for £1,350 a month. You’d get all the Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture and vil­lage-like cen­tral ameni­ties of Bath, even if you can’t es­cape the Lon­don neigh­bours.

‘Lon­don­ers don’t want to swap one city for an­other. Bath is like a large vil­lage’

Happy Days: the Day fam­ily, be­low, moved to Bath from Ken­tish Town in Lon­don; a flat on Queen Square, above, is listed with The Apart­ment Com­pany for £450,000

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