Art of success revealed as investing in culture pays off for property scene
Culture, countryside and motorway connections. Why buyers are waking up to Wakefield. Sharon Dale reports.
WHEN thousands of visitors beat a path to your door, you know you have something to shout about.
In Wakefield’s case it’s The Hepworth. The gallery, named after the city’s famous daughter Barbara, features her sculptures alongside a fabulous collection of Modern British Art. Since opening in May it has attracted 330,000 people.
It has pulling power and its bold architecture radiates a confidence that could well spread to the property market. Gallery visitors who have never been to Wakefield before realise just how accessible the city is by both rail and road. It is minutes from the M62 and the M1, has the A1 on its boundary and boasts a mainline station that can get you to London in about two hours.
If The Hepworth crowds happen to glance in estate agency windows ,they’ll also see how affordable property can be.
According to Hometrack, the average terraced house costs about £100,000, though you can get a good starter home from £80,000. A semi-detached house is about £129,000 and the average price for a detached home is £217,000. All this is under the county average.
Estate agent Melanie Robinson, of Simon Blyth, says: “It is cheaper than Leeds and we have some lovely village locations close to the city centre. It’s also a very easy commute to Leeds, Sheffield and Huddersfield.”
The most desirable areas include Heath, Sandal, Woolley, Newmillerdam and Notton to the south.
Crigglestone, which is two miles from junction 39 of the M1, is gaining in popularity as are properties to the north.
Simon Blyth has seen an increase in sales in Outwood, Lofthouse and Stanley, which are closer to Leeds.
“Buyers are broadening their horizons,” says Melanie.
Claire Kendall, of Richard Kendall estate agency, agrees and adds that families favour Ossett, Horbury and Wrenthorpe and are looking to Normanton to get more value for money. They are attracted by the schooling and Wakefield has some good schools including the soughtafter St James primary school at Crigglestone. For those who prefer private education, there are the highly-regarded Queen Elizabeth Grammar, Wakefield Girls High and Silcoates Schools.
Amenities include proximity to countryside, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and a new shopping centre that has given the retail sector a boost. Trinity Walk has a Debenhams, a Next and an Asda Living store.
The property market also seems to be perking up.
Claire Kendall says: “We are selling more houses than this time last year. In the last seven weeks we have sold £11m worth of property. Sales are across the board, including first-time buyers. Although it’s largely a local market, we have people moving over from Leeds because prices here are more affordable.”
Melanie adds: “Like everyone else we have been fairly quiet for much of the year but September, October and November have been a lot busier. Investors are back on the scene and we are seeing a lot of cash buyers who have been in rented accommodation for a while and want to get back on the property ladder. First-time buyers are also coming to the market mainly helped by parents.”
Prices have plateaued, she says, after falling between 12 and 20 per cent over the past three years but with activity in the market and investment in the city, the future looks brighter.
“The Hepworth is certainly a positive influence. It is bringing a lot of people in and giving us recognition outside the area,” adds Claire. “We’ve also got the Merchant Gate development of offices and apartments behind the station, Trinity Walk shopping centre and Wakefield College is also being refurbished. There is so much investment going into the city that it’s hard to ignore.
“We’ll probably always be in the shadow of Leeds but we have retailers and offices opening here. Things are happening and it’s a very exciting place to be.”
Simon Blyth, tel: 01924 361631, www.simonblyth.co.uk
CULTURAL DRAW: The Hepworth has put the spotlight on Wakefield and is attracting thousands of visitors to the city.