Why York is the city of dreams for many discerning buyers
ESCAPE to the Country hasn’t yet been supplanted by Escape to the City, but if recent property trends continue, the rural housing market could soon have a serious rival in the form of Britain’s cathedral cities.
What started as a gentle drift from the country has become a near-stampede. This is a national phenomenon seen in places like Winchester and Oxford but in the North, all the talk is of York. Property prices are soaring and there can be several buyers for something special. It’s a far cry from the market as a whole.
First in the field were the baby boomers. To them, the idea of retiring to the country is just one option. Another is to move into the centre of an attractive city and get rid of the second car.
Instead of topping up with fuel, you jump on your bike. No longer is it a five-mile drive for a newspaper – it’s a five-minute walk. Theatres, cinemas and concerts are a short stroll away.
Put simply, it’s highly convenient and very sociable.
These very attributes also pull in the other sector of the population that’s enamoured with the idea of city living – affluent young families. With both parents often working, it is time rather than cash that’s in short supply. Quality of life is a major driver in their lives.
Cathedral cities have long been seats of learning and York has some of the best state and private schools in the UK, so living within walking distance saves hours of ferrying children. Indeed, education is a prime factor in most of these moves, with the choice of school being made before the search for a house has even begun.
Fashion, too, plays a part. It’s cool to live in a city and, my dear, who has time to muck out a horse nowadays?
Publisher Jill Raines and her husband moved into central York from Ryedale in 2007.
“My family have been farming in Yorkshire for nearly a thousand years – you don’t get much more rural than that.
“We adore city life. There’s a real buzz to the place and we enjoy walking to concerts in the Minster or just ambling down to the market through the narrow streets. We’ve made a lot of new friends and I can’t imagine living in the country again.”
By their very nature, the historic core and period housing in these cities occupies a compact area, so the opportunities to buy are limited.
What’s available, however, will usually have tremendous character, such as the medieval Lendal Tower in York, on the market at £1.35m.
Central York prices are rising at around eight per cent per annum, with the strongest interest between £400,000 and £900,000. They are forecast to rise by as much as 25 per cent over the next five years.
Local and regional buyers still predominate but an increasing number of families are relocating from London. To them it represents a lifestyle change that’s easy to make.
They can buy a far better house for much less money but Kings Cross is still under two hours away.
Will the qualities which make cathedral cities like York special be destroyed by their new inhabitants? On balance, that seems unlikely.
Investment will certainly benefit the fabric of the buildings and enhance the physical appearance of the streetscape.
Redundant commercial buildings are being snapped up for conversion and there can be no doubt that economic growth is being stimulated by an active market. Specialist shops, delicatessens, bars and restaurants are thriving. Incomers also make a disproportionate contribution to the overall life of the city.
The rise in house prices has been concentrated at the upper end and has hardly affected the rest of the market, which remains good value and ensures that local people can still afford to live in York.
Edward Stoyle is residential partner at Carter Jonas. York, www.carterjonas.co.uk