Why York is the city of dreams for many dis­cern­ing buy­ers

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Ed­ward Stoyle

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

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