Are prices affected by proximity to a highly-rated primary school?

The link between schools and house prices is now an established fact – no longer just fodder for dinner party speculation. Thanks to a series of studies carried out by research organisations and the Department for Education (DfE), we now know in absolute terms that the best-performing state schools will push up property prices in affluent areas where there is competition for places.

While top-performing primary schools don’t always come up on our clients’ search criteria, I often recommend those looking to purchase a buy-to-let or investment property to consider an area blessed with a clutch of well-regarded schools. Such is the competition to secure a place at these schools that parents have been known to take any steps – including a temporary period of renting near their preferred school while the application is submitted. The tiny catchment areas of Honeywell and Belleville primary schools located in the ever popular “Between the Commons” streets in Battersea are always a safe bet as void periods in rentals are likely to be short-lived. But caution is advised, you may be paying a premium of between 10% and 15% to be on the “right” street (or in some instances the correct side of the street!) to fall within the catchment areas of the best primary schools.

Percentages vary, depending on both the studies and the area of the country, but research published at the beginning of this year found that in London, you pay an average premium of 13% for a house located near a primary school rated Outstanding by OFSTED, its highest-performing category. Bousfield Primary School, located at the top of The Boltons in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has a tiny catchment area, and is probably the most expensive example of this phenomenon in the country. As you can see from the case study below, the premium paid to live within the catchment area of this popular school is huge.

Case study: Bousfield Primary School

Streets analysed: within catchment – The Little Boltons, Bolton Gardens, Bramham Gardens; outside catchment – Cathcart Road, Roland Gardens, Cranley Gardens

The average price for a family property – by which we mean a three (or more) bedroom flat or house of 1,200 to 3,500 sq ft in size – which fall within the school’s catchment area is £3.86m, compared to £2.84m outside the catchment area. On a price per square foot basis you are looking at £2,027 per sq ft within the catchment and £1,699 per sq ft outside. That means there’s a staggering 26% hike in asking prices and a 16% increase in prices paid per square foot for properties within this coveted area.

Figures taken from Lonres based upon sales from January 2014 to June 2017.

Meanwhile, figures published by the DfE state that buying a house near one of the top 10% of primary schools in London would add £38,800 onto the average price tag; the figure for across England was an increase of £18,600.

Earlsfield Primary School in south-west London has just been rated Outstanding by OFSTED – I expect competition for houses within its catchment area to increase as a result. But it’s worth remembering that a good OFSTED rating is not a permanent feature of the school and may be reduced following subsequent inspections. While houses within catchment zones in affluent parts of the country nationwide have been found to jump in value 1.5% in the aftermath of an improved score for the local primary school, a worsening score has been found to deflate house prices by the same amount. The study also revealed that houses located near schools in less affluent areas, measured by the number of free school meals, were unlikely to be improved by a good OFSTED rating. It is also possible for schools to change their admissions procedures: Fox Primary School in Notting Hill – another fiercely-fought catchment zone – has just moved to a lottery-based place allocation system because demand for places is so high.

The interesting paradox is whether it’s cheaper to go down the state education route by buying a house near a good school than it is to go private. If you’re paying a premium in real terms of £200,000 or more to buy a house near a top-performing school, in a roundabout way, you’re paying almost the equivalent of private school fees.

Most expensive Outstanding primary school catchment zones

Bousfield Primary School, Bolton Gardens, SW5

Soho Parish C of E Primary School, Soho, W1

St Barnabas & St Philip’s C of E Primary School, Earls’ Court Road, W8

Ark King Soloman Academy, Marylebone, NW1

Hadley Wood Primary School, Enfield, EN4

Planning to build a new country house?

In the last 5 years, we have seen a definitive increase in the number of clients looking to build their own homes in the countryside.  This remains a challenging brief as finding a suitable site is fraught with difficulties especially if there is no knockdown-and-rebuild option available and we are faced with buying a virgin site. Once clients understand this, many will be put off by the risk and the upfront costs of gaining successful planning consent.  But for those who are prepared to take this on – with the likely costs of around £100,000 to £250,000 to achieve a successful consent – it can be a really rewarding when working with the right architect and planning advisor.  Therefore, it’s essential that The Buying Solution bring in suitable experts when a site is identified to ensure we are not chasing a dead duck.  We often choose to work with Rural Solutions, Planning and Development Specialists.

Here, Duncan Hartley, Director of Planning at Rural Solutions and himself, a former Chief Planning Officer, explains the impact of the change in the national planning guidance and how Rural Solutions help clients to secure planning permission for new-build country houses.

“Prior to the policy change in 2012, permission was only granted for new-build country houses in greenfield sites if you proved the design to be both truly outstanding and innovative. Now houses can be either innovative or outstanding in their design to meet the planning criteria. This makes things marginally more achievable—it was always a challenge before trying to prove that a house was innovative as you can’t be first for everything.

As a result of this change, more new-build houses are being approved under this policy but it’s still an extremely small number–I’d estimate that no more than 150 new houses have been approved in England under this policy in the past 25 years. More people are, however, feeling encouraged to test the policy boundaries and seeing it as an opportunity to have a go.

When John Gummer MP, introduced his Planning Policy Guidance 7 (PPG7 but known commonly as “Gummer’s Law”) in the early 90s, the objective was to reinvent the English country house tradition. Prior to his intervention, there was no policy foundation for the building of new houses and the only way permission was granted in an isolated location was if the house met the needs of an agricultural worker or other rural-based activity.

Up until 2012, most successful applications were of a contemporary design—save for the odd few by the classical architects such as ADAM Architecture and Quinlan Terry. Today, there is much more potential therefore for a new country house to be derivative of the classical form as a number of recent approvals, among them the Ramsbury Estate by Francis Terry, has shown.

More often than not, the reason why applications fail isn’t anything to do with the design of the house but the landscaping. What makes the English country house so great is the marriage between the building and the landscape; poor schemes struggle to understand the importance of the setting.

The process

Ideally, we will go with a landscape architect first to test the potential of the site. The right site needs to have some character that the landscape architect can work with—a flat arable field with regular boundaries offers little potential.

Once the site has been approved, then the architect comes in to establish how to locate house in context of the site having taken advice from a landscape architect. We, as a planning consultancy, assist on process because of our extensive experience of dealing with councils–we know what ticks the boxes of the planning authorities and we know what will gain planning permission.

Once the team puts together a proposal, we tend to go into pre-application consultation not just with the council but also the design review panel. It’s very valuable to use a design review panel who are independent arbiters on quality and design and whether the application will meet provisions in Para 55. More often than not, councils don’t have in house experience so they are often led by that.

We will also consult with a range of bodies such as the local Parish Council and landscape societies to make sure there’s a rounded awareness of those who are involved in the decision making—so that there are no surprises at the point of submission.

Once planning has been approved, it’s over to the architects and their clients to move the project forward.

Duncan Hartley is Director of Planning at Rural Solutions (01756 797924;