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Spotlight on Oxford

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Knight Frank
London and Country specialist property buying agents
02 Nov 2017  |   Charlotte Dover

In recent years, the rise of north Oxford property prices has grabbed many headlines for the prices achieved per square foot which, in some areas, are almost in tune with parts of central London.

A huge factor for this is the city’s schooling.  Some of Oxford’s top private schools – The Dragon, Summer Fields, St Edwards, Magdalen College School, Oxford High School ­and Headington – are now known throughout the world.  This means that interest for buying properties within an easy reach of them has come from well beyond the local market and London.  To make matters more challenging, a clutch of these schools are located within a small network of streets in leafy north Oxford known as Summertown, which has forced prices for the limited number of houses close to them sky high.

Being within walking distance of the school comes high on many buyers’ wish lists because traffic congestion in the City – especially during the morning and evening rush hours – is famously challenging. On a difficult day, it can take more than 45 minutes to drive into the centre from one of the outlying villages and a recent study said that congestion has increased by over 20% in the city over the past five years.

The new, revamped Westgate Centre opened on 24th October – a £440m shopping centre off Queen Street – which includes a 120,000 sq.ft. John Lewis as well as 25 restaurants and cafes, more than 100 shops and a five-screen Curzon cinema.  This is bound to entice more visitors into Oxford. While the Council has long tried to dissuade car uses from entering the city – its outlying park-and-ride facilities have been in operation for decades – new developments both in and around the city will continue to fuel the congestion problems. Solutions therefore have to be found which includes talk of a congestion charge being introduced or its centre becoming an emission-free zone from 2020.

Despite the pressures on city centre properties, prices recently have, however, remained relatively static.  Figures from Knight Frank Research say that annual growth is down 6% from 2014 prices and the prime market has dropped 0.7% in the six months to June 2017. Houses are staying on the market for longer too and Knight Frank Oxford’s stock levels are almost one third higher at the end of August 2017 than they were in August 2016.

Political and economic concerns are understandably making buyers more cautious and price sensitive.  However, analysis of Knight Frank data shows the number of new prospective buyers between January and June increased by 14% compared to the same period in 2016. Buying in Oxford should remain a good long-term investment due to its popularity which is not just down to schools and universities but also its central location and excellent transport links particularly to London (60 minutes by train to Paddington and Marylebone) and its wide range of cultural and recreational activities.  Therefore whilst there has been a cooling off in the market this could represent a good time to buy.

Having been educated in Oxford I am aware of the prime addresses and those which offer better value, and can provide clients with this valuable information as well as other important factors such as ease of school runs and commuting needs. Our service also covers rental searches as clients often need to secure a home quickly before the start of a school term especially if coming from overseas.  Placing a client into an appropriate rental also means we can wait for the right property and ensure they pay the right price. Rents in prime areas range from £3,500 pcm for a typical 4-bedroom house to £5,000pcm for a five-bedroom house and over £10,000 pcm for a large detached property with off street parking, garage and large garden.

Where to look

In order to avoid the aforementioned traffic problems, schools driven buyers will want to decide between two areas: central north Oxford and Headington. For those considering sending their children to Summer Fields (a boys prep school, also opening a boys pre-prep in September 2018), the Dragon School (co-ed prep) and its pre-prep Lynams, as well as Oxford High (girls from 4 to 18), Cherwell (a co-ed state secondary), Wychwood (independent girls from 11 to 18), and St Edwards known locally as ‘Teddies’ a (co-ed secondary school), the key areas will be in central north Oxford and around Summertown. The most expensive area of Oxford with prices averaging between £900 and £1000 per square foot are close to The Dragon School which include Norham Manor, the pretty Georgian crescents of Park Town and the large Victorian villas found along roads including Bardwell, Bradmore, Crick, Northmoor and Charlbury.  Woodstock Road offers better value price per square foot due to the compromise on traffic noise. North of Summertown, which has the advantage of being closer to the new train station at Oxford Parkway, prices are lower with an average of £600 per square foot.

Headington, on the east of the city centre and up on a hill close to the John Radcliffe Hospital, offers better value for money when compared with central North Oxford.  Prices here are at an average of £500 to £650 per square foot and yet it still provides fantastic access to the city centre. It’s also conveniently placed for pupils at Headington Girls School (ages 3 ½ – 18), Rye St Antony (ages 3 – 19) and Magdalen College School (independent boys from 7 to 18 with girls in the sixth form).

Oxford vs London

For those buyers moving from London the trade on price still remains attractive as shown on the table below which gives a basic guide on the difference in price per square foot.

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