Honey-coloured buildings, an intellectual ambience and some of the best schools in the country make Oxford an expensive relocation option, finds Arabella Youens
Oxford is one of the closest cities to London, so, says Damian Gray of Knight Frank’s office in Summertown, ‘if you want to move out, but don’t want to give up on city living, we’re the nearest stop.’ However, don’t be under any illusion that you can sell a house in London and upsize to something larger and less expensive in Oxford. ‘Houses in the very desirable streets that run east off Banbury Road can easily match central London prices on a per square foot basis,’ says Zoe White of Savills. ‘There aren’t very many of them, only a few ever appear on the market during a year and competition is often fierce.’
There has, in the past 12 months, been a little give at this premium end of the market, admits Mark Charter of Carter Jonas. ‘Activity at the very top end, above £3 million, has slowed and prices have plateaued in a similar way to the London market. However, what we’d refer to as the “day-to-day” market—that is, for family houses priced between £750,000 and £1.75 million—pushed on like a train last year and we’ve seen a 10% year-on-year increase in prices with competition for pretty much every house that comes to the market within that bracket.’
Like many other city markets, demand is not only driven by families moving to Oxford because of the schools, but also by couples whose children have moved out and who are looking to relocate from the surrounding countryside. ‘And then there’s the international market,’ says Damian. ‘Chinese buyers are incredibly important now to Oxford. Three years ago, we were dealing with a Chinese client every 6–8 weeks; today, we’d be surprised if a week went by without one.’ This constant influx helps drive demand for mid-market houses in the city.
Best addresses in Oxford
For the large detached and semi-detached Victorian villas that have large gardens and are within walking distance of the Dragon and Summer Fields schools, Bardwell Road and Norham Road are unbeatable; prices start from about £2.95 million and rise to £8 million, according to Savills.
Not so long ago, Jericho was filled with student digs, but has since become the place where young professionals want to lay their heads—prices range between £800,000 and £1.3 million. Even the artisan cottages of the Iffley Road are going for £1 million these days and students are confined to Cowley in east Oxford. ‘Everyone loves going out there,’ adds Damian. Summertown, in the north of the city, is increasingly popular as it provides access to the newly opened Oxford Parkway station near Kidlington.
Best schools in Oxford
The streets of north Oxford are awash with excellent schools and top among the State options is Cherwell, which regularly features among the best in the country for secondary education; ‘Phil & Jim’ (St Philip & St James) is a much admired State primary. In the feepaying market, there are plenty of options, including Madgalen College School (boys until 6th form when it becomes co-ed), Dragon School (co-ed prep), Summer Fields (boys’ prep), Teddies (St Edward’s) and ‘The High’ (Oxford High School for Girls).
Butcher, baker, coffee-maker
Independently run gastronomic institutions are surprisingly thin on the ground, but organic butcher M. Feller, Son & Daughter in the Covered Market is one exception. You often have to queue, but you never know who you might be standing next to—Philip Pullman is said to be a regular.
For a good-quality baker, try The Modern Baker in Summertown, otherwise, the best bet is to head to Walton Street in Jericho, home to the Jericho Café, a deli and coffee shop that comes high on the list of local recommendations. There, you’ll also find restaurants such as Branca and the Rickety Press pub. The Magdalen Arms in Cowley is a popular gastropub.
Events and culture in Oxford
With all the Oxford colleges, museums and events—such as the Oxford Literary Festival (this year, April 2–10)—there’s something to do year-round. LiveFridays at the Ashmolean, when the doors are open from 7pm to 10.30pm, are particularly popular with students and residents. The Phoenix Picturehouse in Jericho is the best art-house cinema and the Oxford Playhouse offers Shakespeare productions through to Christmas pantomimes.
Port Meadow is a vast area of public common that is popular with dog walkers, but University Parks is more manicured. Cutteslow Park, just to the north of the ring road, has a miniature railway.
Need to know
When Chiltern Railways opened Oxford Parkway station last October, it was the first new rail link between London and a provincial city in more than a century. It’s planned that this will become part of an east-west link between Oxford and Cambridge. House prices in nearby Summertown are already feeling the impact.
Fantastic houses for sale in Oxford
Park Town is a pretty Georgian crescent that lies just to the east of Banbury Road—perfect for all the schools in central north Oxford.
No 19 covers 3,245sq ft and has five bedrooms, three reception rooms and a walled garden with well-stocked flower and shrub borders. £2.85 million. Knight Frank (01865 989429)
North Oxford Villa
This classic north Oxford villa stands in Bardwell Road, a stone’s throw from the Dragon. It has seven bedrooms, including a self-contained second-floor flat, a garage and a south-facing walled garden.
The new owner will probably want to update the interiors. £2.95 million Savills (01865 339700)
Jericho Victorian house
An incoming owner will want to re-organise the interior layout, but the house has excellent potential. £2.75 million Carter Jonas (01865 511444)