With Silicon Fen and pharmaceutical giants based in the city, as well as good schools and a thriving cultural calendar, Cambridge is worth more than a punt, says Arabella Youens.
Local property market update
When Chris Carey of Bidwells started his career with the firm in 1981, Cambridge was a sleepy university city and those in the market to buy were predominantly academics or doctors based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. ‘But, in the past 20 years, the city has transformed into a vibrant and cosmopolitan place to live,’ says Chris.
The reasons appear to be manifold: it’s an easy commute into King’s Cross or Liverpool Street, several multinational firms have moved to Cambridge, including Amazon, Microsoft and ARM— this number is set to grow this year when AstraZeneca’s headquarters are completed—it has an excel- lent choice of schools and, adds Chris, a fantastic quality of life. ‘I’m born-and-bred Cambridge, so am a little biased, but I’ll never tire of walking over the Backs and through the grounds of King’s College—it’s a real privilege.’
According to Cameron Ewer of Strutt & Parker, house prices grew between 10% and 12% a year between 2012 and 2015, with the market between £600,000 and £1.5 million performing best. Martin Walshe of Cheffins says: ‘Cambridge is where the smart money is and the city is experiencing a property bubble like no other. House prices have risen more than in any other UK city in the past seven years and now command a higher premium than they did at the height of the property market in 2007.’
However, most agents are cautious about these record increases continuing forever: Richard Hatch of Carter Jonas reports a slowing of activity in recent weeks that ‘will help to steady prices for a short time’.
Anyone wishing to move to Cambridge, but needing to commute out will, generally, fall into two categories, believes Chris. ‘There are those who want to be within five minutes’ walk of the station, so, for them, the best addresses will be streets such as St Barnabas Road, where predominantly Victorian, three-storey houses come to the market for about £1.6 million.’
For those who want more space and a larger garden, as well as off-street parking, then Chaucer Road or Latham Road (a short cycle ride to the station) or Millington Road, the ‘Newnham village’ and Storey’s Way are worth a look. Martin also recommends De Freville: ‘It’s like a village within the town and you can walk to Midsummer Common —large, semi-detached family houses cost about £1.5 million.’
Unlike Oxford, Cambridge city-centre houses—many of which were built for the dons—aren’t enormous, so when the children have left home, owners tend to stay on, thus reducing the flow coming to the market.
Independent schools in Cambridge regularly top league tables and are a major driver for families to the city. However, there are also very good State options, with Hills Road Sixth Form College appearing among the top in the country as well as the Netherhall School, a secondary and sixth form.
On the independent side, The Stephen Perse Foundation has various schools within the city covering all ages from prep to senior, where the students study the International Baccalaureate, which appeals to international parents. The Perse School and The Leys are top-performing senior schools and St Faith’s is a good prep.
‘Cambridge is more difficult to get around these days as it’s grown dramatically in the past 5–10 years, which means that people are keener than ever to live within walking distance of these schools, thereby pushing up house prices,’ adds Chris.
Butcher, baker, coffee-maker
One of the best butchers in the city is Cousins of Newnham on Grantchester Street. Fitzbillies bakery, purveyor of the world’s stickiest Chelsea buns, is still in business after more than 90 years (after being rescued during the recession); the owners plan to open a new outpost on Bridge Street next month. If it’s too full of tourists for some locals, another option is the Norfolk Street Bakery.
The city is full of thriving independent coffee shops, including the Catesby’s cafe, which sits above a home emporium in a 17th-century house on Green Street, the Espresso Library on East Road and Stir in Chesterton.
Out and about
From Evensong in King’s College or an afternoon in Trinity’s Wren Library, via the art and antiquities in The Fitzwilliam Museum or 20th-century art in Kettle’s Yard and much, much more, there’s plenty to do in this small city to stimulate your grey matter.
In the summer months, there’s the Cambridge Folk Festival, Cambridge Summer Music, the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival and the Cambridge Film Festival.
Hyde Park homesick
One of the most charming things about the city is that there are still three or four meadows within the city limits where cattle graze. For green spaces, there’s plenty to choose from, including Midsummer Common, Sheep’s Green and Jesus Green, a lovely park adjacent to the river.
Need to know
With the new train station at Cambridge North set to open next year, a lot of attention has focused on the surrounding area, particularly, says Richard, from buy-to-let investors. ‘The line will connect to the mainline rail at Cambridge, which has direct links to London and which will improve the service for commuters.’ However, it doesn’t stop there, according to William Nichols of Strutt & Parker—work is in progress to try to create another new railway station adjacent to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in the south of the city.
Finally, the university is currently undertaking the largest expansion in its history on land it owns in the north-west of the city, which will provide a new campus for the university as well as affordable accommodation for staff and post-graduate students, private houses and community spaces, such as a school, shops, a sports centre and supermarkets.
Houses for sale in Cambridge
For sale £3 million This Baillie Scott-designed Arts-and-Crafts house on Storey’s Way comes to the market with its largely original gardens of special historic interest. It has six bedrooms, a kitchen/breakfast room and parking for three cars. Bidwells (01223 841842)
For sale £1.75 million On the market with Cheffins, 106, Long Road is well situated for schools, the hospital, city centre and station. Requiring some updating, the interior space covers 4,000sq ft and, outside, there is a good-sized garden. Cheffins (01223 214214)
For sale £750,000 Set on the River Cam in the north-east of the city, this two-bedroom, two-bathroom penthouse has a large terrace, providing a spacious entertaining space with views towards the city. Strutt & Parker (01223 459502)