The “northern powerhouse” concept is nothing new to York. Founded about AD 71, the city has experienced plenty of boom times down the ages. The arrival of railways in the mid-19th century saw the UK’s largest train station of the day built there in 1877 — and the connection brought tourism, industry and wealth.
Today, the train link from York to King’s Cross is a tolerable two hours or so. Catch the 6.30am service and you can be at your London desk by 9.15am, says Ben Pridden, of Savills York.
“One in every 10 of our buyers still works in London,” he says. “They might not commute every day, but they appreciate the easy journey times. Londoners are buying into York’s good schools and quality of life.”
York is surrounded by glorious countryside — the North York Moors National Park is 45 minutes to the north — yet it is the city itself that entices families. “There is a clear flight to the city,” explains Pridden. “Prices in York are seven per cent above those in 2007, while the countryside remains 15 per cent lower.”
PRICE GROWTH POTENTIAL
Figures from Jackson-Stops & Staff confirm York’s popularity. It was the agent’s third best-performing county town for family homes price growth last year out of 41 contenders, behind only Exeter and Bristol and showing a near-20 per cent price increase.
The average house price in York is £240,000 — less than half the average in London. Savills’ average sale price for an apartment in York is just less than £300,000, with a prime four-bedroom Victorian townhouse with a garden in the centre costing about £500,000.
With very few new builds in the historic city centre, the renovation of an entire Grade II*-listed Regency crescent opposite York Minster is a story of note. St Leonard’s Place dates from the 1830s. Built for the landed gentry, 150 years later it became council offices, until developer Rushbond stepped in to restore the crescent. After extensive work, St Leonard’s Place now offers five townhouses and 29 apartments.
“Buyers include business people and those looking to downsize while keeping generous proportions in their homes,” says Mark Finch, of Rushbond. “They tell us they want contemporary elegance in a traditional house.”
Prices start from £285,000 for one- to three-bedroom apartments from 553sq ft. Entire five-bedroom townhouses of 4,420sq ft are £1.55 million. Rushbond will manage the homes, with annual service charges from £1,000.
A LONG, SWEET STORY
York has a long, proud history as the home of chocolate. Flats in the building where the first Terry’s Chocolate Orange was made go on sale this spring. The Grade II-listed Art Deco building, The Residence, has 170 one- to three-bedroom flats from £185,000, with duplex penthouses from £500,000.
‘YORK HAS A GREAT SENSE OF COMMUNITY AND HISTORY’
Londoners Steve and Jane Cain moved from the capital to York in 1995. They bought a Georgian townhouse to double as their home and as Steve’s orthodontic practice — and fell at once for the local life.
“York has a village atmosphere,” says Jane, 52. “It’s a pedestrian city where everyone walks and that provides a great sense of community.
It has a great sense of history, too, yet it is relaxed and full of charming, independent shops.” In 2009, with their children Maisie, 12, and Christian, 14, they moved to a village in North York Moors National Park, 25 miles north of the city. Four years later, they bought a house in Precentor’s Court in the shadow of York Minster as a holiday let. They refurbished it from top to bottom and now rent it out for up to eight people.
“We love York and this gives us the opportunity to have a place in the city,” says Jane. “It had been owned by the Minster and we have added a few ecclesiastical touches to it, such as a small church noticeboard and folding chapel chairs in the bedrooms.
“Guests tell us they love lying in bed on a Sunday morning and hearing the Minster bells ring out.” The beautiful four-bedroom townhouse - No. 2 Precentor’s Court - is one of York’s best city rentals, winning Visit England and Alastair Sawday’s awards.