Catchment Areas

Anyone worth their salt knows the three rules of house buying are location, location and location. And any family with school-age children knows that by location, they mean catchment area of a good school. Peruse the windows of any estate agent or click on a property website and the Ofsted rating of the local schools are listed and, for many potential buyers, that’s more important than whether the property is a semi or detached or has three bedrooms or four. It will, however, be reflected in the asking price.

Lately I’ve become privy to another way savvy parents are using their home to secure the best possible education for their children. Instead of moving to an in-demand area with an excellent state school, they set up home close to an underperforming school and use the money saved to send their child private.

We’re not talking small change here. Last April, London’s Evening Standard reported that property prices near ‘outstanding’ primary schools pushed prices up by £80,000 to almost £680,000. Move nearer to a school which ‘requires improvement’ and you’ll pay 600,000 for the same house. That’s two or three years’ school fees.

Don’t forget that a school in special measures can only improve. That means the bargain property you snapped up one year, could rocket in value if the local school gets a new headteacher who turns things around and clambers up the Ofsted rankings.

Equally, an outstanding school can be downgraded. Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and former resident chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors told the Independent: “Catchment areas can expand or shrink according to a school’s popularity so if a buyer pays a premium to live within a catchment area, there is a risk that when they sell their property it may not command a similar or greater premium.”

Last August, the Independent found that one quarter of parents move to be closer to a decent school, even though that same number admits to being overstretched on their mortgage. Lifestyle changes, such as redundancy or a new baby can mean those who are ‘just managing’ sink into serious debt. Suddenly our clued-up buyers with their smaller mortgage in the less salubrious neighbourhood and their children at private school look very sensible indeed.

The phenomenon of popular catchment areas pushing up prices isn’t restricted to London or the South East. A survey by Rightmove of one million homes nationwide found that, on average, a property in an outstanding catchment area has a premium of £52,000. In the North East, the same number of parents – one in four – move for the schools and the premium is worth 14% of the local property price, which is over £18,000. Although only one in 10 families uproot for a school in the East of England, the premium is around £29,000, which is a more than the average yearly salary.

So, if you’re contemplating upping sticks to a more desirable address before the start of the school year in September, think twice. Moving just a few streets away could mean private schooling is no longer out of your reach.

About William Clarence Education
William Clarence Education is the leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University Network, William Clarence helps and advises families from around the world to reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of UK education. With close links to former Heads of Schools and senior figures within the education industry, William Clarence is proud to offer expert advice that puts your child at the centre of the process. Their business works with families at every stage of their academic journey including School PlacementUniversity placementOxbridge ApplicationsUS College Admissions and Homeschooling.

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