Hot Spot: York

Guy Fawkes, Roman walls, Vikings - York is trading nicely on its heritage. But there is more to this city than its past, including the university, hi-tech companies and good schools.
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The Independent Online

Lie back, think of York, and say the first few thousand things that come to mind: minster, Roman walls, Vikings, Jorvik, chocolate, the railway. How about Hansom, the York-born inventor who gave his name to the two-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage? What about another local lad, more infamous than famous, whose name and effigy surface at this time of year? A penny for your thoughts? Yes, the Guy himself, born in York in 1570.

Lie back, think of York, and say the first few thousand things that come to mind: minster, Roman walls, Vikings, Jorvik, chocolate, the railway. How about Hansom, the York-born inventor who gave his name to the two-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage? What about another local lad, more infamous than famous, whose name and effigy surface at this time of year? A penny for your thoughts? Yes, the Guy himself, born in York in 1570.

"York is still trading nicely on its heritage," says Bryan Jaram of Jackson-Stops. "The city is on the London/Oxford/Edinburgh tourism trail, mostly for its minster and original Roman walls."

But chocolate, railway museums and fireworks nostalgia are not enough to sustain a city nowadays. "York's economy has diversified. It has broadened to include hi-tech companies that are beginning to come here, in part because of the university," adds Mr Jaram.

In addition to creating a solid market for students lets, the university has affected the property market. "It has had a significant impact over the years. A science park came here on the back of it, and tenants such as Smith & Nephew," says Mr Jaram.

York's economy is also intimately linked with that of a Yorkshire neighbour. "York's future is on the back of the expansion of the financial services sector, with money being generated out of Leeds," says Yolande Barnes, head of research at FPDSavills. If Leeds stays healthy, York won't sneeze.

"Good house prices are still being achieved although the market is now more measured," says estate agent Tim Blenkin. "Prices had been inflated because agents knew their prospective client had big hopes, so they used defensive pricing to make sure they got the instruction." The latest market report of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) finds that the north-south divide has suddenly shifted in favour of the former, and Mr Blenkin seems to confirm that York fits this bill: "Country houses in the £450,000 to £500,000 range will still sell well because not many are available. Frustrated purchasers from last year will want to buy this year."

Later than many other provincial cities, York has discovered luxury city-centre flats and the joys of living and drinking on the riverside. The Ouse and the Foss snake through the city. "As a cathedral city York has an ambience that non-cathedral cities don't have," according to Mr Blenkin. "This is its best aspect, along with its seriously good state and private schools for all ages and both sexes, and frequent trains to London."

The Low-Down

Transport

The fast train to London takes one hour 40 minutes. Leeds is 24 miles away, Edinburgh 190, and London 200.

Prices

York prices are about 50 per cent above the national average. Houses capable of accommodating four students are available for £85,000 to £90,000, says Allen Rutter of Alan Black & Co. A modern two-bed flat with car parking sells for £130,000 to £150,000.

Yes, we have no petrol

"The rush of new instructions in August and early September was matched by an increased number of properties going under offer. But the fuel crisis in mid-September has had an effect on the market, causing people to take stock, probably unnecessarily, and putting a hold on buying and selling decisions," says Edward Waterson of Carter Jonas.

Properties

Large detached houses are available within a few miles of York city centre. Detached country or executive houses, including new-builds, start at between £250,000 and £500,000. There are approximately a dozen new developments ringing York's perimeter, and many others outside the city.

New York

Northminster is building seven New York-style two-bed apartments in Crambeck Court, in the city centre; from £112,500. More than 200 Georgian-style houses are being built in St Peter's Quarter near the ancient walls by Wilcon. Flats and houses currently available cost £84,995 to £239,950 (01904 635704). Barratt has three developments in York, with two-bed houses at The Acorns from £76.995 (01904 479110).

New

Near the city centre Persimmon is converting Clifton Hospital into nine one- and two-bed flats; prices from £89,950. Persimmon has also just released new flats in Huntington, three miles from York (01904 673249).

Just fine, thank you

According to the Inward Investment Board: "York is home to 2,500 life scientists and some 40 bioscience and healthcare companies. Some 130 information and communications technology companies operate in the city. The labour pool is regularly topped up by the University of York, which produces 200 electronics and computer science graduates a year."

Estate agents

Alan Black, 01904 679733; Blenkin & Co, 01904 671672; Carter Jonas, 01904 627436; Jackson-Stops, 01904 625033.

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