Simon McConnell: Head of Residential Agency, Carter Jonas Oxford

The Spring Equinox marks a turning point in the year – and in the property cycle – providing a perfect opportunity to reflect on the market to date, while considering trends and prospects for the spring and summer months ahead.

Written by: Simon McConnell Photography by: Aurelien Langlais (portrait)

I joined Carter Jonas in January. Starting a new venture is always exciting, but particularly at the beginning of a calendar year when many of us are filled with fresh energy and new momentum.

My appointment followed that of Julia Wilson, who came to Carter Jonas towards the end of last year, and we have both enjoyed working with the existing team to take our business forward. This collaborative approach is vital, particularly as current market conditions can prove challenging for our residential clients, who often need greater support in teasing out market opportunities.

During the second half of last year, across Oxford, many buyers and sellers adopted a wait-and-see approach to Brexit, fatigued by the political uncertainty surrounding it and how it would play out. This resulted in a decrease in the number of transactions during the second half of 2018.

While the Oxford property market has been stifled over the past few months, with a reduction in homes coming to the market, there is no doubt that good quality homes are continuing to sell across all price points. Buyers are ever primed to uncover an opportunity and, while it’s rare that sales will complete over the asking price, figures are rarely more than a couple of percentage points below the guide.

Spring is thus far proving atypical, not least because market mentality was fixated on 29th March as a watershed moment. That said, there is also now a sense amongst the local market that they are tired of waiting and that the green shoots of activity are starting to emerge.

Inevitably, some vendors will delay on making important decisions as they await clarity over the UK’s departure from the EU, but for others, life needs to move on, and there is much pent-up demand waiting to restore the market’s balance once government gets its ducks in a row.

By contrast, buyers are out in force, particularly amongst the second stepper and family demographics. Many simply need more space and to trade up in order to unlock the next phase in their life, for example, moving to a three-bed house in order to accommodate a second child, or moving to a larger property outside of the city to make the most of the fresh air and a bigger garden.

Needless to say that Oxford’s enduring desirability, driven by its excellent schools and world class universities – and now its much revered occupancy on the ‘Brain Belt’ – is providing an underlying strength to house prices and helping us to weather the Brexit storm. While there are examples of price adjustments, values are largely holding steady and buyers are prepared to pay when they identify value.

Of course, it’s not just the city centre or the geography within the Oxford Ring Road that attracts buyers; the new developments outside the city, in proximity to Oxford and Didcot Parkway, as well as Bicester Town and Bicester Village Stations, have sparked the interest of many.

Oxford and Didcot Parkway have long been the primary choice for commuters into London each day, with trains taking as little as 40 minutes. However, surrounding stations such as Bicester Village have fast become great alternatives from an affordability perspective, particularly for those making the daily trek to the capital.

Homes surrounding Bicester North and Bicester Village are, traditionally, less expensive compared to those in the centre of Oxford, and a season ticket is upwards of £200 less than from Oxford Station. From both of these stations, commuters can reach London Marylebone station in as little as 47 minutes. Oxford Parkway is another alternative for those on the northern fringe of the city. The extra ten minutes added to the train journey does have its benefits, with a £100 saving on an annual rail pass and a staggering £600 saving on an annual parking permit.

Oxfordshire as a whole has also had to absorb a large number of new build properties, particularly in the lower to middle price ranges. The incentives being offered by developers such as part exchange and Help to Buy make these attractive propositions. Buyers are using their position to drive a hard bargain and developers are ostensibly receptive when it comes to securing a sale.

Meanwhile, the rental market remains buoyant. Whilst stock levels remain roughly the same, demand appears to have grown as prospective enquiries have increased over the last few months. The in-town and city markets are performing particularly well through renewals.

Twelve months ago, we described property market conditions as cooling, cautious and conservative. Going forward, the expectation in Oxford and the surrounding areas is that the market might be subject for a couple of months more to political uncertainty, but by the time the summer is in full bloom, optimism will prevail.

As we start to see hints of sunshine, you can be certain that Oxfordshire will remain a key UK destination, thanks to its continuing appeal to businesses as a hub of innovation, its global reputation as a centre of educational excellence and the sheer beauty of its architecture and landscape. And, whatever challenges we face over the coming months, it is vital to have a good team behind you so that can traverse the current nuances of the market.

If you are looking to buy, sell, let or rent a property, or would like to speak with a member of the Carter Jonas team about any of your property requirements, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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