After a year like no other in 2021, edition speaks to local experts to get the inside track on what we can expect in the months ahead
Words by Nicola Foley
‘Tis the season for house-hunting, according to Rightmove, which claims the number of people browsing properties on the site during the post-Christmas period has been on the rise every year. In fact, 2020’s Boxing Day saw a whopping 54% increase on 2019, with another impressive jump expected to be reported this January. In preparation for this wave of would-be buyers, agents report that homeowners are busily sprucing up their properties and requesting valuations, ready to capitalise on the building momentum.
As we enter a new year in the Cambridge property market, many will be wondering if the unprecedented boom of the past 12 months can continue, whether things will plateau, or indeed if – deep breath – we’re heading for a crash. One thing is certain: that 2021 was unlike anything local agents have seen before.
“We witnessed the biggest lack of available houses on the market for at least the past 20 years, with huge demand levels, created by the perfect storm of low interest rates, the stamp duty holiday and changes in people’s working patterns,” comments Richard Freshwater, director of Cheffins.
“Places such as Cambridge and the surrounding villages have enjoyed floods of new buyers, with every property which hits the market seeing around 40 requests for viewings. Competition has been fierce throughout the year, and sealed bids quickly became the order of the day.”
Many expected, as the government’s stamp duty holiday drew to an end, that the market would quieten, but that hasn’t come to pass, says Richard. “In reality, the desperation for people to move house, coupled with the shortage of stock, has meant that there was little change in activity when the levy was reintroduced.”
Fuel to the Fire
Demand outweighing supply in the Cambridge market is nothing new, but additional factors have added fuel to the fire. It’s been well documented that the pandemic created something of an exodus from London, and Cambridge – handy for commuters, offering (marginally) more space and better value for money – has proven an appealing prospect to those escaping the capital. The tech cluster continues to boom, too, luring ever more workers to our city in need of homes.
All of this is driving competition. And it’s not just the volume of sales that’s increased, says Ed Meyer, head of residential sales at Savills Cambridge. “The speed at which transactions have been agreed is extraordinary,” he reveals. “From launching a property, arranging viewings, receiving an offer and agreeing a sale – in many cases this has all happened within the space of a week, with properties attracting multiple bids.”
The big question is: what has the impact of this frenzy of activity been? According to Savills, average house prices in the city and its surrounds have increased by 7.7% in the last year, putting the figure at £529,431 – which is well above the average for the region as a whole. “Due to the imbalance of high demand versus shortage of stock, it will remain a seller’s market – in the short term at least,” predicts Ed. “However – setting a realistic asking price from the start will be key to maintaining momentum as we head into 2022 and beyond.”
When it comes to making predictions for the year ahead in the Cambridge property market, local agents are optimistic, which should be reassuring to anybody worried that the bubble is about to burst. Pointing to factors such as the robustness of the local economy and the evergreen desirability of Cambridge as a city, experts paint a hopeful picture.
Andrew Tucker, residential partner at Bidwells, assures that: “The year 2022 looks to be starting as 2021 finished! We expect a continuation of a busy marketplace and demand for housing with outside space, home offices and studios. The success
of corporate business in the city centre and the CB1 area, as well as Cambridge Science Parks, the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and tech companies relocating here, has provided a constant demand for housing – from rental to new homes and family property. The immediate future looks exciting across all aspects of the residential market, and we look forward to the coming year.”
The tech cluster continues to boom, luring ever more workers in need of homes
Savills agrees that the only way seems to be up, forecasting house price growth of 10.4% in the east of England over the next five years – with an increase of 3% in 2022. It means the average cost of a home in the region is predicted to rise to £420,276 by 2026, compared to the current average of £380,685. Interestingly, that’s actually slightly lower than the forecast for the UK as a whole, which has predicted price rises of 13.1% over the next five years, and a 3.5% lift in 2022.
Mostly, says Ed Meyer, that’s down to the fact that this part of England, “has experienced above-average increases in house price growth for the past decade or more – so it’s perhaps no surprise to see other parts of the UK now catching up”.
Though predicting sustained growth over the coming years, Ed believes that things are likely to feel substantially calmer than they have. “After such intensity in the market, and without the imperative of a stamp duty holiday, we know there’s likely to be less urgency from 2022.
“As a result, coupled with the first anticipated interest rate rise, our researchers expect price growth in the near term to be more muted than we have seen of late,” he adds. “However, the number of homes coming to the market has also been constrained, and this – combined with relatively low unemployment rates and a robust economic performance coming out of a recession – means we expect to see softer growth rather than prices falling.”
More growth, even of the soft kind, is positive for Cambridge – but it might not be music to the ears of those hoping to get on the ladder, who are increasingly being priced out of the game in our city. “Rising house prices will, of course, make it harder for first-time buyers,” warns Cheffins’ Richard Freshwater. “The government has set lofty targets for housebuilding, which will help with availability, but they need to be priced at varied levels to aid affordability, particularly within East Anglia,” he advises.
Richard believes that interest rate rises, coupled with inflationary hikes, might slow the number of transactions this year, but that there do not seem to be many signs of a housing crash. “It’s more likely that the market would plateau to a certain extent,” he concludes. “Cambridge has always been somewhat protected by ripples in the market felt elsewhere in the UK.”
Homes Coming Soon
Nine & The Mews
Laragh’s Nine development is a collection of nine luxury apartments at St Stephen’s Place, just off Huntingdon Road. The development launches early this year, with options for one, two- and three-bedroom homes available. They come with high-spec bathrooms and kitchens, and plenty of stylish features. In spring, Laragh will also unveil The Mews: a unique development of 17 two-, three- and four-bedroom homes, on Histon Road. This leafy cul-de-sac offers good-sized gardens, eye-catching design by award-winning architect Haysom Ward Miller, and great eco credentials. Savills is the agent for both developments.
Greenways at Marleigh
A collaboration between Hill and Marshall, Marleigh is a new collection of homes located on Newmarket Road. With an emphasis on culture and community, this neighbourhood offers a sense of belonging, all the amenities you need – plus sports pitches, play areas and the community’s focal point, Gregory Park. The development is releasing its third phase, Greenways, in spring this year, which will offer a collection of 83 private homes, made up of two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom houses.
These cambridgeshire communities are already thriving, making them a must-see for househunters in the area
With a sleek look and a great location, Hill’s Ironworks development has proved a popular choice for homebuyers. It’s now 80% sold, but there are still a range of one- and two-bedroom apartments available (from £341,950), and first-time buyers can take advantage of the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme on selected homes. If you like being in the thick of things, you’ll love the Mill Road setting of Ironworks, positioning you within a few steps of some of the city’s best pubs, restaurants and independent shops. You’re also only a short walk away from the train station, making it a good choice for commuters. The development boasts pleasant communal spaces, with landscaped gardens and pieces of public art, and the homes are top spec, with a modern design and plenty of light. Need another incentive to check out Ironworks? Housebuilder Hill is offering anyone making a reservation during January a £2,000 John Lewis voucher – which should help you decorate your new home in style! The vouchers will also be given to those reserving at Hill’s Marleigh, Timber Works, Rayners Green, Capstone Fields and Knights Park developments.
A new town that will eventually have in the region of 10,000 houses and apartments, Northstowe is situated between the villages of Oakington and Longstanton. This neighbourhood is big on sustainability – all homes are impressively energy efficient – and building a happy, active community. NHS England is providing funding to help Northstowe achieve the latter through its ‘Healthy New Towns’ programme, and there are already a huge range of fitness classes available, with lots more to come. Northstowe also hosts its own running festival, but if you prefer to pedal, rather than pound pavements, there’s a great network of cycle routes to check out. The plans for Northstowe also include a vibrant town centre, complete with a high street, market hall, civic hub, new workspaces and lots of open green areas. If this community sounds up your street, take a look at the Inholm collection of homes, by Urban Splash. Made up of 43 three-storey town houses, these boast vaulted ceilings, huge windows, balconies, lovely gardens and eco features like rooftop solar panels. The town also has excellent public transport links.
Another from Hill, Timber Works is also nestled in the CB1 postcode, this time set back off Cromwell Road. Situated around a landscaped central park, the development comprises a collection of contemporary one- and two-bedroom apartments, plus two-, three- and four-bedroom houses. The name Timber Works is inspired by the site’s industrial history, but the homes themselves are decidedly contemporary, with modern architecture and distinctive brick patterning. All properties have their own outdoor space, in the form of gardens, balconies or terraces, as well as bike and car parking spaces.
If moving house isn’t an option for you right now, you might be thinking about a home renovation instead – check out this article on how to spruce up your kitchen this year!