10th September 2019
Why schooling should go hand-in-hand with finding a home.
Many people know that a buying agent advises on purchasing property, but they may be surprised at just how often schools come into the equation. Some recent clients are not atypical: they decided two weeks before the start of term to move their three children – one in Prep and two at senior school – to new schools and wanted a house to rent at the same time. I worked with an education consultant to find schools and a suitable property within easy commutable distance in time for the start of term.
A good buying agent will be knowledgeable about schools on their patch but if we need further expertise, we also know education consultants who can help. The most successful property searches happen if we work hand-in-hand with the person finding the school early on, rather than trying to find a house once the school has been decided on. This can be tricky as schooling is very emotive and people often choose one because of family connections. But with many people moving for schooling reasons, the big question is: which comes first – the school or the property?
If you have very specific requirements about a house – perhaps you want a pretty property with Georgian features on the edge of a village – there aren’t many available because they are hugely popular. If budget isn’t an issue, there is more choice.
If you want to live near a particular school, and have very specific requirements about the property, the search is likely to take longer. I have just agreed terms on a house for clients with a child starting in Reception at a particular school who were very specific and driven by the property – they wanted a classic period home in the £2m to £3m bracket. In a six- to nine-month search window there may typically be four or to five opportunities within a 45-minute train journey of London but if you narrow down what you are prepared to accept, there might be two or three options.
Yet another set of clients moving out of London wanted Abingdon School for their child’s senior school, even though he is only five years old, so had settled on Abingdon Prep as the obvious primary school. My job was to find a property near Didcot Parkway so they could easily commute to London for work.
Yet other clients who have recently moved into a new home with slightly older children were relatively relaxed and prepared to consider a whole swathe of schools and commutes over four counties. If clients are more broad-minded – as long as they are within that critical 20-minute drive of school, for example - there will be more opportunities.
If you have a particular catchment area in mind around one of the hugely popular Oxford schools, be prepared to pay more. However, the difficulty is there is no guarantee of a place even if you live in a catchment area. You may buy the house and your child still not get a place at the desired school so it may be prudent to rent first to secure your spot.
Those tempted by the renowned Dragon and Summerfields schools in North Oxford, or the excellent secondary Cherwell, need to think very carefully about the school run. If you have to drop off and then get to work, you will struggle as Oxford is notoriously car unfriendly. The solution for one client with a big budget was a place in the country, plus a house within walking distance of the Dragon.