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THE PROPERTY MARKET CATCHMENT DILEMA

For families looking for a new home, is it worth paying a premium to be located within a school catchment area? Karen Tait reports

As another school year starts, parents will be all too aware of the importance of living in the right catchment area. Just a few digits in a postcode can make all the difference to your child’s education, so it’s no wonder that properties close to a good school are so sought-after, and hence more expensive. But is the cost worth it?

According to research from The Good School Guide and Savills, the additional cost of properties near London’s best state schools averages 34%. However, the premium may be worth it when compared to the cost of private school fees.

‘Southfields and Putney are two areas where we are seeing new highs being paid by buyers to be in and around the good state primary schools, with no guarantee of getting in,’ comments Richard Marsh of Property Vision. ‘Whilst increased competition may lessen the odds of securing a place, it is creating a natural gentrification of these areas with new facilities catering to the family market like Waitrose, Starbucks and M&S.’

‘Parents often put themselves under immense pressure to do the best for their child, and so the practice of buying or renting within an area, purely for the school, happens often,’ says Alex Inskip of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward’s Wimbledon branch. ‘Once children reach secondary school, however, most parents tend to migrate out of the area, generally into Surrey or Kent, where greater choice exists.’

Tamzin Incledon of Douglas & Gordon’s Battersea office points out that there is particular competition for Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ rated schools such as Honeywell and Belleville in Battersea. ‘This often means a purchaser would look at spending in excess of £100,000 more than they would for an identical property outside of the catchment,’ she says.

‘The value of a home in a desirable catchment isn’t lost on homeowners who don’t have children,’ she adds, ‘with many snapping up homes in proximity to good schools to safeguard their property’s value.’

Jane Jendrick of John D Wood & Co Lettings notes that ‘while there is always the risk that the standard of a school may change, properties within the catchment areas of high-performing schools always sell well’.

However, she warns of changing boundaries – ‘it is possible to move into what has been the catchment area, only to find that the street you have moved onto is no longer included!

‘There is also the ‘second sibling policy’ to think about, where second siblings have priority for places if an older sibling is already there,’ she adds. ‘While this can be a blessing, it can also be a hindrance. Schools can become over-subscribed because of the policy, so the catchment area can be reduced to just one or two streets.’

TOP TIPS FOR PARENTS BUYING PROPERTIES NEAR GOOD SCHOOLS

• ‘Some schools will only have a certain number of places available due to places being offered to siblings, so I would advise that parents establish where the boundaries are as some are notoriously small,’ says Alex Inskip of Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward. 

• ‘Remember that school policies differ and change regularly, as do catchment areas. The policy may not just be driven by the catchment area, particularly if it is a faith school,’ says Richard Marsh of Property Vision.

• ‘Catchment area cheats are a hot topic. Parents frequently know who they are and it tends to be frowned upon at the school gates so you’re likely to need a thick skin to withstand a negative reception,’ says Tamzin Incledon of Douglas & Gordon.

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