Oxford – The City of Dreaming Spires

Published Jul 19, 2011 – 2 mins read

To coincide with Garrington launching a new office in the heart of Oxford, I’d like to turn the focus on prime residential property opportunities within and around the city.

Oxford is the home of the oldest University in the English-speaking world, and Matthew Arnold’s description – “the city of dreaming spires” – perfectly describes the harmonious architecture of the city’s university buildings. The city provides an extremely wide variety of quality residential areas and it is essential to take great care when assessing the options in the current market.

The Oxford Market

Although there is some choice of available properties in the current market, it is not as extensive as it was. Due to, among other things, the extended period of economic uncertainty and perhaps an overall market inertia, there is still a lack of good quality, sensibly priced homes available to buy.

A current snapshot of prime residential properties on the market this month shows that of the available properties valued at over £1million, 24% are under offer, a figure that reflects high demand in the prime property sector. We found that 83% of these properties had been on the market for more than 2 weeks however, with 21% seeing price reductions since first being introduced to the market. More choice of new-to-market properties would be very welcome.

However, we are starting to see more off market, private opportunities being made available discreetly ahead of a full launch in the autumn.

Who? What? Where?

By far the most popular properties are the large family homes located in North Oxford which includes Summertown, Park Town, Norham Manor and the streets between and around the Banbury and Woodstock roads. These homes are always in high demand and are often 5, 6 or even 7 bed semi-detached or townhouse properties, usually built in the Victorian or Edwardian eras.

However, there are some very attractive alternatives, including newly built properties in areas such as Cumnor Hill, Hinksey Hill and Headington. Conventional wisdom would suggest these are less well favoured parts of the city, but advantages can include larger plots, close access to the countryside and better value for money. Central North Oxford will of course remain the favoured choice for family homes, but do consider other suburbs and villages in close proximity to the city boundaries. Those in the East can offer faster access to London and those in the North and West to the Cotswolds.


While good quality supply is still short, we can expect more opportunities to appear over the coming weeks although initial asking prices will continue to be somewhat inflated.

However, a purchase at the right price in Oxford will prove to be a sound investment given the attractiveness of the city to families, and those with business and academic interests.

Be ready therefore to negotiate hard and emphasise your strong buying credentials in aspects such as the ability to proceed quickly, financial preparedness and perhaps completion flexibility.

While it may be assumed to be a buyers’ market, there is still a need to proceed with caution and be equipped with the best possible local advice from the buyers’ perspective as competition for the better properties can be intense. In Oxford this can lead to dream purchases in the right part of town, and sometimes simply being fully prepared with your buying agent briefed and active on your behalf can mean the difference between success and failure.