By Mark Crampton of Middleton Advisors
Guildford is the vibrant county town of Surrey with a population of just under 70,000. It has hospitals, universities, law courts, shopping centres, sports parks and all of the infrastructure you would expect in a busy urban centre. Being situated only 27 miles from Central London makes it incredibly convenient for those who work in the Capital and it is well connected by rail and road. Families are drawn to Guildford for many reasons, but the numerous excellent schools for all ages, both state and private, is one of the main factors.
Lying in the heart of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty gives those who love the outdoors all sorts of opportunities to go cycling, walking or riding. The retail offering in Guildford is exceptional with a vibrant mix of larger established leading chains and the House of Fraser occupies a central slot on the main high street, combined with many independent boutiques and lifestyle shops. There are numerous places to eat and drink in Guildford and two favourites of mine are the newly opened March Hare pub and brasserie and Jamie’s Italian, but you can choose from Cau (Argentinian steak), Brittens (contemporary British), Rumwong (Thai) or Bill’s (family friendly modern rustic).
Culturally, Guildford is a rich place – the university of Surrey and law school, the long established Yvonne Arnaud theatre is a venue for many West End productions and various galleries, dance studios and film clubs are on the door step.
The clients we work for at Middleton, who wish to live close to Guildford are typically looking in the beautiful surrounding villages like Blackheath, Wonersh, Bramley, Shamley Green and Shackleford. These villages each have their own character and communities, with amenities like post offices, cafes, pubs and so on, so you can combine the feel of living in a quaint country village with being on the doorstep of a fabulous town a few miles up the road. The area around Guildford is well known for Edwardian and Arts and Crafts houses, and you will also find much older 16th/17th century farmhouses. In the town itself there is a small selection of classic Victorian villas and a slightly broader choice of slightly later period family houses, typically circa 1900-1930.
Of course Guildford is no stranger to property developers and newer houses built in the local vernacular (Edwardian looking) are always popular. Buyers looking for family houses typically want something that has modern services and style in a building that has charm and character. The extras, like staff flats, swimming pools, paddocks for kids’ ponies are always personal and vary from buyer to buyer, but probably the most sought after type of property we are tasked to find for clients is a period five bed house in a couple of acres on the edge of a good village with the ability to put in a tennis court and/or swimming pool if they are not there already. Needless to say these are hard to find, hence why we have a business!
The property market has been quite price sensitive over the last two years with not a lot of upward price growth. This has been the result of stricter mortgage lending, uncertainty over the general election in 2015 and changes to the stamp duty thresholds which certainly affected the £2m plus market in particular. Of course we are still to some extent feeling the effects of the significant financial crisis from back in 2008 which has taken a long time to shake off.
The next big issue for people to think about as far as the property market is concerned is the planned EU referendum, however we see the market for good country houses in and around Guildford looking pretty strong and are predicting steady growth of 2%-4% in 2016.