House prices and schools - is there a correlation?

University of Hertfordshire sits alongside a new housing development

University of Hertfordshire sits alongside a new housing development - Credit: Archant

It cannot be denied that there is a seemingly permanent bond between House Prices and Schools. The massive effect that a good school can have on property values in a given area is astonishing and creates an eye watering scenario for all parents who, naturally, want nothing but the very best educational environment and academic accolades for their children.

A farmhouse in Herts.

A farmhouse in Herts. - Credit: Archant

As most of you know, locating a property in the right area and at the right price to get a school place can be compared to some form of medieval torture and is usually accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The demand for school places is so high on top of the cultural and social benefits of living in an area as highly regarded as Harpenden that usually the only thing that will guarantee you some security for the future of your child’s education is the size of your wallet. But let’s not blame the rich denizens of the town, after all, if we had the means we would all surely do the same.

To make matters worse, the problem is set to worsen with an article in the Independent published back in September citing figures that show a projected increase of 12% in the number of secondary school pupils by 2023 - this claim is backed by the official government projections release in July 2015 which actually cites a greater 20% growth by 2024. Many local authorities are straining under the demand for school places, with many frantically urging already oversubscribed schools to take on more students.

To help those in the local area, and those moving in, we undertook a little independent research to try and figure out where the best buys are to get the best possible chance of school places. From our research we have tried to identify a handful of well regarded schools in the district so that we can find out how this affected house prices. Note that this does not mean these are the very best, as school rankings are incredibly complicated and we are not experts so please conduct your own independent research if you would like more information. We have left out a number of local schools as well as Private schools for the simplicity of illustrating a point about property prices.

The best regarded nursery schools;

1. Crabtree Infant & Junior School, 2. The Grove Infants School, 3. The Lea Primary School and Nursery

The best regarded primary schools;

Manea Community Primary school; Picture: Steve Williams.

Manea Community Primary school; Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

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1. St Dominic’s Catholic Primary, 2. Roundwood Primary, 3. Crabtree Primary

The top three secondary schools;

1. St George’s School, 2. Roundwood Park, 3. Sir John Lawes

In order, the two maps show the Zoopla ‘heat map’ of prices (for the uninitiated, the ‘warmer’ the colour, i.e. more red, indicates a ‘hotter’ or higher price) and the second map is the overlay of the locations of the schools with the Zoopla Property Price heatmap on top.

This gives us an interesting indication of prices around the various schools.

The schools are colour coded - the red pins are secondary schools, the yellow pins are the primary schools and the green pins are nursery schools.

Map of UK property values

Map of UK property values - Credit: Archant

The immediate thing that strikes out from this experiment in drawing correlative conclusions is that where one would have thought the highest value area in the town would be is not necessarily the case - it’s clear that the big ticket properties in terms of price are almost exclusively located in the Avenues and the area to the north of Rothamsted (average price paid - £1.92m), and areas such as West Common, East Common and the ‘ridge’ of the hill upon which Harpenden lies (Dalkeith Road, Sauncey Avenue, Clarendon Road) which I’m sure allows residents an arguably deserved self-satisfaction. However, the concentration of outstanding education can be found and easily reached by purchasing property in the areas just off Station Road, namely, Dalkeith Road (£999,999), Langdale Avenue (£675,000) and Carisbrooke Road (£1.01m).

The downhill stroll to the station, the relative calm and safety of the tight-knit neighbourhood and easy access to the southern end of the town certainly makes this a high priority target for buyers looking in the area - and also adds a good selling point for homes;

“We’re within striking distance of no less than seven of the towns best schools, darling!” - Now there’s something to boast about over morning coffee at the tennis club.

So what about buying to get into a good school without annihilating your life savings? Well, let’s be realistic for a start - this is Harpenden, so for most the experience could be eye-watering in terms of price, bearing in mind the National Average House Price as released by the Land Registry is now £196,000 compared to Harpendens £712,831 - over 263.68% higher than most of the UK (sources: Rightmove and Land Registry). Add to that the fierce competition from London money and you might want to be prepared to kiss a few frogs when looking for a deal. The other aspect to consider is that it’s not just as simple as buying a house near the school and Bob’s your uncle - there is a huge amount of statistical calculation that goes into which school place is offered to whom and when, and you’re not guaranteed a place just by postcode, so don’t be fooled into buying nearby and thinking you can secure a place as easily as that. There is way more to this, but we’re interested in house prices for this article.

The roads where you’re most likely to find a good family home and stand a good chance of getting into a local school are likely to be those in the ‘cooler’ areas on the heatmap, but still within that golden oval on the eastern side of the railway, up Station Road. Often the best deals can be found by understanding that there are roads that are on average, for one reason or another, valued lower than others. Residential streets such as Overstone Road (£547,250) and Cowper Road (£639,000) provide opportunities for you to get your family where it needs to be geographically while avoiding bankruptcy.

Space tends to be limited in the centre of town, so if the station isn’t a deal breaker, my hot areas to watch in the town are Southdown, with it’s cooler pricing and great access to schools, or North Harpenden and out towards Kinsbourne Green. You might have a greater battle in terms of distance from the schools, but you’ll be compromising by having a larger garden and more breathing space.

Heatmap with schools included

Heatmap with schools included - Credit: Archant

Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list of the top roads, and since your eventual home is such a personal thing it would be impossible and churlish of me to suggest that Dalkeith Road trumps Tuffnells Way or vice versa. Many agents in the town seem to forget one fundamental yet vital aspect of this business, and that is while one deal may certainly look like any other, it is the people involved with their myriad nuances of personal taste that make the entire thing so delightfully interesting.