Many people dream of a life changing move to the country, but few buyers’ dreams extend quite as far as Shropshire, the point at which England and Wales collide. Which is a great pity because this midlands county is blessed with an appealing mixture of historic towns like Shrewsbury and Ludlow and fabulous open countryside dotted with pretty villages.
And its under-the-radar feel means that compared to neighbouring Cheshire or more fashionable rural hotspots Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire it represents fantastic value for money.
The average property price in the county is £206,260, up 7.71 per cent in the last 12 months.
Shropshire does not possess a city and its county town Shrewsbury is, said Kevin Boulton, a partner at Strutt & Parker, a somewhat quiet and sedate place, with beautiful architecture, walks beside the River Severn and a relaxed pace of life.
Shrewsbury was hit hard by the recession but its empty shops are filling up once more with a pleasing mixture of independents and chains and plenty of street cafes. A focal point is The Quarry, a riverside park and setting for the town’s annual flower show.
Buyers include locals moving in from the surrounding countryside, retirees and families drawn in by the schools. There is, of course, the eponymous public school, now co-ed, as well as good state options like The Priory School and Belvidere School, both for senior pupils and both rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.
Shrewsbury will become a more convenient option for commuters when, in December, Virgin Trains begins running a fast service that will reach the capital in two hours.
And the following year Shrewsbury’s atmosphere could become a little buzzier with the opening of University of Chester Shrewsbury Institute, which will accept its first students in October 2015.
The average Shrewsbury property costs £219,609, up 8.64 per cent in the last year and property in the town ranges from historic timber framed houses right in the town centre to lovely Georgian townhouses and Victorian villas. For £250,000 you could buy a city centre apartment or a small, two bedroom, townhouse. For £500,000 you could buy a larger Georgian townhouse in the city centre or head for the suburbs for a five bedroom, detached Victorian property (or a modern executive home).
Right at the top end the grandest Georgian houses, with eight to 10 bedrooms, gardens and parking, sell for between £1.5m and £2m.
If Shrewsbury is quiet then the south of Shropshire, with its sleepy villages and pretty hamlets, is positively inaudible. Its metropolis, if you can call it that, is Telford, close to the Welsh border (its castle was built in the eleventh century to repel the Celtic hordes).
This mediaeval town is breathtakingly pretty, packed with historic buildings and some extremely fine dining rooms. It has no less than three Michelin starred restaurants, and its tourist appeal means there are lots of interesting curio shops and cafes plus a good arts centre and cinema.
The town hosts a series of annual festivals, including a prestigious food festival, and a Shakespeare festival.
And while the standard of schools is somewhat mixed there are bright spots including Bishop Hooper CofE Primary School, rated “good” by Ofsted.
Average prices in Ludlow currently stand at £249,680, up 4.89 per cent in the last year.
Rai Fisher, a sales and lettings negotiator at Andrew Grant estate agents estimates that a budget of £250,000 will buy you a small but pretty Tudor house right in the town centre, with two bedrooms.
If you have £500,000 to spend you could buy a three to four bedroom terraced townhouse – probably one with Tudor roots but a ‘new’ Georgian façade – in the heart of the town or a four bedroom period detached home with a half-acre garden on the fringes.
Moving north, right at Shropshire’s northern border with Cheshire, is Ellesmere, a small Lakeland town surrounded by seven meres (long, but relatively shallow lakes). The area is perfect for walkers, riders and sailing enthusiasts and the town is small but beautiful with a couple of dozen shops on its high street, a weekly market, and some good traditional pubs. The town’s eponymous primary school is rated “good” by Ofsted, as is Lakelands School, for senior pupils.
Like the rest of the county the range of property available is wide, but John Quinn, director of Halls estate agents says buyers could buy a three storey redbrick cottage in the town centre for between around £120,000 and £170,000. If you want a larger home, four to five bedroom Victorian houses start at around £400,000.
Four miles away from Ellesmere is Colemere, probably its most sought after satellite village. Although it has no facilities to speak of its lovely period houses, unspoiled feel and waterside location push it into poll position with buyers. Buyers could spend around £300,000 on a two bedroom cottage in Colemere, or circa £650,000 for a period four bedroom house with five to 10 acres of land.
1. The Shropshire countryside is a rich hunting ground for outstanding historic mansions, like Yeaton Peverey Hall, a Victorian pile near Shrewsbury. The Hall has 11 bedrooms, sits in about six acres, and comes with five self contained flats and plenty of useful outbuildings. It is on the market for £2.9m.
2. For something a little more modest, Woolstaston Hall is a Grade II listed house with fabulous views over the south Shropshire hills. The six bedroom house, with 20 acres, is for sale at £1m.
3. If you would prefer to be in town, this five bedroom wisteria clad beauty in Shrewsbury is on the market at £975,000.
4. If you want a house with a Gothic twist this rambling six bedroom property in Coalbrookdale will fit the bill, for sale for £720,000.
5. For buyers on a lower budget try a lovely three bedroom historic cottage in Market Drayton, priced at £129,000.
6. Or a classic Shropshire ‘black and white’ timbered house in Ludlow, with three bedrooms, on the market at £255,000.
Booming property prices could trigger a fresh recession as households become increasingly indebted, the Governor of the Bank of England has warned.
Mark Carney said a property price bubble remained the biggest risk to the UK’s economy in the medium term.
Appearing before the Treasury Select Committee, he warned that as property prices rose, households could become overstretched financially as they struggled to buy a home.
He added that if households took on high levels of mortgage debt, they would have less money to spend on other things, hitting consumption and posing a danger to the economy.
He said: “What happens if households are borrowing at high multiples is they have to economise on everything else in order to pay their mortgages.
“And if enough people are highly indebted, that has a big macroeconomic impact. It can tilt the economy back into recession, and we start from a position of vulnerability.
“There is the possibility that currently responsible lending standards become irresponsible to reckless.”
Carney defended the Financial Policy Committee’s recent decision to limit the volume of mortgages lenders could advance to people borrowing more than 4.5 times their income to 15 per cent as an “insurance policy” against a rise in high loan-to-income mortgages.
But he added that it had stopped short from banning these loans, as they did have a role to play, particularly for first-time buyers whose incomes were likely to rise in the future.
Carney added that the Bank would continue to take steps to ensure mortgage lending did not become “reckless” if necessary.
His comments came hours after Government figures revealed that house prices rose at their fastest rate for four years during May at 10.5 per cent, with annual price growth reaching a record 20.1 per cent in London.
They also showed that the average cost of a property bought by a first-time buyer had crossed the £200,000 threshold.
The important Treasury Select Committee hearing came on the day of a major cabinet reshuffle, deflecting some media coverage over Carney’s warning.
There have been growing concerns that a bubble could be building up in the property market, particularly in the capital.
But recent data has suggested that the market may be beginning to slow naturally in London, as would-be buyers bulk at the current high prices being demanded by sellers, with prices falling in some boroughs.
Potential buyers are also reported to have become more cautious following warnings from the Bank of England that interest rates could start rising sooner than previously expected.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors also recently reported that more homes had begun to come on to the market, as sellers were keen to cash in on recent strong price gains.
At the same, the rate at which new buyers were registering with estate agents is falling, helping to ease the mismatch between supply and demand.
Data released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday also showed that house prices still remain below their pre-correction peak in all areas of the country apart from London, the South East and the East.
House prices rose at their fastest rate for four years during May pushed up by record growth in London, government figures showed today.
The average cost of a home in Britain rose by 10.5 per cent in the 12 months to the end of May, the fastest annual rate since May 2010, according to the Office for National Statistics.
London continued to lead the rest of the country, with house prices in the capital soaring by 20.1 per cent during the year, the highest jump ever recorded by the index.
But the ONS said property values increased strongly across most parts of the country, with the South East recording a gain of 9.6 per cent, while in the East prices rose by 8.6 per cent.
House prices rose by 0.8 per cent during May itself, to leave the typical home in Britain costing a record £262,000.
This figure was 7.3 per cent higher than the peak reached in January 2008 before the credit crisis triggered house price falls.
Property values rose in all regions of Britain during the 12 months to the end of May, apart from Northern Ireland, where they fell by 0.7 per cent.
Growth was most subdued in Scotland, with house prices edging ahead by just 3.6 per cent there during the year, followed by the North West and North East at 3.9 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively.
But despite the strong growth in many regions, house prices have passed their pre-crisis peak in only London, the South East and the East.
In Northern Ireland, the average home still costs nearly 49 per cent less than the high reached in August 2007, while in Scotland prices are 4.3 per cent below their previous peak and in Wales they are 3.7 per cent lower.
London continues to have the highest average house prices at £492,000, more than three times above Northern Ireland, which at £134,000 has the UK’s lowest property prices.
First-time buyers continued to face higher house price inflation than those trading up the property ladder in May.
The typical person buying their first home paid £202,000 during the month, 11.3 per cent more than first-time buyers paid in May 2013.
Former owner-occupiers buying a new home paid an average of £301,000, 9.5 per cent more than a year earlier.
Strong house price growth, particularly in the capital, has sparked concerns that a bubble may be building up in the property market.
The Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee recently introduced a cap on high loan-to-income mortgage lending in a bid to help cool the market.
But recent data, along with anecdotal evidence from estate agents, suggests that the market has already begun to cool naturally, while in some areas of the country, price growth remains subdued.
David Newnes, director of Reeds Rains and Your Move estate agents, owned by LSL Property Services, said:“The housing market recovery continues to seep across the country beyond the capital, but a balanced view has to be taken as some regions of the country have seen very little house price growth.
“Places like Lancashire and York are still experiencing annual growth below 1 per cent.”
He added: “There are also new signs that growth is beginning to slow as we move into summer.
“In London prices have begun to fall at the upper end of the market.
“In four of the top five most expensive London boroughs, average house prices have dipped below their respective peak levels.”
The average cost of a home in the UK now stands at £260,311, according to Zoopla.
The number of high value properties put up for sale soared during the second quarter as homeowners cashed in on booming prices, research showed.
There was a 30 per cent rise in homes valued at more than £500,000 that were put on the market during the three months to the end of June,compared with a year earlier.
The number of properties entering the market in the £250,000 to £500,000 price bracket also jumped by 16 per cent, according to information services group Experian.
The increase meant properties valued at more than £250,000 accounted for 41 per cent of all homes that were for sale during the second quarter, compared with 37 per cent in the same period of 2013.
The group added that the number of houses being marketed for at least £250,000 was at its highest level since it began collecting data in 2010.
Jonathan Westley, managing director of consumer information services at Experian UK & Ireland, said: “The growth in houses prices suggests that homeowners may have made reasonable capital gains on their existing properties, especially as they seek to move up the property ladder.
“Our latest index shows that higher-end properties now form a greater proportion of properties appearing for sale, implying it is now second or third-time buyers, who are more active in the housing market.
“But, 59 per cent of all properties across the UK were still valued at less than £250,000, so there are opportunities for those with smaller budgets.”
Overall, 9.6 per cent more homes were put up for sale during the three months to the end of June compared with the same period of 2013.
The North East saw the biggest rise in properties for sale, with numbers increasing by 25.6 per cent year-on-year.
The East was the only region that saw a decline in property listings, with 2.6 per cent fewer homes coming on to the market than a year earlier.
Unsurprisingly, London saw the biggest jump in homes being put up for sale with a price tag of more than £500,000, with the capital reporting a 50.7 per cent increase.
It was followed by the Outer Metropolitan and South West, with the West Midlands also posting a strong gain of 25.5 per cent.
Six areas of Britain saw a fall in the number of properties listed for £100,000 or less as recent strong house price growth pushed values higher.
The North East was one of the few regions that bucked this trend, with a 33.5 per cent jump in homes being listed for below £100,000.
But while the number of properties being put up for sale increased, there was a drop in new homes being advertised for rent, with these falling by 4.3 per cent compared with the second quarter of 2013.
The biggest fall was recorded in the Outer Metropolitan and South East at 10.5 per cent and 8.8 per cent respectively.
The North East and Wales were the only areas to record continued growth in the number of homes being made available to rent.
Lending to people with small deposits hit a post-credit crisis high in June but remained only a quarter of the level seen before the financial crisis struck, figures have revealed.
Around 10,898 mortgages were approved for people buying a home with a deposit of 15 per cent or less during June, accounting for a fifth of all house purchase loans.
The total was 52 per cent higher than the number of high loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages approved in June 2013, and the highest level since April 2008, according to chartered surveyor e.surv.
But despite the improvement the figure was still well down on the peak of 41,745 mortgages for house purchase that were approved for people with a deposit of 15 per cent of less in February 2007.
High LTV borrowing also accounted for around a third of all loans approved for people buying a property during thismonth.
Richard Sexton, director of e.surv, said: “A glut of high LTV deals has tempted borrowers back to the market, supporting a flood of first-time buyers over the last year.”
But referring to new rules introduced by the Bank of England limiting the amount of high loan-to-income business lenders can do, he warned: “The tides may be about to turn for borrowers.
“High LTV lending may start to tail off in the wake of new regulations.”
The total number of mortgages advanced to all borrowers buying a home fell for the sixth month in a row during June to 61,586, although the figure was still 4 per cent higher than a year earlier.
There were also signs that buyers are struggling to find affordable properties, with only 12,313 loans advanced for homes costing up to £125,000, 13 per cent less than in June 2013.
The situation was particularly acute in London, where the average first-time buyer borrowed 3.83 times their income, compared with 3.39 times across the UK as a whole.
Meanwhile, the Council of Mortgage Lenders said tough new affordability criteria introduced under the Mortgage Market Review had not had a “dramatic” impact on the market.
Paul Smee, director general of the CML, said: “With May lending figures, we get our first glimpse at the effect the Mortgage Market Review has had on lending trends and, at least so far, the impact appears subtle, rather than dramatic.
“First-time buyers and home movers continue to be key drivers in market growth and their activity does not seem to have been noticeably disrupted.
“There was no cliff edge, lenders and intermediaries had been methodically working towards applying MMR changes for months leading up to implementation and the figures appear to reflect this.”
The CML figures showed that there was little change in the income multiples borrowed by either first-time buyers or homemovers following the introduction of the new rules.
But Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, disagreed, saying it was still too early to say what impact the regulations had had on the market.
He said: “While some lenders were MMR-compliant ahead of the official launch at the end of April, using May data to assess the impact of the new rules is perhaps premature.
“People are still able to take out new mortgages and to remortgage, but it is taking longer and borrowers may find they have to compromise in terms of rates and loan-to-values.
“They may not always be able to get the cheapest rate or highest LTV, depending on their particular circumstances.”
The CML figures showed that the number of mortgages advanced to homemovers in May increased by 8 per cent compared with April to 31,100.
There was also a 9 per cent rise in the number of mortgages advanced to first time buyers at 26,800.
But the remortgage market remained subdued, with just 21,600 loans taken out, 17.9 per cent fewer than during the previous month.