Whilst London continues to blaze a trail at the head of the residential property market, England's cathedral cities have experienced a recent surge in popularity, and with their World Heritage Site status, are drawing prospective purchasers away from the Capital.
Local property experts, Connells Estate Agents, have reported an exponential increase in house sales and enquiries in both Canterbury and its surrounds, placing Kent at the forefront of this upsurge. Given the cultural and historical riches that Kent's cities have to offer, it is no surprise that such idylls of English living are proving such popular destinations.
Sales at Berkeley's riverside development, Kingsbrook Park in Canterbury, for example, have already exceeded targets in the first quarter of 2012, and judging by enquiries, on site visitors, and reservations, the second quarter looks set to experience similar levels of success.
In addition to Canterbury and Rochester, feedback shows that the Cotswolds, East Anglia, and the South West, have all enjoyed a significant proportion of the house sales across the UK.
Tina Dedman, Sales and Marketing Director at Berkeley, noted: "Our figures reflect confidence in the South East's property market, and are indicative of the desirability of Kent's oldest city, Canterbury. Our Kingsbrook Park development is proving popular with both Kent residents and buyers from further afield. We believe this is because it offers a range of apartments to suit all tastes, as well as being able to boast possibly the only Georgian-style crescent houses in the city."
With Canterbury famed for being home to the oldest cathedral in England, closely followed by Rochester, Berkeley believes prospective buyers at Kingsbrook Park are instantly attracted to the convenience and low maintenance of a new build property that is located in such close proximity to a site of such historical and literary value and interest.
Furthermore, a significant number of buyers are moving to Canterbury from London, according to Antony Ludkins, Manager at Connells Canterbury, who attributes this in part to the city's affordability combined with its transport links: "Prospective purchasers who visit Canterbury from London are always astonished by how far their money stretches in comparison. Residents of Canterbury benefit from excellent road links and central London is easily reachable by train. This gives them a winning combination - being able to live in a more affordable city coupled with the benefits of an accessible location. Canterbury's residents are also direct beneficiaries of the cultural advantages of living in an historic city, which has an incredibly strong arts scene," added Antony.
High quality, new build developments are drawing people to the area, and the homes at Kingsbrook Park showcase an architectural attention to detail that resonates throughout Canterbury itself. Compared to other cathedral cities such as Winchester, Canterbury offers far greater value for money.
However, the key elements that attract house buyers to cathedral cities remain consistent, and with an historic cathedral and listed buildings alongside a great shopping district, complete with bars and bistros, Canterbury very much exemplifies all that is charming about such historic cities. Furthermore, with two well regarded universities within the city, the centre is buzzing with activity, and in being close to the coast, offers an accessible change of scene.
Although Canterbury and Rochester's housing markets are dominated by domestic buyers, there is evidence that foreign investors are also finding the cathedral cities irresistible. Connells Canterbury office has had buyers from Hong Kong and Australia investing in this popular city, indicating that as a World Heritage Site, it commands interest from the international market.
Both cathedral cities feature prolifically across the internet, magazines, newspapers and books internationally, which is only set to engender further international inquiries and subsequent sales. Equally, with an ever increasing student population in the city, Canterbury itself become a hotbed of house purchasing activity in the long term, from both investor parents, and students who put roots down in the historic location.
Home to first rate grammar schools, Canterbury and Rochester are particularly attractive to families. Older buyers are also catered for with excellent amenities, and retail and leisure services are consolidated in often vibrant high streets. "Canterbury caters for all of the requirements of prospective residents across all levels, attracting young professionals, families, the mature worker, and the retired alike, reinforcing precisely why cathedral cities are beginning to rival the capital in terms of popularity amongst house buyers," Tina Dedman concluded.