Back to School: Is There a Premium on Catchment Areas?

Aug 30, 2019

Six weeks ago, life was very different. Parents across the land were juggling work, planning family holidays, and doing everything in their power to make sure their little ones didn’t utter those two dreaded words: “I’m bored.”

Now, as we head into September, the little – and not so little – critters are getting ready to embrace a new school year. For the kids, it’s a case of focusing on their studies while bemoaning the fact they have to go to school in the first place. 

For parents, however, there are several aspects to take into account, such as making sure lunches are packed, and uniforms are purchased. One of the key decisions for parents comes long before the new September school year, however. 

Families need to make sure they live within the catchment area of their chosen school, which poses plenty of questions about the postcode you call “home”. When it comes to moving with your family, does living in a catchment area come at a premium? 

What is a catchment area? 

Catchment areas are based on the permanent address of your child. Your kids might not be able to contribute to the mortgage, but they damn sure play a fundamental role in where you live. If you want to send your child to a specific school, it needs to fall within said school’s catchment area. 

There are catchment areas for primary and secondary schools, with the latter’s catchment zones casting a wider net than primary schools. The distance isn’t the only factor in applying for a school, but it does play a role. 

Catchment costs

A survey in 2018 by the commercial bank, Santander, found that properties within the catchment area of one of the UK’s top 100 schools saw their price rise by a whopping 42 percent. Ok, so using the best 100 schools as a barometer might skew the numbers slightly. But it does go to show the importance of being close to an excellent school for parents. 

Everyone wants to give their child the best shot at life, and getting accepted into a top-performing school is seen as a stepping stone to reaching that achievement. 20 percent of families even went as far as to downsize so that they could secure a home close to their chosen school.

On average, parents were happy to pay just shy of £27,000 to purchase a home within the district of a top 100 UK school. Many even moved further away from their jobs, thus increasing travel costs, just so they could meet the catchment requirements. 

Other factors at play?

While there is no doubting that best schools command a premium, it’s important to understand other factors contribute towards raised costs in catchment areas. An area’s postcode is often valued on several factors: transport connections, amenities, and overall desirability. 

Many of the UK’s top schools feature in postcodes where there is already a high demand for property. However, where things become slightly more, let’s say, unbalanced comes in the form of margins. A road can be split because of a catchment area, with one side in the catchment zone and the other outside it. 

This is where prices can alter dramatically, and there’s little more to do with the difference other than the fact one house is in the zone, and the other isn’t. It’s the same for renting, too – with rents increasing closer to the schools in catchment areas. 

A UK-wide trend

The London property market is often viewed through an entirely different prism from the rest of the UK. But when it comes to prices in school catchment areas, it’s no different. Whether you’re in big cities like London or Manchester, or more rural areas, the trend of increased prices in catchment areas remains steady. 

In fact, London serves as a microcosm for the rest of the UK, with its already-higher prices further reflected under the magnifying glass. Take Holland Park, for example. The West London postcode is already one of the more affluent areas in the capital, yet catchment prices increase the numbers further. 

People were willing to pay 79 percent more for a home that came under a catchment area in Holland Park’s prestigious postcode than for similar houses in surrounding areas. Those who already own property in these areas, but don’t have children at primary or secondary school, could potentially make a higher return if they sold. 

It would seem that living in a catchment area can be a business in itself. 

Back to school

Living in a catchment area can be expensive work, and that’s before you even factor in paying for private schools if you wish to do so. The demand is understandable – at the end of the day, parents want the best for their kids. It seems their willing to pay for it too. 

If you’re already a property owner in a sought-after catchment area without the need for the local schools, you also have a decision to make about whether or not to sell. 

If you’re exploring the idea of selling, speak to one of our property experts, who will be happy to look at your options, review your local area and recommend that’s in line with your local market.