What's happening Tassotti ??
House prices in Doncaster are lower today than they were TEN years ago
The window of Grice & Hunter estate agents in Priory Place, Doncaster, has 40 properties for sale.
A large, three-bedroom semi for £69,950 catches the eye; then there’s another end-of-terrace three-bed with an immaculate garden for £87,500. And so it goes on, home after beautiful family home for less than £100,000.
Only most have been in this window for months. And some have barely had a viewing.
There are three more estate agents on this small cobbled town centre street. Reeds Rains has 70 listings. There’s not a run-down eyesore among them.
Merryweathers has a smaller window — it is packed with homes, too.
Elsewhere in the country house prices are soaring.
A report published by online property firm Zoopla last week claimed that this boom was no longer confined to London and the Home Counties — the North was seeing price rises, too.
But not in Doncaster. Here homes just don’t seem to shift. It’s the town the property market forgot.
The average property in this South Yorkshire town is worth £95,869. That’s actually lower than what they were selling for a decade ago, when the average was £96,443, according to the Land Registry.
Of course, like the rest of the country, prices did peak — in 2007 at £118,686. But following the property slump triggered by the banking crisis, they just never got going again.
For almost a year prices have threatened to start climbing, but almost every time one month records an increase, the next there is a fall.
The number of houses selling is painfully low. The latest available figures from the Land Registry, for March, show 278 were sold in this town of 302,400 people. There have been odd months when things looked like they were picking up, but it’s been more or less the same since April 2008.
By contrast, in Oxford, which has a population of 150,000, there were 778 homes sold in March.
The average time it takes to sell a property in the UK is 65 days, according to property website Rightmove. In Doncaster, it is taking an average of 91.
In a national report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Mark Hunter, owner of estate agent Grice & Hunter, said: ‘The so-called property bubble never reached this area and this year we have not sold one property over the initial asking price.’
I pop into Reeds Rains — I’m the only customer. Lesley Harris-Newstead has worked here for nearly 12 years.
She admits: ‘While customers might have heard that house prices in the UK have jumped 10 per cent this year, that’s London and other big cities — not Doncaster.
‘Houses here are not easy to sell. They have to be priced right to stand a chance. Often we have to explain to clients that their home isn’t worth as much as they think because they’ve heard about what’s going on in the rest of the country. That can offend them.’
I’d never been to Doncaster before — but it reminds me a lot of my home town of Coventry. There’s grey, block Seventies architecture typical of so many ex-industrial towns which are now trying to find their way.
But the outskirts are certainly attractive. The town is just 30 minutes by car from Sheffield and 40 minutes down the M62 from Leeds. It’s just an hour to the coast, and less than two hours by train to London.
As you drive out from the town centre you can’t avoid spotting ‘for sale’ signs on every corner. One road has four in a row. In an hour, I see only one ‘sold’ sign.
Martin and Hazel Dawson’s four-bedroom home in Beltoft — a quiet, rural hamlet 20 minutes from the town centre — has been on the market for 22 months. It has had just four viewings.
When Martin retired as managing director of an engineering inspection firm two years ago, the couple decided they wanted to move closer to the town centre. But their house has taken so long to sell they’ve already moved out and into their new home.
Their old house has a big open-plan kitchen with a breakfast bar, and three other large downstairs rooms, plus a utility room, bathroom and a conservatory looking out on long garden.
There’s no furniture left in the house. But smiling pictures of Martin and Hazel with children and grandchildren have been left hanging on the walls to at least suggest this was once a loved family home.
They originally put their home on the market for £247,500 in October 2012. It’s now on for £229,950.
In London, a four-bedroom house like this would set you back more than £1 million.
The driveway is big enough for six cars and there is a garage.
The couple have done everything they can to make their home more attractive. Every room has been redecorated.
There is a new log fire in the front room.
Martin, 60, says: ‘It was our family home for 40 years. We have such lovely memories and we want another family to enjoy it in the same way.
‘I have to come back every few days. It also needs cleaning regularly so it is ready for any viewings and I have to mow the lawn.’
On top of this they’re paying council tax and utility bills at both properties. And his insurance costs are also higher because the property is empty. Mr Dawson says: ‘At the end of the year we will have to rethink what we are going to do — this isn’t sustainable. I don’t want to rent the house because of the emotional ties, but we may have no choice.’
Doncaster was once a thriving coal mining and railway town. Now it’s trying to reinvent itself. And this is where the problem lies.