Surrounded by property hotspots, Otley was always regarded as the poor relation to Ilkley, Harrogate and north Leeds. Now though, there are signs that the market town is catching up.
The house price gap between Otley and its highly desirable neighbours has narrowed and it recently popped up at number eight on a list of top ten British towns where property owners are likely to pay “a fruit and veg” premium.
That was thanks to the presence of a farmers’ market, according to Zoopla, which calculated that property prices in the market town were £94,000 or 52 per cent higher than the average West Yorkshire home.
The fresh produce market is a sure sign of gentrification, as is the branch of Waitrose and the Costa coffee. The fashionable Stew and Oyster restaurant and bar has opened a branch there and the most recent new addition to the high street is a trendy Milk Bar, which operated as an evening bistro at weekends.
“Otley has certainly changed in the last year or so,” says Lester Hurst, of Hunters estate agency. “It has always been a great little market town but businesses and house hunters are becoming more aware of it and house prices are rising as a result.
“The average house price in Ilkley is £360,000 and the average in Otley was £250,000. Now it’s £260,000. That’s a big change but it still offers great value. You can get a semi-detached house in Otley for £225,000 and you’ll pay £300,000 for the equivalent in Ilkley.”
Prince Henry’s Grammar School is the biggest draw for many buyers. It’s a non-selective secondary school and sixth form. Last year 70 per cent of GCSE students secured at least 5 A*-C grades, including English and maths.
David Phillip, a director at Dacre, Son & Hartley estate agents, says: “The school is the main reason for people relocating here but we are seeing more buyers extend their search areas from places like Ilkley, Menston and Burley-in-Wharfedale looking for better value.”
The town loses points for not having a train station, like Harrogate and Ilkley but there is a shuttle bus timed link with trains from nearby Menston. It hasn’t got a leisure centre of its own either, although it does have lots of sports clubs, including cricket, tennis, rugby, football and cycling. There’s also a lively arts scene, great community spirit and some excellent “proper” pubs. Along with Waitrose, there is an Asda, a market and lots of independent shops.
It’s a frustrating time to house hunt in the town, as there is a lack of property for sale. Estate agents report that some vendors are agreeing a sale then pulling out because they can’t find anything to move to. This is also helping to push up prices. One-bedroom flats start at £115,000 and terraced houses at £140,000. Three-bedroom semis are the most popular house type and start at £225,000 but, at the moment, most are snapped up as as soon as the “For sale” sign goes up.
Split in two by the river, the south side of Otley used to be considered more desirable but that has also changed as buyers look for better value and proximity to the high school on the north side.
Lester Hurst says: “The north side had a large council estate but many of the houses on there are now privately owned and there has been new development, which has definitely helped push prices up.”