Oxford vs Cambridge - who will win the property race?

Posted 24 March 2016 by Helen Christie

The rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge spans hundreds of years, and this weekend marks the 162nd Boat Race, and the 71st Women's Boat Race...

With the annual Oxford vs Cambridge boat race coming up, WhatHouse? thought we’d have a look at the properties, developments and affordability of the two cities to see what else makes them great.


Oxford: The 52nd largest city in the UK, home to University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Notable alumni of the University of Oxford include current Prime Minister David Cameron, writer Oscar Wilde, Tim Berners-Lee who invited the World Wide Web, actor Hugh Grant and runner Sir Roger Bannister.

Cambridge: The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209. Many former Cambridge students have gone on to excel in their chosen fields, with notable alumni including Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, writer Sylvia Plath and actors Sir Ian McKellen, Eddie Redmayne and Hugh Laurie (who rowed in the Cambridge Blue Boat in 1980).

Commuter connections

Commuter connections​Oxford: Travelling by train from Oxford to London Paddington can take just 57 minutes, and an annual season ticket costs £4,832. Driving from Oxford to London is just 60 miles, taking about an hour and a half driving time. The Oxford Tube is also a popular way to reach London, buses that run every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day with several different stops in London. Links with London are good, and Oxford attracts many commuters looking for more space.

Cambridge: Travelling to train from Cambridge to London Kings Cross can be done in 48 minutes, with an annual season ticket price of £4,692, slightly cheaper than an Oxford – London season ticket. If you’re looking to drive, Cambridge is around 65 miles from London via M11, taking just under two hours to drive.


Oxford: Mark Smith, head of Strutt & Parker Oxford, says: “Prices in the city of Oxford up to £2m have grown about 5% in the last year, which is slightly slower than proceeding years due to the political uncertainty that the election brought to the whole UK market. Prices over £2m have been static with some prices falling back due to the substantial increase in Stamp Duty announced in December 2014.”

Data from the Land Registry shows that between 2009-2015, the average price of the top 5% of sales by value increased by 21%, from £545,000 to £660,000.

Cambridge: Cameron Ewer, head of Strutt & Parker Cambridge, says: “Prices in the city centre over the last year have risen by approximately 10%. The previous three years have all seen between 10-12% growth so we are maintaining a steady rate. The core markets between £600,000 and £1.5m have certainly been the strongest sector of the market with demand outstripping supply. The top end of the market above £2m has still performed well in the city centre as this represents a good house on some of the most desirable streets in Cambridge.”


Oxford: Piers Beeton, development surveyor at Strutt & Parker Oxford, says: “At the end of 2015 Oxford was dubbed the least affordable city in the country with houses averaging 16 times the earnings of people living within the city. The reason for this is simple: Oxford cannot provide enough houses for the very high demand and there is a chronic lack of supply within the city.”

According to data from Knight Frank, annual price growth for prime properties in the Oxford city market eased to 1.3% in 2015, down from around 6% in 2014.

Cambridge: Cameron Ewer, head of Strutt & Parker Cambridge, says: “Fundamental lack of supply in Cambridge city means properties will always keep their value. High rental occupancy rates and increasing capital growth make Cambridge a very safe place to invest. There is a lack of infrastructure to support new development in the area and the huge demand from outside of the city doesn’t seem to be dampening any time soon.”

House prices in Cambridge grew by 14% in 2015, according to Hometrack’s UK Cities Price Index.  

New homes for sale

Interestingly, the majority of new build properties in Oxford are actually further out of the city, in areas such as Didcot, Abingdon and Wallingford. Cambridge on the other hand, has many new home developments within the city itself.


The Acre, Cumnor Hill, OxfordThe Acre, Cumnor Hill, Oxford

Five exclusive homes from HAB Housing, just 10 minutes from Oxford city centre

Price: £1.425m

For more information, visit www.habhousing.co.uk

Woodstock Road, Oxford

A five-bedroom, semi-detached house with a garden, typical of the north Oxford Victorian villas,

Price: £1.790m

For more information, visit www.breckon.co.uk

Great Western Park in Didcot

From David Wilson Homes comes a collection of two-, three- and four-bedroom homes in Oxfordshire

Price on application

Find out more about Great Western Park in Didcot from David Wilson Homes  


Magna, CambridgeMagna in Cambridge

With prices starting from £395,000, Magna is a joint venture by Hill and Homerton College. Magna’s four-, five- and six-storey apartment buildings house a collection of 87 contemporary one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Prices from £395,000

Find out more about Magna in Cambridge from Hill

Ninewells in Cambridge

A beautifully designed new neighbourhood, this collection comprises 162 contemporary family homes and apartments with views of the Gog Magog Downs.

Prices from £440,000

Find out more about Ninewells in Cambridge from Hill


Oxford: The recently completed Oxford Parkway Station has been a major asset with a new shopping centre on its way. Piers Beeton, development surveyor at Strutt & Parker Oxford, says: “The Oxford Parkway Station which has a direct service to London Marylebone in approximately 50 minutes was completed in October 2015 and has been a major asset to the community of Oxford, having this link to London is only going to increase the popularity of the city.”

Work has started at Oxford’s largest urban extension. Piers Beeton says: “Work has recently started on Oxford’s largest current urban extension ‘Barton Park’. It is a mainly residential development which is going to provide just over 800 homes with 40% of them to be of an affordable housing tenure. The development will be a new piece of the city, distinct in its own right but wholly integrated into the fabric of Oxford.” Barton Park is also working with the NHS to support the Healthy New Towns initiative.

Cambridge: New developments are happening on the outskirts of Cambridge. Cameron Ewer, head of Strutt & Parker Cambridge, says: “The city has seen a number of developments such as Aura, Halo and Ninewells launched in recent years and sale continue here. The houses on these sites, take Ninewells for instance, start at £1m, and although unquestionably worth the money, it does little to address the housing shortage we have in the main stream markets in the city centre.’  

Looking just outside the city, work has now started on the new town at Northstowe and at Hauxton Meadows and a number of other schemes are in the pipeline in many of the surrounding South Cambridgeshire villages. Northstowe has also been designated as an NHS healthy town/village. We are seeing a number of smaller developments of less than 6 units being built where individual house plots have been redeveloped or office space converted under the new legislation.”

The Boat Race

The famous Boat Race first took place in 1829, and the Women’s Boat Race was first raced in 1927. The event takes place on the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake, with the course (known as the Championship Course) spanning 6.8km.

Oxford: Have won The Boat Race 79 times.

Cambridge: Edging ahead with 81 wins.

When it comes to the boat race, Oxford have won for the past three years in a row, but at WhatHouse?, we think it’s too close to call for the race this weekend. With regards to the property market, we think Cambridge has the edge, thanks to the many new build developments within the city. 


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