Charting great changes in city property over 50 years

Sterndale Road, Millhouses.
Sterndale Road, Millhouses.

Half a century ago areas of Sheffield avoided by house buyers today were considered desirable places to purchase an affordable home - but the suburbs of the south-west remain top of the list.

When estate agent Stuart Goff opened his first office in Sheffield more than 50 years ago, the price of a local house was – based on the figures alone – a mere fraction of the cost of a property today.

“We were selling a new estate in Killamarsh with three-bedroom semis, and they started at £2,250,” says Stuart, director of Hunters, which has branches at six sites including Crookes, Hillsborough and Woodseats.

But while there have been huge changes in the price of a home, as demand has soared and properties are viewed as commodities and investments, in other respects the market still works on the same principles.

“It was always down to what the buying public could afford on their income and deposit – the old affordability scale that’s still relevant today,” says Stuart.

“People in fairly well-paid, decent jobs were looking to buy property in south-west Sheffield, but if you were an ordinary, working type of chap with a fairly average wage for the time then you needed to look in normal-ish areas like Walkley, Handsworth and Hillsborough.”

However, some neighbourhoods have fallen out of favour over the past half-century as their desirability has faded.

“If you were at the lower end of the market you could still afford to buy something on the Northern General Hospital side of the city - Firth Park and around that area – which has now declined considerably due to the influx in recent years of lots of immigration and asylum seekers,” he says.

“Places like Page Hall were quite popular with first-time buyers in the late 1960s and 70s because they were the cheapest areas that you could buy a reasonable house in. It’s less desirable than it was 50 years ago.

“Demand is always going to be highest in the areas people perceive to be the nicest and best areas. Forty or 50 years ago people wanted to live in Ranmoor, Ecclesall, Dore, S17, S10, S11 – that’s not changed.”

In 1967 a typical Crookes house would cost about £2,500, with a property in Ecclesall generally ‘approaching £5,000’.

But Stuart emphasises: “There’s no real comparison, because prices have gone up 40 or 50 times. Something that was £3,000 then would be £150,000 now.”

Asked to explain the impact of higher prices on society, he responds: “The problem really is almost the other way round - what’s the financial situation of the buyers these days? In London and the South East, there are massive problems because house prices are 20 to 30 times the average income, and young people can’t afford to buy.

“There is plenty of property in Sheffield and South Yorkshire that could be purchased by the vast majority of house buyers.”

He hesitates to describe the city’s housing market as ‘divided’, saying instead: “It’s fragmented.”

“We now never get anybody asking if we’ve got any houses to sell in S3/S4, most of S5 and S9.

“Tinsley was quite popular 25-30 years ago when we still had the steelworks up and running, Attercliffe shopping centre and Meadowhall was getting ready to be built.

“I can’t remember the last house we sold in Tinsley – it was probably seven, eight or nine years ago, and I think that was a repossession.”

Last month a study put the average price of a house in Dore at £465,597, meaning potential buyers would have to earn £23.78 an hour to afford a purchase.

At the other end of the scale, a home in Darnall would typically cost £88,536, requiring an hourly wage of £5.19.

Stuart says that, in the late 1960s, ‘a 21 or 22-year-old working in a factory probably could afford a little terraced house in Fir Vale’.

“Now the same guy would not consider buying a terraced house in S3, S4 or S9.

“He’d go into rented accommodation, an area of the market that’s expanded exponentially, if he could not find a way of buying in an area that’s the next step up.”

The rented market is as much as six times bigger than it was 50 years ago, Stuart estimates, partly because couples live together more quickly instead of spending several years ‘saving up while courting’.

He cites Mosborough as one of the few up-and-coming areas in Sheffield that could satisfy most buyers.

“There are a lot of fair-sized towns in this country that are not as big as Mosborough.

“It’s got lots of facilities and there’s a big selection of choices, from flats and studios up to four or five-bedroom houses.”

However, he admits: “There are parts of Mosborough that people avoid like the plague.”

Just outside Sheffield, Dronfield is a habitual choice for aspirational families, too.

“It’s almost all fairly good-quality private housing that was built about 30 or 40 years ago, and is now very popular.”

And then there is Kelham Island – ‘a whole story of its own’, says Stuart, who can remember the days when the district was dominated by industry. Now flats and houses with cutting-edge architectural designs are springing up there, with fashionable businesses taking up space in the wider Shalesmoor and Neepsend area.

“It’s either – let’s build a new town, or flatten all the old industrial bits of Sheffield and build lots of flats.”