Moving to Cambridge from the US
Cambridge is world famous for its exceptional university, and is one of the UK’s most famous university cities. Perhaps the most well known buildings in the city are two of Cambridge University's buildings, King's College and Trinity College. Along with other prestigious educational buildings, they really shape the city, physically and emotionally.
Located on the river Cam, Cambridge is about 50 miles north of London and has a population of about 120,000, including a significant student population of around 25,000. The city itself really does straddle the river Cam, and parts of it have a very Venetian feel to them. There’s also plenty of green space in Cambridge, and this adds to a very unique feel for a city that is under an hour from London by rail.
Overall, the city has a wonderful charm with a real feeling of Britishness, combined with a very cosmopolitan sense of achievement. This, however, does come at a cost and Cambridge can be expensive to move to, with property prices remaining consistently strong as demand for living in this gorgeous University City, steeped in history, remaining high.
The job market
Being relatively close to London ensures that there will always be a commuting population, however, the city itself really has a wealth of opportunities. The economy itself is diverse with agriculture and tourism being the traditional sectors for employment, now being overtaken by the vast rise in quaternary businesses.
Cambridge and the surrounding science parks have been named informally as ‘Silicon Fen’, an allusion to northern California’s Silicon Valley. Research and development, software consultancy, and pharmaceutical companies are prevalent in, and around the city.
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Employment in Cambridge is extremely well remunerated, particularly within the software engineering and biotech sectors with salaries of $55,875 and above being commonplace rising to $74,500+ for the well experienced and educated.
The Cambridge biomedical campus is among the largest centers in the world and includes several highly specialised organisations such as the Institute for public health, as well as global pharmaceutical organisations, most notably AstraZeneca.
The cost of living in Cambridge as a whole remains stubbornly high, despite being somewhat detached from the capital. The primary drivers for this are employment opportunities; excellent schools as well as the strong links with academia. Having said that, there are many new developments outside of the city itself where more affordable housing can be found.
Cambridge has a fantastic array of bars and restaurants owing to its rich history and international inhabitants. There’s never a time where you will be stuck for choice, however, it can be more expensive than initially thought for a provincial city, with prices for a 2 course meal and a bottle of wine being more inline with London than other large population centers nearby such as Peterborough. A typical 3-course meal, with wine will cost around $87.
All the large supermarket chains are represented and offer the typical value. Notably, having a very large student population with an international flavor, the large supermarkets have aisles dedicated to ethnic varieties of food. Something notable about the city is that it has a wealth of real Ales on offer, which can be bought in local pubs from $3.75 per pint upwards.
Rent and utilities
The rental market in Cambridge is strong and prices are comparable to outer London, and are cheaper than Brighton on the south coast. An average 1 bedroom apartment in the city centers costs $1,230 per month, and a 3 bedroom apartment costs $2,130 per month. Outside of the city center, but still within Cambridge a 1 bedroom apartment costs $1000 per month, whereas a 3 bedroom apartment offers much more value for money at $1,485.
The cost of utilities in Cambridge sits around the national average, as much of the UK has similar costs with the so-called ‘north/south’ divide being, for the most a thing of the past. Ultimately, what will influence your cost of utilities more than any factor will be the property you are living in.
Internet access in and around Cambridge is excellent, with virtually all UK providers having a presence here. The average price for broadband internet access is $25 per month. For those looking just outside the city, the ‘Connecting Cambridgeshire’ programme was set up in 2011 to deliver superfast internet access across the county and, with government funding, has been extremely successful to date.
Cambridge is a diverse city and this is reflected in the property market. The student population will almost always rent, and this covers not only the city center near the university but also other areas of the city, which are easily reached from the university.
House prices, on average in Cambridge are rising at 9% per year, and this echoes the trend for the south East of England.
Cambridge also receives a lot of interest from developers seeking to purchase land and develop new build properties. This shows the desirability of the city in a true commercial sense. With respect to property prices the average 1 bedroom apartment is marketed at $304,195 in the city center and $273,045 outside the city center, but still within the city of Cambridge.
A 3 bedroom apartment demands a premium within the city center, with an average asking price of $614,595 rising to nearly $992,890 for absolute prime riverfront locations. Outside of the city center a 3 bedroom apartment averages $471,625.
Cambridge is a city dominated by educational institutions, and it is an old city meaning that there’s a choice of living in a central area, which is likely to be more compact and smaller versus living in a suburb typically with newer property and associated features such as large supermarkets, cinemas and allocated parking.
Family-friendly: The village of Trumpington, while rich in history offers many modern housing developments and is located about 2 miles south of the the city center. Property prices can be very high to the north of the village with many large detached houses being in such close proximity of the city of Cambridge itself. The area has a quite colloquial feel with many traditional public houses and shops lining the main streets. Served with good schools, it’s also very convenient for access to the M11 motorway, which leads to Stansted Airport and the capital.
Upmarket: Riverside is a gorgeous part of Cambridge, and exclusivity commands high prices for waterfront property. Located to the north east of the city, this area is for those who really want to live along the river; there are rows of houses that meander alongside the famous watercourse in a graceful style. Within easy walking distance of the city center, it offers a very picturesque and tranquil ambiance with a very English feel.
Hip & trendy: Living in the city center itself is quite possible but comes with several compromises, bearing in mind that this is a very old city and very focused towards housing the tens of thousands of students who attend the university. Property tends to be apartments and townhouses with parking being at an absolute premium, however, the rewards are rich and exciting with lots of trendy restaurants, bars and shops being intertwined with the gorgeous architecture.
Up & coming: Chesterton, a suburb just to the north of the city center is definitely an up and coming neighbourhood. With a new railway station, Cambridge Science Park, scheduled to open in 2016, the links with the city will be further enhanced. A lot of new build properties are appearing as the area gentrifies inline with the vast majority of the city. No doubt, with time there will be many businesses opening in the area to service the ever-dynamic population. The village itself still retains the provincial feel with an incredibly pretty church and a cosy feeling.
Cost of moving
The cost of moving to Cambridge will be dictated by two key factors, what you are moving and from how far. Below are the typical costs of moving are as detailed from the following major cities. This doesn’t include the cost of airfares of any associated visa or legal fees, but includes the cost of a typical 20-foot container for the average family move.
Schools and education
Cambridge is famous for its university; however, the city is actually served by two universities. Anglia Ruskin University sits just to the east of the city center, whereas Cambridge University dominates the city center. Cambridge University is typically ranked as the best university in the UK and by most league tables as one of the top 5 globally.
Outside of higher education, the city is very well served with schools offering education from nursery through to secondary education and there are more than 30 schools within the city itself. Standards do vary, however, for the most all achieve above average results and education is very much at the forefront of this cities mantra.
Ranking against the world
As a city, Cambridge has constantly evolved throughout time to remain ahead of the curve with respect to education, housing and development. Whilst an old city, the atmosphere continues to be one of a very modern and vibrant environment. With London close by and excellent transport links, the city never feels isolated despite being relatively provincial within England.
Cambridge is unrivalled throughout the world, with the possible exception of Oxford for its wonderful charm. Prestigious and modern, the only possible grumble some may notice in a country known for its coastal settlements is the lack of coastline.
A day in the life
Cambridge is a city to soak up the atmosphere, and best spent not rushed. Although busy and buzzing, to really see the city take some time to browse the shops, look at the incredible buildings that encompass the city and stroll through the many parks that are dotted around the city.
The city is truly at the top of the tree with respect to world-class innovation and education; this attracts a lot of investment in almost every sector. You can enjoy art, music, food and drink in this city, which is big enough to cater for almost everyone yet never too big to ever feel overwhelmed.