Data from a leading property portal Rightmove suggests that homebuyers are looking to escape the urban environment, leaving the crowded cities and big towns behind and moving to the country or the coast.
The current pandemic has resulted in more people working from home, a forced shift during lockdown which has made both businesses and individuals reassess what was perceived as ‘the norm’.
The data indicates that searches have doubled for homes in small towns and villages with populations less than 11,000 and coastal locations have seen the biggest rise in sales, as people sought more space during the lockdown.
“The desire to move to the country has turned into a trend from a short-term shift,” said Rightmove’s Tim Bannister. “Back in May when the market reopened in England we wondered how long the desire to move to the country or to smaller towns and villages would last.”
He said there are two main reasons for the trend: some buyers are more willing to have a country commute a few times a week, while others are preparing for social distancing to be here for some time and so are being drawn to places with more outdoor space.
The pandemic and resulting restrictions have inevitably led to people reassessing reassess their domestic priorities, with space inside and out becoming more attractive for some than the buzz of a town or city.
Across all George F. White offices, our agency teams have seen interest in rural and coastal properties increase as demand continues to outstrip supply and discussions with potential buyers including the need for an extra bedroom, a room suitable as a study, loft space suitable for conversion or outbuildings suitable to upgrade.
“The media have been keen to focus on the Stamp Duty holiday and undoubtedly that has been a factored considered by many prospective buyers but from the conversations we have had there is a strong desire for people to have a home that can offer more flexibility and cater from the increasing demand or need to work from home” said Lindsay French.
Migrating to the suburbs or countryside is not unique to the Covid-era. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 340,500 people left London in the 12 months up to June 2018, and 336,000 the year before (the largest numbers since 2012).
There has always been the understanding that many young people are most likely to move in from the shires to chase the higher salaries, rapid career growth, and buzz of city life, and then later cash in on their inflated urban property values and move out, either at the point their wish to start a family or nearer retirement. But limited early data post-lockdown suggests we aren’t seeing just the normal cycle of movement. The number of job seekers wanting to get out of the capital in 2020 has more than doubled compared with the same period in 2019, according to one career advisory service, Of those who signed up, 51% were looking to leave London compared to 20% last year. A YouGov poll found many people, at a range of ages and stages in life (some homeowners, other renters), were considering moving further afield because of remote working.
Working from home isn’t for everyone, that may be due to the nature of their job, the lack of quiet space at home but for those where it is an option could it change everything?
There have been suggestions that new technology could free up people to live further from their workplaces and Covid-19 has caused a lot more home working than usual. Post-pandemic, it is possible that more people will work from home. This could indeed fuel a spike in suburbanisation and counter-urbanisation.
Whether the post-Covid migration ends up being another urban pipe dream (the one you entertain after a few glasses of wine), or just the continuation of the traditional cycle (young people move in, older people move out), we have collectively witnessed a re-evaluation from both organisations and individuals. With greater accessibility to remote working, a door has been opened, showing us the future doesn’t have to look the same as the past.