There are reports that people living in big cities like London are relocating in the wake of the pandemic. Is there anything in this?
Yes. Ever since lockdown, people have been looking at moving to the country- or seaside, to take advantage of cheaper property prices and availability of space. A new survey from Rightmove confirms what looked to be a minor adjustment in the Spring has now become a significant trend.
Where are people looking at?
Primarily small towns and villages within commutable distance of London, plus spots by the seaside. According to the Rightmove survey, the village of Lightwater in Surrey is the number-one searched-for location (up 130 percent on 2019). It’s followed by the likes of Bruton in Somerset, known for its food and art scene, Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds and Hungerford in Berkshire. All have populations under 11,000.
What’s causing this change?
The popularity of working from home during lockdown and the yearning for more outside space – especially for those with children – is behind this shift. For many people, the change in working habits will be permanent, so they’re looking at locations where they can set up a home office and get more outside space. According to the Financial Times, 83 percent of surveyors expect there to be an increased demand for homes with gardens over the next two years.
What about seaside towns?
Coastal resorts in Kent and Sussex are especially sought after. Londoners have been moving to the likes of Margate, Folkstone, St Leonards-on-Sea, Ramsgate and Broadstairs for years, bringing London cafe culture and hipster businesses to these previously sleepy towns. Another huge plus is the high-speed rail line which brings commuters into central London from Kent in less than an hour.
Does this mean that prices are going up?
Yes, there’s currently a mini-boom in property. The Halifax bank says that property prices went up by 7.3 per cent in September, taking the average UK house price to £249,870. However, many experts believe that prices will fall again next year as the economic effects of Covid-19 have more of an impact – the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors believes prices will go down in 2021.
So, should we all leave the city? Is London finished for good?
Not so fast. While there’s no doubt that the West End and City (in particular) are oddly deserted, London’s suburbs are attracting plenty of attention. According to Zoopla, Croydon was the capital’s most-searched-for location in July, while inner-London residents are also looking at Sutton, Lewisham and Bromley. However, remember one thing: London has been through bigger tests than Covid-19 and come out stronger. Don’t write it off just yet.