As the country tries to recover from coronavirus, increasing numbers of buyers and renters are showing interest in moving out of London and other big cities. We look at why this is happening and what people considering a move will need to think about.
As property market activity increases after lockdown, estate agents have reported growing numbers of Londoners looking for properties outside the city, as well as houses with plenty of outdoor and indoor space.
For example, Hamptons International found that the proportion of house-hunters from London that were looking to move outside the capital rose from 8% in March 2020 to 15% in April.
Similarly, latest research from Rightmove showed that the number of city dwellers interested in buying a village home in June/July 2020 rose by 126% from the previous year, with a 68% increase in those looking to move to towns.
They found that 54% of Londoners looking to buy were searching for properties outside the capital in June/July 2020, compared to 45% in 2019.
But why are we now apparently witnessing a greater exodus of London residents since the COVID-19 pandemic? And why is there a rising interest in properties in more rural areas?
We look at the reasons why people want to move out of London and the pros and cons of making such a move.
Why do people want to move out of London?
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have accelerated many of the trends we were previously seeing as, even before lockdown, there were signs that people were tiring of London living.
In the 12 months leading up to June 2018, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) calculated that 340,500 people moved out of London, the highest level of migration since at least 2011. While there are people still moving into the city (especially younger people in their 20s), over the past few years more people have consistently been moving out of London than migrating in from elsewhere in the UK.
Many Londoners have stayed in the south-east, moving to towns and villages on the fringes of the capital.
The impact of the pandemic
It’s unsurprising that the COVID-19 pandemic has seemingly encouraged this trend of moving out of the cities.
With most of the population spending more time in their homes than ever before during the months of lockdown restrictions, many city residents will have longed for a more spacious house with a garden, as well as access to more green spaces. As a result, coronavirus seems to have encouraged people to re-evaluate their lifestyles and think about how they want to live post-lockdown.
Before COVID-19, lots of people will have accepted living in a relatively small and expensive flat or house in London, purely because of its convenience for travelling to the office.
However, particularly with the growth of remote working, it appears people want more from their home than simply a base for commuting.
Instead, they want a home that will improve their quality of life and allow them to lead a healthier lifestyle, which seems to be leading people to consider larger properties outside of the cities.
The role of the changing workplace
With the government advising that people work from home wherever possible during lockdown, estimates indicated that approximately 50% of the UK workforce have been working remotely over the last few months.
This is a significant increase on previous figures as, in 2019, only 1.7 million people said they worked mainly at home. 8.7 million people said that they have never worked from home, but this was still less than 30% of the workforce.
Remote working may have been intended as a temporary measure to minimise the spread of coronavirus, but it seems that both employers and employees are recognising that the benefits of working from home make it a viable, and even desirable, long-term arrangement.
So, lockdown may have potentially triggered a significant shift in the way we work, which would open up new possibilities for the population and where they live.
What properties are people looking for?
Since lockdown, buyers seem to be prioritising homes which offer plenty of space- both indoors and outdoors.
Rightmove data showed more renters and buyers were searching for bungalows and houses in May 2020 than a year earlier, with a declining interest in flats.
The desire for more interior space reflects, in part, the impact of remote working.
If people have been working for months at a kitchen table in a small flat, it’s easy to see why having the space for a separate home office is so attractive, especially if remote working arrangements become more permanent.
Outdoor space is also becoming a more highly-prized feature among buyers, whether it’s a garden or proximity to green space. With little else to do during the weeks of lockdown other than exercise outdoors, people have come to appreciate gardens and local parks much more than before.
For example, stats from First Mortgage show that 86% of surveyed Brits think having a garden in their future property is important, while 45% said lockdown had made them value a nearby park.
So, with people prioritising houses with interior and exterior space, it is not surprising that they are increasingly looking outside of London where larger properties are more affordable and where green space is much more accessible.
Where are people moving to?
Properties in less-populated and more rural locations, including county towns, seem to be of particular interest to London and other city buyers.
Rightmove recorded a 144% increase in enquiries from Londoners for village homes in June/July 2020 compared to 2019. There was also a smaller, but still significant, rise in enquiries from city residents interested in moving to towns.
Lots of these city movers appear to want to stay in the same region, possibly so they can still be within commuting distance of the city for work and social reasons, but enjoy the space and perks that village living offers.
As a result, many of the people leaving London seem to be staying in the south, looking at in the London “commuter belt”.
What are the benefits of moving out of London?
Although lots of people love the social life and buzz of a big city, living outside of London can bring a number of benefits:
· Able to enjoy more green spaces and countryside walks.
· Cheaper properties than in London
· Offers a healthier lifestyle
· Smaller cities and county towns still have plenty of things to enjoy e.g. theatres, restaurants, pubs, sports facilities, attractions.
· Gain a better work-life balance
If you are thinking of relocating, what do you need to consider?
Moving house requires a lot of thought and planning, but even more so if you are wanting to relocate to a different town.
If you have prepared well, hopefully the seller will accept your offer and the mortgage provider will approve your application, so you can start planning for the next stage of your move!
Source: Rhiannon Philips - Financial writer for NerdWallet