While we may be coming out of a global pandemic, and Boris Johnson has been keen to say our cities will return to the bustling metropolises they once were, the demand for homes in rural towns and villages is still soaring, and shows no sign of slowing down.
A recent study of prospective first time buyers conducted by Property Rescue found that even with restrictions lifting, around a third of Londoners looking to buy for the first time are keen to move out of the city, while 20% of first time buyers in other major cities are keen to escape to more rural areas.
With light at the end of the tunnel, is it not too a case now of ‘after the horse has bolted’, with retail, office space, and hospitality now beginning to open back up in the likes of London, Manchester and Birmingham?
The Lasting Effect of the Pandemic
Well, it’s not quite that simple. The financial impact of the pandemic has of course been considerable, and with high rents and mortgages in city centre locations, that impact has been heightened further.
Over 700,000 jobs were lost during the pandemic, while millions were furloughed with bills, rent and mortgages still to pay, not to mention the many other living costs on top of that. Many people have still yet to go back to work, find a new job or find their feet, and with property costs significantly higher than in rural settings and suburbs, it’s proving to be a move of necessity, rather than the coastal views, rolling hills, and country pubs.
The Reasons For Leaving
Packing up and leaving the city has often been portrayed as people seeking freedom, away from the dozens of flats above you, extra space, home offices and ultimately more bang for your buck. And while that is true in some instances, 25% of first time buyers with families are still looking to move for more space, financial uncertainty is the leading reason why people are still looking to leave the city.
This was particularly common among younger people. Almost half of people aged between 25 and 34 looking to buy outside of a city are doing so to ease the burden on their finances. London house prices continue to rise, growing 2.1% year-on-year, and with Brexit fueling a rise in the cost of food, in some cases a predicted 8% rise on imported meals, amongst other things, it’s driving people out.
Across older age ranges, the percentage leaving due to financial instability was far lower. Of those looking over 35 looking to buy for the first time, just 9% were doing so due to money worries in the city they currently live in.
In many cases priorities have shifted, lifestyles have changed, and whether it be for financial or health reasons, people are seeking a move to more rural areas so that those changes benefit those priorities.
Priorities have changed for all manner of reasons, with one in 10 people still looking to move out of renting in a city into buying in more rural areas as their work routine and need to commute to the office is lessened. Therefore, rural and suburban homes with space for a home office are still leading the demand for many.
In fact, a recent study found the following to be the top hotspots for working from home were:
- Maidstone, Kent
- St Helens, Merseyside
- High Peak, Derbyshire
- Newark, Nottinghamshire
- Sevenoaks, Kent
- Hertford, Hertfordshire
- Dorking, Surrey
- Shoreham-By-Sea, West Sussex
- Malvern Hills, Worcestershire
- Ryedale, Yorkshire
All 10 locations are rural and not only offer more space for work, but also play. Our study also found the health implications of moving to countryside spots was a predominant reason for those with young families, with natural surroundings and larger parks and open space having large appeal.
Family & Friends
Being able to hug family and friends was given the go-ahead from mid-May, and it’s been a long time coming for many who haven’t seen friends and family for over a year, never mind hug them.
Moving from rented accommodation in cities to buying in rural and suburban areas closer to home proves still to be a number one priority for many. Couples and young families looking to get on the property ladder for the first time are seeking to do so with support networks around them. Many people moved during the pandemic either with parents or close to them for support bubbles, while it has long been a popular decision with first time buyers to move towards parents and family for free childcare and daily support.
A Way Back For Cities?
There is of course a way back for cities, but the changes in financial stability and shift in the way we both work and play has made it a much simpler decision for first time buyers to currently leave that hustle and bustle behind. Confidence plays a big part in that. There’s a real sense of not knowing what is around the corner, but as that starts to ease, a new generation of city dwellers will appear, replacing those that have left and boosting city life once again.