The 23 March 2021 marked a really significant milestone for the UK – it was a year since the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions came into force. The day became an emotional day of reflection and hope, where we mourned those we have lost while feeling hopeful that a brighter future is on the way as we transition out of our third national lockdown. However, for many of us, we are not returning to the life we once knew before lockdown; lives have been changed. A ‘new normal’ is upon us and is affecting every facet of our lives, including our property choices…
In fact, research has found that more homebuyers are looking to escape to the countryside and coast since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on our shores.
Cornwall replaces London as most searched for place to live
The research by Rightmove has revealed that Cornwall has knocked London off the top spot as the most searched for location for buyers and tenants on the platform. The county of Cornwall clocked up over five million searches in February 2021, reflecting how people’s priorities have changed since the first lockdown a year ago. Those who had once prioritised city life and transport links are now dreaming of a more tranquil life in reach of our beautiful countryside and shores. Another southwestern coastal county Devon secured a top-three spot (just below London), while searches for Dorset (again on the southwestern coast) jumped from 20th position to 10th most searched for area.
In fact, the lure of the countryside and coast has meant six of the top ten places for buyer searches increases this year are located in Cornwall and Devon. Searches for the village of Stithians in Cornwall rose by a massive 224 per cent on this time last year while Polperro, also in Cornwall, came second with an annual increase in searches of 203 per cent. Braemer in Aberdeenshire came third with an increase in buyer searches of 189 per cent and the Isle of Skye came fourth, with searches up 177 per cent (see the table below).
When it comes to property types detached homes have scooped the top spot as people look for extra rooms, a garden, garage or perhaps privacy from immediate neighbours. Looking at the number of bedrooms, five-bed detached homes have seen the biggest jump in sales being agreed, up by 38 per cent, followed by four-bed properties, up by 26 per cent. Rightmove suggests this change is also a likely result of the temporary stamp duty holiday savings being largest for more expensive homes.
Rightmove has also seen prospective buyers looking for a garden hit a record and the term ‘garage’ has been the most popular keyword used by home-hunters on the platform. You gotta love a garage!
Are buyers leaving cities?
Tellingly, there has been a shift in more people who currently live in a city enquiring about a property that is outside of that city. The biggest shift has been in London where this time last year 39 per cent of Londoners were searching for homes outside of London. This has jumped up to 52 per cent, and the trend is the same across all 10 of the biggest cities in the UK as you can see in the table below.
Renters trading up for space
A year ago the most sought after property type for tenants was a two-bed flat, however, this has been replaced by the two-bed semi-detached house, meaning tenants are looking for more space and a garden. Rightmove has also seen asking rents over the past year vary dramatically, with double-digit growth in some towns and suburbs, compared to double-digit declines in areas of London.
Rightmove’s Director of Property Data Tim Bannister said: “The huge population of London means that traditionally it’s the most searched for location on Rightmove, but the appeal of the coast and the countryside over the past year has seen Cornwall crowned the new capital this year.
“More space has always been the most common reason for people moving home, but the evolution for many from balancing their laptop on the end of a bed last March to making an office a permanent addition to a home, whether that’s by converting a bedroom, garage or garden shed, has led to a need for even bigger homes than before.”