More than a year spent in lockdown has brought with it many unique challenges, with home working among one of the most difficult.
Restrictions on social gatherings have forced people to spend the last 12 months living and working from the confines of home, leading homeowners and budding new buyers alike to reassess what is most important in a property – and it seems that rural living is on the up.
Coastal and rural locations on the up
City centre living has taken a tumble over the last year, with buyers becoming increasingly drawn to countryside and coastal locations.
The lure of a rural location has seen Cornwall overtake London as the most searched for location on Rightmove, which has gained more than five million searches in February 2021 alone.
Dorset, Devon, the Isle of Wight and the Cotswolds, have also jumped up the ranks as the most desirable property hotspots in the UK, while some of the country’s biggest city centres have seen a fall in rent prices and a flood of properties come to market as tenants rethink where they want to live.
Inner London and Edinburgh have faced the biggest challenges, according to Rightmove’s quarterly rental trends report, with 53 per cent of renters in the capital enquiring about a property outside of the city.
The desire for a quieter way of life and more space has been driven by the continued lockdown restrictions, and has led to a 69 per cent increase in annual sales in rural areas, compared to just 49 per cent in urban locations, as buyers look to escape to the country.
A similar trend has also been noted by fellow property website, Zoopla, which has seen a surge in interest for coastal and rural locations, as buyers seek out more space.
Marc von Grundherr, director of Benham and Reeves in London, said: “With Covid continuing to pose a problem on an ongoing basis, many tenants simply aren’t committing to the high cost of renting in central London.
“This has been largely driven by the fact that many can now work remotely but this isn’t the only reason.
“Living in central London is as much about the social aspect, as it is about the convenient commute, and at present, the vast majority of the capital remains closed for business. As a result, demand has fallen dramatically causing rental stock to flood the market.
“This excess level of stock means that landlords are being forced to accept dramatically lower levels of rent just to avoid lengthy void periods between tenancies.”
Leeds and West Yorkshire based estate agent Manning Stainton also noted a boost in demand for properties in the suburbs, with buyers looking for homes on the outskirts of the city for areas with a ‘village’ feel.
In West Yorkshire, areas including Shadwell, Thorner, Rawdon and Bramhope have enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past year.
Detached homes with more space
As well as a desire for a more peaceful way of life away from the hustle and bustle of crowded city centres, the pandemic has also caused property wish lists among buyers to shift.
With lockdown forcing the majority of people to work from home, a desire for more space has crept up the list of priorities and has seen buyers seek out houses with room for an office, as well as an outdoor area.
Mark Manning, managing director of estate agency chain, Manning Stainton said: “We’ve seen a huge surge in demand for properties with gardens and home offices. Lockdown has really changed how people use their homes, and work areas and good outdoor spaces are now must-haves for many people.
“After spending the best part of a year at home, extra space is also now top of many people’s priority lists and we’re also seeing a rise in demand for larger, extended homes as people look to upsize.”
Both Rightmove and Zoopla have also noted a huge increase in demand for space among house hunters, with detached homes proving to be the most sought-after, followed by four bedroom properties.
In the period from May 2020 to February 2021, ‘garage’ was the most searched for term on Rightmove, followed by searches for gardens, as people looked to expand their living space.
Property demand on the up
While buyers wish lists may have become more particular over the last year, with people seeking out larger homes with an abundance of space, home ownership has actually become a lot more feasible for many due to the pandemic.
With the government imposing a stamp duty holiday, which will remain in place until 30 September, property demand has been on the rise, particularly among first time buyers.
Mr Manning explained: “The current stamp duty holiday for properties has made home ownership more feasible for many and has really helped boost the market.
“The temporary removal of the tax has enabled many second steppers to move up the chain, freeing up more first-time-buyer homes, which has boosted the number of first-time-buyers entering the market.
“The introduction of the government-backed 95 per cent mortgage scheme will help boost this further too.
“On the rental side, we’re also seeing huge surges in demand amongst tenants. The whole market has really exploded and at present, there’s just not enough property to meet demand.”
But while demand for properties is on the rise, the wish lists among buyers has also become more demanding, and homes that can offer both outdoor space and home offices are now the most attractive - with prices of these properties often selling well over their asking price.
Gráinne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, said: “The pandemic has led people to take a once-in-a-lifetime look at their homes with many feeling that a new home would better suit their needs.
“Reflecting the search for space amongst home hunters, top of the list is gardens, followed by garage and parking.
“The prospects for the housing market over the next year have improved on the back of Budget. The continued search for space, the stamp duty extension and mortgage guarantees will support activity levels and headline house price growth up to the end of Q2 2021.
“Yet the pathway out of the lockdown, and the route to a full reopening of the economy and unwinding of support measures, is unlikely to be simple or smooth.
“We still expect house price growth to moderate later in the year, but overall transactions are set to benefit from an additional boost following the stamp duty extension and tapering.”