It’s no secret that London is moving to the country, and in January 2021 we were delighted to open a country office within the glorious surrounds of Peper Harow Park near Godalming, to serve the growing number of our clients looking to make Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex their home.
Admittedly it was a well-trodden path pre-pandemic, although since the first lockdown an increasing number of Londoners, of all demographics, are looking to up sticks in search of a more rural existence. That first incarceration put the property market on hold, prompting as time went on increasing self-analysis as people started to revaluate their homes in relation to changing living and working patterns. Thus, the dynamics of our market are changing.
At the Property Partnership the close relationship between our offices in Barnes, Richmond and Surrey have never been more important. When estate agents were given the green light to reopen in May last year, our London offices saw an unprecedented surge in people wanting to have their homes valued for sale. By the end of July, the level of market appraisals carried out had increased by nearly a third compared to the same month a year earlier. As our London offices saw a surge in properties coming to the market, our Country office (covering Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex), saw a dramatic increase in new buyer registrations from Londoners looking to leave the big smoke behind them.
So why do we think so many city dwellers are turning their back on an urban lifestyle in favour of a slower pace of life? And it’s not just young families either. A few thoughts here...
- The practical implications of living with lockdown has led many to change their priorities in terms of their home life. Proximity to work and entertainment has started to fall down the pecking order, to be replaced by more spacious living accommodation and a closeness to the great outdoors.
- As the trend towards working from home is embraced, many Londoners are placing less importance on proximity to public transport. They are now seeking a home which offers more living space, with the ability to work from home comfortably. Why pay a premium to be close to transport links that one is no longer using with the same regularity?
- The Stamp Duty holiday announced last year has undoubtably broken down barriers, and helped people to sell their homes and to seek out a new life which better suits their changing needs. The tax break intention was two-fold; to help buyers who have taken a financial hit because of virus and to boost a property market which had seen a two-month hiatus in 2020. The property market benefitted from renewed momentum as a result, with many estate agencies reporting record numbers of sales.
- There is also undoubtedly a craving for space, and an appreciation of the health benefits (mental as well as physical) of a life away from cheek-by-jowl London living. The fear has been put into many urbanites, who now feel that living in a more rural area will allow them to live more comfortably with the virus as part of our lives moving forward.
So, what are our discerning buyers looking for as they plan their life away from the capital? The answer is that aside from a home office and a bigger garden, many truly don’t know! London houses tend share similar characteristics, and the options out of town can be baffling, with a myriad of styles in all shapes and sizes. This is where we come in, whether acting formally for clients through our dedicated property search and acquisition service, The Property Eye (thepropertyeye.co.uk) or simply in our capacity as enthusiastic locals, recommending the best schools, loveliest villages and (more often than you’d think) the prettiest dog walks!
So, whilst across our offices we have witnessed an inescapable shift, it will be interesting to see if this sudden interest in all things country is a temporary reaction to circumstance or perhaps part of a more significant societal shift. Only time will tell.
Tessa Teichmann is Head of Sales + Lettings at the Property Partnership’s country office, located within the glorious surrounds of Peper Harow Park near Godalming.
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