Written by Lisa Proffitt | 4th May 2021


The Great Escape: Connecting Country Homes with Capital Buyers

There hasn’t been a sellers’ market like this since 2006, and there is no sign of things slowing down any time soon. More sales were agreed on March 23 than on any other day in the past ten years, according to Rightmove. The following day, a record 9.1 million people visited the property portal, an average of 6,300 clicks per minute.

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This activity is hot on the heels of an 8.5% rise in house prices in 2020 – the first time property prices have risen in a recession in modern history.

Michael Graham’s region includes the home counties and Midlands and prices of homes in the most desirable countryside areas increased by 8.8% in the first quarter of 2021. So far this year compared to the same period in 2020, we have seen an increase of 250% in our number of sales agreed, and a reduction of 55% in the time taken to sell a property. The market is racing. So what is driving this pandemic property boom and what does the housing market look like going forward?

The Great London Escape

Covid-19 has changed the way we view cities and for many families has accelerated plans to move out of them. The pandemic has revolutionised homebuyers' priorities and there is no going back. These London buyers keen to swap city life for the rural idyll are fuelling the market frenzy. The number of homeowners buying outside of London hit a four-year high in December, despite the housing market being closed for nearly two months. London’s population is predicted to decline in 2021 for the first time this century.

Coronavirus has extended commuter belts

Many major London firms are shifting permanently to working from home arrangements. Buyers no longer have to prioritise a short train journey because for many their commute is only part time. The result? Demand for village properties has gone through the roof. Michael Graham’s entire region offers the best of both worlds to these buyers: an affordable country home with garden, a short drive from a train station within an hour’s commute of London. Buyers can move further out and get more for their money, and our sellers are benefitting from this well documented ‘race for space’. We now have three times as many registered buyers from the Greater London area than before the pandemic.

Affordability and relative value

Our region has always offered good value for money compared with properties in the home counties geographically closer to London. Freed from a daily commute, buyers are taking advantage of that affordability. Families fleeing London are now choosing Bedfordshire over the county’s more expensive neighbour Berkshire. Northamptonshire is among the top three counties in England where the market is hot and benefitting sellers, according to figures from data company PropCast, and buyers are homing in on villages in Northants over the traditionally more fashionable Cotswolds. Parts of Buckinghamshire are trumping the classic commuter heartland of Surrey as people discover that the cultural and restaurant scene is just as vibrant in Milton Keynes as it is in Guildford. Michael Graham agents across our network of offices would be delighted to talk to you about popular local towns and villages in their area.

Determined London buyers

Across England multiple buyers are chasing every £1million plus country house.  Prime village properties for sale inside the new commuter belt are going under offer in a matter of days. Villages with top primary schools and sought after local grammar schools are key to driving house prices.

Stamp duty holiday

Many people decided that meeting the original stamp duty deadline at the end of March would be almost impossible. The Chancellor’s announcement of the holiday extension has propelled more sellers to get their homes on the market which has added fuel to the property market fire. However, in reality it is the larger country homes that are behind the majority of price increases. These £500,000 plus homes benefit least from the stamp duty holiday, underlining the fact that it is the demand for more space, rather than tax breaks, that explains the housing market boom.

Surging demand

Sellers favour listing their home for sale when the garden is looking its best and April always sees a surge in houses coming to market. This year that surge is unprecedented. Schools going back and the success of the vaccination roll out have resulted in a long-awaited feeling of optimism, with more stock coming to market now that people feel more confident in opening their homes to viewings. Even the traditional summer slowdown may not happen this year. With a big question mark over foreign holidays, house hunting may well continue unchecked throughout July and August and that demand will keep prices high.

Long-term view

This is an extraordinary market and for many buyers and sellers long-term economic concerns are secondary to moving forward now. Even if unemployment rises when furlough ends, it won’t affect everyone and will take time to affect the housing market. Working from home is the new normal and the ‘race for space’ is a sign of our times.

If you own a country property and are considering selling, now is the optimum time to capitalise on these market conditions. Why not request a free valuation or give us a call today and let us connect your home with our London buyers

If you’re a prospective buyer hoping to swap London life for rural new beginnings, we would love to hear from you too. The country homes below are listed for sale with us now and more can be found by visiting our Property Search page. We would love to help you make your 2021 moving plans a reality.

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