Since the housing market restabilised in 2020, the UK has seen a surge in demand for rural and semi-rural properties. According to Rightmove, one of the UK’s top online property websites, June & July saw a huge 126% increase in city residents reaching out to estate agents with interest in village and rural homes compared to same period last year alongside a record-breaking 19% of first-time buyers now state the countryside as the preferred location for their first home.
Increased interest in rural living
Though, it isn’t only first-time buyers fueling this increased interest in rural living. Rightmove also reported an unprecedented increase in enquiries from London residents regarding rural properties, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of enquiries soared by 144% between June and July 2020 and has remained consistently above the norm since that time.
In many ways, the pandemic has re-framed public perception of urban living and made life in the country more appealing. This is hardly surprising given that the UK’s urban areas were by far the hardest hit by infection, not to mention the negative consequences of lockdown. With people forbidden to travel more than 30 minutes from home to take their daily exercise, city dwellers have found themselves yearning for green spaces, open air, and room to properly stretch their legs. It seems a year spent indoors has stirred in our nation a wistful desire for forests, hills, farmland and an altogether more natural lifestyle. Or at least, a step in that direction.
What should we expect post-pandemic?
We might expect this surge in demand for rural property to reverse itself post-pandemic, but this is unlikely to be the case. While many aspects of UK life are slowly returning to normal, others will never be the same again. The upheaval, stress and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 will be imprinted on public memory for generations to come and has led to an increased emphasis on the importance of quality of life. In addition, many who were forced to work from home during the pandemic have now adopted remote or semi-remote work as their new standard working arrangement, which means living within commutable distance of the office is no longer a priority.
Of course, pandemic fallout isn’t the only reason people are looking to buy or rent in the countryside. With property prices on the rise, rural and semi-rural homes are a budget-friendly option for many people who cannot afford the property they want in the city. People moving to the country often find they get far more bang for their buck in terms of space – both indoors and out. And perhaps now, more so than ever before, purchasing property in underdeveloped, rural areas could be a smart financial decision.
Rural house prices are on the rise
If the events of the past two years have triggered the start of an urban exodus, it certainly isn’t a bad thing for the future of rural and semi-rural developments – or those who wish to invest in them. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), average rural house prices are currently £27,832 lower than urban house prices. If de-urbanisation continues on its current trajectory, this gap will begin to close. This could lead to attractive returns on rural investments for anyone looking to purchase a new home or diversify a property portfolio.
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