Escape to the Country: City Dwellers Seek Sanctuary in Record Numbers

countryside house

Slowly but surely, some semblance of normality is returning to the way we live our lives in England. COVID-19 hotspots in some regions continue to cause concern, but lockdown restrictions are gradually being eased across the country as a whole.

As predicted, pent-up demand among movers is now being released in England’s real estate sector, with some operators having experienced record activity levels in July. But what’s interesting is the way in which both home buyers and job hunters now appear to be taking their social distancing habits to an entirely new level, all entirely of their own accord.

Not only has the past fortnight seen a huge increase in the number of jobseekers looking for positions outside London, but a similar spike has been noted in the number of city residents looking to relocate to quieter corners of the country.

An exodus is underway

According to the latest figures from the Escape the City careers advisory service, the last two weeks saw twice as many jobseekers proactively looking to escape the capital as during the same period last year. For April as a whole, the number of active home buyers in London who registered their interests with estate agents in other parts of England also doubled compared to 2019.

Importantly, the apparent exodus is by no means exclusive to London. Hamptons estate agency has also reported growing interest in relocation to rural locations among buyers in Birmingham, Manchester, and other major cities.

For Londoners, some of the most attractive postcodes for those looking to escape the city included Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, Ipswich in Suffolk, and Worthing in Sussex. One of the few things all of these destinations have in common is a resident population at least twice as spread out as in London.

Aylesbury Vale in rural Buckinghamshire attracted particularly heavy attention from London-based movers during April. Whereas the proportion of people from London organising viewings in the region would normally have been less than 30% for April, approximately 44% of those signing for viewings in post-Covid England were currently located in London.

Home-based workforce

Along with the desire to seek safe and quiet refuge outside the big cities, the UK’s shift towards a predominantly home-based workforce for many businesses is also credited with fuelling this ongoing exodus. A growing number of businesses have announced that they will not be returning to their prior and predominantly office-based operational model, even when lockdown restrictions are entirely eliminated.

The benefits of working from home for businesses and employees alike are predicted to radically change where and how millions of workers across the UK live their lives. Whether it is avoiding crowds, eliminating time-consuming commutes, or simply staying safe, the potential benefits of working from home are appealing to more people than ever before.

As is the prospect of escaping the city for a safe, relaxed, and vastly more cost-effective lifestyle, a combination of factors is expected to continue fuelling the accelerating exodus for some time to come.