COVID-19 (and three consecutive national lockdowns) have had a major impact on the lives of every person in the United Kingdom. In particular, real estate market activity has illustrated how thousands of movers and first-time buyers have completely changed their priorities with regard to preferred property types and locations.
According to the latest figures from Rightmove, London has been overtaken by Cornwall for the first time as the UK’s most desirable location for residential properties. Devon has also been propelled in the rankings to third, while Dorset now sits in 10th position after previously ranking 20th.
The findings come as no surprise to the vast majority of UK estate agents, who throughout the pandemic noted a major spike in interest in rural homes, countryside properties, and larger residential dwellings with gardens.
Interest in city centre flats and urban homes with convenient transport connections has been diminishing throughout the COVID-19 crisis as the UK gets used to a new era of working from home and spending more time than ever indoors.
A larger home is a priority for buyers
The figures released by Rightmove suggest that sales of larger homes are accelerating significantly across the country, resulting in a major shortage in inventory in some locations.
For example, five-bedroom detached home sales have increased by as much as 38% over the past year, compared to the 15% increase in sales volumes for four-bedroom flats. Five-bedroom and four-bedroom bungalows have also skyrocketed in popularity, achieving 22% and 20% growth, respectively.
Meanwhile, private renters are likewise setting their sights on entirely different rental properties, predominantly away from busy urban centres. Two-bedroom and one-bedroom flats were the most sought-after rental property types in February last year; this year, it is two-bedroom semi-detached and detached houses that have topped the rankings.
“More space has always been the most common reason for people moving home, but the evolution for many, from balancing their laptop on the end of a bed last March to making an office a permanent addition to a home, has led to a need for even bigger homes than before,” commented Rightmove’s director of property data, Tim Bannister.
Estate agents expect a gradual return to normalcy
The lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could result in a permanent or semi-permanent alteration to the priorities of buyers and movers across the United Kingdom; however, many estate agents believe that the current shift in interest will gradually wane, ultimately paving the way for a slow return to normality.
This is attributed to the fact that record demand for certain property types in desirable areas of the country is already resulting in major property price increases. Average house prices in regions once considered less desirable than their central urban counterparts are predicted to skyrocket, effectively pricing many movers out. At this point, it is inevitable that many will once again have no choice but to set their sights on more affordable urban dwellings, at least partially reversing the mass exodus away from central city living.