Coronavirus: Rural markets boom as Brits flock to countryside

·3 min read
UK homebuyers are happy to pay premium prices for country homes in 2020. (SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images)
UK homebuyers are happy to pay premium prices for country homes in 2020. Photo: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

Rural markets are booming as COVID-19 drives UK homebuyers to the countryside, with many happy to pay premium prices.

Rural locations have hit a new level of popularity among home buyers, according to Zoopla.

The rural district of Ryedale in North Yorkshire saw the highest boost in sales agreed – up 63% in the past six months, compared to the same period in 2019, data from property portal shows.

Herefordshire, one of England’s most rural areas and well known for fruit and cider production, came in second, with an uplift of 46%.

Meanwhile, Sevenoaks, which extends across Kent, otherwise known as the “Garden of England”, came in third, with sales agreed up 44%.

“The growth in flexible working, combined with a search for more space, has led to some city-dwellers looking for a change in scenery,” said Zoopla.

“It’s not just Londoners who are exiting the city limits – the uptick in demand for rural property extends to other regions in England.”

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While moving out of the city is often associated with better value for money, in half of the top 10 sales-agreed hotspots, buyers are actually paying a premium to live in a more rural location, the data shows.

The Cotswold District – a countryside favourite and popular weekend getaway, which encompasses the market towns of Chipping Campden and Chipping Norton – commands higher prices than its nearest city, Bristol.

A home-mover purchasing a three-bed, semi-detached house in this district is likely to pay a premium of £61,500 – a fifth more than the price of an equivalent house in Bristol.

Similarly, the west midlands rural district of the Malvern Hills – the scenic area between Herefordshire and Worcestershire, which encompasses approximately half of the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – commands higher prices than those in the nearby Birmingham.

A buyer purchasing a three-bed, semi-detached home in Malvern Hills is likely to pay about £30,000 – 14% – more than they would for a similar house in Birmingham.

And a three-bed, semi-detached house in the High Peak District – comprising several quaint villages and the National Park – is on average, £54,000 more expensive than in nearby Sheffield, which amounts to 31% more than the average Sheffield house price.

However, for those looking to move to the country and make cost savings, there are areas that offer the best of both worlds.

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The average price of a three bed, semi-detached house in the rural district of Sevenoaks is £428,000. With the same type of property in London costing about £538,000, this amounts to a huge saving of £110,000.

For those who want a complete change of scenery, the price of a three bed, semi-detached house in the Isle of Wight comes in at £232,000 – £60,000 cheaper than an equivalent property in its closest city Portsmouth.

Buyers could also save about £19,000 in the district of Horsham in West Sussex, where a three bed semi-detached comes with a price tag of £405,000, compared to £424,000 for an equivalent property in Brighton.

“[This] data indicates continued elevated levels of demand, especially among homemovers,” said Gráinne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla.

“Some of these households have taken the chance during lockdown to reassess where, and how, they want to live.

“Most demand for housing within cities remains within those cities, but we are seeing a cohort of buyers choosing to buy in more rural locations, which can offer a different style of living – especially for those who have increased levels of flexibility around working from home.”

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