Major events make us think, reevaluate and often accelerate decisions that were ear-marked for the future. It is no secret the past year achieved just that and the UK property market, often seen as a barometer for other industries along with the health of the economy has witnessed a huge shift in where and how people now want to live.
Truth be told, there was already an increasing flow of house hunters looking to give up city life. Seeking a ‘work – life’ balance isn’t a new thing. Before a daily diet of Zoom call’s we were already ‘dialling in’ for meetings in various parts of the country or time zones and businesses were increasingly relaxed about more flexible working practices.
Whilst sales and enquiries in affluent locations such as the New Forest have been booming, the London juggernaut is grinding to a halt. Nationwide’s figures for the first three months of 2021 show London was the UK’s weakest performer, with annual price growth falling to 4.8%, down from 6.2% in the final quarter of 2020.
Compare that to findings from the think tank Resolution Foundation who noted house price rises of around 10% in more rural ‘honeypot’ locations. The market continues to move at pace, fuelled by the Chancellor’s generous stamp duty holiday.
A report by the London Assembly Housing Committee backs up our thinking. A survey last August highlighted 46% of Londoner’s wanted the leave the big smoke. But, only 14% cited Covid as the key factor. After decades of record house price growth in the capital, for many it’s now time to cash in and seek pastures new.
These views of echoed by Hannah Sully, one of our many clients who has recently embraced a new life in the New Forest;
“At the start of the first lockdown I moved out of London, which resulted in a major slowdown in the pace of life for me and so many others, for the first time this gave me the time to reflect and reevaluate by priorities.
My partner then purchased his first home in through Spencer’s Estate agents in Lymington, which gave us the base we needed to start a new life here. Both Lymington and the New Forest as a whole has so much to offer, from the beautiful scenery, independent bars and restaurants to the undeniable benefit of the microclimate.
Sunday evening strolls along the sea wall, far outweigh rail replacements back to London.”
So, what other factors are driving these decisions…….?
Typically, there were three ‘life stages’ for quitting city life. From young families wanting to raise their children surrounded by greener pastures, to downsizing when they’ve grown-up and flown the nest or choosing a quieter life in retirement. Over the past year the one recurring factor has been the word ‘space’. Being locked-down in densely populated cities with small gardens or a balcony has created a new found desire to get back to nature.
Our need to be connected to big cities is also diminishing. We’ve swapped ‘clicks for bricks’ and the big traditional shopping centres are under pressure. Conversely, town and village high streets continue to see a resurgence in smaller independent or artisan retailers offering a more wholesome antidote of ‘putting something back’ into the local community.
Rising city commercial rents have seen big corporates continue relocating to ‘urban hubs’ and whilst some of the big institutions are calling staff back into the office, many are settling for a more ‘hybrid’ office and home balance. If you’ve only got to pop into the office a couple of days a week many are prepared to tackle a slightly longer commute.
Louise Sharp who recently purchased a new home through our Ringwood branch said “Having lived in Ringwood for 15 years before moving to France and living abroad for the next 5 years, it was a natural choice to come back to the New Forest on our return to England. It is such a beautiful part of the country with great connections to London, the coast, and with family and friends in the area, it is lovely to be back. Spencers have been excellent in helping both in a short term let and then our new home purchase.”
The New Forest ticks all these boxes. Being in the heart of a stunning national park and having 43 miles of coastline gives locals the fresh air and outdoor activities that young and old enjoy. Commuters are an hour and a half away from Waterloo and we continue to see huge growth, especially in the tech, creative and finance industries in our two neighbouring cities of Bournemouth and Southampton. Plus, our schools are also rated some of the highest in the country by Ofsted. So it’s no surprise that the New Forest is a popular choice when considering relocation.
Statistics will point to the fact the average house buyer only moves about 9 miles. History may point to the fact that previous pandemics or world wars have led to major cities rebuilding to prosper. However, this time it’s a little different as the desire to move to the country has never been stronger.