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Mass exodus to the countryside? London will be just fine

By Harry Brown
30 September 2020

By Harry Brown

When my neighbour's house went up for sale in the middle of lockdown, I was eager to see just how long the ‘for sale’ sign would be there, looming over my front garden, serving as a reminder that this is the time to move out of the city.

My expectation was that selling a zone 3 London house in the midst of lockdown would be challenging. Everyone is moving out the city, not the other way, right?  As lockdown gripped the nation, more and more city dwellers were looking further afield for something different, or so it’s reported. 

Many urbanites were forced to hunker down in undersized accommodation. Realising just how cramped London properties are with all members of the family thrust to sharing the kitchen table as their office, sometimes without gardens to relax in, it’s no wonder people started to consider their future in the capital.

Data from Zoopla and Rightmove supported the notion of a mass exodus to the countryside, reporting 68% and 78% increases in searches for properties in rural locations respectively.

Yet despite this, the most compelling piece of data comes from agents Hamptons, which suggests that the highest price growth of properties across all the UK regions wasn’t from the New Forest or Cotswolds, but you guessed it, London. Hamptons predicts that in 2020 house prices across the UK will rise 2% and more so with London properties, where growth is predicted at an additional 0.5%.

There are several simple reasons why the London market continues to perform well, the most obvious being pent up demand. Year upon year demand for property in the city outstrips supply meaning there was a healthy backlog of buyers when the market reopened back in May. Secondly, the Government’s decision to announce a Stamp Duty holiday potentially saves buyers thousands on their moving costs, especially beneficial to first timers in the capital who had been patiently waiting for any help they can to get onto the property ladder.

Furthermore, COVID hasn’t just accelerated buyers’ decisions to move out of the capital, it’s also added some haste in the decision-making process for those who have always considered buying in London.

Then there’s also the benefits of London itself which makes it, according to Savills, the most resilient housing market in the world. The pull of London will never fade: the city dates back to 4500 BC and has some of the most beautiful architecture, both old and new. It has the third largest underground in the world, 87 Michelin star restaurants and a plethora of gorgeous parks - London is a designated park city with 40% of its land green space.

So, while the appeal and benefits of the countryside are valid, I am certain that the demand for living in London will remain, as shown by the disappearance of the ‘for sale’ sign outside my neighbour’s house after a mere six days.