Under normal circumstances, London and Home Counties are the most in-demand residential property markets across the UK. But something changed with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the three weeks since lockdown measures eased, interest in the property market has surged, leading to Rightmove’s busiest day ever recorded. On 27 May, the estate agent's website received more than 6 million visits, which represents nearly a 20% increase over last year’s figures.
According to data provided by Rightmove, buyer interest is shifting west towards Devon and Cornwall. Online searches and enquiries for Devon properties have experienced an increase of over 10%, and the TR postcode (which covers a substantial part of Cornwall) has seen a 20% increase in property searches.
Many of these enquiries come from London-based home and business owners looking to relocate. The surge in interest applies not only to new builds, but also to second-hand properties and land plots. If this trajectory continues, Devon and Cornwall could well be the rising stars of the UK’s residential property market this year. And it seems clear that the environment created by the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to the appeal of these two counties.
Usually, the first two months of the year are the busiest time for estate agents. This year is different, mainly due to a combination of pent-up demand and a redefinition of priorities among prospective homeowners. These two factors seem to now be driving the market forward, and in particular towards the South West of England.
According to recent data, many of those who are now looking to relocate claim to have made the decision during lockdown, and had no plans to move before the pandemic. This signals a change in priorities in terms of property requirements and how they suit the new lifestyles that are emerging as a result of Covid-19. It seems that better quality of life and other lifestyle factors that have taken centre stage during the pandemic are now key considerations when deciding whether to stay put or relocate.
On the whole, it appears that home buyers now value quieter locations, value for money, and properties with ample living space. Thanks to their distinctive natural heritage and slower pace of life, Devon and Cornwall are becoming a prime destination for many of those who are looking to relocate.
These two counties may also offer a better work-life balance, especially considering the growing numbers of more people who have started to work remotely. This may eventually prompt a comeback to rural locations. In fact, estate agents have already witnessed an increase in enquiries for properties with their own land. Once again, this may be linked to Covid-19: since many people are concerned about recurring restrictions or lockdown measures, having substantial living space is now a top priority.
In this respect, both Devon and Cornwall are well positioned to cater to growing demand. Looking ahead, we may see a reversal in market trends. Whereas in the past rural properties in secondary locations were notoriously hard to sell, nowadays home buyers are starting to realise their perks and how these properties could be better suited to new demands and new lifestyles.
Another reason behind the popularity of these counties is that properties are competitively priced. Average home prices in Cornwall are rising at half the London pace, and annual increases are still at a manageable 3%. And although West Devon property prices are growing at the fastest pace in the South West, increases are still below the national average. On the other hand, home prices in some areas are even dropping in price, as is the case of East Devon.
On the whole, it appears that the prime property spots for home buyers are as follows:
- In Cornwall, Truro and Falmouth. In fact, one of the most viewed properties on Rightmove is a 4-bedroom detached home in St Just in Roseland, near Falmouth. Other Cornwall hotspots include St Ives, Mousehole, Padstow, Fowey, and the Rame Peninsula.
- In Devon, Torquay, Salcombe, and Brixham.
If the latest trends are anything to go by, the residential property market in the South West is set to go from strength to strength – and other secondary markets may follow.